Sunday, April 29, 2007

Still Here, Sort Of

Not that it matters, but my day-job duties, my end-of-semester instructional duties, my parental duties, and my necessary activities as a homeowner seem to have reached some sort of simultaneous peaks ... so blogging's very much on the back burner.

Having watched most of the eight-way Democratic presidential candidates' "debate" a few evenings ago on MSNBC, it occurs to me that Ron Paul as a Republican candidate for the office has quite a bit in common with both Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel in the corresponding Democratic contest. All three have at least a nodding acquaintance with the notion of a principled political philosophy; all three are intensely unsatisfactory to the bipartisan/nonpartisan orthodoxy that runs USA, Inc; and none of the three have the remotest snowball's chance of being elected to the figurehead CEO job.

Make sure you vote, though. Remember: if you don't vote, you can't complain. And the show must go on. And the nice policeman is your friend. More commonplace lies later; that's enough for now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bill Bennett: You Betcha!

Clark Stooksbury may not be a very fair-minded fellow. Today, he compares the profound thoughts of William "The Gambler" Bennett to those of Walker Percy, on the general subject of whether -- every day in every way -- things are getting better and better. Of course, Bennett's got a big advantage: he quotes the words of some speechwriting flack somewhere, as delivered by the lips of St. Ronald Reagan. Anyway, you should check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Truth is No Defense

When it comes to Supporting the Troops, truth isn't a consideration. What's truly vital is makin' 'em happy, or at least doing what Dubya's dumbest idolator, Mitch McConnell, thinks will optimize Troop Happiness:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the war in Iraq is ``lost,'' triggering an angry backlash by Republicans, who said the top Democrat had turned his back on the troops.

[ ... ]

Republicans pounced on the comment as evidence, they said, that Democrats do not support the troops.

``I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is lost,'' said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Now, I don't pretend to be even nearly as familiar as Warrior Mitch with what it takes to keep The Troops content. But I can't help but wonder what the reaction would be if Troops, getting back to base, were told to grab toothbrush and sidearm and get on the plane -- departing for U.S. soil in 15 minutes. My guess is that those Troops might not be totally devastated by that. Even if it did mean that the invasion and devastation of Iraq has been completely futile, as well as wildly criminal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Freedom Isn't Free"

From Blacksburg, Virginia: crazy person kills thirty people.

From Baghdad: another 200 people hand in their lunch pails.

Thirty victims would be quite the slow day in Iraq, I think.

So why is it that young Americans are urged to go to Iraq on an idiot's murderous errands, engaged in an enterprise that is profoundly inimical to the actual liberties of the American people, to the pinheaded chorus of "freedom isn't free, you know" -- while clowns like this will assuredly do their best to trash the remaining scraps of those liberties, using those thirty Virginia deaths as a vehicle?

We deserve to be enslaved. And we're getting what we deserve, at a rapidly accelerating pace.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Late Again, But Check it Out

This has been posted at The Poor Man since Saturday, and I just now saw it. Evil Dick Cheney is leaving self-parody far behind; he's now reached a nirvanic state of meta-self-referential Darth Vaderdom that is ... I don't know, sui generis. Definitive. Something like that.

Didn't Marie Antoinette go to the guillotine for much less? Is the Revo ever going to get here?

Oh, and there's a picture of the Unbelievable at this update post.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Yes, and Al Capone Was a Tax Cheat, Too

Uh-oh, Wolfie's in trouble:
World Bank boss admits mistake on girlfriend's job

POSTED: 7:44 a.m. EDT, April 13, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The World Bank's board of directors adjourned a meeting on Friday over the promotion by bank President Paul Wolfowitz of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, saying it would move quickly to decide how to proceed.

In a statement, the board said it found that Wolfowitz signed off on Riza's promotion and salary increase without a review by an ethics committee nor the board's chairman. The promotion came shortly after he joined the institution in 2005.

[ ... ]

Wolfowitz, who was nominated for the bank job in 2005 by President Bush, joined the institution from the Pentagon, where he was one of the architects of Iraq war.

He has faced lingering distrust by many staff members and resentment over his close ties to the Bush administration and his role in the Iraq war that have overshadowed his first two years at the bank.

