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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