September 30, 2004
from - Buck
The debate was much better than I anticipated. Maybe it is best to assume the worst. What you get then is not so bad. My personal opinion is that Kerry mopped the floor with Bush. In fact if I were from another planet and someone had told me that the stammering, stuttering guy was the current President and the articulate, intellectually stimulating guy was the challenger I would have thought they were kidding. If they would have then told me that the stammering, stuttering guy had an 8 point lead over the articulate, intellectually stimulating guy I would have assumed that I had landed on Bizzaro World.
Both guys agree that Saddam had to be disarmed. Maybe I am missing something but has it not been proven that he had no arms so disarming him was impossible? I laughed when Bush stammered around about how winning the war so quickly is why we are in the trouble we are in now. The reason we won the war so quickly the first time is that there was almost no resistance. Now that we are facing opposition the war has become a war and we all seemed to be astonished by how deadly war is.
Both men made it clear that the safety of Israel is certainly one their major concerns. I am sure that this is welcome news for the voters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Fighting a proxy war for Israel is not how I would like to see our military used but hell, I just help pay for it. How it is used is none of my business.
The first blogged comment I saw was by Chris Dominquez over at Rockwell’s Blog and he echoed my sentiments exactly
40 minutes in and Bush sounds like a guy who missed class all semester and then stepped into a pop-quiz in front of the whole school. He's literally pleading and whining. And this is the "leader of the free world?" God help us.
Frankly I cannot wait until the next debate. This is more fun than I thought it would be.
from - smijer
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what your think it means. - Inigo Montoya, The Princess BrideI am very pleased that at least we can say, without sending mixed messages, and without saying it was the wrong debate at the wrong time, that George Bush the Smirker lost. Hallelujah.
By the way, George, I have a few points for you:
1. We are not impressed with Lybia's "disarmament". We might have been, had not Iran and North Korea found their way into the club, with impunity, simultaneously with Lybia's "disarmament".
2. What, exactly, was Saddam "systematically deceiving" those weapons inspectors about? Considering that it turns out that there were no WMD, how, exactly, was diplomacy "falling apart"? I mean it. Can you answer this, and if not, what the hell were you smoking during this debate?
3. What was that about Saddam being a threat? I'm not sure I caught that. Did you say that he was a threat? Oh, good.
4. I didn't get any mixed messages from you. You were 100% clear that you are against mixed messages, and that you do not have a defensible case that your opponent is liable to send them. Also, we read you loud and clear on that "more of the same" platform in your campaign.
5. Nuclear non-proliferation. There is a good reason that Kerry was able to say it without hesitation, and there was an equally good reason that you had to hesitatingly follow his leadership on that issue. Because you have taken your eye off of one of the bigger balls, in order to focus on the development of mini-nukes and to follow your personal vendetta in Iraq.
6. Vociferously means "vocally". You, the most powerful person in the world, are an idiot who cannot even speak your own native language.
7. Remember when you almost won because Al Gore sighed too much? You just rolled your eyes and smirked your way out of the White House. He who lives by it, hallelujah, dies by it.
8. John Kerry was much more presidential than you, all the while managing to answer most of the major issues satisfactorily, while you were obviously opening canned responses whether appropriate or not. I'm so glad that you had your ass kicked.
Speaking of Prophets
from - smijer
Last night, I ragged on George Will for not knowing when the debate that he was writing about would be held.
Now, I've got to wonder whether maybe he didn't know something I didn't. Our media has truly reached new levels of crass, and alas for the art and John Stewart, satire is becoming near impossible. Oh well, there are always limericks. I like the dirty ones.
Saving up for the Debate
from - smijer
I'm going to save my post today for during or after the debate tonight (not last night, George Will!) For now, here's another in the cartoon series, showing Bush's true strengths - click to enlarge:
September 29, 2004
Book of Mark Chapter 6 verse 4
from - Buck
Could it be that the hometown newspaper of Bush the younger is endorsing John Kerry?
No Braniac, this one
from - smijer
I've always wondered why people take George Will seriously. Now I wonder it doubly:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Tonight's debate will be a duel between two delusional optimists. It pits a man who regards recent events in Iraq as "steady progress" against a man who, while accusing the president of unrealism, says that when he becomes president, "the world" -- a geographical expression, not a political entity -- will help heal Iraq.
I can almost imagine Mr. Will hurriedly finishing his piece for the Washington Post typed up so he still has time to make popcorn before sitting down to wait for the debate... until tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Eastern. Did he get his TV Guide from Dan Rather?
I shouldn't go so hard on him, maybe. He does have some awfully mean things to say about that other George W. To wit:
Tonight's debate will be a duel between two delusional optimists. It pits a man who regards recent events in Iraq as "steady progress" against a man who, while accusing the president of unrealism, says that when he becomes president, "the world" -- a geographical expression, not a political entity -- will help heal Iraq...
If ever an administration, in a reelection season properly dominated by a single issue of the administration's choosing, has earned an electoral rebuke, it is this one...
But Bush also seems to believe -- at least the slapdash nonplanning for the Iraq project suggests this belief -- that a natural right implies a natural, meaning a spontaneous and omnipresent capacity...
I am tempted to move on and pick apart the most boneheaded remarks from the parts of Will's screed that parrot the Kerry-as-flip-flopper-without-a-plan meme. But, instead, I will just mention that the Iraqi people do have the capacity for an open society. Capacity isn't the correct word. They lack the proper environment for it. And, it is one of those great cosmic coincidences that it is difficult in the extreme for self-rule to be imposed on a people by a foreign force. Perhaps the world could have provided an environment that would make an open democracy in Iraq possible, and perhaps the people, by their own resolve, would have chosen to grasp for it. But that possibility will remain unexplored for at least a little longer.
And now, on a completely unrelated note, here is a political cartoon to go with the theme of some of our recent posts (click to enlarge):
September 28, 2004
I'm Osama bin Laden, and I Approved This Message
from - Buck
When you consider the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq played perfectly into the hand of Osama bin Laden and his radical followers it is hard to believe that Al Qaeda would prefer Kerry over Bush.
