12.10.13 at 11:33 am | Some 35 years after the LDS dropped the ban, the. . .
12.5.13 at 7:11 am | In some of the most astounding news I've heard. . .
12.3.13 at 7:11 am | The Supreme Court granted certiorari in ...
11.25.13 at 8:55 am | Judge Crabb ruled that the clergy housing. . .
11.23.13 at 7:46 pm | A time-lapse starting with Hinduism in 5,000 BC. . .
11.16.13 at 10:41 am | His kebab cafe on hard times, Zablon Simintov. . .
12.10.13 at 11:33 am | Some 35 years after the LDS dropped the ban, the. . . (161)
11.13.11 at 3:43 pm | Forensic anthropology may have something new to. . . (131)
12.3.13 at 7:11 am | The Supreme Court granted certiorari in ... (107)
November 30, 2007 | 1:41 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
“I can only guarantee you five minutes.”
In the middle of a park in Sierra Madre, on an absolutely perfect fall Sunday morning, Sharon Jimenez, senior adviser on the West Coast for U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinichâs campaign for president, is laying down some ground rules. We are surrounded by volunteers, who busily set up chairs, sort placards and stack fliers for the congressmanâs speech and fund-raiser. Twenty feet away, at a lopsided picnic table beneath a lopsided tree, sits Kucinich, wearing a ginger-colored blazer that immediately makes me wonder how many Winnie-the-Poohs had to die to make it. With his familiar squint and little-boy haircut that always appears as if it has been combed with a hot buttered roll, he nods in response to the conclusions of a Pasadena Weekly reporter.
âI thought you were going to get me a ride-along with him to the airport,â I say to Jimenez.
âOh, well,â she says, smiling and shrugging her massive shoulder pads.
âBut I donât have any five-minute questions,â I say, holding up my notebook. âAll my questions are conversational â theyâre Bill Moyer questions.â
âLike I said, I can only guarantee you five minutes,â she says, looking at her watch. âThe congressman goes on in about eight minutes, and then he has to be in San Mateo for a straw poll at 2.â
Jimenezâs uncanny resemblance to the band manager and lovable curmudgeon of The Partridge Family, Rubin Kincaid, allows me the grace to forgive her persnickety manner as having less to do with me and more to do with the character that I imagine her to be playing.
âWhich airport is he going to?â I ask. âLAX?â
âNo, Burbank,â she says, drastically shortening even the drive time I was hoping to get.
âBurbank?â I flip through my notes, looking for short-answer questions, wondering if Iâm wasting my time and trying to remember why I came in the first place.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been here lately—not in a park waiting to interview the man-less-likely-than-Alan-Keyes-to-be-president, but at an event of my own choosing where all I am wondering is how I recover the half day I just wasted.
Though it seems for Mr. Fish, the reporter giving the first-person here, waiting for Kucinich wasn’t such a waste of time. The resulting story is the cover of the current LA Weekly, and it offers some illuminating passages on America’s wackiest politician. This one is particularly enjoyable.
âAll right,â he says, looking at his watch again. âWe got five minutes â do you have a short question?â
âSure,â I say, taking a second to turn on my tape recorder. âWhat nonpolitical source material informs your idealism?â
I smile, waiting. He doesnât answer me. âIn other words,â I try again, âa lot of your ideas seem to stress the importance of peace and humanitarianism and, certainly, you can talk about those things as political ideals, but politics doesnât really offer the best insight into those subjects. Itâs like Richard Nixonâs peace sign, for example, meant something entirely different from John Lennonâs. Most people donât look to politics to help them sustain their understanding of humanitarianism â they usually look to art and poetry and literature and philosophy. What are your cultural reference points?â
âWell, you know,â begins Kucinich, hunching forward with the melancholy of somebody who has just been handed cotton candy and asked to knit a cake, âyou can talk about the 20th century and look at the writings of Erich Fromm, the work of Carl Rogers, [Abraham] Maslow, the humanistic psychologists. You can look at the English Romantic poets from centuries ago who had a sense of the perfectibility of humankind, of our deep connection to nature, of the importance of upholding a natural world. You can come back to Walden Pond, to Thoreau, to Emerson, to their understanding of intellectual integrity and of freedom. But you could go back thousands of years, too, to the basic structure of moral law thatâs reflected in the teachings of all the great religions.â He stops. I wait. He stays stopped.