The bank's staff representative association, which demanded last week that Wolfowitz explain his actions, have called on Wolfowitz to resign, saying it seemed impossible for the institution, whose mission is to fight global poverty, to move forward "with any sense of purpose under the present leadership."
So, let's see. 3300 Americans dead ... something like 650,000 Iraqis dead ... and Wolfie the War Architect is in trouble ... over getting his girl friend a job. (Girl friend? How old is this clown, anyway?)

Isn't there something very badly wrong with this picture?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut, an original in every sense of the word, died yesterday.

He was a genius; I am not. So there's little for me to say, except: read his books -- of which there are more than a few -- if you haven't already. If it was me, just starting on the Vonnegut bibliography, I'd start with Player Piano. His Ilium, New York seems more than a little reminiscent of Fort Wayne, Indiana. But that's a whole other post.

Listen: Kurt Vonnegut has come unstuck in time ...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Check it Out

I'm a day or two late -- as usual -- but do check out the current Bamboo Chronicles installment at Craig's place. It's well worth your while.

Update: catch this one, too. Every day, a new chronicle!

Parse It, Baby, Parse It!

There's an interesting juxtaposition of a couple of items on the BBC's site today. From the first:
The AI report calls for other countries to abandon "no torture" deals with Egypt.

Under such deals governments, including the UK's, deport suspects to Cairo having been assured by Egyptian authorities that the suspect will not suffer torture.


In 2005, Egypt's prime minister acknowledged that since 2001 the USA had transferred some 60-70 detainees to Egypt as part of the "war on terror".

The report details the case of Abu Omar, an Egyptian resident in Italy who was allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Italy in 2003 and handed over to the Egyptian authorities.

Abu Omar was held without charge in Egyptian jails for nearly four years and in testimony given to an Italian prosecutor he has alleged that he was whipped, subjected to electric shocks and raped.

He was never successfully charged and was released in February 2007.

AI also highlights the case of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national of Egyptian descent.

He alleges that he was detained and tortured in Pakistan in 2001, handed over to US officials and then flown on to Egypt.

There he was tortured, including in a "water cell" in which he had to stand on tiptoe for hours in order not to drown.

Under torture, Mr Habib says, he confessed to training the 11 September 2001 hijackers in martial arts.

He was later taken to Guantanamo Bay, from which he was finally released in January 2005. He was never charged.
And from the second item:
The head of the International Red Cross in Tehran says he saw wounds on an Iranian diplomat who has alleged that US forces in Iraq tortured him.

Peter Stoeker said there were marks on Jalal Sharafi's feet, legs, back and nose but he was unable to say if they were the result of torture.

Iranian media quoted Mr Sharafi saying the CIA tortured him "day and night".

Mr Sharafi was abducted in Iraq in February and released last week. The US denies any involvement in the case.

Mr Sharafi, second secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, says he was kidnapped by Iraqi agents operating under the supervision of the CIA.


"The United States had nothing to do with Mr Sharafi's detention and we welcome his return to Iran," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, last week.

He dismissed the claims as "just the latest theatrics of a government trying to deflect attention away from its own unacceptable actions".

An unnamed US intelligence official also denied any claims of abuse, saying: "The CIA does not conduct or condone torture."
You know, I would really like to be able to say that any "White House spokesman," or any "unnamed US intelligence official," is intrinsically more credible than Abu Omar, Mamdouh Habib, or Jalal Sharafi. I would like to have some excuse for thinking so. Regrettably, the available evidence points in rather the opposite direction.

Now, about White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. Hmmm ... just one letter and a space from "John Doe!" (They thought we'd miss that ... as if.) The news story doesn't tell us whether Mr. "Johndroe" was actually wagging his finger, in good Bill Clinton fashion, when he said the US was uninvolved in Mr. Sharafi's alleged abduction and torture. That's a pity, really.

Welcome to citizenship in a "rogue nation."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

And a Joyous Easter to You!

I just got back from church, and will soon be leaving to pick up my mother-in-law, and I wanted to share the joy of the day. So there's a little snow on the ground. So it's colder'n blue blazes outside. (I wonder: are blue blazes especially cold? Probably not.) I attend a little church up on north Lima Road, the Agape Church of the Brethren, and I'm happy to report that we sang five verses' worth of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" this morning, without the "benefit" of any praise band, praise team, or any of that stuff that's so prevalent in today's evangelical megachurches and wannabe megachurches. Not a single guitar, electric or otherwise; no drums; just the lady playing the piano. Not only that, but we also got all three verses of "Low in the Grave He Lay." Instead of maybe one verse of one of these, blended seamlessly with the loping dance-mix beat of four or five of those "Jesus is my boyfriend" praise choruses that people are so widely subjected to these days.