No, He Knew That, Too
from - smijer
Via a Kos diary, I think this will be important. Among my friends is one Bush-backer who feels that no one else could have predicted the particular problems that are being faced in Iraq either. He feels that, since Bush couldn't have possibly predicted a Shia uprising, he really couldn't have planned for one. I don't know if the presence of realism in documents that Bush saw before the war will be enough to swing my bud, but I know that a lot of people are more apt to let Bush off the hook on the basis of "mistakes anyone could have made".
From where I sit, the whole idea is preposterous. Even if it was pure ignorance on Bush's part, surely plans could have been made based on worst case scenarios. Surely, a few extra months could have been spared to be sure of ourselves and to correct administration ignorance on points ranging from the existence of WMD to the likelihood of an insurgency. But there are others out there who honestly believe that Bush has been the victim of the same sort of mistakes that numerous other intelligence agencies and policy-makers fell to. There are others who sympathise with Bush on that score, who have bought into the meme that John Kerry lacks conviction, and who will vote for Bush in November.
Maybe, just maybe, between the debates and the publicization of the pre-war intelligence estimates that leave Bush without an excuse for not planning to occupy hell, a few more Bush leaners will start seeing things in a new light. We can only hope.
September 27, 2004
The world just got a little lighter
from - Buck
But this is just an unfortunate by-product of spreading liberty and freedom at the barrel of a gun.
from - Buck
This event was described in the Washington Times in these words:
We have obtained dramatic video footage of a U.S. Air Force F-16 jet bombing a group of Iraqi terrorists or former Saddam Hussein guerrillas during recent fighting in Fallujah.
The black and white footage begins with an Air Force pilot pointing a laser-designator to direct a 1,000-pound guided bomb toward a building in Fallujah. The action is part of the Air Force's close air support mission for U.S. and Iraqi ground forces.
While the bomb is heading toward the building, suddenly a large group of people appears on a street and they begin running toward a battle.
"I've got numerous individuals on the road. Want me to take those out? " the pilot asks a controller.
"Take them out," comes the quick reply.
Another voice watching the action states: "It's not a good day for them."
The group includes at least 30 Iraqis who are moving as a group rapidly up the street, apparently unaware they have been targeted by the U.S. warplane in the area.
"Ten seconds," says the pilot.
"Impact," the voice says as a huge plume of smoke rises from the bomb blast.
Another voice says: "Oh, dude" as he surveys the destruction.
Spreading Liberty and Freedom while winning hearts and minds.
To Live in George's World
from - smijer
I sort of envy George the world he lives in.Top end tax cuts are really all the economic policy you need to understand.
Major combat operations in Iraq really are over (for more than a year!)
Bush is really already doing everything Kerry says he'll do in Iraq.
And, coffee really doesn't give you the jitters.
I can't mention the Bush camp's claim that they are "already doing" without also mentioning that it is arrant nonsense. There are a couple of relatively minor points where Bush, for instance, is not pulling in pledged reconstruction money from outside, but there are some major points, too. The biggest ones involve taking the American face off of the war and occupation, and speeding up the training of Iraqi security. Among those, the two largest are assembling an international protection force to protect U.N. election workers, and gettting non-Americans involved in training Iraqi security forces. Bush has finally solicited some training help from Nato to this end, but we are seeing a case of too little, and too late. Continuing to rely almost exclusively on American training risks disloyalty among elements of the Iraqi security forces distrustful of the guys that have been bombing them for a year and a half. On the other hand, other nationals - not involved in military action against Iraq, can build a better rapport with trainees. Other nations can also put training bases in their own home countries, creating the possibility for the first time that Iraqi security can train in a secure environment. Finally, significant foreign help on training can get more people through complete training faster, creating a situation for the first time that Iraqis can actually play a pivotal role in their own security process - and Americans can play down their role as occupiers. These are things that might cost a little bit in reconstruction contracts and in "strut". These are things that can only be done in a world where we recognize and confront reality: not a fantasy world where major combat operations were over a year and 800 lives ago.
September 25, 2004
The Planet Just Got a Little Heavier
from - smijer
That's right. 6 pounds and 6 ounces heavier. Welcome to Earth, Kara Nicole. I hope that we will be able to make it a little nicer for you.
And to Kara's mom & dad - many congratulations!
Gasp Drawing Statments
from - Buck
Supposedly this statement made by George the younger "drew gasps from a Racine, Wisconsin audience". Aside from the fact that it is patently false what is it about the statement that would make it so gasp drawing? I feel sure that there are countless thousands of Iraqi's who would agree with that statement.
Juan Cole gives some interesting analogies. If this situation existed in America today would you now say that you preferred Gore to Bush? Sorry. I forgot. Most of you preferred Gore to Bush the first time around. Anyway...........
Saying that you prefer Saddam to the situation that now exists in Iraq is not something that only a madman would say or think. Saddam ran the country for over 30 years and there was more stability in Iraq then than there is now. Even during the 12 years of world sanctioned starvation the situation was not as chaotic as it is now.
It is like the oft repeated phrase "the world is better off without Saddam".
Really? What makes you think that? Other than losing over 1,000 soldiers and having over 7,000 wounded, spending hundreds of billions of dollars and losing all credibility in the world how have things improved in the United States since Iraq was invaded and occupied (liberated for fans of Zell Miller) It is like saying that the world is better off without Cat Stevens in it. Removing Saddam has not made the Middle East a safer place to visit.
I would never expect to hear the gasp drawing statements of preference for Saddam over the current situation in Iraq or that the world is not better off without Saddam for one simple fact.
The statements are too true to ever be uttered by a politician of any stripe.
September 23, 2004
Don't Let Him Get Away With It!
from - smijer
"If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations," Bush said.- via Pandagon, with kibitz.
