September 30, 2008
Make it stop! And I thought the liberal media elites were doing anything they could to make poor her look bad…
Of concern to McCain’s campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin’s interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing.
The Palin aide, after first noting how “infuriating” it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.
After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.
There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.
September 28, 2008
Time to show where your loyalties lie, Jews!
September 26, 2008
“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today’s very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.
Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades. [There is not a] lack of knowledge per se but arrogance about that lack of knowledge. The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it’s the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place.
Call this anti-rationalism — a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism. The toxic brew of anti-rationalism and ignorance hurts discussions of U.S. public policy on topics from health care to taxation.
Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. (“Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture,” Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a “change election,” the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda.
Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the “Who would you like to have a beer with?” poll question in 2004, and won reelection.
When Tom Stoppard won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, some reporter outside the theatre who didn’t know who Stoppard was but still wanted to get a question on camera pointed at the Oscar and said “Those are pretty heavy. You could do curls with them!” Stoppard looked at him and deadpanned,
“I wouldn’t do that. I’m an intellectual.”
Later that night I got in an argument with someone, someone who got the irony even, about Stoppard considering himself an intellectual. “That was a dumb thing to say. It’s a pretentious word.” And so on. The political pejorative “elite” (which has replaced “liberal”, since no politician would ever call themselves that anymore) wasn’t in the mainstream then, or he would have used that no doubt.
Are there other countries – there must be – where the citizens prefer mediocrity? Where “elite” and “intellectual” are words meant to raise your suspicions? I don’t really buy it that Americans look up to the likes of Paris Hilton more than people in other countries look up to fools, but they sure don’t sniff with suspicion at their public intellectuals as much, nor do they like their politicians to be average.
This is a woman who not only doesn’t understand a foreign policy doctrine (including the current one) but actually doesn’t know what the phrase means.
When she says “In what respect, Charlie” in her goofy accent and shifts around in her chair it’s straight out of a Saturday Night Live skit. But it’s not satire, it’s real. This is a politician who aspires to national government, and yet has apparently never read a book about foreign policy, much less a newspaper or a news magazine. [James Fallows writes well about that here.] I feel confident guessing that, until last month, she got her foreign policy opinions (and most other political opinions outside of bridges and drilling) at church functions and dinner parties with like-minded rapture-ready conservatives.
“What we need to do is stand up to those Muslims, and not back down.” Much nodding ensues. “What those welfare-lovers need is a good kick in the pants, and a little work ethic.” Guttural noises of affirmation. “If they knew the love of Jesus, they wouldn’t abort so many babies.” Amen. “That liberal media…”
Getting your political opinions that way wouldn’t be inexcusable if she weren’t – it’s a cliche but true – a heart beat away from the presidency.
I’ve defended McCain at my own head-nodding, knee-jerk liberal parties, not because I like him or support him, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to call bullshit on bullshit hypocritical, ideological, partisan nonsense (and there’s plenty of that on the left). I’ve defended Bush against deceitful means-to-an-end fools like Michael Moore and Moby. But with this would-be presidential moron, I give up. Have at her, as they say.
“As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of America where do they go? It’s Alaska!”
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.
“Soccer mom.” When did we first hear that? Mid-Clinton, right? But at that time, it meant politicians were shooting for that lowest common denominator, just trying to get the votes. That’s lame, but complicated and understandable. But how did courting those votes morph into electing a soccer – hockey – mom?
As if that weren’t enough, she’s a total religious nutcase. Even Bush, and I’ll pat myself on the back and say that I said it before Sam Harris wrote it, even Bush isn’t waiting for the rapture, although some of his buddies are.
You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.” Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: “All options remain on the table”?
Again and again you read or hear people say Most people in this country are Christian, Separation of church and state also expects the religious not to be discriminated against, You sound hysterical, The religious right aren’t taking over, and so on. Well. Why did they pick her? One of the most important reasons: she appeals to a segment that the Republican Party (half of the country) has grown to cater to, and whose votes they can’t win without.
Blame Obama too, and that dumb speech he gave (2004?) grasping at God. Suddenly the Democrats are as God-fearing as the Republicans (look at Hillary this year: did she talk like that before? Kerry certainly didn’t. Now every Democrat is God-this and God-that.).
