Isn’t there something quite delicious in the House Intelligence Committee’s conclusion that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – scandalous about “Benghazi” apart from what we knew already: that the outpost was poorly protected and that the State Department had been complacent about consulate security? Even Paul Mirengoff has to take his lumps:

The Committee concludes, among things, that CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi during the attack behaved bravely and made reasonable tactical decisions that saved lives, and that the CIA received all military support that was available.

It further concludes that after the attack, the administration’s initial public narrative (via Susan Rice) on the causes and motivations for the attack was not fully accurate. In addition, edits made to the Benghazi “talking points” were not fully accurate, and the process that produced the talking points was flawed. However, the Committee stops short of finding misconduct or bad faith on the part of Susan Rice or any other administration official.

Butters, who’s long been having a series of primary-enhanced conniptions about the whole thing, nonetheless evinced the classic Republican denial response: “I think the report is full of crap.” His only basis for saying that is that the report relied on the testimony of Obama administration officials – even though it also sought testimony from a bunch of Republican conspiracy theorists, even though it was packed with Republican ideologues, even though it had enormous reach and subpoena power.

At the Dish, we tried long and hard to find something in the Benghazi story that could really stand the test of moderate scrutiny … and failed. I even jumped the gun and impugned the honesty of Ben Rhodes at one point in trying to be as skeptical of administration assurances as any journalistic outfit should be. But after a while, we decided to ignore the issue unless something striking or new came up. In retrospect, that was the right call.

When you think of the staggering amount of time and resources devoted to chasing down this rabbit-hole, you have to wonder what is really fueling the GOP. I don’t think it’s a positive agenda to tackle some of our obviously pressing problems: eleven million undocumented immigrants, climate change, Iran’s nuclear potential, Jihadism in Iraq, soaring inequality. I think it’s rabid hatred of a president who does not share their priorities and a desperation to find some kind of quick and easy way of consigning him to a treasonous asterisk. They’ve failed on both counts.

A Poem For Sunday

Nov 23 2014 @ 8:43pm

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“Pain I Did Not” by Sharon Olds:

When my husband left, there was pain I did not
feel, which those who lose the one
who loves them feel. I was not driven
against the grate of a mortal life, but
just the slowly shut gate
of preference. At times I envied them—
what I saw as the honorable suffering
of one who is thrown against that iron
grille. I think he had come, in private, to
feel he was dying, with me, and if
he had what it took to rip his way out, with his
teeth, then he could be born. And so he went
into another world—this
world, where I do not see or hear him—
and my job is to eat the whole car
of my anger, part by part, some parts
ground down to steel-dust. I like best
the cloth seats, blue-grey, first
car we bought together, long since
marked with the scrubbed stains—drool,
tears, ice cream, no wounds, but only
the month’s blood of release, and the letting
go when the water broke.

(From Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds © 2012 by Sharon Olds. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Photo by Flickr user Thomas)

Quote For The Day II

Nov 23 2014 @ 7:51pm

“Maybe it’s not metaphysics. Maybe it’s existential. I’m talking about the individual US citizen’s deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Or Pascal. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we’ve lost one more day that will never come back and our childhoods are over and our adolescence and the vigor of youth and soon our adulthood, that everything we see around us all the time is decaying and passing, it’s all passing away, and so are we, so am I, and given how fast the first forty-two years have shot by it’s not going to be long before I too pass away, whoever imagined that there was a more truthful way to put it than ‘die,’ ‘pass away,’ the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday— …

And not only that, but everybody who knows me or even knows I exist will die, and then everybody who knows those people and might even conceivably have even heard of me will die, and so on, and the gravestones and monuments we spend money to have put in to make sure we’re remembered, these’ll last what—a hundred years? two hundred?—and they’ll crumble, and the grass and insects my decomposition will go to feed will die, and their offspring, or if I’m cremated the trees that are nourished by my windblown ash will die or get cut down and decay, and my urn will decay, and before maybe three or four generations it will be like I never existed, not only will I have passed away but it will be like I was never here, and people in 2104 or whatever will no more think of Stuart A. Nichols Jr. than you or I think of John T. Smith, 1790 to 1864, of Livingston, Virginia, or some such. That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we’re all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine, in fact, probably that’s why the manic US obsession with production, produce, produce, impact the world, contribute, shape things, to help distract us from how little and totally insignificant and temporary we are,” – David Foster Wallace, The Pale King.

Face Of The Day

Nov 23 2014 @ 7:04pm

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Adriane Ohanesian photographed the women of Burma’s Kachin Independence Army (KIA):

In Kachin State, in northern Myanmar, the anti-government sentiment runs particularly strong. In fact, rebels have a strong enough presence that control over Kachin is effectively split between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is the last remaining major rebel group in Myanmar that has not signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. While the country at large has begun opening its doors, the government has simultaneously banned UN agencies, international NGOs, and even foreigners from entering into KIA territory. Effectively, this leaves the people of Kachin with little access to the outside world.

The women of Kachin have few opportunities in this isolated region, outside of serving the KIA. From the age of 16 women are eligible to join the army, and often remain there until they are discharged for marriage. While some join out of dedication to their people, others are forcibly recruited. This is a look into the lives of the young women going through their first experiences of military training with the KIA.

In an interview, Ohanesian describes how she got access to her subjects:

Read On

Burke’s Leftist Leanings?