Jesse is absodamnlutely correct. The empirical evidence is clear: even while terrorists and other insurgents are blowing up Americans and Iraqis in Bush's new quagmire, other terrorists are quite capable of planning and executing attacks elsewhere, including "other free nations". Where is John Kerry on this? He called Bush out on his off-handed "handful of terrorists" remark, but he - or somebody - desperately needs to address this much more important point.
Yeah, the "handful of terrorists" was pure spin, and Kerry was right to bust him on it, but that one is far too easy for Bush to rationalize away (he already has). This version of the flypaper strategy is unquestionably reflective of Bush's actual thoughts on the matter. There can be no question about it. Bush is dangerously and deadly wrong on a central point of the issue that is most central to this election. It's inexcusable, and it's a real reason that Americans should be coming together and uniting to vote him out. Let's hear something from the Kerry team on this asap.
P.S. What atrios said, too. I'll take a (so-called) "flip-flopper" over a damn liar any day.
I'll rest easier tonight
from - Buck
Even though security missed a substantial amount of explosives and weapons at our nations airports they did not allow Cat Stevens to slip through the cracks. Oh yeah. That money is being well spent.
from - smijer
I promise I won't let the fame change me.
from - smijer
Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent.- Richard Feynman
September 21, 2004
Here's Why Nobody Asked Me
from - smijer
Every once in a while, I form an opinion on a subject that I am simply too uneducated to form a reliable opinion on. This is one of those times. Without further apology, this is my opinion:
This represents the best evidence so far of life on Mars, and better evidence than I expected to be seen based on my rudimentary understanding of extraterrestrial geology and chemistry, along with my skepticism that Mars ever harbored life.
I'm by no means convinced that Mars harbors or ever did harbor life, but my threshold of skepticism is tangibly lowered by reports that traces of methane and water vapor are found in the same atmospheric regions there.
Furthermore, as long as water exists in any form on or under the surface of Mars, and as long as there was a time when Mars harbored life, I would expect that life would continue there. When temperatures there began to drop, I would expect that living organisms there would adapt by evolving mechanisms for harvesting solar, geothermal, or chemical energy to keep small pools of liquid water melted out of any icebanks that were near such an energy source, allowing life to continue into the extreme conditions of the modern Martian environment. My skepticism is applied to the idea that Mars ever harbored life to begin with. I think that idea is very far-fetched, and it is for that reason that I am skeptical that there exists life on Mars now.
My how things have changed
from - Buck
Note that it is a Federal government site and that the information was posted on November 10th, 2001.
At that time Iraq was not listed as one of the countries where al Qaeda had operated. There are 45 countries listed and Iraq is not one of them.
How serious could the connection have been between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein if as of November 2001 they had never operated in Iraq?
One thing is for sure. They are there now.
A Good Point
from - smijer
It's a point I've attempted to make more than once before, but a difficult one to make in the atmosphere of the current American mindset. Truthspeaker goes out of his way to make it again, effectively.
Iraq and it's impact on the U.S. and the world's ability to respond to international terrorism is the most important issue in this election, and it has nothing to do with liberalism or conservativism. It even has very little to do with hawkishness or dovishness. It has to do with good policy versus bad policy, and George Bush is firmly on the side of bad policy.
Conservatives who have hitched their stars to Bush's brand of conservativism that comes complete with fiscal irresponsibility and foreign policy radicalism would do well to ask themselves whether it is this kind of leadership that they want defining the future of the conservative movement. The wiser and more conservative among them will decide not. For them, a vote against Bush is a vote for the future of conservativism, at the price of four years of unabashedly liberal policy.
The rest of the conservatives... the ones who will cheerlead for Bush no matter how giant his blunders: we can safely consign them to the category of those whose greatest hunger is for power, not the advancement of society under conservative principles.
September 20, 2004
Something else to think about
from - Buck
I was doing some house cleaning tonight and stumbled across an old birthday card that my sister had sent me in 1988. It was my 30th birthday. There was some interesting information that I thought I would share along with updated information.
According to the card........
1958 population was 174,141,000
1988 population was 245,900,000
The current population is 294,324,000
The standard price for a home in 1958 was $11,975.00. In 1988 the price had risen to $78,843.00 and it is now $119,000.00
In 1958 the price of a car was $2,045.00. In 1988 the price had risen to $9,940.00. Currently the average price is about $24,000.00.
The price of one gallon of gas in 1958 was .30 cents. In 1988 the price of one gallon of gas was .95 cents. The average price per gallon is now $1.94.
A loaf of bread in 1958 cost .19 cents. In 1988 the price of a loaf of bread was .67 cents. The current price of a loaf of bread now is about $1.00.
One gallon of milk in 1958 cost $1.02. In 1988 the price was $2.36 and now the price is about $3.19 per gallon.
The average household income in 1958 was $5,087 and in 1988 it was $29,896. Currently it is $43,500.00 annually.
Factor in the fact that $1.00 in 1958 had the same buying power that $6.56 has in 2004 and you can draw lots of interesting conclusions given the above information.
That is if you are as sick of politics, pundits, beheadings and war as I am, can't sleep at night and need something else to think about.
If Only Kerry Were a Deficit Hawk
from - smijer
I didn't actually watch or listen to Kerry's NYU speech today. I did read the transcript of it, and I have to say, I am truly impressed with him for the first time. I won't even bother to excerpt it. Read the whole thing. It's all worth while.
I've always been anti-Bush, but I've also been very luke-warm about his replacement. Perhaps I will warm more to Kerry as we get into debate season.
It also appears that a moderate Republican Senator will be joining me in voting against Bush. I can only wonder if Lincoln Chafee and other moderate Republicans would come into the Democratic party if we would put a business friendly deficit hawk like Howard Dean at the helm. As it is, Republican moderates are left only one option for putting the party back on track. They have to withhold their support of the radical wing that is currently in power and prove to the party that its recent drift toward radicalism will cause them to lose office.
from - smijer
Hi folks. I'm back from my little sabbatical. The "other project" I wanted to work on during my free time this week was an utter flop. So, instead of presenting a shiny, glossy, finished project, I'll just tell you what my little scheme was.
