Sunday, December 31, 2006

Justice? Revenge? Diminishment?

John Donne wrote: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Saddam Hussein's execution has diminished us all. There is no disagreement with the various arguments for his death--justice, revenge, deserved. The point is that ultimately his death is evidence of the sad state of human social development.

Any time any person dies at the hands of another, acting alone or in concert with social mores, we have an example of social failure.

At some point, decisions are made which lead to the murder, the execution. What we need to do is to construct more just societies so that these decisions are never made.

It won't be easy.

It will take a determined effort, but the bells continue to toll. We may be justified in our eyes, but we are still diminished.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

#6, as Well as Heather, Has Two Mommies

The AP has a story related to the Cheney's 6th grandchild. It's pretty much the standard happy grandmother info.

There's only one thing missing. While the article, "Cheney Happy About Daughter's Pregnancy," mentions Heather Poe, Mary's partner, Granny Lynne doesn't mention her daughter's partner of 15 years in the quoted text.

Heather goes from having Two Mommies, to being one of two mommies; literary Lynne seems to have missed a golden opportunity.

"Mary and Heather will be great moms," should've been the operative quote.

Maybe next year.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wars and Battles Fought Therein

The right wing nut punditry is having a field day trying to talk the American public into acknowledging a "loss" of the Iraqi conflict.

Take, for instance, Emmett Terrell's piece in, "Bust the joint up." It's little bit of puffery for the ovines who read Townhall for solace.

While casting usual aspersions upon Senator Ted Kennedy (what would they do without him?), Terrell writes, "The Democrats' abandonment of this war..."

Um, Em, baby, non, non, mon petit choufleur. No Democratic Party member has ever said this "war" is lost.

The common cant of the right is that the "war" is in Iraq. The Iraqi element of this "war" on terrorists is but a "theater of operations."

Like so many of the United States' wars in the past, this one, too, has had missteps in its beginnings. This particular battle has been a tragic miscalculation from its inception--ersatz cowboys playing cinematic heroes.

The war itself, however, is far from lost, and, in total agreement with President Bush, it is a war which we must win.

We just need someone with the smarts and the leadership to accomplish that victory.

It's time for the right wingers to acknowledge their misplaced trust (after all, it was for a tax cut in the first place--no one ever expected him to wage a war!), and work with knowledgeable people--people who have a wide perspective of the entire situation, societal make-up included--and help America gird the loins for the long struggle.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Apt or Inapt--What's a Metaphor to Do?

I often chide my English teacher acquaintances (and myself, after some 35 years of doing just that) about the thought processes of the general public. At times I worry about that.

For instance, how many people really understand the concept of metaphor? How many people stop to think about a metaphor which has become a cliche?

As a quickie posting, let me discuss two: 1) the good shepherd, and 2) waving a red flag at a bull.

The religious shepherd has long since been a favorite of mine as a truly inapt metaphor for a community of believers. The shepherd protects the herd from the ravages of the world, right? Right. If one were to ponder the idea just a bit beyond the cuddly lamb in the shepherd's arms, though, mustn't one ask what the shepherd gets and what the sheep really get?

The sheep get shorn, to start. Finally, one asks how many sheep, exactly, die of old age? Whence lamb chops? Mutton? Hmmm.

Actually, the shepherd is "protecting" the sheep from the wolf for his own benefit; anything accruing to the sheep is, in the long run, minimal.

Someone recently said that certain statements made by Islamic extremists were similar to these people waving a red flag at Mr. Bush, and that he might be justified in taking military action against them. Before we jump into the fray, however, let's also look at that metaphor a bit more closely.

What is the purpose of the red flag? We get the metaphor from the bull fights of our Hispanic neighbors, and the flag, cape, in their instance, is used to distract the bull by focusing his attention on the cape's movement. The bull theoretically doesn't notice the sword cleverly hidden behind the flag/cape, much to his eventual sorrow.

The one who waves that red cloth usually ends up finishing off the bull. Very seldom is the bull successful. Metaphorically, then, it is a mistake to encourage Mr. Bush to "charge" at a red flag of vituperation. It could well not turn out well for the U.S. for whom Mr. Bush, metaphorically, substitutes.

Wolf 0, Sheep 0, Shepherd 100
Bull 0 (most of the time), Flag/cape waver 100 (most of the time)

Shepherds seem to get the better deal.

Rather than being a bull or even a bull fighter, we should aspire to be metaphorical shepherds, keeping the wolf away and keeping the spoils for ourselves.

By the way, the next time a preacher speaks of loving shepherds, look to your wallets, my ovine compatriots. It's shearing time.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remember the "Oral Sex" lamentations of the late 90's?

During the Clinton impeachment brouhaha, Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, lamented, "What will I tell my children?" And that's when we were all sniggering about oral sex being in the news.

Now led me to this link where a Washington Post writer, Alan Cooperman, pens this line: "But a third answer allows same-sex ceremonies and ordination of gay men and lesbians, while maintaining a ban on anal sex."

Catch that? Anal sex is now a fit topic for discussion in the nation's newspapers.

It's contained in a story about how "A panel of rabbis gave permission Wednesday for same-sex commitment ceremonies and ordination of gays within Conservative Judaism..." Conservative Jews, it seems, have decided to enter the 21st century.

Bono must really be in a pickle. Except her son is now at U.S.C., and her daughter is in high school. Maybe she won't have to have to worry about that discussion, after all.

I heard the phrase on NPR this morning; I wonder if mothers leapt to turn off radios playing in the kitchen.

Relax, parents. Your kids will find out somewhere else. Or maybe they'll grow up anyway and go to U.S.C.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Religion and Metaphors and the 21st Century

World-wide, language teachers have failed to be thorough in the uses, benefits, and, most importantly, the dangers of metaphor—that comparison between two unlike items--”His fist is a hammer.” A fist is not a hammer, but the metaphor implies a fist with strengths similar to those of a hammer.

In country after country, too many people not adequately trained to recognize metaphor are easily misled into “truths” which they otherwise would not logically assume; and most dangerous of these are those which deal with the metaphors of religion.

All “Holy” writings come from lore, evolved from the effort to make secure a specific tribe at a specific time in history. Are tribal members falling ill and dying from eating pork or shellfish? Then invent fearsome, all-knowing, yet unknowable, powers to regulate diet. Create anthropomorphized, all-powerful entities with all the positive and negative emotions of a human; and the tribal leader, thus a mere tool immunized from scrutiny, has a good, strong, never-to-be-questioned educational and regulatory tool.

Does the eventual presence of multiple, competing powers/gods threaten the stability of the tribe? Designate a single, jealous “god.”

It was reasonable for leaders thousands of years ago to use metaphor to teach people how to live safely and thrive in an unforgiving environment.

Today, parents use metaphor to concoct a “bogeyman” to teach a child caution or to give a vague, but all-powerful, reason not to do something. There does come a point when the child's bogeyman is set aside--until that child becomes an adult and, in turn, resurrects the fearsome bogeyman in order to help teach the next generation.

It is neither nor legitimate to continue structuring religious ethics and morals around an anthropomorphic metaphor. We understand natural laws; we know to kill the toxic parasites in pork through thorough cooking; we know to avoid shellfish during certain tidal episodes.

Religious terrorism, physical and psychological, stems from those negative human characteristics that have been attributed to deities. Logic and policy cannot any longer accept those negatives.

It is arrogance to claim that a deity can be jealous. Pettiness in such power? Anger? In a perfect entity? Such posturing is not only illogical, it shows a lack of trust in the congregants. Worse, it condemns thousands to ignorance and imperils everyone.

Thomas Aquinas, when pressed, used Aristotle’s definition of “God”-- “the Prime Mover”--whatever force gave impetus to the universe. By implication, this Christian theologian tells us all else is metaphor.“God” is not dead, having never “lived” in the human sense of the word. “God” is vaster than the deities of earth. “God” is beyond our ken, but not beyond our daily experiences.

