April 23rd, 2010

Obama and Niebuhr

In yesterday’s post on Obama’s reading habits, I requested that if anyone knew of an interview in which Obama was asked to talk in depth about a book or author he’s read, I’d like to be alerted to it. Commenter “dw53” obliged by pointing out that David Brooks once described a discussion he’d had with Obama about his fondness for the works of religious philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr.

Brooks was mighty impressed with what Obama had to say on the subject:

I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I’m getting nowhere with the interview, it’s late in the night, he’s on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he’s cranky. Out of the blue I say, “Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?” And he says, “Yeah.” So I say, “What did Niebuhr mean to you?” For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.

It’s hard to know exactly what Obama said that was so dazzling. But since David Brooks has never written anything that indicates he’s any sort of deep thinker himself, perhaps the mere fact that Obama was familiar with the name “Reinhold Niebuhr” was enough to do the trick. Remember also that Brooks was the guy who fell in love with Obama at first sight (or first interview), on account of the latter’s sartorial splendor:

I remember distinctly an image of—we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

The whole thing reminds me of Daisy’s veneration for Jay Gatsby’s beautiful shirts—although even Daisy wasn’t silly enough to think that his lovely shirts qualified Gatsby to be president, much less a “very good” one. But this is the sort of thing that passes for thought in the MSM these days.

At any rate, it seems clear that Obama at least knows something about Niebuhr and has read at least some portion of his works. You might recognize certain commonalities from this description of Niebuhr’s philosophy by Wilfred McClay, a historian specializing in American intellectual history:

Obama’s not the first American president to declare his fondness for Niebuhr. Jimmy Carter notably did, both before and after his election. Some people think that the famous “malaise” speech had some Niebuhrian input…

Niebuhr remained a man of the left always. Maybe not enough left to suit some people, but he certainly was never a conservative. And he believed Christians were obligated to work actively for progressive social causes, for the realization of justice and righteousness, but they had to do this in a way that abandoned their illusions, not least in the way they thought about themselves. The pursuit of social justice would involve them in acts of sin and imperfection. Even the most surgical action, one might say, involves collateral damage…

Nobody can top Niebuhr for his anticommunism, but he also believed the United States resembled its antagonists more than it cared to imagine. He criticizes the communists for their philosophical materialism, but then points out that Americans are guilty of the same thing in practice…

[Its] tendency towards materialism was not even the greatest of America’s dangers. Even more perilous, he thought, was one of our principal points of pride, the entrenched idea that America has a providential mission in the world and [that] our nation is rendered uniquely virtuous and innocent by the blessings of history, locating the beginnings of it in the Calvinist Puritan tradition, and then the Jeffersonian tradition, which saw America’s as nature’s nation, free from the encumbrances of the old world…

I’m no expert on Niebuhr (haven’t read him myself). I’m not contending that he and Obama see exactly eye to eye on everything. And Niebuhr is known for holding views that allow both “progressives” and conservatives to claim him for their own. But there are enough resonances between Obama’s thinking and Niebuhr’s for me to believe that Obama has indeed actually read the guy (at least some of his works, anyway) and thinks highly of him. Obama staunch position against American exceptionalism has many philosophical influences—another noted theologian, Reverend Wright, being one of them. But Niebuhr is clearly another.

When Niebuhr indicated that people who want to do good must accept that “pursuit of social justice would involve them in acts of sin and imperfection” he may have merely meant that the perfect is the enemy of the good. But it’s a very slippery slope. For Obama, it seems to have been translated into the idea that the ends justify the means.

40 Responses to “Obama and Niebuhr”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I suppose we should ask for a definition of “social justice”.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey: There’s this.

  3. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Niebuhr is not all of a piece – there are changes along the way, including growing anticommunism. This might explain his dual appeal: Liberals prefer the earlier pacifist and socialist Niebuhr; conservatives prefer the later anticommunist and military-intervention permitting Niebuhr. That is an oversimplification, by the way.

    We cannot guarrantee that a person’s last views were his best, of course, but we usually regard changes in political views as developments rather than mere changes.

  4. Occam's Beard Says:

    I haven’t read Niebuhr either, and doubtless never will.

    Having said that, it would have been interesting for Brooks to have asked Obama how he’d compare Niebuhr to some other religious philosopher of similar ilk.

    This would be a control experiment to guard against being conned by someone prepping discourse on one topic to invite the conclusion that this was one of a series of such topics he’d read and contemplated in detail.

    Those who are of a particularly nasty disposition, and who suspect the above scenario, would make up some other philosopher out of whole cloth and invite his interlocutor’s disquisition comparing and contrasting them.

    Not that I know anyone who would ever do such an invidious thing. Like on an oral exam, for example. Because that would be wrong. So very wrong. /g

  5. Sergey Says:

    This shift from pacifist, socialist and Marxist views to militarism and anticommunism is typical to many people of Niebuhr generation. Orwell was one of them. Universality of this trend makes it a real development.