It started when my ordered Harry Connick Jr.'s Red Light Blue Light album arrived in the mail. The fifth track, "He is, They Are" set off a spark of inspiration. Why not set an unflattering George Bush campaign video to this music?
He is good
They are happy
He is strong
They are secure
He is right
They are unquestioning
He is wrong
They are demure
When she left
He was tortured
She was gone
They were confused
He was forgetful
They were supportive
He was funny
They were amused
He did things that only superman could do
Things that sis and I could not believe were true
He is older
They are loving
He is hardened
They are grown
He is needing
They are giving
He is glad they are his own
Now imagine "He is good" with one of Bush's deadpan mugs, and "They are Happy" behind the image of the Royal House of Saud. "He is strong" goes back to Bush in the flight-suit, and "they are secure" goes with a picture of Bin Laden and his lieutenants safely roaming the Pakistani countryside while the U.S. military is mired in a mess of George Bush's making in Iraq. It would be the U.S. press corps that would be "unquestioning" and "demure", and corporate fat cats who are "giving" when he is "needing", and about whom he is "glad they are his own".
My attempt was done without the benefit of any $500 flash movie editor. Instead I used the down-scale video editor that came with my video camera a few years ago. But one thing I learned: whether I can blame being too low tech, or not enough lyrics for all of Bush's blunders in the Harry Connick song, Steven Spielberg I am not.
Anyone out there who has the skill, talent, time, or stick-to-it-iveness that I lack, please jump on this brilliant idea and see it through to fruition. I'll split the revenue with you 60/40.
September 18, 2004
from - Buck
I am going to assume that not much else is going to matter in Tennessee today. It shouldn't.
September 16, 2004
The incredible two-headed man
from - Buck
Even by our own estimates the situation in Iraq is not good and shows no real signs of getting better.
The situation in Afghanistan is not much better, especially if you are the President there.
And our choices in November are, as Butler Shaffer has already said, one Yale graduate, pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, pro-expansive state member of "Skull-and-Bones" and another Yale graduate, pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, pro-expansive state member of "Skull-and-Bones."
As Mencken has already said
Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule--and both commonly succeed, and are right.
September 15, 2004
There are forgeries and then there are forgeries
from - Buck
I have been amused to no end at the furor that has erupted over the supposed forged documents that put into question the bravery and unquestioned loyalty to God and country Bush showed during his stint in the National Guard. Keeping Alabama and Florida safe from an invasion by the Viet Cong is nothing to sneeze at and those who blaspheme our Holy Commander during a time of perpetual war should be ashamed of themselves.
However, I don’t remember there being as much furor surrounding the forged documents claiming that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake from Niger.
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Now there is a forged document that had some bite to it. Knowing who forged that document and who instructed them to forge it would be information worth having but obviously not as important as knowing who did what and where 35 years ago in a world that no longer exists.
And in 48 days we will be treated to 4 more years.
September 14, 2004
I'm On Vacation
from - smijer
Yes, I'm laying low, this week. But Thomas N. ain't. Read his answer to the Russian/Chechen problems. The only question, really, is whether enough Chechen people would have enough faith in promises from Vladmir Putin to take the risk.
Four More Years?
from - Buck
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure that I am not dreaming.
Babylon and the Beast
from - Buck
I have always been amazed that the following words were written in 1944. I made bold the portion that first caught my eye a few years ago. These words are prophetic even to those who do not believe in prophecy. So when you hear someone mention that America is becoming a fascist state be sure you understand what fascism is before you consider that person to be a lunatic. The ancient prophets warned the world to be on the lookout for a coming beast. Is it even remotely possible that America might just be the beast they were warning about?
John T. Flynn (1882-1964)
American Journalist and Author
“The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine, and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells or metal mines.”
“No matter what the cause, even though it be to conquer with tanks and planes and modern artillery some defenseless black population, there will be no lack of poets and preachers and essayists and philosophers to invent the necessary reasons and gild the infamy with righteousness. To this righteousness there is, of course, never an adequate reply. Thus a war to end poverty becomes an unanswerable enterprise. For who can decently be for poverty? To even debate whether the war will end poverty becomes an exhibition of ugly pragmatism and the sign of an ignoble mind.”
“The so-called Christian virtues of humility, love, charity, personal freedom, the strong prohibitions against violence, murder, stealing, lying, cruelty--all these are washed away by war. The greatest hero is the one who kills the most people. Glamorous exploits in successful lying and mass stealing and heroic vengeance are rewarded with decorations and public acclaim. You cannot, when the war is proclaimed, pull a switch and turn the community from the moral code of peace to that of war and then, when the armistice is signed, pull another switch and reconnect the whole society with its old moral regulations again. Thousands of people of all ranks who have found a relish in the morals of war come back to you with these rudimentary instincts controlling their behavior while thousands of others, trapped in a sort of no man’s land between these two moralities, come back to you poisoned by cynicism.”
“The test of fascism is not one’s rage against the Italian and German war lords. The test is--how many of the essential principles of fascism do you accept and to what extent are you prepared to apply those fascist ideas to American social and economic life? When you can put your finger on the men or the groups that urge for America the tax-supported state, the autarchival corporative state, the state bent on the socialization of investment and the bureaucratic government of industry and society, the establishment of the institution of militarism as the great glamorous public works project of the nation and the institution of imperialism under which it proposes to alter the forms of our government to approach as closely as possible the unrestrained, absolute government--then you will know you have located the authentic fascist. . . .
Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans, as violently against Hitler and Mussolini as the next one. but who are convinced that the present economic system in America has outlived its usefulness and who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at cushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist.”
