Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sacred Person of the Emperor

Reading stuff like this makes me think the inevitable bankruptcy of the Empire can't come soon enough:
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Dec. 3 to investigate how an uninvited couple slipped past security at last week’s state dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Among those requested to testify are the couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi of Virginia, and U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, according to a press release from the panel.

“This is a time for answers, recognition of security deficiencies past and present, and remedies to ensure the strength of the Secret Service and the safety of those under its protection,” said Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is chairman of the committee, in a statement.

The Secret Service is investigating the breach, which Sullivan said “deeply concerned and embarrassed” the agency. Agents failed to follow procedures that should have prevented the man and woman from crashing the event, he said.
Obviously, no one has any sense of the ridiculous any more. Whatever. Here's an idea for guaranteeing the perfect personal security of the Exalted, the Son of Heaven: let's establish a mobile, spherical security bubble, fifteen kilometers in radius, centered on The Presence. That bubble would then be declared a no-fly, no-drive, no-sail, no-walk, no-run, no-bike, no-dance, no-skip-rope, no-breathe zone for anyone except the Exalted's family, and the Exalted's praetorian guard and servant staff (who have implanted Electronic Loyalty chips which do not permit them even to think about harming Himself). The rest of us can stay outside, pay taxes, join the army, and speak only when spoken to.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 25 November

Actually, it's Tuesday evening. But I can pretty much see that tomorrow's not shaping up to be a post-friendly day, so I think I'll make a little hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

Here's James chapter 4, verse 13 to the end:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Let me get one trivial thing out of the way now. Every time I read this passage, I think I ought to learn to read New Testament Greek (which, yes, I really should) just to see what Greek figure of speech for a non-specific example the New American Standard has translated as "such and such a city." I bet it would be interesting.

About the passage, though: it teaches a lesson that's very easy to agree with, but quite difficult to remain aware of afterward. If someone reminds us: sure, we all know very well that we have no idea what's happening tomorrow, or five minutes from now, as far as that goes. But when no one reminds us otherwise, we naturally appoint ourselves Owner and Arranger of Tomorrow. It's very natural, in a way. In my 55.3-year lifetime, about 20,200 mornings have occurred, and guess what? I've been present at every last one of them! On all those mornings, I've never not been there. (Although, truth to tell, I don't remember very much about the first couple thousand or so.) So, obviously, I'll never not be here for any mornings in the future, either ... or, at least, that's how it feels.

Once again, feelings prove unreliable. And that shouldn't be any surprise.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Very Confident

Ten months in, and Commander Hope 'n' Change ... well, he still doesn't say "newk-you-lar," at least not in public. Otherwise, though, I'm thinking: redact the news stories just enough that you can't see that the names have changed, and how will you know we're not in George the Stupid's third term? Here's Yes We Can, the War President:
With U.S. combat deaths climbing on Obama's watch and more than half the American public opposed to escalation, the president seemed to acknowledge Tuesday that he has a lot to explain.

"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive," he said, speaking at a White House news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"I can tell you, as I've said before, that it is in our strategic interest, in our national security interest to make sure that al-Qaida and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively" in the area, he said. "We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan's stability is important to that process."
Ah, confidence! One thing I remember well about the BushMaster was his bountiful confidence; however little justified it might have been, it was always there. So too with Obama.

The bad thing is, he's probably right to be confident. While there's always the technical possibility that the Great Amur'kin People might notice that official unemployment is over ten percent, actual unemployment is undoubtedly more than twice that, and yet we're still burning cash by the mega-bales to screw up some very remote and non-American parts of the globe, and then fail to be supportive. But, given what history tells us about the attention span of that Great Amur'kin People, he's very likely right to be confident. Very confident, even.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Rare Political Endorsement From the Chestnut Tree Cafe

And sure, it's presidential -- why not? After all, Obama's been in office nearly a year now -- he's old news at best, and there are other signs that the bloom's off his rose. No, it's not a bit too soon to start handicapping the 2012 edition of the quadrennial donkey derby.