The time has come to honor the religious metaphors of the past as once useful tools, but in these dangerous times we must find a new metaphor that is able to deal with the realities of the moment. These realities necessarily mean developing a metaphor for a sense of oneness with the universe, which is strongly akin to the metaphor of the past but which also demands recognition of, and responsibility for, the place of each individual in the panoply of the universe; and, especially, a oneness with others.

Coupled with the need for this new metaphor is the more general urgency to integrate into education an understanding of the importance of anthropology, sociology, and history; giving us more complete comprehension of this complicated world and enabling all to lead more secure lives.

The basic wisdom of the centuries is immutable; the metaphors used to teach that wisdom are not immutable. Teachers of reading and ministers of the soul must learn to trust a well-educated population.

There will be people who will read this as an attack on their religious beliefs. It is not; the metaphor is not the belief; the truth within the metaphor is the belief. The metaphor is the “handle” we use to express our innate spirituality.We need teachers to be more thorough and spiritual leaders to be more honest. The metaphor is not the message.

With the world teetering on an internal religious war between two factions of the Islamic religion, not to mention a possible bloody struggle between Islamists and religionists of the two other religions of "the Book," it's time for all leaders, secular and sectarian, to come clean about their particular religious metaphors.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Conservation or Prestige--Guess Which Wins

Jeff Melnychuk of Wheelbase Communications has an article in the December 2, 2006, edition of the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise, titled "Power Assist." (Sorry, the link is unavailable.)

Melnychuk is writing about the new gas-electric auto models which are not "about green frugality." Here's a wonderful couple of quotes:

"The idea of buying a hybrid for fuel savings...has become obsolete....a new incentive: straight-line performance. And don't forget that performance sells. It always has and most likely always will, not just on the basis of sheer acceleration, but as it's linked to prestige."

Um...prestige. Unh-huh.

Melnychuk then goes on to describe a luxury sedan which, according to a picture caption, has a V-8 hybrid engine with the performance of a V-12. It does have lower emissions, but it doesn't save gas.

What does it take for the auto industry, and the American buying public, for that matter, to remember we are in a struggle against a deadly foe who receives a share of the gasoline costs? Doesn't each gallon of gas somehow go to fund an i.e.d. or a bullet?

Or have I been misinterpreting the President's dire warnings?

Is there not a war on terror? Are we on a war footing here in the U.S.?

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

What's in a name? #2

The newspapers are playing coy with whether or not to call the blood-letting in Baghdad a "civil war." (See Slate Magazine 11/25/06 "Today's Papers: Very Black Friday.")

That's almost foolishness. The American "war on terror" ended a couple of years ago, as far as the Iraqi theater is concerned (we'll fondly remember the ITO, I dare say when the rest of the stuff hits the fan). What our "boots" are experiencing now is a ring-side, court-side, 50-yard line seat to a religious war; and it's a war in which we have a stake.

Just as did the other two religions of "the Book," Islam is going through a metaphorical growing spell on its way to institutional maturity. And we are appalled at the contemporary consequences.

It's acknowledged by most that we went into Iraq with insufficient knowledge of the total picture of Iraqi society. What we must do now is not allow ourselves to be mired in our pre-2003 thinking. Without understanding that the theocracy underlying the politics of the area, we will never be able to prevail in the fight against Islamic extremist fundamentalists.

The newspapers should stop being shy about naming what's happening in Iraq. A religious war, by any other name, is still a religious war.

The course of safety for our democracy depends on how we handle ourselves in this sectarian struggle, and let's not confuse the issue with continued references to terrorism as the nature of the carnage has changed.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alas, Andrew, it's just words.

Andrew Sullivan is expending a great deal of effort and utilizing his considerable skill as a writer and debater defending his "doubt" regarding his Catholic religion.

Words. Words. Words. In defense of what? Sullivan knows, yea, he argues about the inability to "know" God, "A skeptic may affirm, as I do, the notion of an objective truth - but insist on the weakness of the human mind to know it [God] fully," that we are living with an anthropomorphized "deity." This deity has all the conunrums of human psychology. If anything, the religions of the book are virtual blasphemics, since they reduce the very concept of the Prime Mover to a querulous superhuman, with all the pettiness of an insecure despot.

Be honest, Andrew.

Cherish the community, disdain the irrelevant trappings. Much social good comes from the community and the sharing; those are the worthy elements. Debating doubt is intellectual masturbation.


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Monday, November 20, 2006

When does a conundrum become a dilemma?

Poor Charlie Rangel. He calls for discussion about re-instating the draft, and the negative responses are thunderous.

Here's the conundrum/dilemma: Are we or are we not in the struggle of the 21st century? Will that struggle demand military action at times? Are the armed forces of the United States able, at its present level of "boots," to meet, successfully, the challenges they might face?

On the one hand the generals last week supported the volunteer armed forces which we now have; on the other hand, they say the armed forces we now have are insufficient to increase the commitment of troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush, to his credit, talks a good "fight." He, however, has not supported his speeches about how long and hard this struggle will be with demonstrable actions.

If this war is as important as Mr. Bush says it is, and I do think it is at least as important as he says, then it is his responsiblity to educate the public in the matter of war footing and sacrifice. So far, too often, the Opus cartoon of 10-1-06 is a metaphorically accurate depiction of this "war" as seen by the American public.

After a couple of panels with Opus looking around, he says, "We're at war?" "Of course we're at war." "War on drugs?" "No." "On traditional marriage?" "Iraq. You idiot." "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh. Right."

A draft would make the country pay attention to the "war" which obviously is real, and which, just as obviously, cannot be won on the "cheap," whether in blood or treasure.

Whatever Mr. Rangel's motives, he's certainly correct to bring up the subject of a draft, and his thinking deserves more than a knee-jerk "the public won't stand for it." How does one know what the public will stand for without a serious discussion?

Are we at war or not?

Are we prepared to win or not?

Will Western democracies survive or not?

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

What, Exactly, Is Good for General Motors?

Charles Wilson's statement has become garbled a little bit (thanks to Al Capp?). Here's what he said: "For years I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country." Here's where I found the quote.

Today on NPR's Weekend Edition, a news item tells us, "G.M. lost 10 billion dollars last year."

It begs the question, then, doesn't it? How is this Republican Administration's economical program, as Mr. Bush continuously calls it, good for the U.S.A.?

Historical data disprove the claim that Republican administrations' economic policies are good for the country, and, by the way, G.M. View the data here.

What do you suppose Charlie Wilson would say about them apples?

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

What's More Dangerous--a Little Bit or a Lot Of Learning?

"A little bit of learning is a dangerous thing" generally is taken to mean that an insufficient amount of information can and sometimes does lead to a disasterous decision.

What happens if we substitute a lot for a little bit? We get something like Victor Davis Hanson's piece in Real Clear Politics.

Mr. Hanson is very well educated, and he is a master spokesperson for conservative issues, primarily the recent discussion on immigration. He wrote about "Mexifornia," for instance.

In today's piece he has this phraseology: "Can it be that [Democrats] are seeing that the only choices we have had after Sept. 11 have been mostly either bad or worse..?"

Now here's where the lot of learning comes in. Selectively choosing a date, the date which has numbed us to anything rational, Mr. Hanson cleverly misleads the reader this way: Since Sept. 11, the choice to invade Iraq was not an only choice. It was a choice made deliberately in the face of odds against a successful conclusion. It was a choice, we now know, that was made in spite of adequate preparation.

Had Mr. Hanson used, say March 19, 2003, as his date after which we had only "bad or worse" choices, his point would have been more valid.

A lot of education can be a bad thing for people who have to put their trust in those educated people, if the educated people use their education for dubious purposes.

You can do better, Mr. Hanson. Scholarly integrity. Please.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Food for Thought? A Lesson from South Africa?

On the same day the U.S. Conference of Bishops issued its patronizing guideline for counseling (disordered) gays and how we should live our lives (celebate and silent), South Africa's parliament passed a "same-sex" marriage law which equates committed relationships of same sex couples with committed relationships of opposite sex couples.


