Mormons: “Dangerous Cult”?

I’m inclined to think so.

Living in America’s second largest Mormon stronghold for many years, including two years in a predominantly Mormon office, I was treated to a bird’s eye view of the squarest, looniest cult in America. And I mean loony. They have every right to practice as they please and believe in whatever they choose to. It’s when they decide to meddle in the law and legislate discrimination that my feelings go from distaste (with just a dash of revulsion) to feeling the need to speak out.

It’s now the time to speak out, as those interviewed in the article make clear. And I don’t care how “icky” some may think the idea of gay marriage it. That’s not the issue. The issue is passing a proposition that is a pure, undisguised act of discrimination, wrapped in the canard of “the sanctity of marriage.” If that were so important to these hypocrites, they would have put all that cash behind a proposition banning divorce.

There’s a delicious irony to seeing all this moral indignation over the sanctity of marriage coming from the not-so-long-ago polygamous Mormons, whose sects in my own state still have multiple wives including child-brides.

Update: Good perspective here as well.


Open thread, or whatever

[Bumped up to keep an open thread on top.]

Busy with some big events. But want to share some links and open a thread now that the ones below are running out of steam.

First, a superb book review on the life of China’s female migrant workers who leave the countryside for work in cities like Dongguan.

The women’s road from village to factory job is lined with manipulators and cheats, and the schools, which busily copy one another’s curriculums, in turn teach the virtues of lying as a means of getting ahead. “People who are too honest in this society will lose out,” one instructor told the author.

That’s true in a lot of places. Here especially, for lots of reasons.

Second, a surprisingly intelligent Dowd column of Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama and the knee-jerk revulsion so many Americans feel at the notion of a Muslim in their midst.

In a gratifying “have you no sense of decency, Sir and Madam?” moment, Colin Powell went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday and talked about Khan, and the unseemly ways John McCain and Palin have been polarizing the country to try to get elected. It was a tonic to hear someone push back so clearly on ugly innuendo.

Even the Obama campaign has shied away from Muslims. The candidate has gone to synagogues but no mosques, and the campaign was embarrassed when it turned out that two young women in headscarves had not been allowed to stand behind Obama during a speech in Detroit because aides did not want them in the TV shot.

Violence in Taiwan:

Taiwanese television showed Zhang Mingqing, vice chairman of a mainland association handling cross-strait relations, lying on the ground beside his eyeglasses. Other footage showed an elderly woman hitting his car window with her cane and a pro-independence activist with a green headband stomping on the roof of the car.

That followed an incident Monday in which about 200 demonstrators yelled, cursed and heckled Zhang as he took the podium at Tainan National University of the Arts. Zhang was in Taiwan for an academic symposium, ostensibly in a nonofficial capacity. Taiwan and China often communicate through unofficial channels, given their strained relations.

Finally, Pomfret sounds gloomy about how the global financial crisis will affect China.

Any time the official New China News Agency files a piece with the headline: “Experts: China’s economy has ability to recover from slowdown,” it’s time to worry about China’s economy. You’ve already heard the news, no doubt.

Five straight quarters of slower growth. China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced this week that the nation’s economy grew at an annual rate of 9 percent in the quarter ending Sept. 30, the lowest since 2003 — when the SARS epidemic turned the economy upside down. Exports are shrinking so fast that some economists are predicting the sector will not grow at all next year.

More ominously for “social stability,” however, are the lay-offs. More than half of China’s 7,000 plus toy makers are out of business. More than 67,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises have gone belly up in the first nine months of this year, according to a report in the China Business News this week. There are an increasing number of reports about labor unrest among those turfed out of work.

For the record, I think Pomfret’s view is way too bleak. China has what it takes to deal with the situation: Money.

I think the only good news today is that Al Qaeda “endorsed” McCain. They endorsed Kerry the last time and look what happened.


America’s first black president

Kristof, my least favorite Times columnist after all the other Times columnists aside from Paul Krugman, tells the story of his conversation this week with a Chinese woman in Beijing about the fact that America is about to elect Obama to be president.

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

Kristof’s point in the column is that the entire world feels the same way, awed and amazed that America can do this, and that it could indicate a return to the kinder, gentler America envisioned by Bush I. The world is ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Kristof concludes,

Yet if this election goes as the polls suggest, we may find a path to restore America’s global influence — and thus to achieve some of our international objectives — in part because the world is concluding that Americans can, after all, see beyond a person’s epidermis.

On a related note: This is maybe the best Joe Klein article ever (and he used to be really good back in the 90s, started to suck in the Bush years and has slowly but steadily returned to his senses). It’s about why Obama is going to be America;s first back presidentRead that first page about Obama’s meeting with General Petraeus. I was definitely impressed. The most personal and most interesting piece I’ve read on Obama, and just about any politician.

One reader here said a couple of months ago, “You and I both know America isn’t ready to elect a black man president.” And even today he’s sticking to his guns on that. Sorry “my friends” (as McCain would say), but it’s going to happen and we’d better all get used to it. Read the article, and maybe you’ll feel a little better about him. I know, it’s hard not to be cynical about any politician, especially when we harbor strong feelings about them. All I can say is that’s when we should make an extra effort to see the other side of the story. Because things are never – pardon the expression – so black and white.

Contrary to my “America isn’t ready” friend, I believe the election of our first black president is not only a distinct possibility but an inevitability. (The just-like-us-plain-folks Joe-six-pack lovin’ soccer mom certainly didn’t give his opponent any advantages.)

Sorry if that post sprawled a bit. Long day.


