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the perils of identity politics January 18, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, politics, race.
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christopher hitchens in the wsj:

People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of “race” or “gender” alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.

Far from taking us forward, this sort of discussion actually keeps us anchored in the past. The enormous advances in genome studies have effectively discredited the whole idea of “race” as a means of categorizing humans. And however ethnicity may be defined or subdivided, it is utterly unscientific and retrograde to confuse it with color. The number of subjective definitions of “racist” is almost infinite but the only objective definition of the word is “one who believes that there are human races.”

For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my “race,” unless I was permitted to put “human.” The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put “white,” which is not even a color let alone a “race,” and I sternly declined to put “Caucasian,” which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King’s campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you “black.”

Not to dampen any parade, but if one asks if there is a single thing about Mr. Obama’s Senate record, or state legislature record, or current program, that could possibly justify his claim to the presidency one gets . . . what? Not much. Similarly lightweight unqualified “white” candidates have overcome this objection, to be sure, but what kind of standard is that?

hitchens on huckabee January 7, 2008

Posted by AP in 2008 Elections, comedy, politics, religion.
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a bit of vitriol from slate:

Isn’t it amazing how self-pitying and self-aggrandizing the religious freaks in this country are? It’s not enough that they can make straight-faced professions of “faith” at election times and impose their language on everything from the Pledge of Allegiance to the currency. It’s not enough that they can claim tax exemption and even subsidy for anything “faith-based.” It’s that when they are even slightly criticized for their absurd opinions, they can squeal as if being martyred and act as if they are truly being persecuted.

“the iowa scam” January 3, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, news, politics.
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i would rather have all the states vote in primaries on ONE day than supposedly give lesser known candidates an opportunity to campaign in a smaller state and gain momentum. if we started over today there is no doubt that no one would push for this as the ideal nomination process. you can argue that it’s harder for an unestablished candidate to run a national campaign, but it’s also A LOT easier for an established candidate to run one that’s catering to approx 150,000 people. it’s also undemocratic and a terrible way to choose a presidential candidate, as christopher hitchens puts it… (“the mechanics of caucusing” at tnr)

christopher hitchens at slate:

Every now and then, in the avalanche of tripe coverage that is provided by a mass media that (never forget) is the direct beneficiary of the huge outlays of money the candidates make, a sentence of ordinary truth shines through. Thus the following, from the bended-knee profile of Mike Huckabee, by Zev Chafets in the New York Times Magazine, describing events in the last week in October, when:

[T]he Hawkeye Poll of the University of Iowa was published. Huckabee had 13 percent, in a virtual tie with Rudy Giuliani for second place, behind Mitt Romney with 36. At that point, the Huckabee bandwagon didn’t seem all that amazing to Iowa veterans. “Actually, it is pretty straightforward,” said Prof. David Redlawsk, director of the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye Poll. “About 45 percent of 85,000 or so Republican caucus voters are evangelical Christians. Roughly half of them automatically vote for the most socially conservative candidate in the race, and it looks like they have decided that’s Huckabee. The other half can be won over, too—if they think he’s electable.”

The term of choice for the more thoughtful reporters, in describing the Iowa rules, is “arcane.” Kurtz used it, as did his colleague Dan Balz, in briefly telling the truth about the even more scandalous situation on the Democratic side:

With its arcane caucus rules, Iowa remains a small battlefield. Only 124,000 Democrats voted last time, less than a quarter of those eligible. So if Barack Obama, say, edges Hillary Clinton by 2,000 votes, he’ll be hailed in headlines as a giant-killer despite the tiny margin.

excerpt from ‘the portable atheist’ November 27, 2007

Posted by KG in books, news, religion, science.
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usatoday ran this excerpt from the introduction to christopher hitchens’ the portable atheist: essential readings for the nonbeliever, which has selected writings from bertrand russell, darwin, einstein, twain and others, along with some new pieces by salman rushdie and ayaan hirsi ali…

Richard Dawkins may have phrased it most pungently when he argued that everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god—from Ra to Shiva—in which he does not believe. All that the serious and objective atheist does is to take the next step and to say that there is just one more god to disbelieve in. Human solipsism can generally be counted upon to become enraged and to maintain that this discountable god must not be the one in which the believer himself has invested so much credence. So it goes. But the man-made character of religion, from which monotheism swore to deliver us at least in its pagan form, persists in a terrifying shape in our own time, as believers fight each other over the correct interpretation and even kill members of their own faiths in battles over doctrine. Civilization has been immensely retarded by such arcane interfaith quarrels and could now be destroyed by their modern versions.

Believing then—as this religious objection implicitly concedes—that human life is actually worth living, one can combat one’s natural pessimism by stoicism and the refusal of illusion, while embellishing the scene with any one of the following. There are the beauties of science and the extraordinary marvels of nature. There is the consolation and irony of philosophy. There are the infinite splendors of literature and poetry, not excluding the liturgical and devotional aspects of these, such as those found in John Donne or George Herbert. There is the grand resource of art and music and architecture, again not excluding those elements that aspire to the sublime. In all of these pursuits, any one of them enough to absorb a lifetime, there may be found a sense of awe and magnificence that does not depend at all on any invocation of the supernatural.