Well, Africa was the cradle of humankind.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yes, Borat Stereotypes, but...

There's an article in one of today's papers in which someone complains about Borat stereotyping Eastern Europeans.


The stereotype is of Americans and how, as a country, we stereotype Eastern Europeans. If one reads the Borat story in, one learns that each of the persons in the movie fell for the joke--each one of them believed the person to be what he and his "producers" claimed him to be, and they believed the story about the "documentary."

Cohen held a mirror up to ourselves, and we didn't recongize us.

The joke, perhaps, wasn't on us so much as it might be us.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

What a Rush!!!!

At some point, people should begin discussing the role of pundits and bloviators (not, of course, ersatz pundits and bloviators such as I) in the national discourse.

What, exactly, is or should be the role of such opinionators?

Take Rush Limbaugh's recent statements about his disappointment with Republican conservatives, and about his own determination not to "carry water" for them any longer unless they change their wayward ways.

One has to ask, if Mr. L sometimes felt that he was carrying water for people in whom he had little or no faith, then why did he do it?

Whither self-respect? Whither integrity? Whither intellectual honesty?

What, exactly, is the definition of a panderer? Or a pimp? Or a dealer?

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Republican Mindsets...Whither the Constitution?

Mary Bono is quoted in The Desert Sun, November 5, 2006, A17, thusly about ex-Republican Congressman, Mark Foley: "First and foremost, Mark Foley ought to be prosecuted." This quote is from a transcript of an October 12, 2006, interview with the paper's editorial board as the board queried both Ms Bono and her challenger, David Roth (not available online at this time).

One must ask the question, "Ms Bono, just what crime is alleged in this 'Foleygate' affair?" Is flirting a prosecutable action? What would be the parameters of the crime? There have been no allegations of sexual misconduct. The age of consent in D.C. is 17. The most serious word used so far has been "inappropriate."

Oughtn't there be some mention of a prosecutable crime before a member of congress calls for a prosecution? Doesn't the Constitution demand some sort of proof before prosecution?

What was she thinking at the time of the interview?

Surely it couldn't be the age factor as prosecutable. There's a 26 year or so difference in the ages of Ms Bono and her first husband.

"First and foremost, Mark Foley ought to be prosecuted."

Why, Ms Bono?

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Do The Republicans Deserve an "Easy" Vote?

“All politics is local;” except when it isn’t. This year it isn’t. In this off-year election, no less than a re-affirmation of the principles of the U.S. Constitution is demanded. The Republican party’s participation in weakening some of our basic principles demand that we think carefully about voting to return to Congress a representative who will “organize” with the Republican leadership.

The most egregious attack on the erosion of the Bill of Rights lies in the willingness of the Republicans to erode habeas corpus.

The Bill of Rights is further eroded by the Republican administration’s attempt to lessen our right to privacy.

The balance of power demanded by the Constitution is eroded by the Republican rubber-stamp congress of the past 5 years.

The Republican redefinition of what is allowable evidence in a trial as well as virtually secret trials has opened the door to a near-cousin of the loathsome Star Chamber which the writers of the Constitution knew and feared too well.

Forget selling one’s soul for a tax cut; maybe we should refuse to sell our Constitutional rights for a local road project or national parks and monuments.

This year we must give serious consideration to voting for the Constitution, and the Democratic party’s nominee to Congress.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Change of Pace

For an amusing bit of self-deprecatory admission, check out this plant lover's blog.

She raises some interesting points, i.e., how much water is too much water or too little water?

Alas, no one seems to know.

R.I.P., pretty flower with the unpronouncable name.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Predator? Prey?

At some point, we might want to revisit the language used to describe those among us who find others sexually interesting. To write that Mr. Foley is/was a predator is a bit strong, disingenuous, and, possibly, dangerous.

Everyone I know responds positively to the presence of a reminder of the exuberance and vitality of youth.

Everyone I know, to greater or lesser degrees, seeks to recapture his or her own youthful exuberance and vitality.

Everyone I know, to greater or lesser degrees, avoids making young people uncomfortable as we observe and celebrate their youth and all the wonderful things about being a youth.

Everyone I know sends out "signals" to others indicating an "interest," and, depending on the response, we either pursue or drop the matter.

Are we all, then, predators? Are you, then, at 16 or 60, prey?

By using predator and prey in discussions about relationships with 16-year-olds, we befuddle the discussion about those who seek sexual contact with pre-pubescent children, which is where the real dangers lie.

The language we are using now casts too broad a net to be accurate. At some point we should try to develop a more appropriate metaphor.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Partisan? Non-partisan? Slip-up? Deliberate?

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James E. Baker (of Bush I fame), is back in the news via an article in the New York Times today. A reminder, this Group was formed last spring, as a bipartisan group, to reassess "strategy" for Mr. Bush. The group, in order not to influence the election debate, will release its report in early 2007, and members are attempting to come up with a consensus report.

That's good, on the face of it. However, the NYT story contains a troubling comment from Mr. Baker: "I think it's fair to say our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run.'"

That's also good, except there is a teensy partisan problem in this "bipartisan" effort's co-chairman's point.

The problem is the use of cut and run as an "alternative" in the "political debate."

Mr. Baker has fallen into the easy use of the Republican National Committee's talking points. "Stay the course" and "cut and run" are both phrases thrown around by political operatives in the media who are interested in furthering Republican causes. "Stay the course" has the advantageous characteristic of the old "Damn the torpedoes" school of warfare, and somehow stirs the soul. "Cut and run" seems cowardly.

Of course, the perniciousness of the phrase is that those who are urging the President and the Administration to pay attention to the failure of the current course of waging this war do not advocate "cut and run." That is totally a fiction of the Republican media hacks.

There is not a single Democrat of responsibility who urges anything like "cut and run."

One has to trust one's leaders. Mr. Bush and Co. have made that difficult to do. Mr. Baker, who has some modicum of integrity, if somewhat tarnished by his participation in the villainy of "Florida 2000," might have not meant anything by his casual use of the phrase, but he did use it, and Republican functionaries will seize on it and and repeat it to further their justification for continued power.

Independents and marginal party voters will once again have the "cut and run" implanted into their subconscious thinking, and the bipartisan nature of the Iraq Study Group is called into question--especially since the group's report, as stated above, is being withheld until after November 7.

The perfidy of the current Administration and its apparatchiks is pervasive, and even traps one of its "elder" statesmen.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

(un)Glad Tidings

OK. That title might be a little too arcane. Here's my thinking: As a proud liberal Democrat, I take some solace in anything which weakens the possibility of a continued Republican control of congress--the "Glad Tidings." As a concerned citizen of the United States who believes in openness, honesty, the democratic process, fair-play, and giving needed support to friends and colleagues, these tidings are somewhat not very happy for the body politic, ergo, un-glad.

The House page scandal is almost a textbook example of selfishness and cowardice and, and, and...

Joe Scarborough, who arrived in Congress with the 1994 Republican take over, says he knew all along that Foley is a gay man. At least three Republican congressmen knew Foley is gay and they had an inkling of his, um, follies. Foley's then-aide is gay; the recently resigned man in charge of the page program is gay. You would think, and for the most part be correct, that having a gay sexual orientation is a non-issue in the Republican party. Foley raised a lot of money; he voted with the party. He was an asset.

Since he was a valuable asset, why didn't those who knew of his eye for teens give him whatever support he needed to refrain from putting himself into compromising positions?

Instead of giving him the equivalent of a trip to the woodshed , they dithered; and Foley kept fooling himself as he fooled with others.

The Republicans who knew of this brewing trouble came close to perfidy to their party and to their colleague.

Friends don't let friends drive drunk, nor do they let friends be inappropriate with teenagers.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why the folderol over a common folly?

Control. Discretion. Or lack thereof, for Mark Foley and for many others.

People are dying in Baghdad and Mark Foley resigns from Congress. Guess which one makes the front pages and segments on news broadcasts and talk shows.

