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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