Monday, December 18, 2006

Army Of Clod

Seems that '08 winger candidate Sam Brownback has an interesting (brown)backer.

The passions of Tom Monaghan: Pizza. God. Sam Brownback.

The Domino's pizza founder, one of the nation's richest and most controversial Roman Catholic philanthropists, is putting his money and influence into making Brownback, the Republican Kansas senator, the next president of the United States.

The former pizza magnate is advising the 2008 presidential exploratory committee for Brownback, a longtime social conservative who converted to Catholicism a few years ago. Monaghan, who declined an interview request, is expected to play a lead role in "Catholics for Brownback."

More important, his support is likely to be a big help to Brownback's fundraising, which is currently regarded as the weakest part of Brownback's candidacy.

"He brings to the table recognition in the Catholic community," said Marlene Elwell, a Michigan political activist who used to work for Monaghan. "It's always positive to have a leader in a community endorse you."

It's further proof that the universe is insane and ultimately entropic -- a guy makes an immense fortune peddling crappy pizza, and then uses that fortune to push his pet fascist causes in various ways. Political influence is just one of those ways.

But the extent of Monaghan's religious fervor could raise eyebrows among more secular voters.

"In the Catholic community, he's looked upon as kind of on the fringes," said the Rev. Robert Drinan, a liberal Roman Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman who teaches at Georgetown University. "The worldview is, 'We have to get back to a Catholic civilization'. They want to go back to a Christian society imposed from above. ... It's just another world they want to build."

Literally. Monaghan, who sold Domino's for nearly $1 billion in 1998, has spent a chunk of his fortune developing his own utopia on 5,000 acres in southwest Florida: Ave Maria, a planned community of 11,000 homes, built around a massive church and a doctrinaire Catholic university also called Ave Maria.

It bothers some involved in Catholic education that Monaghan and school leaders declared Ave Maria University necessary because many of the nation's 200-plus other Catholic colleges and universities strayed from church teachings.

"There is certainly a degree of presumption, even hubris, in marketing institutions of this type on the premise that all the other schools are failing to educate Catholics effectively," said Richard Yanikoski, the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Even before his work in Florida, Monaghan was a lightning rod. Domino's was intermittently boycotted in the 1980s because of Monaghan's anti-abortion activism.

Monaghan has never before been a major player on a presidential campaign. Several people familiar with Monaghan and his work said they were surprised to see him involved.

In a rare interview, Monaghan told Newsweek earlier this year that "I believe all of history is just one big battle between good and evil. I don't want to be on the sidelines."

This is a guy who is too Catholic even for most Catholics. His weird little Florida dystopia has a host of tight strictures; the community owns all the land and the houses, and thus retains the "right" to push around anyone dumb enough to want to live under this guy's thumb. Every business that comes into town will have to abide by Monaghan's imposed moral code, which means no birth control sold at pharmacies, certain channels not allowed on cable or satellite systems -- real control-freak shit.

Tom Monaghan, if he had his way, would impose these views on the entire nation. He hopes to do so with Brownback. Now, you can look at this and say, "Well, Brownback has no chance, so let Monaghan waste his money." That might be true, but a lot can change in a year or so. In 1998, people laughed at the idea of a lunkhead Texas goober, whose only talent was being the wastrel son of a one-term president, running for the nation's high office in 2000.

Brownback is positioning himself to be the mouthpiece for a lot of aggrieved busybody christofascists, who do their damndest to live down to Mencken's old saw that a puritan is someone who is mortally terrified at the thought that somewhere out there, someone might be having fun. They've always been leery of Saint John McCain, and they'll never vote for a hedonistic sybarite like Rudy Giuliani. There are mild signs that some of these mega-congregationalists, humbled somewhat of late by their gay dope-fiend preachers coming out of the closet, but they live to moralize, and all they're waiting for is for someone to speak to that base tendency for them.

That someone is Sam Brownback, and he's being bankrolled by a loony billionaire. Some system, eh?

It's been a while since I've taken a serious poke at the God Squad, but I never understand their ability to believe that they are the ones being persecuted, when in fact it is they that have sustained a de facto tyranny of the majority for so long. Now that they're organized and mobilized, they are even more insufferable, and more aggressive than ever in their recruitment and money-raising tactics.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon's inspector general is looking into a promotional video that shows generals in uniform endorsing a Christian group that caters to political and military leaders, a spokesman said.

A watchdog group asked for a formal investigation into circumstances surrounding the video promoting the Christian Embassy, saying the role played by seven army and air force general violated military regulations.

"High level army and air force officials appearing in uniform, in the Pentagon touting the Christian embassy implies a government endorsement of the organization and its sectarian religious mission," the Military Religious Freedom Foundation wrote in demanding the investigation.

Nice, huh? These guys have their own little inside club. They harass Jews at the Air Force Academy, they go on public speaking tours in uniform and spray the crowd with their "my god can beat up their god" idiocy, they go to teen religious revivals in stadiums in full gear and exhort the kids to be warriors for Christ.

On the good foot, they're not burying gays up to their waists and stoning them to death, nor are they organizing death squads to ferret out Episcopalians and Presbyterians and other heretical sects. Awful large of them to exercise restraint. But they are abusing their appointed authority, and they need to be called on it.

The Christian Embassy describes itself on its website as a "non-political, multi-denominational ministry that has been caring for, encouraging and equipping our country's leaders and decision-makers for nearly 30 years."

Among other things, the group says it conducts weekly prayer breakfasts in the Pentagon's executive dinning room.

In the video, which was made in 2005, generals and senior Pentagon civilian officials give on camera testimonials praising the Christian Embassy.

Unidentified military personnel are shown in Bible study sessions and parts of the video were filmed at the Pentagon.

Major General Jack Catton says on camera that as a director of the Joint Staff he tells those he meets "I'm an old fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family, then my country."

"I would say Christian Embassy, in my interaction with other flag officers, has helped inspire some of that, you know, we talk about that kind of stuff, and I think it's a huge impact because you have many men and women who are seeking God's counsel and wisdom as we advise the chairman and the secretary of defense. Hallelujah," he said.

Rules prohibit military personnel from wearing their uniform when making public speeches unless they have been authorized. They also are required to include disclaimers in unofficial writings or speeches stating that the views expressed are their own and do not reflect those of the government.

I think these people need to be explicitly asked why church is not enough for them, why they have to organize and proselytize at their jobs. That is bullshit; if they tried that at a private sector job they'd be out on their asses in a heartbeat.

Tom Monaghan is not a philanthropist so much as a control freak; General Catton is a character out of Seven Days In May practically. Neither of them should be treated with kid gloves, and both should be explicitly asked exactly why it is that they can't just live their lives, and let everyone else live their own lives, and let this God that they can't stop talking about sort it all out for Himself.

This nagging, bullying crap is exactly what they whinge about when they grind their "nanny state" axe. This is no different.

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