Three bits of information as of today, Sunday, we need to keep in the forefront of any discussion of Mr. Foley: 1) the age consent in D.C. is 16; 2) there is no indication of anything approaching physical contact; 3)the page didn't work for Foley.

Think of the possibilities. On the one hand you have a single, relatively attractive middle aged man who is a respected member of congress. On the other hand, you have a 16 year old boy who is a member of the Congressional pages.

At some point these two individuals began an email and instant message exchange. Eventually the boy's parents learned of the exchanges and demanded that their congressman take steps to see to it the communication ended.

One wonders how it started. Surely the pages in the Capitol gossiped about Foley's sexual orientation. Have you ever known a group of teens who didn't "share" whatever knowledge or speculation they might have about the sexuality of their teachers or bosses or neighbors or relatives? The kid sent Foley a note thanking him for some bit of assistance, and Foley, according to today's information, responded to the note, and they were off to the races.

A couple of bloggers (here's one, as a for instance) have postings about this which include a mention of Foley's efforts to "protect" young people from internet predators. Isn't that where the fuzziness of it all comes from? Just how "young" is young? What is the difference between an "ephebophile" and a "pedophile?" Is there one? As a suggestion, the recipient of Mr. Foley's internet musings was not a "young" person in the sense of what many people imagine when reading about internet predatory behavior. There is an example of the ambiguities of language.

The most senseless area of discussion deals with what turns someone "on." Think for a minute. How many 70 year old "booties" does one see in a music video? How many 70 year olds model for Playgirl? In other words how many human beings you know who is "turned on" by someone over, say, 50? (I know of at least one, but he is an anomaly among our friends. And the people he finds attractive are very seldom turned on by each other.)

Discretion and control turned out to be Foley's greatest weaknesses. He could have saved himself a deal of grief if he'd had either. As for the remainder of his "news story," we should be far more concerned with Baghdad.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

A quickie about Christian Enablers

Yesterday's post dealt with the very appropriate comments from the Vatican's foreign minister to the U.N.

Moderate Muslims must loudly and consistently condemn the trashing of their religion by extremists.

So, too, though, must the Vatican and, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemn, in clear terms, the sectarian strife which inflicts "Christian" countries. For example, both the Pope and the Archbishop should condemn, in no uncertain terms, the Catholic-Protestant "troubles" in Northern Ireland. Name Paisley specifically, Arch; by name condemn Sinn Fein, Da B-16.

If you don't, then you're equally as culpable of enabling terrorists who are acting in the name of your religion as those Muslims who do not loudly condemn the murderous practices of their fellow congregants.

Peace everywhere, but no peace for religious war mongers.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Da B-16 Is Getting Something Correct

A Vatican spokesperson at the U.N. had these words: It falls to all interested parties - to civil society as well as to states - to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty.

Truer words seldom spoken. Now that Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister, has put these words out for all to hear and see, it is time for moderate Muslims to rise to the challenge. They must "promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance" by condemning the actions of the Islamist extremists, and by emphasizing the metaphorical elements of the Koranic verses. Just as the pearly gates are metaphors designed to appeal to peasants in the Dark Ages, so are the after-life promises of the Koran metaphors designed for a specific people at a specific time in history.

The truth will disarm the terrorists more completely than any other weapon. It is the responsibility of moderate Muslims to brandish the truths about their holy writings.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Appeasement by any other name?

Remember David Frum, of the "axis of evil" fame (his wife, it is told, gives him credit with coming up with the phrase)? Well, he seems to have had a bit of a conversion since the heady days of 2002 as a speechwriter for 43.

Today he takes on Mr. Bush's speech to the U.N., and makes note of the facts of Mr. Bush's stances on the Iranian nuclear weapon issue. In brief, Frum doesn't think much of the president's speech nor his position on Iran. He says as much in a piece available here.

My favorite part is his final comment: America's dwindling list of Iran options has dwindled further to just two: unilateral military action without any semblance of international approval to pre-empt the Iranian bomb program - or acquiescence in that program.
And I'm guessing that the option to emerge will be: acquiescence.

Now, tell me, what, exactly is the difference between acquiescence and appeasement, which is the favorite noun du jour of the Republicans these days as they try to tag Democrats.

It's amusing to see erstwhile supporters of the neo-cons gamely try to salvage some dignity.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Biology, Brooks, and Sex (Oh, My!)

Somewhere there exists a "free" copy of David Brooks' piece printed 9/17/06. (It's a Times Select article, available with on-line subscription.)

"Is Chemistry Destiny?" is a fascinating read. In it Brooks explores a book by Louann Brizendine The Female Brain. In it, Brizendine delineates various stages of life in the female brain as well as the level of certain chemicals at those stages. Briefly, a case is made that brain chemistry might very well be destiny.

As usual, one might find a quibble with Mr. Brooks' thinking lodged where he goes a bit too far in his opining. Today it's what he doesn't explicitly say at the end of this quote: This new understanding both validates ancient stereotypes about the sexes, and fuzzes up moral judgments about human responsibility (biology inclines individuals toward certain virtues and vices).

Yes, but remember, oh faithful reader(s?), virtues and vices are both subjective, while the level of brain chemicals is beyond the power of the individual. That is a significant point in the discussion of behavior.

Is your virtue my vice? If so, on what legitimate basis? And what makes it not my legitimate virtue instead of your legitimate vice?

Have fun.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Benedict Deserves Support

In his call for the modernization, or at least the clarification (to use W's favorite word these days) of Islamic conversion principles, Benedict XVI has hit upon a necessary topic for the immediate future: Islamic modernization. Islamists should keep what is universally good and rid their religion of what was specific to the context of the time of Mohammed.

Communal aspects of religion are valuable, writings which can be interpreted by thugs to justify unspeakable treatment of others are not valuable.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Um...Get a Grip?

The Sierra Club is unhappy about including Hummer toys in fast food orders.

At the risk of sounding like a pooh-pooher, one is tempted to suggest the eminent organization get a grip on reality. Toys do not a purchaser make. Besides, by the time tots and kids are old enough to plunk down a fistful of sheckels for a Hummer, they'll be old enough and smart enough, by then, and beyond the wisdom of their forefathers, not to buy one of those gas guzzlers.

Not every kid will grow up to suffer from Hummer-envy.

The Sierra Club does important work. This should fall way down on their priorities list.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Here's a link to a blog which contains a wonderful phrase: White House Whore du Jour.

Wish I'd thought of that one.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

SF Muslim Americans

The News Hour on September 4 aired a segment entitled "Muslim Americans in San Francisco Reflect on Impact of 9/11." In this segment there were two views reflected, both of which need some comment.

First, several of the congregants seemed defensive about being tainted with an association with terrorists who are acting out their thuggery using the Koran as justification. While their consternation is certainly understandable, they are well integrated into the American system, they seem not to be willing to address the problem of the Koranic sutra which allow interpretations which the jihadi claim.

These San Franciscans do not address the fact that the Koran was developed as an alternative to the very harsh social conditions in the Middle East during the time of the Prophet Mohammed. Just as with fundamentalist Jews and Christians, the early writings of monotheists are filled with acts of violence which were "sanctioned," if not demanded by the deity in order to achieve, at some human cost, social stability. Of course, those sanctions and demands were filtered through human beings and human perceptions about the needs and wants of the deity.

The congregants do not seem to be willing to address the need to cull the Koran of the political necessities of the 7th century in the Middle East. Until they do, they will continue to feel the caution and possible distrust of their San Francisco neighbors.

Second, an imam in the segment freely admits to making anti-American statements in weekly speeches in his mosque. He almost cheerily passes his past behavior off because he is now more "mature." The implication is that he doesn't say those things any more. What he did not do in the segment is make note of any steps he takes today to withdraw those sentiments, nor does he take any steps to deny the validity of any such statements being made by other speakers today.

The other two monotheistic religions have very strong progressive sects, and the fundamentalists have pretty well been marginalized. No such progressiveism is observable in Islan as of yet. Until there is, there will be more bloodshed.