  6. John Says:

    Sorry for the discussion hi-jack but I wonder if Mr. Obama has read this?

    “Uncovered Portions of Blacked-Out Subpoena Suggest Obama Advised Blagojevich on Senate Replacement”


  7. CV Says:

    I don’t know much about Niebuhr, but I have read about Obama’s fondness for Niebuhr’s philosophy in various other places over the past several years.

    The historian’s description that “the pursuit of social justice would involve them in acts of sin and imperfection” and “even the most surgical action, one might say, involves collateral damage” was very interesting. Not hard to see why Obama would embrace some intellectual cover for his whole M.O…

  8. Artfldgr Says:

    I’m no expert on Niebuhr (haven’t read him myself).

    actually… you HAVE read him…

    God, grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    The courage to change the things that I can;
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    cant say you dont know that, can you?

    For every ailment under the sun
    There is a remedy, or there is none;
    If there be one, try to find it;
    If there be none, never mind it.

    and the other reason they like it is that his theories, so well dressed up, made right, doing really wrong.

    Just War Theory is a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin[1][2] studied by moral theologians, ethicists and international policy makers which holds that a conflict can and ought to meet the criteria of philosophical, religious or political justice, provided it follows certain conditions.

    its a philosophical view that PERSONALLY i think has not really understood the subject in terms of what it really is, but instead addresses what it is in the minds of people (especially those people having not studied it and not participated)

    though remember they pervert and twist anything they can use, and so did with this too.

    ever wonder why the US now loses wars?

    its a VERY simple explanation… we fight wars in a “just” way… and by doing so, we do not meet them on the field with overwhelming force, but instead, try to fight ‘fair’ or ‘justly’ meeting them as equals.

    now from a false moral point which they use (ie, must be moral in thought before reality, which is stupid since reality is wahts real and each of us lives in a unique world created by the intersection of our genetics realized and what experiences were used to develop the artividial world your mind lives in. this touches on it too: http://neoneocon.com/2010/04/22/its-earth-day-lets-celebrate/#comment-157049 )

    so this equality is procrustean and does not look to reality as part of the input to morals, or outcomes in reality as part of the moral argument.

    ie, they confuse the infinity of thought and that universe of the unreal as real, and reality as the dream (another inversion). technically, thats a learned form of mass delusion.


    by doing this, you make wars last the longest they can possibly last.

    you put impossible burdens on the larger side

    AND, while the idea of force is symmetrical, finances are not. and so this shifts the battle from one between the actual fighters, to a holding situation in which the one who is cheapest and can hold on longest wins.

    that is the lesser always.

    [and it also insures that military is tangled up, needs to be larger, and lots more]

    i recently put up an image of waht obama was reading.. no one cared..

    it was
    The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism / a book that references this man…

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    So where is the juicy dirt?

    Christianity and Power Politics by Reinhold Niebuhr
    Chapter 29: Reinhold Niebuhr: “Hitler and Buchman”

    we cant assume what one pulls out of texts…

    “I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front-line defense against the anti-Christ of communism…. My barber in London told me Hitler saved all Europe from communism. That’s how he felt. Of course I don’t condone everything the Nazis do. Antisemitism? Bad, naturally. I suppose Hitler sees a Karl Marx in every Jew. But think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to the control of God. Or Mussolini. Or any dictator. Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last bewildering problem.” – Buchman

    In this interview the social philosophy of the Oxford group, long implicit in its strategy, is made explicit, and revealed in all its childishness and viciousness.

    This philosophy has been implicit in Buchmanite strategy from the beginning.

    It explains the particular attention which is paid by Mr. Buchman and his followers to big men, leaders, in industry and politics.

    The idea is that if the man of power can be converted, God will be able to control a larger area of human life through his power than if a little man were converted. This is the logic which has filled the Buchmanites with touching solicitude for the souls of such men as Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone and prompted them to whisper confidentially from time to time that these men were on the very threshold of the kingdom of God. It is this strategy which prompts or justifies the first-class travel of all the Oxford teams. They hope to make contact with big men in the luxurious first-class quarters of ocean liners.

    now thats all pretty boring.

    In other words, a Nazi social philosophy has been a covert presumption of the whole Oxford group enterprise from the very beginning.

    We may be grateful to the leader for revealing so clearly what has been slightly hidden.

    Now we can see how unbelievably naïve this movement is in its efforts to save the world.

    If it would content itself with preaching repentance to drunkards and adulterers one might be willing to respect it as a religious revival method which knows how to confront the sinner with God.

    But when it runs to Geneva, the seat of the League of Nations, or to Prince Starhemberg or Hitler, or to any seat of power, always with the idea that it is on the verge of saving the world by bringing the people who control the world under God-control, it is difficult to restrain the contempt which one feels for this dangerous childishness.

    This idea of world salvation implies a social philosophy which is completely innocent of any understanding of the social dynamics of a civilization.