Day before yesterday, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin graced my home city with her presence at a book-signing held -- appropriately enough -- at a downscale discount store called Meijer, not known for its extensive selection of books, and, indeed, adorned on its storefronts with the oddly punctuated slogan "Why Pay More!" How many of her eccentrically-named offspring were with her, I do not know. And now, I see that the Weepy Mormon, Glenn Beck His Own Self, is also promoting a book, and more:
Glenn Beck, the popular and outspoken Fox News host, says he wants to go beyond broadcasting his opinions and start rallying his political base — formerly known as his audience — to take action.

To do so, Mr. Beck is styling himself as a political organizer. In an interview, he said he would promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of seven conventions across the country featuring what he described as libertarian speakers.

On Saturday he held a festive campaign-style rally in The Villages in Florida, north of Orlando, in which he promoted his recently released book, “Arguing With Idiots,” and announced another book to come next August filled with right-leaning policy proposals gathered from the conventions.
Which brings me to my endorsement. Look, we have here a ready-made dream ticket. We have a matched set of splashy, self-confident morons. Palin/Beck, or Beck/Palin: who cares which one "tops" the ticket? It matters not the slightest bit. Let 'em flip a coin for it at the 'Pubbie convention.

I'm convinced that America has yet to truly get the leadership that we deserve, although we've been getting closer and closer to it. Well, let's do it! Let's go all the way. Out-and-out clowns, presiding over a clown country ... let's just go ahead and declare that Idiocracy has arrived. Palin/Beck might not be up to the standard of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, quite yet, but they may well grow into that level once in office.

Yes, I know that an opposition is needed; after all, we are a duh-mock-racy. In due course, I'll endorse a donkey ticket as well.

Bet you can't wait!

Or maybe you can ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Ain't A-Skeered of You!

Our supervisors are ready to put on a show for us again. They have their stage makeup on, and their wireless microphones are in place and powered up.
Holder: Don't fear trial of 'coward' 9/11 plotter


WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder is defending his decision to put the professed Sept. 11 mastermind on trial in New York — and urging critics of the plan not to cower in the face of terrorists.

Holder is set to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers are likely to spar over the attorney general's decision last week to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen from a detention center at Guantanamo Bay to New York to face a civilian federal trial.

Critics of Holder's decision — mostly Republicans — have argued the trial will give Mohammed a world stage to spout hateful rhetoric.

In remarks prepared before Wednesday's hearing, Holder says such concerns are misplaced, because judges can control unruly defendants and any pronouncements by Mohammed would only make him look worse.

"I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is," Holder says in written testimony obtained by The Associated Press. "I'm not scared of what (Mohammed) will have to say at trial — and no one else needs to be either."

Addressing other concerns about the case, the attorney general says the public and the nation's intelligence secrets can be protected during a public trial in civilian court.

"We need not cower in the face of this enemy," Holder says. "Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready."
What is it with these people, anyway? They can't just say, "we don't see any significant problems with holding a trial," or "we don't anticipate any troublesome security situation." No, they have to play the pol's childish and unconvincing version of the testosterone card. If anyone disagrees with the program, imply that the disagreement is based on un-manly fear. ("Homophobia," anyone?) Then Mr. Holder goes on to toss the customary charge of "cowardice" onto that veteran of hundreds of waterboardings, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Why? Because he is alleged to have sent others to kill, and to die? How does that differentiate him from either of the Bushes, or from Clinton, or from his own boss, Rainbow Brite? Wartime Presidents all, and therefore prime exemplars of the manly virtues, no? Of course, Mr. Holder simply follows the pattern of his boss. You may remember that the mighty warrior Obama the First disparaged the Fort Hood shooter, a week or so back, as "craven." Same deal: one guy with a couple of handguns launches an attack on an entire military base. Call him murderous; like most acts of war, his certainly was murderous. Call him foolish; he probably was. Call him "the enemy;" I'm sure he was that. Fanatical? Crazy? Quite possibly; I won't argue. But "craven?" You go and do likewise, O Great One, and then make that accusation.