It's time for the San Francisco Muslims to take action. It's time for them to strip the terrorists, who are using Islam for their butchery, of their philosophical basis.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Brooks Gets It Right...

...but he's still fudging. David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, discusses cultural differences (sorry, you'll need registration to read it in the Times), and he makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, he doesn't go far enough in his discussion of America's problems facing these differences.

The Islamic extremists pose a serious problem for the entire world, and so far our response to that danger has been, um, ineffective.

What to do? How about something like this, a response to David:

This (The hard lesson of the last five years — that we live in a jagged world filled with starkly different and contesting groups — makes democracy promotion more difficult but more necessary) is an excellent ending to your column today.

Now, while you are correct with the idea behind "And yet I can’t seem to renounce my own group, which is America," there is a slight fault with the syntax you chose--no one is suggesting you renounce America. The suggestion is that you stop enabling the current administration with your half-hearted defenses of its policies.

Arrogance and heavy handedness have no place in diplomacy. Foolishly, the Republican Party in 2000 nominated a movie cowboy, for the second time, to the top job of the nation. It worked well enough the first time, but this time the challenges were more real than those of the 1980's. At that time, the Soviet Union was teetering on the brink of collapse, and Reagan's blusterings worked well enough. This time the threat has been more dire, younger, fueled by extremism and a religion of "honor." And our "group's" blusterings are exposed as the cinematic ephemera they have always been in the reign of the cinematic.

Our part in the culture struggle must be informed by the realities of other cultures, not by our mythological assurances that the cowboy shoot-em-up wins the day.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Third Time's the Charm?

Now the Pentagon is calling up some Marines for a third tour in Iraq.

Isn't it time we began to take this war on terror seriously and went onto a war footing?

Isn't it time for a draft? For gas rationing? For meatless Tuesdays? Scrap metal drives? War bonds?

We are either in a fight for the survival of Western democracies or we aren't.

Fighting "on the cheap" so far has proven to be, um, less than successful.

We need some decidership here, Mr. President.

Our volunteer service men and women deserve no less than our 100% support.

We need to produce or get off the pot.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Alas, Poor John. We Know Him Too Well

Take the case of John Yoo. You remember, he's the erstwhile Bush administration lawyer who came up with the rationale which gave the Bush administration cover in establishing torture as an acceptable tool in the war on terror.

Now, in the Los Angeles Times, Yoo is at something again (It doesn't fit--this topic is a new wrinkle for John). Now he wants to revive the debate on data mining, and establish something like the deserted Total Information Awareness program of a couple of years back.

Yoo argues that criticism of the TIA was overreaction. He could be correct. TIA could be a good weapon in our surveillance arsenal.

A problem for Yoo is that since he made such a mess of the torture argument, and his attempt at logic flew in the face of opposing "experts," that it's almost foolish to believe anything he offers today.

Yoo argues "Data mining could be controlled and developed so that it protects us from terror and maintains our privacy." He goes on to offer "A warrant could still be required to investigate the content of communications or the purpose of purchases." The key words there are "warrant could still be required." That, in itself, might be a step in the right direction for Yoo.

Unfortunately, this administration's disdain for warrants has been established. Yoo has a lot of work to do to convince us this president and this administration can be trusted to follow the rules of law. Several hundred "signing statements" don't exactly instill confidence.

If Yoo is correct, and TIA/data mining are essential, it behooves him to assume a mantle of humility. That would be a rare moment for him and this president, but if he truly believes the program is for the good of the country, maybe he'll take a step for the good of the whole.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Adam and Eve Name Game

One has to love the Los Angeles Times. The paper's op-ed page is often a source of inspiration, most of the time positive, occasionally--especially with Boot and Goldberg--irritating. Today, August 17, 2006, is no exception.

The thought of the day is what sound-bite to assign to the enemy in the current War on Terror. Geoffrey Nunberg takes issue with Mr. Bush's Islamo-fascism. He prefers creep in one of its various forms. (Mildly interesting point: the print headline reads "Who are you calling a fascist?" and the on-line headline reads "'Islamo-Creeps' Would Be More Accurate.")

Personal preference here is for both.

Aside: In an article on the same page, Jonah Goldberg feels "fascism" is most appropriate. A "money quote:" President Bush undoubtedly didn't have any of this in mind this week when he dubbed our enemies in the war on terror "Islamic fascists." But his comments — analytically flawed as they may be — added some much-needed moral clarity to our current struggle.

And therein lies a chuckle. "much-needed moral clarity." Does one suppose Jonah wrote that with a straight face? (Is there the possibility of "moral clarity" in this situation? Is Jonah suggesting that the Bush administration so far has failed to establish "moral clarity?" Answers: Probably not; Definitely!)

Nunberg argues that use of words such as fascism are really reductive: Of course, it's the point of symbolic words such as "fascist" to ease the burden of thought — as Walter Lippmann observed, they "assemble emotions after they've been detached from their ideas." And it may be that Americans are particularly vulnerable to using "fascism" sloppily, never having experienced the real thing close up.

The phrase "ease the burden of thought" is a catchy one. And that reminds of Goldberg's "moral clarity."

Funny how language can come back to bite the posterior.

I like the forms of fascism as indicative of the enemy we face. Actually, the only problem with using them is that Nunberg relies on the state element as being necessary for fascism to be appropriate. If one remembers that the Islamic fundaments (look that one up!) are working for a world-wide domination of their religion and imposition of that religion's laws, then the state becomes religious state, and that sure allows fascism to be appropriate.

Hmmm. Theo-fascism has a nice sound bite, bumper sticker ring, doesn't ite?

Anti-theo-fascists, Unite!!! You have nothing to lose but your humanity.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy (The Devil Made Me Do It)

On August 12, 2006, The Dallas Morning News published a column by Mary A. Jacobs, in which she discussed "Christian to Christian" urban legends.

There's a wonderful quote by one Kevin Lewis; the context is: "...Lewis, an assistant professor of theology and law at Biola University, a Christian school near Los Angeles, uses urban legends as fodder in classes on legal evidence, apologetics and epistemology. He reminds students that if Christians are to "witness" to others, they must be credible witnesses.

"Urban legends offer a great lesson on why people accept things that don't have any factual basis," he said. "And, unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why Christians believe baloney."

Modern churches aren't catechizing believers as thoroughly as in the past, he says, leaving many Christians with a superficial understanding of church history and theology. And many tend to accept beliefs from an authority, such as a pastor, without understanding the basis of those beliefs.

Urban legends, Mr. Lewis said, can serve as object lessons for discussion of questions like, "How do you know anything is true?" and, "Why should I believe Billy Graham rather than Jim Jones?"

And those questions have serious implications.
"You're cult bait if you don't use your mind," he said.

Two great quotes "...there are a lot of reasons why Christians believe baloney." Hmmm. Well, one reason is that they are taught to believe metaphor, if not baloney. Pearly gates? Streets of gold? Angels with harps? Not to mention virgin birth and resurrection. Lewis, doubtless, knows better; but preachers are constantly talking about the fact of the resurrection rather than the metaphor. And so on.

Finally, here's a great howler: "You're cult bait if you don't use your mind."

Oh, indeed. Pictures of these mega churches with 16,000 in attendance are redolent of Jonestown.

Ayatollahs on one hand and Christian fundamentalists on the other.

We're in deep doo-doo.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

The Language Keeps On Bitin'

A very strange complaint has been made by some Muslims in the Los Angeles area. For the full story, see "Muslims Upset by Bush's Remarks" in The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2006.

Attributed to Edina Lekovic, identified as communications director the the Muslim Public Affairs council in Los Angeles, the money quote: Suggesting there is [something Islamic about fascism] only over-politicizes things in a way that does not accurately describe the criminal adversaries we face at the moment." She added: "It would have been far more accurate had he linked the situation to a segment of people rather than an entire faith, along the lines of, say, radical Muslim fascists.'"

Could we take a moment and look at the difference between "Islamic fascists" (Bush's phrasing) and "radical Muslim fascists?"