“Fascism is a system of social organization in which the political state is a dictatorship supported by a political elite and in which the economic society is an autarchial capitalism, enclosed and planned, in which the government assumes responsibility for creating adequate purchasing power through the instrumentality of national debt and in which militarism is adopted as a great economic project for creating work as well as a great romantic project in the service of the imperialist state.” [As We Go Marching, p. 161, 2nd ed.]
September 13, 2004
Over to You, Buck
from - smijer
I'm going to take a week or so off of blogging, to work on another project that has grabbed my interest. Before I go, I wanted to mention something I've noticed over at Daily Kos, namely, that he and his co-bloggers are on a roll. Take some time to read the essays on why we should vote for John Kerry in November:
Check them out.
I'll be gone for a while, but I'll be checking back regularly to see what Buck has to say. You should, too.
The right to hunt?
from - Buck
John Kerry has a litany of issues to use against our current President.
1) war on false pretenses
2) rising prices and stagnate wages
3) loss of jobs
4) the rising cost of health care
And the list could go on and on.
However, being the shrewed politician that he is, he has chosen to embrace the very issue that cost Democrats dearly in the 1994 elections. The inane "ban on assault weapons".
Bush himself has said that he supported the law and would sign it's renewal if it came before him so the issue was dead before Kerry picked it up. Picking it up is what is going to cost him. At least Bush had enough sense to just leave it alone.
The most amusing part of Kerry's speeches concerning the assault weapons ban is the part where he says "I am a hunter and I support the second amendment". Folks, the second amendment had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you are a hunter. The founding fathers did not take a public opinion poll and decide that the second amendment would be a good thing in order to garner the hunter's vote. Anytime a politician utters the word "hunter" and "second amendment" in the same sentence I dismiss them out of hand.
For months now my conspiratorial cynicism has been encouraging me to believe that John Kerry is throwing this election. I am absolutely convinced of it now. Conspiratorial cynicism notwithstanding.
September 12, 2004
For Goodness' Sake
from - smijer
... believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him 'good' and worshipping him is a still greater danger... The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of scripture is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissable.
[C. S. Lewis, in letter to John Beversluis]
-as quoted in Pharyngula's infidel quotes
Last week, I asked you to give your attention to the notorious contradictions between religion's beliefs about the character of God and it's beliefs about the actions of God. I did this to prime the pump for this week's sermon: why Christianity makes morality impossible.
For me to make this point, I must have some cooperation from the religious. If they choose to leave these contradictions unresolved, and to believe that both views of God are true no matter how mutually exclusive they may be, then I have no choice but to let them. If they took my bait, however, and try to make their beliefs coherent, then I feel confident that I can answer any attempt at harmonization but one. That one is the fall-back position of most Christian apologists concerning the glaring difference between a "good" God, and a God who intentionally drowns children or punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. Before I get to that one, I'd like to spend some time with one of the other unsatisfactory answers I can expect to receive to the quandry I presented last week:
"I know God's goodness from direct revelation. That's how I know God is good even if sometimes he doesn't seem that way to my human thinking".
I would be remiss if I did not warn the speaker that she should be careful not to confuse religious experience with divine revelation. Moreover, I should argue to her that goodness can only be revealed through the presence of good actions and the absence of evil ones. Mere experiences of what seem to appeal to our senses as "the presence of goodness" should not be considered.
Yet, I feel that argument is too abstract for an internet discussion, and there is a simpler and more direct way to address this response without even questioning the validity of the "revelation".
Assuming the revelation is accurate, and from it you have plenty of reason to believe in God's goodness, you now have even less reason to believe the stories in the Bible that portray his actions as evil.
Whether through reason, revelation, or mere hope, I (like C.S. Lewis as quoted above) am personally more comfortable with the conclusion that God, if It exists, must be good. There is room to debate whether It would be all good, or whether it would be good only in certain ways, that left room (unfortunately) for the needless suffering of conscious entities (which is a truth we cannot ignore). But it is certainly more satisfying, and to my mind, consistent with experience, to believe that any God who might exist must be, at least on some level, good.
This doesn't resolve the contradiction. If we are convinced of the goodness of God, we have merely narrowed down our options for resolving the contradiction, for the actions that the Bible ascribes to God are still incompatible with justice, mercy, and (if the truth be known) goodness. This means that we must find a way to make those actions compatible with goodness, or we must abandon belief in the Bible's portrayals of God's actions. If we choose the former, I hope to show, we remove the possibility of morality. I have yet to find any disadvantage, whether from reason or ethics, to choosing the latter path.
Before moving on to the demonstration of Christianity's lethal effect of killing morality, I would like to make a brief note on one other harmonization. Usually, this one is employed as an answer to the problem of evil, and doesn't really make sense in light of the contrasts I highlighted in last week's sermon. But, it is still worth a brief response. I speak of the notion that there is some greater good that must be accomplished, and that God must act in ways that seem (to us) harmful in order to bring about this greater good. My only comment is that this view makes God less than infinitely powerful. An infinitely powerful God has infinite resources for creating a plan that will accomplish It's greater good, leaving It the ability to do so without creating harm. In my view, this extends even to account for the "goodness" of human free will; and furthermore, the free will defense breaks down under Christian doctrine anyway. I will not go into specifics, as this is really just a special case of the more general situation that serves as the morality killer.
"God is beyond human comprehension." Taken by itself, this statement should seem self-evident for any meaningful definition of the Deity, and is not especially problematic. Paired, however, with the proposition that we should believe and follow a set of teachings about God that are ethically inadequate to our own conscience and/or ethical system, we now have a set of beliefs that undermine any possibility of moral choice. You see, if we consider God to be beyond human comprehension, then we may still honestly believe that humans have a faculty for moral choice. However, if we consider the human faculty for moral reasoning to be inadequate for accurately judging the moral status of a set of religious teachings, then we find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to make a choice about those teachings without recourse to our moral foundations!