    Does Mr. Buchman really believe that the dictators of the modern world create their dictatorships out of whole cloth?

    He does not know, evidently, that they are the creatures more than the creators of vast social movements in modern history.

    The particular social forces which create dictatorships are on the whole the decadent forces of a very sick society.

    The sickness of that society is the sickness of sin;

    as i said… it depends on what your looking at as to what you will get out of it.

    a man against something your for, can end up defining and showing you the way to that something better than other sources. it doesn’t mean you side with them as their ideals, it could be you use their ideals as a way to devise more about what your interested in. ie, you invert the teachings purpose.

    what you CAN get out of his writings, which is not the point of his writings, is the perfect excuse for a sociopath with a god complex to take over a nation

    In the simple and decadent individualism of the Oxford group movement there is no understanding of the fact that the man of power is always to a certain degree an anti-Christ.

    “All power,” said Lord Acton with cynical realism, “corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    If the man of power were to take a message of absolute honesty and absolute love seriously he would lose his power, or would divest himself of it.

    This is not to imply that the world can get along without power and that it is not preferable that men of conscience should wield it rather than scoundrels.

    But if men of power had not only conscience but also something of the gospel’s insight into the intricacies of social sin in the world, they would know that they could never extricate themselves completely from the sinfulness of power, even while they were wielding it ostensibly for the common good.

    and so, they are damned anyway, so why bother with morals? as i said, different people will take different from it.

    while most of the writing points out that one shouldn’t have a dictatorship, as the don’t work. the writings also end up being one of the most insightful documents on the NATURE of dictatorships.

    Mr. Buchman has greater aptness for advertising slogans than for historical perspectives.

    Otherwise he might have had occasion to meditate upon the life of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was a Christian in the real sense. There was a vital Christian faith in him which is hardly available for a modern statesman even after the ministrations of the Oxford group. Cromwell really wanted to do the will of God — and thought he was doing it. Yet nothing in Cromwell’s personal religion could save his dictatorship from being abortive and self-devouring.


    The life and religion of Bismarck suggest similar lessons. Bismarck, who established a slightly more palatable dictatorship in Germany than Hitler’s was a convert of the pietist movement. This movement was informed by an evangelical fervor which some of us may be pardoned for preferring to the sentimentalities of the Oxford groups. It deeply affected Bismarck. He was in certain areas of his life a very genuine Christian. But his surrender to God hardly accomplished the results in politics which Mr. Buchman envisages as a possibility in the case of Hitler’s conversion. It did not help God to “control his nation overnight and solve every last bewildering problem.”

    makes the fact that obama knows him in detail (and in combination with other things) not a soothing thing as one might first think

    what makes it scary is when you assemble it with the idea of social justice. then your talking father coughlin and Frank Buchman

  10. Nolanimrod Says:

    Am I the only one who, upon reading stuff like this, just before writing something about what an idiot Brooks is, gets a nagging doubt that just maybe Brooks is one very laid-back Andy Kaufman?

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    The Oxford Group was a Christian movement that had a following in Europe and America in the 1920s and 30s. It was initiated by an American Lutheran pastor, Dr. Frank Buchman, who was of Swiss descent. In 1908 he claimed a conversion experience in a chapel in Keswick, England and later he initiated a movement called A First Century Christian Fellowship in 1921, and by 1931, this had grown into a movement which attracted thousands of adherents, many well-to-do, which became known as the Oxford Group.

    ah… but its this part that is pertinent.

    there is a reason why so much of what they are doign is EXACTLY what the nazi party did. the nazi were their laboratory…

    At the beginning of the 1930s, Buchman kept in close touch with Germans active in the Oxford Group. Adolf Hitler had, at first, presented himself as a defender of Christianity, declaring in 1928, “We shall not tolerate in our ranks anyone who hurts Christian ideas”. Buchman was convinced that without a change in the heart of the National Socialist regime, a world war would become inevitable. He also believed that any person, including the German leaders, could find a living Christian faith with a commitment to Christ’s moral values.[25]

    Moni von Crammon, a German member of the Oxford Group, was the invited guest of Heinrich Himmler for the Nuremberg Rally and she in turn invited Frank Buchman. Moni and Frank sat beside Heinrich Himmler at an informal luncheon, where they discussed religion and politics. Due to his family background, Frank Buchman spoke German fluently. Buchman and von Crammon attended two of the Nazi Party rallies, one in 1934 and the other in 1935. Von Crammon later claimed after the war, that her association with Himmler came as a result of her seeking him out in the matter of her possible arrest, due to a piece of literature that was construed as anti-Nazi, found in her possession by a maid.[26]

    In August 1936, Frank Buchman was Heinrich Himmler’s guest at the Berlin Olympics. Buchman offered to introduce British Member of Parliament Kenneth Lindsay to Himmler, referring to Himmler as “a great lad”.[27] Buchman added that Hitler himself was being most helpful to the Group: “He lets us have house-parties whenever we like”. Buchman did not seem to think much of England or of Canada: England was in a terrible state — “seething with Communism”; and so was Canada. Lindsay disagreed: he thought that such an assessment showed that Buchman really knew very little about England or Canada