It isn't clear just why Ms Lekovic feels adding radical and changing Islamic to Muslim would be less upsetting. Isn't the noun fascist? Isn't the key word fascist? The adjectives merely color the noun.

Is Ms Lekovic stipulating there is an element of fascism in Muslims? Oughtn't she have issued a statement which did not use any form of fascism at all?

Later in the article this is attributed to Paravez Ahmet, board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, "The use of ill-defined hot-button terms such as 'Islamic fascists,' 'militant jihadism,' 'Islamic radicalism' or 'totalitarian Islamic empire' harms our nation's image and interests worldwide, particularly in the Islamic world."

If these phrases somehow upset, it behooves both parties to explain why they are upsetting and why they are in common use. Where in the Islamic religion are non-Muslims able to discern a danger? Where in the Islamic religion is there evidence the danger does not exist?

If American Muslims, or Muslims world-wide for that matter, are upset over the language used in discussions about the war on terror, they should engage in clarification and outreach. They should reassure their fellow non-Islamic citizens that the perception that Islamists are determined to convert the entire world to their religion is either an erroneous interpretation or has been superseded.

Moderate Christians and Jews have done this; moderate Muslims must do this.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

A quick stop during net surfing

A quick Google for "Baghdad Demonstration" brings up an AP and a Reuters story. The AP appeared in a Jerusalem paper as well as a paper in Canada, the Reuters appeared in a paper (of course, all three are on-line "papers") in Malaysia.

The AP mentioned a few burning American flags and chanting "Death to America," the Reuters story did not.

Malaysia is, of course, a predominately Muslim nation. Could it be the anti-American elements of the demonstration (held on August 4) were censored in the Malaysian coverage? Or did the incidents of anti-American demonstrations not occur?

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Spread This News

Here's another call for moderate Muslims to speak out and take control of their religion and their lives.

Now, if we could only get others who write about "book" religions to do some of the same encouraging, we might have a chance to end this on good terms sooner rather than later.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Newspeak is alive and well

The latest Republican attack on the middle class has a wonderful example of language manipulation/spin--at least in published reporting on the bill increasing the Federal minimum wage.

The story is available in many places, the Los Angeles Times story is here.

The bill passed by the House contains a provision which will actually result in a wage decrease for many workers who depend on tips to supplement their pay. According to the Times article, there is one sentence in the bill which would effect this decrease. The article goes on to state: "The provision was crafted by Republicans in response to complaints from restaurateurs, who said it was unfair to require them to pay the full minimum wage to employees who also receive tips."

Therein lies the Orwellian element. The restaurateurs conflate the contract between themselves and the servers with the contract between the customer and the server; however, that should not be done and it should not be allowed by our Legislative branch of government. The tip should be regarded as it should be intended: an expression of the degree of satisfaction for the service provided. The salary of the server is of no concern to the customer, nor should it be.

By Orwellian obfuscation, the House members who voted for this bill have joined the ongoing battle between owners and workers. They have determined the owners can keep more and that workers have to scramble more.

Servers should be able to plan their lives according to the salary paid by the employer. That salary should be enough to provide a life of dignity.

The tip should always be a bit of lagniappe, taxable, to be sure, but lagniappe all the same.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lights, Tunnels, and 6 Months

If you're not old enough to remember the Vietnam mantra out of Washington, it was "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The new mantra is "The next six months will be critical."

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's the Language, Stupid

Forgive the play on Mr. Clinton's 1992 slogan, but the time has come for everyone to slow down and think about the language which is being used in the current debates engaging our "divided" country.

David Brooks has an interesting column in today's NYTimes (unfortunately, it's a "Times Select" column, which means it'll cost you on line). He writes about the slow development of democracy in Europe after the 1848 "revolutions." He thinks a similar growth of democratic principals is due in the various trouble spots across the world. Money quote:

"We’re out of the period of mass rallies and toppling regimes and orange revolutions. We’re coming into a period of, at best, a gradualist conservative reform. It’s time to come up with a strategy for helping today’s unimaginative autocrats to become new and improved Bismarcks. "

A cursory review of history suggests Mr. Brooks is onto something, but he is unlikely to have much effect. The neo-cons will dismiss him as soft and irrelevant; the liberals will ignore him because he sits in the NY Times' "conservative" seat, and the liberals are really Mr. Brooks' intended audience--because he truly is, for the most part, an Eisenhower Republican.

The problem is that conservative has taken on so much negative baggage recently, that the word gets almost as much knee-jerk response as "right wing-nut" or "tax and spend liberal."

Somehow we need to establish some "givens." For instance, most "conservatives" are not Neanderthals, nor are "liberals" tax and spend fiscal fools.

Everyone, it could be argued, is a conservative in that no one wants chaos; no one wants change which has not been carefully considered and debated.

Everyone, it could be argued, is a supporter of taxes. Responsible people know that government has a place in society. Everyone knows the government must be funded by citizens. No one wants government funds to be spent foolishly. Government programs and the taxes which fund them must be debated openly, and social benefits clearly established.

Who could possibly argue with these points?

There really is little difference between conservative and liberal.

We need major pundits, not bloviators, to establish guide lines about the meaning of conservative and liberal in order to be able to establish a point without having to spend "ink" in clarification of terms.

Once we rid ourselves of the linguistic baggage and bombast in which we find ourselves mired, we will be better able to debate and address the problems of the day.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI and the Ersatz Family

In Spain the Pope continues his attacks against gay marriage, and one wonders why.

Each social benefit derived from committed heterosexual marriage is also a social benefit which would derive from gay marriages. If stability is the goal, then stability should be encouraged at all levels.

The Pope and his cohorts know this. It is to their everlasting shame they continue their opposition to giving social sanction to committed relationships.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

When did the flag become "sacred?"

In order for something to be "desecrated," it must first be "sacred."

Republican senators, in arguing for the odious flag protection amendment, use "desecrated" ad nauseum.


When did the flag become elevated to the status of "sacred?" Which religion, of which, of course, there is none officially for the United States, has it in its dogma that the flag of the United States is worthy of adoration?

Republicans have long misused the language for their political ends.

This is, as yet, the most unpatriotic contortion of language of the year. One shudders to think what gross misapplications of words await during the forthcoming mid-term elections.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Burn, Baby, Burn!"? Maybe

Regardless of Republican senatorial leadership bloviating, burning a flag in protest of a government policy is an honorable, patriotic act. Very few other acts so give thanks to the men and women who have given life or limb to the protections of the U.S. Constitution.

If you think the government is violating the Bill of Rights, using the Bill of Rights to protest is the most logical action you can take.

Shame on Frist/Hatch for their pandering to ignorant Yahoos at the expense of our nation's most basic law.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Alice in Wonderland Repentance

The Episcopalian Church is debating whether or not it should apologize to the worldwide Anglican Church and repent for elevating Gene Robinson to bishop in 2003.

The wrong church sect is debating repentance. The worldwide Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptists, Islamic congregations, and all other religious communions should be debating how soon they should be apologizing and repenting for their proscriptions on same-sex sexual orientation.

Jesus taught nothing about the issue. The proscriptions are based on the Old Testament and upon Paulist writings.

Meanwhile two allegedly gay teens were hanged a few weeks ago in Teheran.

Galileo was forced to recant his observations about our heliocentric planetary system, but he is reported to have muttered, "It moves" as he left the official proceedings. The American Episcopal Church might be forced to this shameful "apology" and "repentance," but "it moves."

American Episcopalians are on the side of God on this one.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Constitutional Balance of Power

Here's a "signing statement" which Mr. Bush issued upon the occasion of reauthorizing the "Patriot Act:"

President's Statement on H.R. 199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005"
Today, I have signed into law H.R. 3199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005," and then S. 2271, the "USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006." The bills will help us continue to fight terrorism effectively and to combat the use of the illegal drug methamphetamine that is ruining too many lives.

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

The executive branch shall construe section 756(e)(2) of H.R. 3199, which calls for an executive branch official to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislative action, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

March 9, 2006.

Note the italicized words. What these words mean is that the Executive will decide whether or not to obey sections of this law, not Congress.