Nov 23 2014 @ 6:44pm

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In his new biography, The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke, David Bromwich claims that “no historian today would repeat the commonplace that Burke was the father of modern conservatism.” Jonathan Green unpacks how Bromwich defends that assertion:

After a rich discussion of Burke the philosopher, Bromwich considers his entry into politics. Here we see Burke as the British Parliament’s foremost critic of royal prerogative, as a steadfast defender of American Independence, and as an important strategist for the Rockingham wing of the Whig party. Along the way Bromwich unpacks Burke’s Thoughts on the Present Discontents, in which he defended organized parties as an essential check on executive power, and gives us a sympathetic account of Burke’s intransigent, oft-maligned opposition to George III. …

Throughout his narrative Bromwich keeps the Reflections on the Revolution in France in view, but he is keen to re-situate Burke’s critique of the revolutionaries’ ideology within the context of his earlier writings and speeches. The result is a Burke that is significantly more liberal—and more republican—than recent interpreters have acknowledged.

Samuel Moyn, in a long assessment of Bromwich’s hopes for a “Burkean left,” notes that after 9/11 he’s especially picked up on the British statesman’s criticisms of imperialism – which cuts across today’s party lines:

Read On

Jesus Amidst The Ruins

Nov 23 2014 @ 5:47pm

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Alice Su has spent six weeks reporting from Iraq, where, as she puts it, “faith seems saturated in hatred and blood.” In an essay about coming to terms with what it means to believe in God in the face of the devastation and suffering she’s witnessed, Su re-reads the gospels’ accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus:

What the hell is this Gospel? Why would the disciples believe it, as Jesus died and Roman rule continued? Why should I believe it, as I stand in front of a Yazidi woman whose daughter is enslaved, counting atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and Sudan, feeling like the smallest person in the world, taking notes and knowing they’ll do nothing but elicit some fleeting public sympathy and exert a featherweight bit of pressure on military and political powers?

In Iraq, I consider this unlikely message: Jesus did not end suffering and injustice, but He will end them. He did not fight the way the world fights, with swords and guns and drones and jingoistic anthems. He did not win an ethno-nationalist victory for the Jews. He did not stop Lazarus from dying, nor did he heal every person or raise every Beloved from the dead.

Christ rejected Pharisees and went to the sinners, even to the Gentiles. He was like a Palestinian going to the Israelis, a Sunni going to the Shia, a Kurd going to an Arab, a Yazidi going to an ISIS fighter. He crossed all the lines. He didn’t form a new club to supersede all the others. He said, being in a club won’t save you. Nothing you do will ever save you. Stop trying to be good. Seek God, repent and ask to be saved.

He washed feet.

Then He died.

(Image: The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, late 19th century, via Wikimedia Commons)

Racial Justice In The Real World

Nov 23 2014 @ 4:58pm

In a wonky but rewarding interview, political philosopher Charles Mills asserts the need for liberal theory to better grapple with racial justice. He turns to a term – the “epistemology of ignorance” – from his book The Racial Contract to help explain the complexities of doing so:

The phrasing (“epistemology of ignorance”) was calculatedly designed by me to be attention-getting through appearing to be oxymoronic. I was trying to capture the idea of norms of cognition that so function as to work against successful cognition. Systems of domination affect us not merely in terms of material advantage and disadvantage, but also in terms of likelihoods of getting things right or wrong, since unfair social privilege reproduces itself in part through people learning to see and feel about the world in ways that accommodate injustice. “Ignorance” is actively reproduced and is resistant to elimination. This is, of course, an old insight of the left tradition with respect to class. I was just translating it into a different vocabulary and applying it to race. So one can see the idea (and my later work on “white ignorance”) as my attempt to contribute to the new “social epistemology,” which breaks with traditional Cartesian epistemological individualism, but in my opinion needs to focus more on social oppression than it currently does.

Mills goes on to make a related point, that we “need to ask how it came about, and has come to seem normal, that ‘social justice’ as a philosophical concept has become so detached from the concerns of actual social justice movements”:

Read On

Mental Health Break

Nov 23 2014 @ 4:20pm

So. Many. Colors:

The Mid-Life Rebound

Nov 23 2014 @ 3:34pm

Jonathan Rauch isn’t alone in preferring his 50s to his 40s:

Studies show quite strongly that people’s satisfaction with their life increases, on average, from their early 50s on through their 60s and 70s and even beyond – for many until disability and final illness exact their toll toward the very end (at which point it’s hard to generalize). In a 2011 study, for example, the Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen and seven colleagues found that “the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade” – a finding that is “often met with disbelief in both the general population and the research community,” despite its strength. …

Rauch adds, “In my own case, what seems most relevant is a change frequently described both in popular lore and in the research literature – for some reason, I became more accepting of my limitations”:

Read On

We’ve featured the work of Matthew Vines many times before, and want to highlight a speech given at a conference recently held by his organization, The Reformation Project. A keynote speaker, David Gushee, one of the foremost evangelical ethicists in the United States, used the occasion to announce his support for the full-inclusion of LGBT Christians in the Church. The above video of Gushee’s remarks is longer than we usually post, but it’s worth watching in full. (You can read a transcript of his remarks here.) For a sense of why this matters, Jonathan Merritt sketches Gushee’s place in the evangelical world:

It is difficult to overstate the potential impact of Gushee’s defection. His Christian ethics textbook, “Kingdom Ethics,” co-authored with the late Glen Stassen, is widely respected and was named a 2004 Christianity Today book of the year. He serves as theologian-in-residence for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a coalition of 15 theological schools, 150 ministries, and 1,800 Baptist churches nationwide.

While other pro-LGBT Christian activists — including Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network and Matthew Vines, author of “God and the Gay Christian” — have been dismissed in some circles as wet-behind-the-ears youngsters without formal theological training, Gushee, 52, is a scholar with impeccable credentials. He can add intellectual heft to what has largely been a youth-led movement, and is not someone who can be easily dismissed.

Gushee summarizes his approach to the issue this way:

Read On