    The third, from 1942, says “No other Christian movement has underlined so strongly the character of Christianity as being supernational and independent of all racial barriers… It tries fanatically to make all men into brothers”. Lean claims the information source is a file called Die Oxford- oder Gruppenbewegung, Herausgegeben vom Sicherheitshauptamt, November 1936″, Geheim, Nummeriertes Exemplar Nr. 1″

    when you read the next paragraph, think of that and in terms of ISLAM, and our leader and all that stuff

    “Suppose we here were all God-controlled and we became the Cabinet,” he said. “You” — pointing at the reporter, who seldom ventures off the pavements of Manhattan — “You would take over agriculture. You” — a Princeton graduate beamed — “would be Mr Hull. Eric here, who has been playing around with a prominent Canadian who’s Cabinet material1, would be something else, and this young lawyer would run the Post Office.
    “Then in a God-controlled nation, capital and labour would discuss their problems peacefully and reach God-controlled solutions. Yes, business would be owned by individuals, not by the State, but the owners would be God-controlled.”

  12. Tom Says:

    I find it extremely hard to see any humor in what’s becoming of us. If Americans don’t take America back this November, we are done, and done for.

  13. Artfldgr Says:

    Bill later described that practice of deception like this:

    …drinkers would not take pressure in any form, excepting from John Barleycorn himself. They always had to be led, not pushed. They would not stand for the rather aggressive evangelism of the Oxford Group. And they would not accept the principle of “team guidance” for their own personal lives. It was too authoritarian for them. In other respects, too, we found we had to make haste slowly. When first contacted, most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety, nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only little by little. They simply did not want to get “too good too soon.” The Oxford Groups’ absolute concepts — absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love — were frequently too much for the drunks. These ideas had to be fed with teaspoons rather than by buckets.
    Besides, the Oxford Groups’ “absolutes” were expressions peculiar to them. This was a terminology which might continue to identify us in the public mind with the Oxford Groupers, even though we had completely withdrawn from their fellowship.
    Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, pages 74-75.

  14. Curtis Says:

    Artfldgr: I’m thinking of an analogy here to kind of help me understand. The analogy brings up the earlier Archie Bunker topic:

    People misinterpreted the Archie Bunker show and related more with Archie and his neurosis and missed the whole point of the show.

    I think it true. Obama could teach the alphabet and think it about him. Indeed, don’t the earth and the sky declare Obama’s glory!

  15. Artfldgr Says:

    looking over to all the history you find the odd notion of the devine rights of rulers who have god on their side.

    the end justifies the means as a valid moral doctrine, and a lot more.

    way way way too much for me to detail even a bit.

    however if one has experience with many of the stuff, and the other related things.. a normal person might see such as a kind of informative way to understand despotism and so on.

    but the person with the bent, would see it a confirmatory, and instructional, and so on.

    Destructive narcissists categorized as “Manipulative” are particularly prone to use misleading statements and lies. Do they know they are lying? Yes. But, they feel they have the right to use any means available to achieve their ends. Further, some will have an assumption, much like that of “Suspicious” narcissists, that everyone is lying, and thus lying is fair play. –
    Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 67.


    Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder, Grandiose Type
    Grandiose Type. Grandiose delusions usually take the form of the person’s being convinced that he or she possesses some great, but unrecognized, talent or insight, or has made some important discovery… Grandiose delusions may have a religious content, and people with these delusions can become leaders of religious cults. Delusional Disorder in which the predominant theme of the delusion(s) is one of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person.

    From: DSM-III-R, pages 200-203.
    (The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — DSM-IV — lists the same disorder, 297.1, on pages 297 to 301.3
    The fourth edition, text revised, DSM-IV-TR, lists the disorder on pages 323 to 329.)

    now for me to tie this up to you..

    COMMUNITY organizers are very aware of the FAMOUS bill wilson… and all the others of the early days from oxford group and so on…

    THIS is the history that obama knows in details and so thinks he knows history.

    its interesting to read the history of bill wilson and then to realize taht there are some striking similarities to conclusions and ideas that came from his sense of granduer and such ./

    read this by wilson, and the comment, and then think of how obama thinks that without him, we cant get healthy, or fix anything

    “But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics?” bill wilson

    They would not know how to get well? They would not be able to figure out how to quit drinking without Bill Wilson telling them? Nobody else in the whole world knows how to quit drinking but Bill Wilson, and without him, the other alcoholics will all just die?