Where is the Congressional outrage?

What happened to a three-part governance?

What happened to checks and balances?

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Satisfaction Tempered

Zarqawi's death presents us with an unusual phenomenon: a certain sense of satisfaction, but tempered with certain knowledge that it will most probably be a very small success in the larger picture.

What does a confirmed death at 9:15 EDT on June 7, 2006, mean? Does it mean the suicide killings which were "in the pipeline" are going to be canceled? Or does it mean there will be a diminishing of suicide killings after the currently planned atrocities are completed? Or is there, at this moment (5:40 a.m., PDT, June 8, 2006), someone who has already assumed the mantle of terrorist-in-chief?

Finally, at what moment in time will the thinkers of the planet decide to study the early lives of perpetrators of horrors in order to try to determine when those lives changed from laughing toddlers to paths which would lead to bloodied monsters?

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Balance of Power

In his speech on June 5, Mr. Bush takes a shot or two at "activist judges." He makes a point of stressing that Federal judges are not elected.

What he doesn't mention is that the Founding Fathers intentionally wrote the Constitution in such a way that the federal judges would be unelected, as a third element of power which would be apart from electoral politics, and, ostensibly, neutral in their deliberations and decisions.

Federal judges who rule against legislation or administrative dicta which runs counter to the Constitution are doing their jobs.

Surely Mr. Bush knows that.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Ol' Stopped Clock Syndrome

OK, so he regrets saying things like "Bring 'em on" and "dead or alive." Says he's learned something about how language can send "wrong signals."

Absolutely! It's good that he has learned something.

The problem is that he learned "on the job." Now, learning OTJ is a time tested worthy concept, especially if you're a teenager learning how to fry potatoes at McDonald's. This guy, however is learning OTJ about how to be the man with his finger on the button!

Other pertinent question arise: Why did this man and party win the past two national elections? Why did the American public, according to polls, think they would be safer with this party and its leaders than they would have been with Democratic leaders?

Well, at least, the occasions of the stopped clock being correct twice a day are increasingly frequent.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Stopped Clock's Correctness

Thus spoke Zarabushtra:

"May 15,2006

5. We Must Honor The Great American Tradition Of The Melting Pot
The Success Of Our Country Depends Upon Helping Newcomers Assimilate Into Our Society And Embrace Our Common Identity As Americans. "

The above is taken from news reports the day after Mr. Bush's speech on immigration.

Giving the stopped clock its due, Mr. Bush is correct. Multi-culturalism has not been a success. We are more Balkanized today than we were pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964. A return to the "melting pot" is indicated. If assimilation is not part of the impending policies on immigration, they will eventually prove to be dangerous to the Union.

E pluribus unum.

We should do away with hyphenated Americans. We can start with the elimination of racial/ancestral heritage questions on any form which goes to the government.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Views of Paris, Chateaux, Churches, a Butt

From the Mona Lisa to Paul Bettany's butt, The Da Vinci Code is a feast for the eyes. What's not to like? A few pot shots at some of the woeful aspects of Christianity, an eerily effective use of grey memory figures and scenes, Paul Bettany's butt, a wonderfully landscaped church or two, Paul Bettany's butt, a few moments of Tom Hanks not-quite-getting-it-across in his final tete-a-tete with the leading lady, Sir Ian being charming as well as dastardly, as complete a showing of the Louvre's pyramid entrance, a few choice bets about current RCC hierarchical machinations, and you know what all make for a quick 2+ hours.

Critics who gave this movie a cool reception either see too many movies or have lost their sense of fun or forget it's only a movie.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Religious Brouhaha

Michael Connelly writing in the Los Angeles Times' "Book Review" of May 7, 2006, offers this tidbit: "There is a saying that if you want to know the facts, read a newspaper, but if you want to know the truth, read a novel. I don't know where I first heard that phrase, but after many years I am beginning to see the light in it."

The quote is offered to you as a way to look at the scriptural brouhaha(s) which are beginning to foment. I am especially taken with Andrew Sullivan's comment about Dan Brown's book and imminent movie: "[The DaVinci Code is] hack fiction. People might actually believe it."

Mr. Sullivan and others should ponder Mr. Connelly's epigram. The truth of Jesus' "ministry" is far more important than whether or not various people over the past two millennia engaged in this or than shenanigan in order to protect themselves.

Actually, there are precious "facts" about Christology. Virtually every bit of writing we have is 2nd or 3rd hand. Hardly admissible in a court of law. Besides, "faith" doesn't depend on "fact." Even Hans Kung, eminent Roman Catholic theologian (albeit one the Vatican et al., tried to disparage),questioned the fundamental relevance of the Nicean Creed which proclaimed the divinity of Jesus, but Mr. Kung sticks to his Roman Catholicism.

The DaVinci Code is entertainment--with a nugget or two of underlying truth.

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Assimilation, Si--Integration, Non

Over in the New York Times, Peter Salins has an op-ed piece which calls for assimilation rather than integration.


Integration is a half-way measure towards good citizenship. If we don't share basics, we're too cautious; we don't trust what we can't fully understand. It's the very old primitive version of CYA.

We can start with everyone learning good (for the purpose of collective cogitation) English.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Sad, Difficult Day

Joel Stein, in the Los Angeles Times pens this screecher: "Rex paused and gave Swanson and I..." The degradation of the language continues. Alas.

Carol Memmott, of USA Today, has a quote from Mary Cheney's book. Mary quotes her mother, "Your life will be so hard." Sounds sympathetic, doesn't it? Hmmm. Upon reflection, one must remember that Mrs. Cheney's husband is part of the election-winning team which nosed to power in 2004 running, in no small part, on a homophobic platform in "Middle America."

The Los Angeles Times failed the English language; Mrs. Cheney continues to fail her daughter.

You-know-who wept.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006


Don't you just love euphemisms?

"Annie's Mailbox," the successor to "Ann Landers," as printed in the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise, has a new one for me: "bikini hair."


Bikinis now are sold with hair?


It's all about waxing one's privates in preparation for wearing a bikini in public.

Bikini hair. What'll they clean up next?

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An Implied Penalty Recommendation?

When the jury recommended a lifetime in virtual solitary confinement for Moussaoui, it also, in effect, was condemning Islamic fundamentalism and denying it a martyr and shaming it for its practices of using easily manipulated personalities for ungodly purposes.

Ooops. That would also fit with certain alleged Christian sects, too, wouldn't it.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wow! On the Mark!

Finally, someone has come up with a terse clause which goes far in explaining the vague sense which propels the words neo-cons interpret as "Blaming America First."

David Thomson, writing in the New York Times pens it. Money quote and bio info: " the end you have to understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not."
David Thomson is the author of "The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood."

Insisting on a discussion of as many of the events leading up to a particular moment in history does not mean one "blames America." It merely means we have to be more aware of the potential consequences of our actions and policies.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Flight 93

Flight 93 is said to have been the original title of United 93. See what a word change can do. See what a metaphor can do.
Watch in futility as a young man slits the throat of a middle aged woman in the name of "Allah." (The actual slashing is not shown.)

The metaphorical books of primitive peoples which have survived to guide us through our lives are rife with concepts which are antithetical to the needs of the 21st century.

We need to change them.

Whistling in the wind.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Conscientious Awareness vs. Politically Correct

Before we had "politically correct," we had "conscientious awareness." We should've stuck with the original phrase.

Being aware meant nothing more than that. If you're going to say nigger, be aware that that word carries a lot of baggage for some people. If you have something positive to say, people in your audience might not listen if you're going to use hurtful language; other people might not give appropriate credence to your comments if it's peppered with language which is virtually guaranteed to make people stop listening and start reacting.

Of course by now, politically correct has lost any value. It has been used to justify behavior equally as onerous as intemperate language. Who makes the determination about what is "correct?" If we're all "correct," aren't we all in lock-step?

All government agencies should use language which is as culturally neutral as possible. The rest of us should be able to be as offensive as we wish, as long as we know what we're doing. (And if we don't know, then it's OK for someone to point it out--as inoffensively as possible, of course.)

