The Atheist-Christian Alliance

The motley marriage of convenience between serious intellectual critics of Islam (whatever you may think of them) and the Christian right (who're just bashing a rival religion) continues. In the latest development, the Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes has appeared on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network to discuss the "need to have a general understanding that militant Islam is the enemy and we have just begun the fight against it," as Pipes put it.

I recently wrote an article detailing how the anti-Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq, the author of Why I Am Not a Muslim, has been hoisted onto the shoulders of the religious right even though he's an atheist. Pipes too is basically areligious; according to the Washington Post he has described himself as an "agnostic Jew." Granted, it's not that surprising to find Pipes and Robertson in the same camp when you have the situation that Pipes describes here:

One finds over and over again that Islam is given special privileges. You may have followed that in New York and in Philadelphia; the school systems at the end of last year permitted Muslim students to use the schools as a place of prayer. I don't need to point out to your audience that that is not something that Christians get to avail themselves of. So there is this contrast, this special treatment of Islam that I think needs to be noted. And, you know, the government needs to be much more cautious about this.

Buddy Clinton-Bashing. After the sudden death of President Clinton's Labrador retriever, Buddy, last Wednesday -- the dog was hit by a car near the Clinton's Chappaqua, N.Y. home while the family was away -- the Washington Post style section assured us that "White House pets occupy the DPZ of the nation, the de-politicized zone. They melt children and adults without regard to party."

Apparently this was lost on James Taranto, who compiles the Wall Street Journal's popular web-log, "Best of the Web." The observations posted on "Best of the Web" are frequently incisive -- not to mention occasionally hilarious -- but Taranto miscalculated with his snideness over the death of a former presidential pet. The day after Buddy's death (scroll to the bottom of the page), BotW put up a posting under the caption "Buddy Clinton, RIP," which read in part:

Bill and Hillary put out a statement through spokeswoman Julia Payne: "We are deeply saddened by Buddy's death. He was a loyal companion and brought us much joy. He will truly be missed."

"Deeply saddened," eh? Hmm, where have we heard that before?

Taranto then linked to a Yahoo! search for the word "Clinton" combined with the phrase "deeply saddened" which calls up any number of past press statements using these words -- seeming to imply that, just as with so many other Clinton "feel your pain" affectations, the former President's grief about his dog's death was inauthentic.

But does the mere use of a formulaic phrase really prove that Clinton is an unfeeling automaton, false even about his own dog's death? Hardly. Indeed, the Post's article used a different statement, also delivered through Julia Payne, which said the Clinton family was "devastated" by Buddy's death. Is that authentic enough?

Taranto returned the next day (scroll down again) with a semi-apology noting that he really was going after a cliché, not a person: "[F]rom now on, let's leave 'deeply saddened' for events that truly have a personal impact -- like, say, the death of a beloved pet." But at least for 24 hours, it seems the lure of Clinton-bashing proved irresistible even on the occasion of the death of the former President's dog.

Tolkien Allegory Watch. Now Andrew Sullivan is doing it. And not only that, he's comparing Bush to Frodo. Methinks Forrest Gump would have been a better cinematic comparison. But here's the relevant passage from Sullivan:

Isn't Dubya a classic Frodo? His dad, Bilbo -- I mean, Herbert Walker -- had his own little adventure with the dark forces, but poor Frodo is stuck with the legacy. He doesn't change with the experience; his old and rather ordinary virtues just seem appropriate to the task. After the first installment, we have no idea when and how the real, final struggle with the global forces of evil will take place. But we know enough to believe that Frodo/Dubya will be able to cope. That's why we're still sticking with him, beyond the initial battle.

Already one of Sullivan's readers has written in correcting him about calling Bilbo Frodo's Dad -- Sullivan clearly hasn't read the books -- and then claiming that Sam Gamgee is the real George W. Bush analogue in The Lord of the Rings. But who's going to quote to these people Tolkien's own line in the book's "Foreword" disdaining allegory, particularly with World War II? Here was Tolkien's rather scathing (and dryly funny) rebuttal:

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Sauruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves . . . I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.

"It has a very Second World War feel to it -- the plucky little Brits fighting the evil Nazis," writes Sullivan of the movie. Oops.

Cattle Mutilations Are Up! Yesterday Montana's Great Falls Tribune editorialized, "We're saddened to say that random bovine butchery -- the stuff of late-night radio talk shows and Internet UFOlogists -- appears once again to be on the rise in the area, and, as usual, investigators are baffled."

First the face of Satan in the smoke from the World Trade Center towers, then fake Nostradamus quatrains and astrological prophecies, and now cattle mutilations. This doesn't have something to do with 9/11 too, does it?