    Remember, this happened in the spring of 1935, when Bill Wilson had only five months of sobriety, and he had not founded Alcoholics Anonymous yet, nor had he even met Doctor Robert Smith yet — he would meet Dr. Bob the next day. And Bill had not helped a single alcoholic to quit drinking. Not one. He had been trying to recruit more alcoholics for Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group cult, but had totally failed with every last one of them, because he drove them away with his fanatical preaching. Bill had not gotten the Oxford Group a single new member, and the Oxford Group regarded Bill Wilson as a real loser. Yet Bill thought that he was so important that “the other alcoholics” would die if he drank again.

    That is delusions of grandeur. And it’s also characteristic of a narcissistic personality disorder.

    however remember obama was introduced to the senate and such through a party at ayers place?

    Oxford Group Recruitment Practices

    e Oxford Group grew massively between 1920 to the 1930s. A number of religious organizations adopted these strategies, now referred to as spiritual retreats, as well as the practice of individuals in open meetings sharing their conversion experiences

    The Oxford group employed teamwork. The people who were considered “changed” were considered part of the whole team. Team guidance led to the selection of smaller units to direct house parties, handle publicity, issue publications, manage bookstands, organize parades and to conduct witness

    There were teams that traveled; many house parties featured out-of-town people who came to the party to relate their experiences in the “Group Way of Life”. They tried to include celebrities on traveling teams. Attendance was by printed invitation and sent by people active in the group. In most cases the invitation would mention that prominent people would be present. Invitations were also sent to “key people” in the *community

    that last one is the lectures… like the bowel movement. its a party.. she comes to confess and get them going. tell them to work harder. and so on.

    House parties were held in a variety of locations: a wealthy home, at a fashionable hotel, inn, or summer resort, as well as outdoor camps, and at times held in less fashionable locations such as a college dorm. House parties were held from a weekend up to two weeks. A house party team would meet in advance for training and preparation. The teams would remain throughout the meetings and handle a number of details. Oxford Group literature was on display

    Meetings followed no formal agenda and were not like church meetings, as singing and public prayer were absent. Time was devoted to talks by the team members on subjects such as sin, surrender, quiet time, the four absolutes, guidance, and intelligent witness. In most meetings personal sharing of experience was undertaken by a team of up to 12 or more people. The informal spirit was to set the guests at ease and allow for psychological barriers to fall. After a day or two many guests would feel uncomfortable and to release the discomfort would be encouraged by Group workers to undergo the “surrender experience”

    surrender experience”

    you can detect that the religious group that mr mission impossible has a problem with uses these techniques.

    and again, history is the laboratory, and you can use it to let you know waht will work or not work (if you understand it correctly)

    tons of organizations and experimenting on people.. and so that era is rich in texts as to methodologies, even if you dont agree with the ideology woh discovered it.

  16. Artfldgr Says:

    Oxford changed to the MRA, and

    In the post war years Moral Re-Armament (MRA) widened its activities to provide “an ideology for democracy”

    In 2001, Moral Re-Armament became Initiatives of Change.

    Initiatives of Change (“IofC”) is a global organization dedicated to “building trust across the world’s divides”[1] of culture, nationality, belief, and background. The organization is committed to transforming society, beginning with change in individual lives and relationships.D. Paul Monteiro

    White House Office of Public Engagement

    D. Paul Monteiro, a lawyer and former Senate staffer, was appointed by President Obama to serve as religious liaison in its Office of Public Liaison & Intergovernmental Affairs (OPL-IGA). Monteiro, a ’07 graduate of Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., helped coordinate faith outreach across Illinois while working in the nation’s capital for then Senator Obama. In early ’07, Monteiro joined fellow Senate staffers in Chicago to work on the presidential campaign “Obama for America” of the Democratic National Committee, as National deputy director of religious affairs, later helping to organize the inaugural national prayer service. At his new post, Monteiro schedules events and meetings with representatives from various organizations and denominations, whose concerns he passes on to the appropriate office or agency. Monteiro also serves as youth liaison in the Office of Public Liaison.

    and when you read the next paragraph..

    think of HOPE AND CHANGE

    Initiatives of Change programs are active in many countries. In the United States, Hope in the Cities promotes honest conversations on race, reconciliation and responsibility.[3]

    In Switzerland, the Caux Forum for Human Security brings together people working for peace and human security.[4]

    In India, Centre for Governance works with development experts, policy makers, social activists and others to strengthen role of citizens in governance.[5]

    Asia Plateau in Panchgani, India is another international conference centre, created in 1967. In Sierra Leone, Hope Sierra Leone is active in reconciling and rebuilding the country ravaged by civil war.

    and these orgs are linked to other orgs.

    big fleas upon their backs have little fleas that bite them
    and little fleas have littler fleas and so on infinitum

  17. IgotBupkis Says:

    > the idea that the ends justify the means.

    I’ve made this point elsewhere, perhaps even here —

    The ends DO justify the means. Always.

    The flaw is that you don’t get to “pick and choose” which ends need to be justified, but it must be taken as a whole — every single end must be a part of the justification. If people are given health insurance, that’s an end. If people are denied specific coverage so “everyone” can have insurance, then that, too, is a part of that end.