Yet, this is exactly what Christianity asks us to do: make a choice whether to follow it's teachings. If we cannot rule out Christianity based on the teachings it has that are incompatible with the goodness of God under our own moral systems, and if we then choose to follow the moral dictates of Christianity, we find ourselves choosing our actions based on teachings that we have failed to subject to moral examination. We make our choices based on obedience, without knowing the true moral nature of that which we obey.
I remember a discussion I had with my mother when I was a child. She reminded me (at a time when I was feeling rebellious) that I had a moral obligation to obey her instruction. While she was generally correct on that point, my argumentative self could not help but point out to her that my obligation to obey her was subject to the righteousness of what she instructed. In other words, I was trying to tell her that if I had moral qualms about an instruction of hers (a situation, I might add, which very rarely presented itself!), I would be free to challenge her, and if she could not satisfy me that I would not be ethically compromised by following her, then my moral obligation was to disobey. Besides rebellious, I was ineloquent. Besides ineloquent, I was exercising poor judgment. Not only did I fail to make my point; when asked for an example of a command she might give that I could not obey, I chose to present one that was so offensive that I was now in trouble for even being able to contemplate such despicable ideas!
Yet, despite my poor attitude, my inability to express my point, and my very unfortuante choice of examples, my point was quite true. Obedience is not, of itself, moral. Obedience can be a moral act, but only when we are quite certain that the teachings we obey are compatible with our sense of ethics. Christianity, defended from inconsistency by making our moral senses inadequate to the task of evaluating the teachings it asks us to follow, disallows a moral obedience. It asks us to believe that God (who we believe to be good) is the same entity as YHWH, who is described as acting in a way that, by any moral accounting, can only be called wicked. It asks us to follow, obey, and worship this YHWH, while believing the teachings that reveal his wickedness. In other words, it asks us to substitute an amoral (or immoral) obedience for moral reasoning. Without moral reasoning, there can be no moral choice. Without moral choice, there can be no morality. Obedience of the kind required by Christianity and the Bible's scripture destroys the possibility of morality.
September 10, 2004
from - Buck
Some of you guys that know about military apparel can probably explain to me why soldiers wear uniforms with the colors of desert camouflage and then put on a vest with Vietnam era jungle camouflage. It seems to be self defeating but I see it a lot on the nightly news. What I think I am seeing is probably not what I am seeing but it sure looks that way to me.
September 09, 2004
A Design Problem, or Three
from - smijer
I was a little bit blown away by this interview with Andre Heinz on his part in the Kerry campaign. It's long, but worth the read. A few highlights:
It's exciting to try to represent the really progressive and, I think, farsighted ideas that you find in the proposals of the Kerry-Edwards platform, such as the plan for 20 percent renewable electricity by the year 2020 and aggressive proposals for becoming oil independent in the short term. That alone is amazing -- not to mention reengaging the world with the Kyoto Protocol, and protecting our wild areas, our forests, and our fisheries. It's a thrill to represent candidates who understand the real nature of nature, the real value -- intrinsic, subjective, and objective.
These are candidates who understand that by doing one thing you help achieve another goal. By having a 2020 goal you're also helping create the clean-technology markets of tomorrow. You're helping to make America better able to be a moral leader in the world.
Those pro-industry forces aren't so much a threat as an opportunity, and John understands that as well as anybody. I think he will be able to bridge the divide between environment and industry as president. He's the one to drive home the message that moving toward sustainability is pro-industry.
Grist: Kerry seems to have gone out of his way to avoid oversimplification, to talk in shades of gray -- and of course he gets slammed by the other side for flip-flopping.
Heinz: [...] He believes that people deserve to be told clearly what they're being offered. I think he believes in people making informed choices and taking responsibility for those choices.
and, there's even a Chattanooga connection:
I was a project assistant for Bill for the next year, working on things ranging from sustainable community planning for one of the Lakota reservations, to working with city planning for Chattanooga, Tenn., to collaborating with different ecological thinkers like Paul Hawken and the chemist Michael Braungart on various forms of industrial ecology. It was really fast exposure in one year.
I wonder how much of the wonderful results in Chattanooga can be traced back to Heinz' input...
Will we never learn?
from - Buck
Lawrence of Cyberia tells a heartbreaking story over on his blog.
You don`t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away... I prefer to advocate a more positive policy...to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave."
-- Ariel Sharon, quoted by David Bernstein in "Forcible Removal of Arabs gaining support in Israel", The (London) Times, August 24, 1988, page 7."
Mans inhumanity to his fellow man seems to have no limits. The root causes of terrorism can be found in places like Qalqilya.
Kitty Kelly's Book
from - smijer
The Family. Now, if John Kerry really wants to raise the tone of this race, here is his perfect chance. Watch where I'm going with this: what if John Kerry got on television and boldy demanded that "all books of a political nature" be outlawed?
from - Buck
How would Jesus vote? I have no idea but Alan Keyes does.
Come to think of it I do not believe Jesus can vote in Illinois can He? Aren't there residency requirements?
September 08, 2004
The War Widens
from - Buck
Now that President Vladimir Putin has vowed an "all-out war" against terrorism one can only wonder what tactics he might use to get his revenge.
Vijay Venkataraman of Baton Rouge, Louisiana had some rather interesting ideas on how Russia may fight back against the infidels in a recent letter to the editor that I recently read. Vijay writes:
The massacre of innocent school children in Beslan, the near simultaneous downing of two Russian passenger airliners and the car bombing outside a Moscow subway station are really going to place an enormous amount of pressure on Vladimir Putin to take military action on an unprecedented scale.
There seems to be some doubt as to what are Mr. Putin's options. Given the fact that several "Arabs" have been identified among the terrorists in Beslan, Mr. Putin could, were he so disposed, adopt the American model witnessed recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The formula is as follows:
1) Declare the Kingdom of Saud a part of the axis of evil.
2) Proclaim the foremost goal of Russian policy to be regime change in Saudi Arabia.