It was really, really good.

If you're an old dinosaur like me, or even a dino-sympathiser, you could do worse than come by and visit us some Sunday. I'm just sayin' ...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

OK, But Do We All Start at Once?

As you all (all three or four of you, that is) know, I'm a fan of Debbie Harbeson's. Her current post concerns some recent failed legislative initiative here in my home state for banning "gay marriage" -- or, as my irresponsible hero Joseph Sobran calls it, "sodomatrimony." I freely admit to not knowing anything, really, about the now-deceased legislation that's been in the news; as a long-married heterosexual with plenty to occupy my time, I found it easy not to pay any attention.

Debbie's post was both a familiar and a novel reading experience for me. It was familiar in that I kept nodding "yes, yes" as I read. It was new in that when I was finished, I wanted to say "yes, but ...". So here's the "yes, but."

Debbie makes a clear classical-libertarian case for the government not making decisions having the force of law concerning who lives with whom and why. Her concluding paragraph:
If you strongly disapprove of gay marriage on moral grounds, I respect that, but find ways outside of government force to persuade others to agree with your moral views. To do otherwise only helps legitimize the use of government force against your own family. It’s really simple for heterosexual and gay alike: just follow the Golden Rule.
As I said above, I can applaud that statement. As one who acknowledges the authority of the Scriptures over all parts of my life, I recognize two things related to this discussion that I shouldn't do. One is to engage in the homosexual activity, and the other is to mind other people's business, absent their requesting my help or advice. In a libertarian world, that's all as it should be.

But here's the thing: we're not living in a libertarian world. We live in the shadow of a vast, omnipresent government that considers everything its business. And because we've permitted government at all levels to grow so oncologically in power, reach, and interest, we all have to be very concerned about what it Officially Thinks About Things. After all, we're living in an order in which everything is either compulsory or forbidden. Well, not everything, not yet; but the field of state "neglect" -- what some of us would call "liberty" -- grows narrower every day.

Suppose you're a member of a church -- you know, one of those retrogressive sorts of church that would never employ a pastor who is a practicing member of the inverted fraternity. Today, you're OK. But let's look down the road fifteen or twenty years, projecting the trends. Think there's any chance your church might find itself looking up the shotgun barrel of an employment nondiscrimination action of some sort? Could very well be. And maybe someone's blog (yes, I know there won't be blogs by then, we'll have moved on) will say something like:
If you strongly disapprove of employment discrimination on moral grounds, I respect that, but find ways outside of government force to persuade others to agree with your moral views. To do otherwise only helps legitimize the use of government force against your own family. It’s really simple for nondiscriminatory and discriminatory alike: just follow the Golden Rule.
But the government won't be much of a blog-reader (unless it's to round up subversives).

In some ways, then, I can understand my fellow-believers' willingness to try and pick up the weapon of government power and use it to get their own way. They're just being good modern Americans, and that's what good modern Americans do. That particular shotgun is lying there on the sidewalk; if you don't pick it up and use it against your opponent, he is all too likely to pick it up and use it against you.

In Solzhenitsyn's great novel Cancer Ward, Yefrem Podduyev is given a little book of didactic stories by one of his fellow patients in the ward. The stories teach the conventional moral lessons that Yefrem might have learned "at his mother's knee," if he'd been listening. The stories taught mercy, humility, kindness, and generosity. That's fine, he thinks, that's how everyone ought to live -- but who goes first? Who is the first one to start living by "the golden rule" and risk being taken advantage of by those who won't start until next week?

Now, I shed no tears for the legislation's demise; I think there's much truth in the saying that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church," and that the church has never grown in faithfulness and effectiveness by currying the favor of the State. But I think I may be understanding the motivations of some who did invest themselves in this legislative approach, and I wanted to explain it. I think they're not making the best choice; but I also think their reasoning may not be widely understood.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's All in How You Say It

How do the Evil Iranians acquire British sailors and marines? By now, we should all know what the process is called: they "kidnap" them.

How does the Righteous USA obtain Iranian liaison types? We don't "kidnap" them, oh no. We detain them.

That's why they hate us. They hate us because we're so darned polite.

Update: Them British sailors sure do hate Amur'ka, don't they?