    You have to account for every single aspect of the result when you express the idea that the ends are justified by the means. If you kill five children to save 1,000, then both of those things are part of the ends, not just the 1000 you saved, nor just the five you killed.

    This is often a problem with postmodern liberal thought — they want to look only at PART of the ends and justify a response based on that part, and no other.

    They want “everyone working to have a living wage”, but don’t want to pay any attention to the fact that that means many people will be thrown out of work.

    They want to “save the snail darter”, but don’t care than hundreds of people are put out of work, or that the price of ‘x’ will rise 100% as a result of it, meaning that only 1 in 10 can now afford to buy it, whereas almost everyone could afford it before.

    They want “out of Iraq, NOW!!” (or “used to”), but don’t (didn’t) care that the Iraqi people will have to endure Darfur-like genocide as a result.

  18. Artfldgr Says:

    How Obama’s favorite theologian shaped his first year in office (c n n article)

    “As individuals, men believe that they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other,” Niebuhr wrote. “As racial, economic and national groups, they take for themselves, whatever their power can command.”

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    actually the liberals follow a slightly different version bubkis

    the PRESUMPTION of an end justifies the means

  20. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Niebuhr, Obama and the left’s opposition to “the idea that America has a providential mission in the world” is perhaps, the single greatest error on their part.

    Without an idealistic America, all is lost.

    The world entering a new dark age, one remarkably like 1984 is virtually certain without American’s believing in America’s ‘providential mission’.

  21. Thomass Says:

    Sergey Says:

    “This shift from pacifist, socialist and Marxist views to militarism and anticommunism is typical to many people of Niebuhr generation.”

    Also worth noting, the anti materialism talk is typical of the Euro right. Many of his later stances would put him on the ‘conservative’ or ‘right wing’ side over there.

  22. SteveH Says:

    The crease in Obama’s pants? WTF is it with these people and their symbolism of an intellectual savior? What will save us has nothing to do with the intellect. In fact, intellect is in the way of the humbling of people’s hearts that has to take place.

  23. Curtis Says:

    Sergey said: “This shift from pacifist, socialist and Marxist views to militarism and anticommunism is typical to many people of Niebuhr generation. Orwell was one of them.”

    On the other hand, most of the shift went from dumb to dumber: socialist to post modern deconstructionist–truly down the rabbit hole.

    I think this is why Obama can so easily hold contradictory positions and reverse positions. He has the freedom to be anything except uninteresting.

  24. JuliB Says:

    As a devout Catholic, I find that anyone who says:

    “The pursuit of social justice would involve them in acts of sin and imperfection. Even the most surgical action, one might say, involves collateral damage…”

    and claims to be Christian is certainly blinded by the Evil One.

    This notion goes against Christian theology through out the ages (at least Catholic theology going back to Christ).

  25. Sergey Says:

    What is obvious in many adepts of liberal Protestant theology, attempting to reduce religion to moralism, is how poorly they understand evil: evil of history, evil of social order, evil of human heart. The whole sphere of demonism, objective and subjective, is completely obscure to them. Notion of original sin is never studied to any debth and is simply ignored.

  26. Washington Rebel Says:

    Pornulator Saturday: Dedicated to SEC Lawyers Looking for Work…

    Saved By Porn: Did Wall Street’s Skankophiles Derail “Reform”? I don’t know, but I had fun writing that line. Way to go, Boys! Did the SEC Watch as the Financial Sector Burned? “Watched”: Euphemism for Wank’d. Left Coast Rebel: Why Republicans M…

  27. Sergey Says:

    There is a wonderful essay in Pravda.ru by Stanislav Mishin:

  28. NeoConScum Says:

    Good Gawd, Brooks is a rash-causing embarrassment. His snicker provoking piece a day or two ago on simply made being ‘tired’ by the current debates made ME tired. And, in need of a shower.

  29. NeoConScum Says:

    Woops…”simply being made tired..”

    Too much Puerto Rican LaLlave cafe this a.m.

  30. progressoverpeace Says:

    It’s hard to know exactly what Obama said that was so dazzling. But since David Brooks has never written anything that indicates he’s any sort of deep thinker himself, perhaps the mere fact that Obama was familiar with the name “Reinhold Niebuhr” was enough to do the trick.


    Richard Aubrey Says:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I suppose we should ask for a definition of “social justice”.

    To put it quite simply, “social justice” means “revenge”. The Precedent made it very clear, way back in the dem primary, that he was out to exact revenge on the US and the West. He was very explicit about this during one of the debates when he maintained that he would still raise capital gains taxes, even given the assumption that that would result in reduced receipts to the government because “it’s a question of ‘fairness'”. i.e. he was not concerned with helping the poor, only bringing pain to the successful. We have seen this attitude played out in all of his policies and positions ever since.

    The Precedent sees himself as the avenging angel of the third world, brought to power to rain pain and destruction on the US in order to exact revenge for the West having shamed the third world with our creativity, productivity, advancements, and freedom.