Colin Powell

I am lifting the photo and the quote from this site. Because Powell addressed an issue of tremendous importance, and he had the bravery to answer that vile question, “Isn’t Obama a Muslim”? with the noble words McCain himself should have uttered when confronted with similar allegations.

Here is what Colin Powell said yesterday when he announced his endorsement of Obama.

And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

…I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Powell, as I said before, screwed up terribly and can’t be entirely forgiven for his role in leading us into a stupid, pointless and horrific war. But he has proven what I always believed about him, namely that he is a decent person who never belonged in the toxic environment known as the Bush Administration. I feel a little prouder to be an American when I read the words above, as I also feel ashamed of those among us who have fomented racism and hatred, and cynically used it as a political tool. (I’m talking to you and you, among others.)

As the reporter said, turning on Powell now would be the costiest error for the GOP, keeping his endorsement of Obama on the front pages. Let’s hope Rush and Michelle and the like keep it up.


George Soros: China Rising, US Declining

Funny, how what sounded like such a crazy notion to some just a year ago now seems to be pretty much accepted as a given the world over. Soros saying as much gives the point – obvious as it always was to the prescient – added weight.

China will be the biggest winner of the current financial crisis, US billionaire and philanthropist George Soros said. The financier gave an interview to Germany’s Die Welt, in which he told of the roots of the crisis and said that the mortgage bubble only triggered the process, which entailed the economic collapse. The businessman also explained the reason why the Bush’s administration proved to be unable to cope with the crisis.

The United States and a part of Europe will have nationalized banks and huge debts. China will become the new global financial empire….

“The USA’s influence has already begun to decline. For the past 25 years, we have been running a constant current account deficit. The Chinese and the oil-producing countries have been running a surplus. We have consumed more than we produced. While we have run up debt, they have acquired wealth with their savings. Increasingly, the Chinese will own a lot more of the world because they will be converting their dollar reserves and US government bonds into real assets. The power shift towards Asia will occur as a result of the sins which America committed during the recent 25 years,” Soros said.

You can ignore Soros at your own risk. His track record has been nothing short of astonishing. And for my right-wing friends who fell for the Fox News smears of Soros as a deranged leftist, all I can say is do your homework. Soros is a man of principle, a great philanthropist and a huge friend to liberal causes. Yes, he has a few – very few – skeletons in his closet (insider trading in 1988) like other billionaires do, but all in all he is a hero, and a role model for other billionaires.

We all know how much China sucks in so many ways. Most of us also know what an amazing country it is, how splendid many of its people are and what promise it holds for the future. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, we are in decline while Asia in general and China in particular are rising. That is not a judgment call on whether China should hold this honor. It’s just the way it is, like it or not. And in a lot of ways I don’t like it. It’s just what’s so. They were smarter than we were. I have to hand it to them.


Palin as President

Thanks to Lisa for leading me to this site. Just keep clicking. Brilliant.

Kind of eerie, how she seems to have totally disappeared from view. I think most people now think of her as some bad dream that luckily seems to have vanished, crept back under its rock. The notion of her every being anywhere the White House was so absurd, so untenable….


Isn’t it really time for a change?

The reasoning behind this is just so tortured:

The US government is cutting its funding for the supply of contraceptives to family planning clinics run by Marie Stopes International in Africa, alleging that it condones forced abortions in China.

MSI has categorically denied that it supports forced abortions or coercive sterilisation in China or anywhere else in the world, and says that the actions of the Bush government will result in more abortions in Africa, as women will be unable to get contraceptives and will end up with unwanted pregnancies.

One of George Bush’s first acts after becoming president was to stop all US funds to foreign organisations that helped women in any way to get an abortion, including providing advice. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) lost $34m that Congress had appropriated for it in 2002.

…”At a time when governments have pledged to increase their commitment to improving the health of women, only the Bush administration could find logic in the idea that they can reduce abortion and promote choice for women in China by causing more abortion,” said [MSI CEO] Hovig.

I think the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief after we’ve sworn in Obama and Biden. A pity they’ll face the near-impossible task of cleaning up all the crap Bush & Co. will leave behind, like numerous wars, a battered global reputation, a broken economy and a whole lot more. But at least it will put an end to nonsense like this.



How did Palin do in the debate, in which the bar was set lower than ever before?

Who won the debate, based on the polls?

How bad is the economy looking compared to two weeks ago?


“She’ll grow into the job”

From the latest Couric interview with Palin. Heh.

KATIE COURIC: “What happens if the goal of democracy doesn’t produce the desired outcome? In Gaza, the U.S. pushed hard for elections and Hamas won.”

SARAH PALIN: “Yeah, well especially in that region, though, we have to protect those who do seek democracy and support those who seek protections for the people who live there. What we’re seeing in the last couple of days here in New York is a President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who would come on our soil and express such disdain for one of our closest allies and friends, Israel … and we’re hearing the evil that he speaks and if hearing him doesn’t allow Americans to commit more solidly to protecting the friends and allies that we need, especially there in the Mideast, then nothing will.”

Yes, just the kind of incisive, penetrating mind we need to deal with the most complex, most fragile moment in America’s entire history. President Palin. Horrifying. Literally horrifying.


Prescient words

During the 2004 election I repeatedly posted this quote from the great H. L. Mencken. Looking at Palin and McCain, I realize it’s time to post it yet again. Savor every word. It is spot-on.

“[W]hen a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental – men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost…

[A]ll the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre – the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

H. L. Mencken, in the Baltimore Sun, July 26, 1920.

That vision was fulfilled, of course, in 2004. Let’s do all we can to make sure we don’t elect another moron. Are you registered, and do you have your absentee ballot if you’re living here? Don’t let Palin or the sage who selelcted her anywhere near DC. Your vote really does matter.