Sunday, April 22, 2007

Get you a room at the rhythm ranch

Update: for everyone stopping by from Crooks & Liars and Democratic Underground, thanks! Please check out my other posts as well. Again, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all the comments.

The $400 haircut story, as might be expected, has taken on a life of its own, and the very frustrating Maureen Dowd gets bitchy:
Everyone's already piling on Maureen Dowd's horrible column today, but to me what makes this sort of crap doubly aggravating is her refusal to even take responsibility for what she's doing. Dowd doesn't want to wake up and say, "I'm using my New York Times column to argue that John Edwards would be a bad president because he got some expensive haircuts." She won't come out and write: "John Edwards' expensive haircuts indicate to me that he would be a bad president." If she wrote that, after all, it would be obvious that she was being idiotic. Why, after all, would you think that the price of Edwards' haircuts is an important indicator of what kind of job he'd do as president.

Ezra Klein reports in:
To be clear, for all I care, Edwards can live in Versailles and give Alan Greenspan gold bricks to cut his hair. But every Democratic presidential candidate since Clinton has been tagged for expensive haircuts. Everyone knows appearances matter, and populist credibility is harmed by accusations of opulent personal habits. To blame Maureen Dowd for this controversy is like watching a drunk slam into a divider and blaming the divider. The divider is always there, folks just have to avoid it. And Edwards could have avoided this.

I basically agree, it was a dumb move, John. Go to Supercuts next time. But Ezra adds this:
So why, in all that he is giving up, did he not eschew the big house or the costly cut?

Dude, not the house! That would be seen as political theater in the worst way. Did Bush41 give up Kennebunkport when he ran? And Bush43 bought his fantasy ranch while he was campaigning.

First, is the $400 haircut an egregious vanity? Not compared to GWBush's $10,000 suits:
When brothers Louis and Jacob Weinberg founded the company in 1916, they were determined to make the best suit. They used the finest fabricsand designed only simple, timeless shapes. This guiding principle ensures Oxxford continues to create top-notch garments for a price --$2,000 to $14,000--that loyal customers are willing to pay. Oxxford produced 25,000 handmade garments and had $30 million in sales last year, according to Roger Parfitt, the company's chief operating officer.

Oxxford's signature details include pockets lined with Belgian linen to prevent sagging and silk thread for enhanced durability. And, of course, only the best gabardine, flannel, silk, tweed and cashmere from European mills are used.

Looking at the Bush ranch, here's an article that tries to show the down-hominess of the place, but becomes ironic instead:

When the Bushes came across a 1,550-acre tract 20 miles west of Waco just outside the town of Crawford (population 701), they took a second look.

...The resulting single-story ranch house, which was built by members of a religious community from the nearby community of Elm Mott, is a paragon of environmental planning.

...The passive-solar house is built of honey-colored native limestone and positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls of the 4,000-square-foot residence. Geothermal heat pumps circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground. These waters pass through a heat exchange system that keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer.

A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns; wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping around the four-bedroom home. Laura Bush insisted on the use of indigenous grasses, shrubs, and flowers to complete the exterior treatment of the home.

...Although the rigors of running the United States follow him to Crawford, the President routinely works in a round of golf on nearby links or wets a hook in one of the ranch's man-made lakes.

(photo from GoogleEarth)

25,000 gallon water storage and pipes buried 300' deep do not make an average property, but arguable are features of a survivalist compound. And even here in L.A., 4000-sq.-ft. homes are considered large.

Time's fawning 2000 Person-of-the-Year coverage reveals these humble details:
A 10-acre man-made pond built and stocked with 5,000 bass has also been designed around the oak trees

. . . Made of limestone from Lampasas, Texas, less than a two-hour drive from here, it has long rectangular bricks of a dusty putty color with the texture of little mountain ranges. Designed to wind around a series of old live oaks, the compound has an old oak spread out over the front as its focal point. The single-level home's 10,000 sq. ft. are nearly finished, but the high-ceiling rooms take up only a third of that space. The limestone porch takes up the rest, circling the house like a moat.

And this truly disturbing item:
Other walls have a few touches of humor: a framed likeness of President Bush dressed as an oil sheik greets you as you walk out of the bathroom...

In every article about GWBush's faux-cowboy hideout, there is one interesting tidbit, quoted here from the Time piece:
The builders are all from a religious community in Elm Mott, Texas. The women applying the last touches to the cabinetry are dressed in full-length cotton dresses with simple patterns. "They have the most lovely countenances," says Bush, stepping from the driver's seat.