âWhat about more-modern influences?â I say. âAre you in touch with any of the artistic or cultural movements that are contemporary; ideas and artistic trends that excite and motivate people, particularly young people, to view humanity as a whole rather than as incongruent pieces, which is more what politics tends to do? I donât guess that all the values that inform your political identity are as antiquated or esoteric as Thoreau or the Bible â you were a product of the â60s, right?â
âLook,â he says, âmy philosophical underpinnings relate to concepts that are really timeless, that go back to 2,000 years of Christianity, thousands of years of the Hindu religion, that go to the tradition of Buddhism, to the moral teachings of Judaism, to the peaceful expressions of Islam. All of these are tributaries of a spiritual understanding that I have.â
November 29, 2007 | 4:05 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The Forward reported this month that presidential candidates and major Muslim American organizations were keeping each other at arms’ length. Today, The Washington Post says questions about Islam keep dogging Barack Obama, who, in fact, is a member of an ultra-liberal Christian church.
In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama’s biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Muslim world.
Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Muslim or that he had received training in Islam in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama’s stepfather did occasionally attend services at a mosque there.
Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a “Muslim plant” in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.
In campaign appearances, Obama regularly mentions his time living and attending school in Indonesia, and the fact that his paternal grandfather, a Kenyan farmer, was a Muslim. Obama invokes these facts as part of his case that he is prepared to handle foreign policy, despite having been in the Senate for only three years, and that he would literally bring a new face to parts of the world where the United States is not popular.
The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, Obama was born and spent much of his childhood in Hawaii, and he talks more about his multicultural background than he does about the possibility of being the first African American president, in marked contrast to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who mentions in most of her stump speeches the prospect of her becoming the first woman to serve as president.
“A lot of my knowledge about foreign affairs is not what I just studied in school. It’s actually having the knowledge of how ordinary people in these other countries live,” he said earlier this month in Clarion, Iowa.
“The day I’m inaugurated, I think this country looks at itself differently, but the world also looks at America differently,” he told another Iowa crowd. “Because I’ve got a grandmother who lives in a little village in Africa without running water or electricity; because I grew up for part of my formative years in Southeast Asia in the largest Muslim country on Earth.”
While considerable attention during the campaign has focused on the anti-Mormon feelings aroused by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), polls have also shown rising hostility toward Muslims in politics. It is not clear whether that negative sentiment will affect someone who has lived in a Muslim country but does not practice Islam.
November 29, 2007 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Lt. Mark Daily was the first UCLA alum to be killed in Iraq. (A plaque was recently hung in his honor in front of the Student Activities Center off of Bruin Plaza.) His death touched thousands upon thousands not simply because he was young and it was tragic, but because of the writings he left behind and a story in the LA Times that was e-mailed around the world.
One recipient was Christopher Hitchens, the atheist superstar and author who Daily credited with convincing him of the moral imperative of the war. In this month’s Vanity Fair, Hitchens describes feeling ill upon learning this and seeking out Daily’s family to clear his conscience.
In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn’t straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba’thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?
These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn’t stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here’s an excerpt from his “Why I Joined” statement:
Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).â¦ Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.
November 29, 2007 | 12:48 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
That was my first city editor’s response when I started working at The Sun in San Bernardino and discovered King was a down-and-out resident of Rialto. I too was a resident of the forlorn industrial town wedged between Muscoy and Fontana, and I wanted to write about my most notable neighbor.
One of Rialto’s most well-known residents, Rodney King, was shot sometime around midnight.
San Bernardino Police Lt. Scott Paterson said the details were still fuzzy but that King may have gunshot pellets in his arm and back area. The wounds are not considered life-threatening.
“Early indications are that it very possibly could have been a domestic dispute,” Paterson said.
San Bernardino police are still investigating what exactly happened and where, he said.
Rialto Police Sgt. Tim Lane said police logs showed the incident took place at 5th Street and Meridian Avenue in San Bernardino near the border of Rialto and San Bernardino. Lane said King made it back to his house in the 1100 block of East Jackson Street before calling police.
November 29, 2007 | 11:28 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Joseph Dearing, 24, of Dallas says you can tell everything you need to know about a person by what he or she thinks of the Bible.
He got a chance to get some answers during Wednesday’s GOP CNN/YouTube debate when his question, No. 20, was asked: Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?
November 29, 2007 | 9:32 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
One of my favorite memories of living in Los Angeles was seeing David Hasselhoff looking for a seat at church. I attend Bel Air Presbyterian, where ever few months it seems Britney Spears is rumored to have been seen and where I once turned around during the greeting and shook hands with a pre-Newlyweds Jessica Simpson. Al from “Step by Step,” aka Christine Lakin, also joined my college group on a trip to Mammoth and Ryan Starr—OK, not a celebrity—hung around for a little while.
