Philip, you are correct that it is a slur previously unknown. In that Washington Post story you linked to, the photo caption drops any nuance about the word: "Sen. George Allen had called S.R. Sidarth, a staffer of foe James Webb's, a 'macaca,' a racial slur." If you have to look up the word to determine if it is a racial slur in some parts of the world, it probably isn't that offensive.
The Spectacle Blog
What has struck me about this incident is that on the one hand we're to believe that the word "macaca" (which nobody heard of before this month) is a deeply offensive racial slur, yet newspapers have had no trouble using the slur in headlines.
If Allen used a term that was actually known as offensive to the general public, I don't think it would be plastered all over the headlines. I can't imagine headlines like: "Allen lead evaporates after 'kike' flap" or, "Senator to 'Kike': Sorry."
I've never been much of a fan of George Allen, because I've generally perceived him as a cookie-cutter politician, and this whole macaca incident reaffirms my view that he isn't ready for prime time. My sense is that Sidarth was sent by Webb to follow Allen around with a video camera in the hopes that he would do something stupid--which he did.
Peter Schweizer has a devastating piece up at the San Francisco Chronicle about Al Gore's purportedly carbon-neutral lifestyle.
Here are a couple of revealing sections:
Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.
Wlady, you are quite right that Christians would have a different view of historical fact than somebody like Heather Mac Donald has. If not, there would be no such thing as a non-Christian.
However, if I understand her correctly, her key complaint is that Christians make debate and discussion impossible by involving theological ultimacies. I simply think she is wrong about that.
I can talk about the Virgin Birth and she can make the case against it and I can respond. The fact that we can't wrap up a nice agreement in a paper bag doesn't mean this type of dispute is uniquely intractable. I imagine I could have a similarly unresolvable debate with certain people over affirmative action!
Hunter: When I read this in your latest, "The church has always understood itself to be making a case on evidence that if not true, should result in abandonment of the faith," my mind immediately leapt back to something Ms. Mac Donald recently, though politely, took us to task for. Last Friday, at NRO's Corner, she included this:
I don't want to attempt to settle the atheist/believer problem once and for all. I know I can't.
My main point in addressing Mac Donald's "bad things" argument was to show that it is not any kind of slam dunk that should end the argument for anyone.
What IS my main point is that non-believers/secularists/whatever you call them, have been rather insistent that they are being abused or presumed upon by God-talk in the public square. Considering the rather large number of people who do hold such beliefs, I think it actually quite impolite to insist that these people construct some alternative justification just to please the non-theological sensibilities of others. This is particularly true if we agree the issue is not conclusively won by either group.
In addition, Mac Donald's argument is based on a straw man. How often do believers argue "God sayeth" and then leave it at that? They don't. In fact, one of the common critiques of conservative Christians is that they argue too much via a political mindset (like for tax cuts!) and not enough from a prophetic biblical stance!
Let's not also forget that religiosity isn't quite an on/off switch. The range of attitudes -- and political postures of appeal to a divine order or to spiritually ideal propriety -- reaches broadly from exclusive faith to more general faith to particular belief (that may not command particular imperatives) to blanket or case-specific agnosticisms and finally the anti-theism that is directly hostile to religious conviction and intolerant of persuasion predicated on God.
In other words, neither conservatives nor conservatism can be neatly cleft into "pro-God" and "anti-God" camps. Or, to be more precise, the "pro-God" tent encompasses -- and has encompassed throughout key sequences of American political history -- a vast territory of the spirit, from Madison to Jefferson to Lincoln and, of course, beyond. There are plenty of issue-points even within its ambit for generations of political conflict, and this is proof that a conservative's stance toward God does not solve or resolve in advance the questions of economics, politics, and culture that stand at a degree of remove from questions of religion.
Hunter, I have a few beefs with your beef with Heather Mac Donald. Let me say right off the bat that in my view, believing in God is a matter of faith, and some people simply aren't ready or willing to take that leap of faith. Saying that we cannot understand the ways of God well enough to explain why bad things happen in the world is not a very useful way to assuage the skepticism of a nonbeliever. While the existence of Nazis does not automatically disprove the existence of God, arguing that the ways of God are sometimes incomprehensible does not prove God's existence.
You write, "Mac Donald is a conservative with very definite ideas about freedom, justice, etc. Where do those ideas come from? She seems to expect that we would be persuaded to do things that are right and to abstain from things that are wrong. If there is no God, why care about any of that?"
There's a lot to say and I'll be saying as much as I can Thursday and Friday subbing for Bill Bennett on his Bennett Mornings radio show. Tune in 0600- 0900 EDT on the Salem Radio Network. John McCain, media bias, the Iran/UN mess and all the rest.
(Thank heaven for caffeine. Coffee is, of course, an essential element of talk radio.)