Further digging into the "religious community" finds Homestead Heritage, from nearby Elm Mott, TX:
Inside you’ll find our handcrafted furniture and accessories plus hundreds of one-of-a-kind heirloom gift items—pottery, wrought iron, quilts, handmade brooms and baskets, mesquite shepherd’s lamps, wooden cutting boards and spoons, oil lamps, beeswax candles, natural soaps, needlework, original watercolors, cards, children’s storybooks and homesteading how-to’s as well as Homestead Farms specialty foods and Homestead Gristmill Baking Mixes.
Sounds charming?

Not so fast, it's a cult, according to Watchman Fellowship:
Homestead Heritage: Elm Mott, TX, formerly Koinonia Communities or Emmaus Fellowship, is an abusive shepherding goup that teaches modalism and multilevel works salvation. Their leaders claim their authority is that of “Jesus coming in the flesh.” The group operates a large farm with a crafts center and yearly public fairs. They also publish homeschool materials under the name, Essential Christian Education and Truth Forum. They were featured in the February 2005 issue of Christianity Today, and President George W. Bush chose them to construct his house in Crawford.

What do they mean by "shepherding"?
Shepherding: Christian growth is allegedly facilitated by yielding personal freedoms to a discipler or "shepherd" who controls virtually every aspect of an individual's life. This is a form of spiritual abuse, a manipulative distortion of true biblical discipleship that can ultimately rob individuals of their liberty and autonomy that is to be found in Christ. Used by many traditional cults, as well as by some religious organizations that are not cultic in their basic doctrine.

Here's a forum for former members. This is really creepy:
To begin, Homestead Heritage may have within its fellowship many Christians who attend, but, the beliefs of Homestead Heritage are squarely outside of orthodox Christianity. They disguise their true teachings from outsiders and inquirers. Del Barcus, a former member of the group, recounted the difficulty he had trying to learn of the group’s beliefs when he and his family first encountered them, “We would ask questions that we knew to ask and we would get an answer that was just a big answer. We just didn’t know exactly what the answer was when we got finished.” Another former member recently remarked, “They know you have to be at a deep level of trust and submission before you would accept the doctrines. We were told it would be a stumbling block to read them (referring to the deeper teachings) before we were ready.”

. . .Another issue raised by former members is that of spiritual abuse. One family had been invited to attend their first Sunday service (you may have to attend the public Friday night meetings for years before you are deemed worthy to attend the Sunday services). According to this family, the service had gone on for hours and the man, a diabetic, was lapsing into insulin shock. After the meeting he was given some juice by a group leader and asked how he felt about the sermon by Blair Adam, the group’s founding apostle. He recounted that through the haze of his illness he could only remember feeling afraid. That was equated as a lack of submission to authority because he did not trust his elders. His family was forbidden to return to Sunday meetings.

The secret Constitution on Membership makes submission to the authority of Homestead leaders the mark of one within the family of faith and virtually a requirement of salvation: “Of course, as a child, God admonishes you to `honor your father and mother,’ that is, honor those in discipling authority over you… So the central issue lies not so much in our immaturity… but in our attitude toward authority: if we resent it, we shall remain slaves, remain on the first level of discipleship needing guardians everywhere we go…and if you do not honor authority in your heart, then you are not of the family of faith despite all outward appearances. (p.13).

Here's from another poster at that site:
HH is a cult. They will deny it. You have to accomplish certain steps before you can become a member. You have to read there literature before you can even be baptized. You have to make an oath when you are baptized that you wont leave the fellowship. Sometimes when poeple do something wrong, they get punished by not being allowed to come to church for a few weeks. Some just flat out get disfellowshipped. You have to ask permission before doing anything, even getting married.

Here's why the Englebrecht's decided to sell the property, by the way:
Although many in town are happy about the idea of Bush moving in, the sale will be bittersweet for Ken Engelbrecht, who has lived on the family homestead his entire life, farming the property and raising cattle.

Engelbrecht said one reason the family is selling its holdings is to move his mother closer to her dialysis treatments, which she undergoes three times a week in Temple, 30 miles away.

The trip home is tiring after a long day of treatment, Engelbrecht said.

Here's a fantastic compilation of aerial photos of the ranch, before airspace was restricted.

To conclude, Edwards' haircut was a bad idea. The end.

But GWBush buys a ranch from a financially troubled family, turns it into his own Neverland for urban cowboys, buys $$$$ suits, has a home built by cultish workers, and installs a water tank big enough to turn the place into a Branch Davidian or Ruby Ridge compound, and he's plain ol' folks.

Not in this lifetime.