But, really, it’s a little sick to think about church hopping in hopes of another celebrity sighting. Still, in LA there is something for everyone, and Gridskipper has the dish:
1. Christian Science Church of Brentwood
2. Crystal Cathedral (think Evel Knievel)
3. Good Shepherd Catholic Church (beware the Hilton sisters)
4. Sinai Temple (Kirk Douglas, among other Jewish luminaries)
5. St. Monica’s Catholic Church (the governor)
6. St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church
7. West Angeles Church of God (Denzel and Stevie)
They left a handful of good celebrity-sighting churches and synagogues off this list. But the list was stupid to begin with, so I’m not going to add to it.
(Hat tip: LAObserved)
November 29, 2007 | 8:38 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The liberal Protestant cave-in to Prussian militarism and German nationalism in turn triggered a messianic or apocalyptic reaction among religious thinkers in the interwar periodâa period deeply marked, Lilla reminds us, by a thoroughgoing disgust with modernity and a new quest for authenticity among many European intellectuals. Some, like the Jewish thinkers Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, and the Christian theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pulled up on the reins before they came to the political brink. But others soon found a vessel for their fantasies in the man whom Winston Churchill once described as âa maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human breastâCorporal Hitler.â
This whole sorry history, Lilla concludes, âserved to confirm Hobbesâs iron law: messianic theology eventually breeds messianic politics.â The Great Separation, to which we owe our very lives as the beneficiaries of liberal democracy, can never be taken for granted; and neither can the liberal-democratic order itself. Lilla formulates the task before us in terms different from those proposed by the new atheists but tacitly in tune with their agenda:
Rousseau was on to something: we seem to be theotropic creatures, yearning to connect our mundane lives, in some way, to the beyond. That urge can be suppressed, new habits learned, but the challenge of political theology will never fully disappear as long as the urge to connect survives.
So we are heirs to the Great Separation only if we wish to be, if we make a conscious effort to separate basic principles of political legitimacy from divine revelation. . . . This means vigilance, but even more it means self-awareness. We must never forget that there was nothing inevitable about our Great Separation, that it was and remains an experiment.
Like Mark Lilla, RÃ©mi Brague is concerned about the fragility of our present political arrangements, about the protection of basic human rights, and about the future of the rule of law, democratically deliberated. But he will not concede that an effective defense of the Western democratic project requires the canonization of Thomas Hobbes and his Great Separation. Indeed, he points out that we might well wonder âwhether that separation, which has received so much praise, . . . ever actually took place,â if for no other reason than that the âtwo institutions . . . never formed a unit.â Brague writes:
The political and the religious are two independent sources of authority; they have crossed one anotherâs paths more than once, but they never have merged in spite of efforts to fit them together, sometimes to the advantage of one, sometimes to that of the other. Although there has been cooperation between the two, there has never been confusion about which is which.
And if Brague parts company with Lilla on historical grounds, he also parts company on theological and anthropological grounds. Lilla and Brague have very different ideas of God and His revelation, and very different ideas of us; and in each case, the ideas are inextricably intertwined. Lilla urges unending vigilance in public life against the religious fevers that still inflame and infect our minds. Brague, at the end of The Law of God, suggests the conditions for a more modest approach to the âtheoi-political problemâ:
In the Bible and in Christianity . . . the presence of the divine does not comport an immediate demand for obedience. . . . The divine shows itself, or rather gives itself, before asking anything of us and instead of asking. . . . Although God does indeed expect something of his creatures (that we develop according to our own logic), He does not, in fact, demand anything, or rather, He asks nothing more than His gift already asks, thanks to the simple fact that it is given: [namely,] to be received. In the case of man, that reception does not require anything but humanity.
By widening the historical lens, Brague also reminds us that the Western accomplishment of distinguishing in both theory and practice between religious authority and political authority, sacerdotium and regnum, was in fact a Christian accomplishment, which in turn drew on ancient Jewish convictions about the dangers inherent in the idolatry of the political. Without question, both the European wars of religion and the Enlightenment played crucial roles in creating the modern political forms by which we acknowledge the distinction between religious and political authority. But the arguments for such a distinction had been made long before, and in explicitly theological terms, by Augustine, Aquinas, and many others standing in the biblical tradition.