No, the Other can't just be opposed, bombed, killed, or otherwise resisted. He has to be accused of everything, including things that, it's childishly obvious, aren't true.

Meanwhile, back to the show. Let me interpret for Mr. Holder: My fellow Americans, you're broke, hopelessly in debt, and your currency has been debased in order to shower it in obscene amounts on the already-wealthy and well-connected. We're trying desperately to keep the wagon lurching drunkenly down the rutted road just a little farther, and just long enough to finish up the looting. We'd rather you didn't notice this, although -- what with it being "Dancing With the Stars" season -- there really isn't much danger of that. Just in case, though, we think it might be prudent to stage a small diversion ... so we'll lynch us a towelhead. The show must go on.

Once again ... what's supposed to be the difference between the horrible Bush II regime and the current crew? Oh, that's right: most many of Rainbow Brite's sentences do parse, don't they? Terrific!

The Word for Wednesday, November 19

Continuing in James, chapter 4, verses 11 and 12:
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?
A short passage, but one requiring some head-scratching. It won't do to read "speak against a brother" too narrowly, as James has already been speaking (or writing, anyway) against his brothers earlier in this same book, and is going to do so again before he's finished. Pairing it with "judges his brother" provides, I think, a clue as to how to read this. It seems to me that this gives "speaking against" a condemnatory flavor, as in helping to prosecute. Then, too, there's the parallel treatment of our brothers with the law: also a head-scratcher. To speak against one, or to judge one, is to judge the other. Well, what does my brother have in common with the law? The plainest and most immediate common factor that springs to mind is that both are the creations of the Living God. As the law is holy, so too is your brother (and sister, as I hope it goes without saying) holy: an image of God. They are to be treated accordingly, with care and respect.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How About We Mind Our Own Business?

Isn't Israel a sovereign state? Yes? So why should U.S. officials affect to be all angry and forbidding about the Israelis putting a little more boot pressure on the necks of the natives in its Bantustans?
Israel said Tuesday that it had advanced plans to expand a Jewish district of Jerusalem in territory that was captured in the 1967 war and that the Palestinians claim as part of their future state. The move is likely to further complicate the Obama administration’s faltering efforts to restart peace talks.

The news that the building plans had moved closer to approval drew a sharp response from the White House, which has declared reviving the talks to be a major goal. Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was “dismayed” and asking both parties to avoid unilateral actions that could “pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations.”
No, we should tend to our own knitting, and let the Izzies do whatever they want with the Pals, the Iranians, the Lebanese, and the various flavors of Ay-rabs in their neighborhood. We should also instantly cease all monetary/military aid to Israel, Egypt, Syria, the Palestinian (Non-)Authority, and any other foreign pockets we've been lining in that area. Doesn't that sound simple and equitable?

Yes, I know it'll never happen. Which is beside the point, I think.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Armistice Day Thought, or Two

Yes, I know the calendar says "Veterans Day," in the contemporary illiterate fashion. The living -- who vote -- easily appropriate the glory of the dead, who don't.

But anyway: the last veterans whose activity, no matter how well-intended, actually had the effect of making Americans any more free, were the veterans of the American Revolution (and arguably, to some extent, those of the War of 1812). After that, not. If you're killing foreigners, or training to kill foreigners, or fixing Hummers so that others can kill foreigners, on my behalf: please stop. I didn't ask you to do it.

And if you won't stop, please don't expect me to thank you.