  31. Artfldgr Says:

    I think this is why Obama can so easily hold contradictory positions and reverse positions. He has the freedom to be anything except uninteresting.

    The beliefs of the cult are irrational, illogical, or superstitious, and fly in the face of evidence to the contrary.

    A corollary to all of this irrational nonsense is the implicit assumption that you are not supposed to criticize the irrational nonsense. Cults often demand that people stop thinking logically and just “have faith”. Cults consider it immoral, or at least a serious spiritual failing, for someone to say that the cherished tenets of the group are illogical and crazy. Cults will even claim that you are harming other cult members by questioning the craziness — you are keeping them from going to Heaven, or you are weakening their faith, or you are leading them into temptation and to their downfall.

    [the best way for a person unfamiliar with the concept of collectivism would be cults. where the leader gets the people of the group to give up their individuality and their goals to follow a master or ideal to some promised place in the distance. for such people, leadership is getting what you can from people today, while promising them stuff they wont get tomorrow]

    The cult member is supposed to take on a childish naïveté, and simply believe whatever he is told, no matter how unlikely, unrealistic, irrational, illogical, or outrageous it may be. And he does.

    Unlike the movie-goer, however, a cult victim who suspends his disbelief doesn’t necessarily come out of it. He stays in that state. The cult and its doctrine become his reality. It is significant that when we go to a movie theater we are already prepared to suspend our disbelief. We fully intend to enjoy the movie. So it is with the cult victim. In many cases he is ready to suspend whatever mental reservations he has in order to “enjoy” life. Stoner and Park, the authors of All God’s Children, write, “These young people are idealistic and are frequently searching for a goal, a purpose, and a sense of community, so the promises of the cults appeal strongly to them. Many are willing, even anxious, to be persuaded.”[Page 240.]
    The enjoyment a prospective cult member seeks lies on a much deeper level than mere entertainment; he is hoping to find fulfillment, purpose, and direction for life. But like the movie-goer who attends Star Wars seeking enjoyment, an individual joins a cult because he wants to enjoy the movie of life. …
    When a cult recruit crosses the invisible barrier in his mind — when he enters the world of the cult and its doctrine at some point in his flirtatious sampling of the cult — he is tripping the switch of his voluntary suspension of disbelief. Brainwashing or mind control then occurs naturally, sometimes effortlessly. In many cases the new cult member will struggle hard to brainwash himself. He must do this in order to balance out the guilt he feels. When doubts rush in like a flood, he tells himself, “I am following the truth. The rest of the world may be going to hell, but I am following the truth!”
    Other brothers and sisters are there to encourage the new recruit. He either accepts their help and counsel, or he rejects it. If he rejects it, he doesn’t stay around long. If he receives their help, he goes deeper into the cultic doctrine. He will sell flowers, chant, memorize, litness [witness and raise funds with literature], or read Mo Letters, whatever it takes, to the utmost of his ability to prove to himself and others that he is right. The brainwashing that occurs in cults is the finest, purest, and most effective around. The Communists have something to learn from Moses David.
    The Children of God; The Inside Story, Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis, pages 171-172.

    the idea here is that if you get a critical amount of believers, made easy by fishing for them with different groups, you can coordinate them into one group additively. feminism is one, race movements are another, poverty movements, gender etc..

    its that critical amount that take control, as in germany. most people were not like the people ruling them, but they had garnered enough of these kinds of people to effect control over the more passive masses who, unlike the victim class, are not as angry over slights perceived, or even made up.

    we have been maneuvered into such thinking by our own desire to always be nice. not normal nice, but this never shaking abnormal nice that cant be anything else.

    in many cases to absurdity and accepted it, and the more we accepted it, the more they knew how much they had influence over. wearing underwear outside your clothes now seems like an entirely different thing.

    go ahead, list the inanities of our age which we just accept, and understand that that is all any of the people who fell into this game ever did.

    normal people tell people with crazy ideas to go take a hike, cult people or people in thrall say “ok”…

  32. mikemcdaniel Says:

    Niebuhr, Twain, Marx, Mao, Dr. Suess, the author is, where Obama is concerned, beside the point. All, the work of writers included, exists to serve The One. If The One finds himself favorably reflected in that writing, if he finds their rhetoric useful, or if mere literary name dropping serves his higher purposes, The One will make use of the hapless author. If not, the author (and everyone and everything else) will be ignored at best, and crudely attacked at worst.

    Obama is, first, foremost and always, a con man. True, he’s a con man of the Chicago political machine, which adds a layer of thuggish cruelty and arrogance not normally found in the species, but analysis conducted with this fundamental understanding in mind yields exceedingly accurate results.

    Con men are adept at appearing to be what they are not, at reflecting the needs and desires of the needy back into their anxious eyes. They are, therefore, also adept at projecting whatever qualifications, character traits, proficiencies, and attitudes will best serve them–at the moment.