It's time to do away with pc and return to ca.

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The Conundrum of "Submission"

If islam means submission, therein lies a linguistic problem for us.

Actually, in a religious sense, the word is superfluous. It is impossible to be anything other than submissive to whatever deity one might choose to acknowledge.

Is there anything the Artistotle/Aquinas Prime Mover set in motion against which one can be unsubmissive? Are creatures with lungs able to take water into their lungs and separate the hydrogen from the oxygen and survive? If one steps off a promontory, is one able to float or defy the laws of gravity?

The "submissive" has come to mean "submit" to a fellow human creature. In 2006 there is precious little Prime Mover in the meaning.

Surely that cannot be in the best interests of anyone, except the person holding the metaphorical knife.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Spiritual Mugging

What's a sentient adult to do when the acceptance of childhood faith comes into direct conflict with the realization that dogma and theology are based on metaphor? How does one reconcile the fact that there was no "burning bush" nor an "immaculate conception" with practicing a faith?

One can't. One doesn't. One is, instead, shunned by those people in whom one trusted. One is vilified.

One is sustained, however, by the knowledge that the rabbi who started it all, knew the same, and behaved in the same way.

Too bad "christians" aren't. They're really "Paulists." They don't know it, because they don't really think.


And the Muslims aren't any better off; their religion has been hijacked, too.

Double alas.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

What's all the Judas fuss?

Even as a pre-teen at St. Anthony's Parochial School in Beaumont, Texas, it never made sense to me to heap derision on Judas Iscariot. If the Crucifixion were destined to occur, how could it not occur without the help of Judas, or some other person?

The whole brouhaha of competing gospels is the end product of having the "winner" write the history books in the first place.

Ultimately, none of it matters. Theology is an oxymoron; God is an anthropomorphic construction designed to assist in educating primitive peoples about how best to live in the environment in which they found themselves.

Some of the lessons still apply, especially the lesson basic to virtually all primitive religions: Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. (If you'll forgive a Christianized version; if not then: Whatever you do to others should be something you wouldn't mind having someone do to you.)

Beyond that, organized religion (Corporate Religion, as a brother calls it) is best as giving communities (communions) a breathing space (a place of rest and focus) in a very agitated species.

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Friday, March 31, 2006

And This Is News?

Here's the headline in the New York Times: "Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer."

Here's the link.

Now, someone please tell me why this is news.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Religious History?

It has been suggested (I don't have the citation at hand, but if needed, I'll look it up) that the Orestia signalled a change in Greek justice. The gods stepped in and prevented the Furies from exacting blood revenge upon Orestes, instead opting for a "trial" which would impose justice.

Further, Jesus is sometimes credited--the interpretation is valid, see John's "I am the Way..."--with a transition from the bloodiness of revenge of the Old Testament to--what? forgiveness?

It's time for Islamic scholars to re-evaluate the basic intent of their early writings, composed specifically by and for the 6th and 7th centuries, and interpret those intents for the 21st century. Blood revenge is clearly, looking at religious history, not the will of any deity.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ersatz Gays?

Over at Gay Patriot, there's s posting about favorite movie Westerns. (By the bye--Bruce, GayPatriot, says he has 3 "favorites." definition, isn't "favorite" limited to one?)

However, perusal of many entries indicates something which I have suspected for a while: the possibility of ersatz gays--some non-gay types posing as gays.

Evidence: not a single musical among the named (and one went so far as to write "James Dean's Giant" as though Hudson, Taylor, Stevens, et al., had nothing to do with it)!

So, visit them if you must (what a laugh--very few visits here to find out about visiting there [last count: 0]), but add Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Paint Your Wagon. The presence of musicals, then, makes the list officially "gay."

(By the way, I don't post this at GP; their sense of humor, y'know.)

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Round up the sheep

Brokeback Mountain is nearing the end of its run here in the Coachella Valley. As it did in most places, the film made an impact. There was a lot of discussion, and the contretemps over the merits of Crash as "best picture" will continue for a long time. Adherents of the values of both pictures will certainly not let the issue rest. (It's too much fun!)

While we're at it, there has been some punditry from some who say that The Passion of the Christ was "robbed" last year at the Oscars. They point out the fact that Gibson's paean to his father's brand of reactionary Catholicism (is that a touch of bias?) made much more money than Brokeback ever will.

Yes. The money factor, however, does not address the cinematic excellence factor. Stripped of the emotional content of the film's target audience--a sort of "faith based" constituency--The Passion is not very impressive as cinematic art.

Probably, though, Mr. Gibson wasn't concerned about art then, and he certainly isn't concerned about my opinion now.

Go figure.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Disappointment on a Beautiful Day

David Brooks did it again. He disappointed. His column of March 12, 2006, trashes Senator Clinton.

"News?" you think.
No, but disappointing nevertheless.

Here are some quotes: "Clinton, though, joined the ranks of the nakedly ambitious demagogues."
"All of these statements[about UAE port issue] were deliberately misleading, since there was never any question of ceding sovereignty or security. They played to the rawest form of xenophobia."

Republicans also "insisted," "charged," and "roared;" but only Clinton, Brooks seems to be saying, "... is happy to be a crude partisan, and egg on prejudice and paranoia."

What Mr. Brooks might be doing is warming up for the 2006 New York senatorial race. If so, his partisanship, never in doubt, is quite likely to emulate the swamp crud of his fellows over at the "F" network.

That would be a sad waste of a mind which at times indicates a judiciousness sorely lacking in "conservative" punditry.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Accuracy in Media?

This from the Riverside Press-Enterprise of March 11:

In reporting on Roger Ebert's visit to Rancho Mirage, the paper carried a column with the following:

Headline: "Critic: 'Crash' a better picture"

Actual quote: "It just may be that some people thought "Crash" was a better picture."

Yes. That's a nit. Is it, though, indicative of haste? Or carelessness? Or bias? Or? Or?

One thing for sure: readers must read carefully and thoroughly. Otherwise, our affinity for bumper sticker substitutes for philosophy might affect our decision making processes.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ah, Rodney. Where are you when we need you?

Just got off Gay Patriot and Huffington Post. Tsk. Such invective hurled at fellow Americans.

Why can't we get along?

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We Are Everywhere--And We're Thoughtful

A House of Representatives committee voted, by a large majority, to prevent the UAE's take-over of administration of some U.S. ports.

Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona correctly stated the UAE brouhaha has virtually nothing to do with port security, and he voted against the bill in committee.

Kolbe is one of the handful of gay members of Congress.

Good for Mr. Kolbe. It's time we stop passing feel-good-but-worthless legislation.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

For all the wrong reasons

If you were able to invite either Truman Capote or Ennis del Mar to dinner, which would you choose? How about your mother? Your father? Your "funny uncle"?

Perhaps the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences found itself in that position last night. Which of those would be an easier dinner guest? Which would entertain the folks the most? Which could be metaphorically treated as a Maltese lap dog?

The Academy invited Capote, and tossed him a treat.

Not to take anything away from Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance, but Truman Capote would be the easiest of the two to have around. He was so far from the mainstream of social behavior that he could be easily dismissed after the entertainment was finished. Hoffman had the mannerisms and the voice down pat. He very well "mirrored" the reality of the character.

Ennis del Mar, on the other hand, is not so easily dismissed. He is soft spoken, masculine, seething with inner turmoil. He is self-deprecating, accepting of the hand he has been dealt. He does not shy from responsibility. Annie Proulx' character hits too close to the realities of the mundane for it to be easily accepted by the ephemeral "red state" mentality--so far. Heath Ledger had no primary source as did Hoffman. His creation came from his own imagination and life experiences.

I'd invite del Mar. I would be very uncomfortable with Capote. My father would've invited Capote and been very entertained and wouldn't have given the man's sexual orientation a second thought. He wouldn't have understood how del Mar could possibly be a homosexual.

Hoffman did an excellent job; Ledger's was just as good and much more creative.

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