The Word for Wednesday, November 11

The next chapter in James is the fourth. Here are verses 1 through 10:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
This passage reminds me of Psalm 37, verse 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." There, the promise of God giving you the desires of your heart can (and, I think, must) be read in two ways. The person whose delight is the Lord -- who loves Him and directly wants Him, as opposed to wanting what He might do or what gifts He might give -- will have right desires, meaning desires that are ordinate with the will of God. That's the first sense in which we may hope to be given the desires of our hearts: that our base, evil desires will be replaced with right ones. And then there's the second sense. To have right desires means that they will be fulfilled. If we really want God, we shall have Him; He will give Himself to us. If we really want to please Him, we'll be made able to do so. If we really want to serve Him by serving those around us, the opportunities will come our way, and we'll be made aware of them.

But the other desires, the sinful ones, go unfulfilled, and become the seeds of even worse things. What's pointed out here by James is an aspect of sin which is also brought out by quite a few other scriptural texts: sin as futility. We're intended to function very well, in the right way; the dysfunction that follows in sin's wake is a real shame to us. One of many, that is.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Think Twice

This isn't, I hope, a political blog. I didn't really set out with an agenda in mind, other than replacing the hole in my online life that the demise of the "political" message board left. What I wanted to do was to write, at whatever length I thought was warranted, about the ideas and principles that I think ought to underlie the way people live their lives in community with each other. I don't want to write knowingly about what's likely to happen in workaday electoral politics; I have no reason to think I know what's likely to happen, nor do I have much interest in such. I want to write about how things should be, not how things are. I have a grown daughter who's playfully impatient with me about this; she likes to ask me how things are this week in Candyland. Well, so be it; the TV cable, and the remnants of the papers, and the internets are full of clever folks who give the play-by-play in the elephant-donkey trivia contest.

All of which is by way of noting that the "health-care reform" bill that just cleared the House of Representatives seems unlikely to make it through the Senate. And, on balance, that seems like a moderately good thing to me. Apart from the minor matter of being constitutionally impermissible, it represents a gun held to the heads of people who can't afford health insurance, along with a growled command to go and buy some health insurance. And yes, it has a "public option," whereby our notorious drunken-sailor-with-bottomless-pockets government becomes a competitor to the wicked private insurers; however, it seems unlikely to emerge from the Senate so equipped, if it emerges at all. Since the thing passed the House by a skinny margin, you have to wonder if a Senate-acceptable version wouldn't lose enough House support to doom it. As I say, I claim no expertise in these matters, and maybe a bill of some sort will pass. But I'm pretty much thinking not.

Before we go find a tea party at which to celebrate, though, consider: does the current "system" deserve any enthusiasm? Under it, people with good jobs get to go to the doctor, and those who don't, don't; they get to do without, or go to an emergency room and receive not-very-appropriate care at great cost to everyone. Under the current system, routine medical services are covered by insurance. As I read somewhere (don't remember where, just now), if homeowner's insurance worked this way, you wouldn't buy a replacement for a burned-out light bulb -- you'd file a claim. And far from being an exemplar of the glories of the free market, current arrangements seem to be as distorted and crabbed a market, with as high a set of barriers to entry, as one could imagine -- except for what may yet be coming from the people who brought you the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, COINTELPRO, and Abu Ghraib. Still, under current arrangements, we're spending one-seventh of GDP on such matters (actually, we were in 1997 -- it's very likely more now).

What we have now is long-term unsustainable, although it can always be made even worse, and that is why I consider a failure of the House-passed bill to be a moderately good thing. Still, things must, and will, change. Perhaps the situation will resolve itself in the context of a general economic collapse -- which also seems like an inevitability. Instead of playing the red-jerseys-and-blue-jerseys football game, though, maybe we should be thinking about how the poor man's family can get some basic doctoring, without putting a gun to anyone's head and taking a big chunk of their earnings away from them.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Aha! There It Is!

I knew I left my blog around here someplace. Couldn't for the life of me remember where, though.

It's been a strange week. No blogging of any kind, among other anomalies. I'm going to mark the overdue end of this week, finally, by going camping.

Now, if I can just remember, next week, where I'm leaving this thing. I know -- I'll just stick one of those little post-it arrows right here on the edge of the monitor, right by where it says "New Post." There! That ought to do it.