    Thus does Obama become the super scholar, distinguished law professor, legislator without peer, the greatest orator in human history, an intellectual without measure, a rock star capable of making mortal women–at least mortal women of the lamestream media–actually salivate and gyrate like teenagers seeing the Beatles in person, a man whose smile melts hearts and tells all who view its grandeur that he uniquely and personally cares about them despite the fact that they are like ants under his Titan-like feet.

    Yet those who peer behind the curtain see a super scholar who appears to have no understanding of history, indeed no understanding of how many states comprise America–or he is a pathological liar. They discover that he was not a distinguished professor of law, but a mere adjunct given a do nothing position for political reasons, and an adjunct considered particularly useless and slow by genuine professors of law. They cannot discover evidence of his brilliant intellectual career as all transcripts, all evidence of the education that would establish his intellectual bona fides is locked away, unavailable. His rock star quality seems dependent upon the teleprompter, and upon carefully stage managed, carefully chosen drooling followers, others tending to be photographed staring in bored, nearly asleep silence at best or outright defiance and heckling at worst. And yes, his ephemeral caring vanishes like Kleenex in a downpour when the little people become annoying.

    Niebuhr? If Obama thought it would reflect well on him, he’d be name dropping Mickey Mouse. If he could freely speak his mind, he’d likely be lauding the political philosophers so beloved of his under-the-bus associates: Mao, Castro, Lenin, Marx, Frank Marshall Davis, Saul Alinsky. It’s all the same to him, and says nothing affirmative or praiseworthy about his reading habits or his intellect.

  33. jvermeer51 Says:

    “He criticizes the communists for their philosophical materialism”

    What is it about intellectuals that prefers the complicated to the simple? Communism is bad because it creates societies of collective human slavery and kills helpless people by the millions. Would that their only fault was philosophical materialism.

  34. Artfldgr Says:

    Cult of personality

    A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.[1] Cults of personality are often found in dictatorships. The sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as ‘charismatic authority’.

    A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is propagated by mass media. However, the term may be applied by analogy to refer to adulation of religious or non-political leaders.

    [its still a cult, a collective, a group mind. we wouldn’t use the terms and feel comfortable if it was not obviously so, at least to our subconscious]

    Throughout history, monarchs were almost always held in enormous reverence. Through the principle of the divine right of kings, rulers were said to hold office by the will of God. Imperial China (see Mandate of Heaven), ancient Egypt, Japan, the Inca, the Aztecs, Tibet, Thailand, and the Roman Empire (see imperial cult) are especially noted for redefining monarchs as god-kings.

    The spread of democratic ideas in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries made it increasingly difficult for monarchs to preserve this aura. However, the subsequent development of photography, sound recording, film and mass production, as well as public education and techniques used in commercial advertising, enabled political leaders to project a positive image like never before. It was from these circumstances in the 20th century that the best-known personality cults arose. Often these cults are a form of Political religion.

    Political religion… wonder whats that like…

  35. Artfldgr Says:

    so it took 100 years for them to recapture their aristocratic place with our help and support.

  36. expat Says:

    P J O’Rourke has a fun piece on smart people that you all may enjoy.


  37. Thomass Says:

    SteveH Says:

    “The crease in Obama’s pants? WTF is it with these people and their symbolism of an intellectual savior?”

    Yeah, I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again.. when I talked to people online and didn’t agree with all their Bush criticisms they’d often jump to claiming I ‘loved’ the guy and hated the other side (like Mike Moore; who’s insane claims I was often refusing to agree with). We probably all knew the hate was projection (since they hated Bush… and that was clear to see back then) but now I know the ‘love’ for the leader was too (now that they have one).

  38. Thomass Says:

    Sergey Says:

    “What is obvious in many adepts of liberal Protestant theology, attempting to reduce religion to moralism, is how poorly they understand evil: evil of history, evil of social order, evil of human heart.”

    True. If I had to distill American ‘conservatism’ to something short; I’d say it was a focus on the tragic view of life and history coupled with a respect for and attempt to understand the deadly sins on a personal level and societal (which requires reflection in order to see past them… to find truth)… and that this is the view / stance of even those who do not believe in God. It is simply reflective of the ‘viewpoint’ of the group.

    Whereas the left are utopians… who project their faults onto the other… who reject history and truth… they believe in power and little else.

  39. david foster Says:

    Obama is not really an intellectual, but he does play one on TV.

  40. Thomass Says:

    jvermeer51 Says:

    “Communism is bad because it creates societies of collective human slavery and kills helpless people by the millions. Would that their only fault was philosophical materialism.”

    Have to remember, the euro right claimed to be the good guys and pro peace even… materialism was part of their analysis for why the left was so bad (i.e., the right was spiritual and organic unlike… the materialistic left). As a concept it seems more important to Europeans… whereas not a lot of people here cares about it… as a concept… which is probably good… and that to the extent it does exist here, it has been taken up by the left.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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