3) State without any real evidence that Saudi Arabia is attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction and that Russia need not wait for real evidence which could take the form of a mushroom cloud over Moscow to effect regime change.
4) Petition the UN for a resolution authorizing use of preemptive warfare.
5) Declare that any nation that is not for mother Russia is against mother Russia.
6) Impose an arbitrary deadline by which time the rulers of Saudi Arabia are to cede sovereignty and abdicate.
7) Invite all foreigners (including tens of thousands [sic] of U.S. troops stationed there) to evacuate Saudi Arabia in the face of impending military action by Moscow.
8) Launch a war of aggression using the most deadly weapons in Moscow's arsenal and blame Saudi Arabia for the resulting carnage for its failure to comply with Moscow's demands when it had the chance.
9) If the following occupation does not go according to plan blame the countries that did not support the aggression in order to divert voter attention at home.
These simple steps if followed carefully should result in maximum profit for Russian defense contractors for many years to come.
Do you think America would join him in such a noble cause?
September 07, 2004
from - Buck
Some interesting stuff over at DailyKos
I guess Graham's book is next on my list as soon as I finish with "Osama: the making of a terrorist"
So much to read and so little time. Especially now that the really important stuff has started happening.
September 05, 2004
from - smijer
Wow. I should have known this, but apparently I did not. John Kerry made his position clear, before the war, and before his vote: Check it out. Pay special attention to the bolded words. When you're done, scroll back up and have a look at the post that inspired that comment. Maybe I do understimate JK.
A Fundamental(ist) Disconnect
from - smijer
Today's sermon is the first of a two-part series dealing with Christianity and morality. Next week, I will be arguing that many forms of Christianity (and certain other western religions) destroy the possibility of moral choice. Before I do that, I would like to lay the groundwork by pointing out a fundamental disconnect between the way "Bible-believing" Christians portray God in their moral descriptions of Him, and the moral character of the actions that they ascribe to God. On the one hand, Christians describe God in very positive terms: just, merciful, and paternal. On the other, they portray God as engaging in behavior that is quite the opposite: unjust, unmerciful, and possessive.
On the matter of justice, God is given the description of "just". Sometimes, He is described as "All Just". The same people who believe this, also believe a lot of things about what God does, which happen to be characteristically unjust.
Unfortunately, many people have stooped to attempting a defense of the drowing of children, the raining of brimstone on innocents, the ordered execution of infants or unruly teens, or eternal torture, so long as these things are done by God. It takes a good deal more time than I possess (and sometimes more moral reasoning than those people are capable of) to chase down these defenses and expose them. So, if you have the moral awareness to recognize that those actions are indefensible even if performed by God Almighty, then note the disconnect between the description of God, and the character of the actions God is portrayed to have taken. If you are too in thrall to a specific creed to recognize that those actions are indefensible, then save your arguments. Instead, present your best defense of this final unjust action of God: to punish the innocent for the misdeeds of the guilty. This is the defining doctrine of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians: that God punished the innocent (in the person of Jesus) for the sins of the rest of us.
I do anticipate one defense, and one that could certainly apply if the story were different. It is a two part-defense that requires first that the innocent who bears punishment does so voluntarily, as an act of grace, and second, that the punishment applied is one of restitution. It is quite just to require that a criminal undo (to the extent he is able) the damage he has done to his victim, provided the damage was done intentionally or through negligence. This is known as restitution. This type of justice is still served if a loving parent steps in voluntarily to make restitution on behalf of a child. This is a case, and to the best of my knowledge, the only case, where punishment can justly be borne by someone other than the offender.
Unfortunately for the apologist, this is not the case with the central doctrine of Christianity. Quite clearly, the only function of the punishment of abuse, death, and subsequent torment is punitive. God may derive satisfaction from the spectacle, but there is nothing returned to Him by killing someone. In fact, if God is truly all-powerful, it was impossible to cause Him damage to begin with.
So, that's the first disconnect.
The second one is the portrayal of God as "merciful" (and sometimes "All Merciful"). I will concede that God is sometimes portrayed as doing something that could correctly be described as merciful. On the other hand, we have a pretty ugly record on a lot of other scores, as discussed above. As above, I don't wish to chase the rabbit trails - in fact I don't want to hear people proclaiming how just or merciful it can be to drown babies, if you are God. Instead, let's return to the fundamental tenant of Christianity, and the one that is most ironically called upon when God's mercy is extolled from the pulpit: the crucifixion of Christ.
I have taken advantage (not often enough, I know) of the opportunity to show mercy. As a step-parent, I have opted for a more lenient punishment for wrong-doing than what was deserved. I have been shown mercy also. On more than one occasion, a parent payed a debt on my behalf, when I little deserved the help. We see that mercy is the act of finding a way to shield a person from the punishment they deserve without creating an injustice, such as leaving a debt unpaid, failing to teach a child or rehabilitate a criminal, or failing to protect the wrong-doer's potential future victims.
I have never intentionally punished one of my stepsons for the wrong-doing of the other one, no matter how willing the one might have been to accept it. Nor has anyone given themselves a punishment that I deserved - nor would justice be served if they did. Mercy does not mean being sure that a person is punished (hurt, abused, or killed, or tormented). It means sparing a person. According to Christian doctrine, Jesus died in our place. We all know that death and injury are non-transferrable. Instead of justice, we have the injustice of punishing the innocent. Instead of mercifully canceling our punishment, our punishment is kept in full force and assigned to someone else. We have another disconnect between the descriptive words, and the character of the actions portrayed.
God is, Christians say, a Loving Father. To be fair, they cop to the accuracy of the descriptor of "jealous". They say that it is quite consistent for God to be completely self-sufficient and to simultaneously be pathetically needy in the way of an adolescent or jealous lover. God wants you to love him freely, they say (which is why God would never compel your love by revealing his existence in a verifiable way) - yet he threatens to torture you forever if you withhold your love. A man who threatens to punish a woman for not loving him doesn't want her to love him freely. That is coercion - the opposite of freedom. A loving father wants his children to love and respect him, but if they do not, he searches for what is wrong and seeks to correct it. A scorned suitor, on the other hand, may fly into a jealous rage if the object of his affections makes a free choice for the another partner. In the loving parent, we see unconditional love. In a jealous lover, we see the adolescent madness of the pathetic and needy. Rarely do we see all of these qualities in the same person at the same stage of life. If we do, we suspect the person is victim of some overwhelming emotional circumstance that has thrown him off balance. Yet, the Christians describe their God in both ways, without apology.
To sum up, when Christians describe their God with words, they describe Him as Good. When they tell stories about his actions, they describe him as Evil. It is this fundamental disconnect that requires a resolution. Some blithely determine to go on in their belief without resolving the disconnect. This, and the only actual resolution available in the Christian repertoire, are the reasons that Christianity destroys the possibility of moral choice, and with it, moral behavior and moral responsibility. It is the nature of this moral destruction that will be the topic of our sermon next Sunday. Come back then.
We close with hymn number 114: "All Creatures Great and Small, the Lord God Drowned them All".
from - Buck
Since I did not watch the Republican National Convention can anybody tell me if this is an actual snapshot or is this thing computer generated?
September 04, 2004
Not in American Papers
from - smijer
Editorials of this quality just don't appear in American newspapers. Too bad.
So That's What they Mean by October Surprise...
from - smijer
Thanks, J, for pointing out the reports that the State Department is claiming that U.S. and Pakistani personnel are closing in on Bin Laden. Now, this could be the presaging of an October surprise, or it could be someone in the State Department putting out some more of their trademark hype. I've learned not to take anything too seriously until something actually happens.
If Osama does come in, then I'll have to hold my nose and congratulate the current administration for its success on that score, and on finally doing something that will increase American security. Then, I will continue to compaign against his smirky ass, because I'm not going to sit down while he brings this nation down with four more years of his disastrous domestic and foreign policy, even if U.S. security services bring in Lucifer himself in shackles and an orange jumpsuit. Bush is responsible for too much killing, too much debt, and too little governance in the public interest. He has divided our people and divided the world. Bin Laden in the hole or not, it is time for Bush to go.
September 03, 2004
Evidence Emerges that Zell Miller is a Dumb Ass
from - smijer
Anyone who has been watching the RNC convention this week has surely noticed that the Republicans are angry. They are clearly becoming unhinged at the thought that the nation might demand some accountability for their party's and their president's failure of leadership. Watching the convention, it is clear that they are pessimistic about how things might go in the next election, especially if they lose it. And all of that negativity and anger has been the focus of most of the commentary from the blogosphere on Zell Miller's Speech.
So I thought I would try to break away from that trend for a little bit, and instead of focusing on how angry the radical right seems lately, just point out (in an optimistic and light-hearted way) that Zell Miller is a moron.
From the speech:
And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.
Tell that to the one-half of Europe that was freed because Franklin Roosevelt led an army of liberators, not occupiers.
A person of my age shouldn't have to tell someone of Zell Miller's age that when the U.S. helped liberate the nations that had fallen to the Axis powers, we did not need to leave large occupying forces there. However, it was necessary to occupy some of the axis nations that were defeated in war. When large forces of U.S. military have to stay behind to, uhmmm.... occupy... a nation, to be sure its emerging governtment does not re-ignite the war that so much life-blood was spilt over, that is an occupation.
For better or worse, and whether it makes Zell Miller angry or not, the U.S. troops in Iraq are an occupying force. Not only that, but they are an occupying force that is encountering strong resistance from hostile nationals.
While it is quite possible and conceivable that an occupying force can also be a liberating force, it remains to be seen whether the U.S. forces in Iraq will effectively serve to liberate Iraq. There have yet to be free elections, and it is as yet unclear whether there will emerge a constitutional democracy that respects individual freedoms against the "tyranny of the majority" in Iraq.
It is, however, quite obvious that the U.S. forces there are serving to occupy Iraq.
If realism of this kind makes Zell Miller "mad", then we can only conclude that he is a moron. Because any fool can see that the U.S. is an "occupying" force in Iraq, but it has yet to prove itself as a "liberating" force.
September 02, 2004
Words Speak Louder than Actions
from - smijer
If Jon Stewart doesn't win an Oscar for this,... well then they ought to give him a Grammy. Or Something.
By the way, I'm sorry I've kind of let things go around here lately... Buck - thanks for picking up my slack. I've been spending a lot more time reading lately, and sometimes I just can't discipline myself to sit down and run my gator on this here blog.
from - Buck
Sometimes it gets very discouraging to see our government repeat the mistakes of the past. I believe it was Einstein who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
In an excellent article in the Moscow Times Chris Floyd discusses this type of insanity.
A more sinister – not to mention stupid – policy can scarcely be imagined. One of the most spectacular miscalculations in modern history was the American decision to create an international army of Islamic extremists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Together with the repressive militarists of Pakistan and the head-chopping religious tyrants of Saudi Arabia, American leaders armed, funded, supplied and shaped the global jihad – beginning before the Soviet intervention, which the bloody religious insurgency successfully provoked, as Washington intended. The CIA ended up fighting cheek-by-jowl with the likes of Osama bin Laden, helpfully providing the holy warriors with extensive training in "asymmetrical warfare" – i.e., terrorism. These rabid chickens came home to roost with a vengeance on Sept. 11, 2001, and are now running wild all over the world.
If you take the time to read the article be sure and take the time to read through the annotations. Chris Floyd is an excellent writer and always backs up his articles with thorough research.
September 01, 2004
from - smijer
Frances is a living testimonial to Charles's abilities. She says that he rebuilt her heart, liver, and pancreas. The fact that he left these retooled organs in a 71-year-old body makes one wonder. Perhaps when Frances dies, the mortician will have to beat her liver into submission with a stick.- James Randi on Charles and Frances Hunter, in The Faith Healers