I don’t see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government. And I want to warn the press and all the voters out there, if you demand expressions of religious faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to.
31 percent of post graduates do not believe in God. Among members of the National Academy of Sciences, only seven percent believe in “a personal God” (the NAS is the cream of the crop of American scientists). There is a correlation among increase in education and decrease in belief. And yet only one member of Congress admits to not believing in God. In other words, demands for admissions of faith result in the public being lied to: There’s no way the House and the Senate aren’t full of atheists and agnostics: they – admittedly though off the record in some cases – simply lie to get elected.
When a British reporter asked Blair – Blair of undeniable devout faith – if he and Bush prayed together, Blair recoiled and said “No, never!” Even though he probably did, the UK doesn’t like that crap in their politics. If the same question were put to an American candidate now – a Democrat even – they’d have to answer yes.
“I must now state not what kind of church I believe in, because that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute…”
No Democrat, nevermind Republican, could give that speech now. Stem cells, abortion, condoms and sex-ed in American schools and Africa and everywhere else, discriminatory faith-based initiatives, creationism and evolution denial, nervous religious anti-science: none of these would be controversial if we didn’t let politicians drag their religion into government. These aren’t controversial questions of suffering or ethics. They’re actions taken by our government almost entirely because of bronze aged superstitions. It’s not going to get bad, it is bad now.
Take a belief that really should be nothing more than a curiosity to us, until you see its consequences in the world: the Catholic idea that condom use is somehow immoral. This is a genuinely ludicrous idea. I can assure you that the computational powers of the human brain are insufficient to provide a good argument for this. But map this idea onto sub-Saharan Africa, where literally millions—something like 3 or 4 million people—die each year from the spread of AIDS. And what you have there are Catholic ministers literally preaching the sinfulness of condom use in villages where the only information about condom use is the representation of the ministry. It seems to me that the time for respecting beliefs of this sort is long past. This is genocidal stupidity. It is criminal negligence of a sort that we would not tolerate in any other institution, yet the Vatican cannot be criticized to the degree that it should because it’s the Vatican. There is an overarching taboo around criticizing religious faith.
(Some of these anti-condom charities are funded by Bush’s ridiculously named “faith-based initiatives,” which Obama has promised to continue, with some modifications.)
Here are some videos of the kind of beat-down I hope to see when I wake up at the Satanic hour of nine a.m. tomorrow, and hope to see over the next few weeks. Although, we shouldn’t expect Biden or Obama to flaunt their brains or expose Palin’s (and to a lesser extent, McCain’s) lack of brains. And saying “God doesn’t belong in politics” is fifty years away in America, if ever.
Watch this from two mintues in:
Oh, here’s a book about anti-intellectualism in America. And her other one about Freethinkers in America.
August 31, 2008
At the beginning of the 20th century, science-based medicine had been catching on in China, at the expense of traditional Chinese medicine, because of its efficacy. As Mao and the communists swept through China, however, many or most of the doctors who practiced “western” medicine fled to Taiwan (they no doubt used their evidence-based, logical thinking to predict what was going to happen, and decided to get the hell out).
So, Mao and his cronies were left with a dearth of doctors, and no money for medicine or medical technologies anyway, and started to promote traditional Chinese medicine so that people would think they were at least being provided some form of treatment by the government.
In this propaganda painting, Acupuncture Anesthesia, check out the serene smile on the patient, saved from the unimaginable pain of the surgery by a kind nurse and needle in his finger.
From Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World (which is a fantastic book and the greatest title ever):
“Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science. Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one. False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved. A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observation. Science gropes and staggers toward improved understanding. Proprietary feelings are of course offended when a scientific hypothesis is disproved, but such disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific enterprise.
“Pseudoscience is just the opposite. Hypotheses are often framed preecisely so they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated. Practitioners are defensive and wary. Skeptical scrutiny is opposed. When they pseudoscientific hypothesis fails to catch fire with scientists, conspiracies to suppress it are deduced. ”
“The candle flame flutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
“Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires vigilance, dedication, and courage. But if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along.”
July 24, 2008
They who in folly or mere greed
Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
Borrow our language now and bid
Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.
It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse —
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.
July 9, 2008
Why don’t the Obama fanatics talk – or blog – about his support for FISA and his adoption of faith based initiatives? Ideology, inconveniences, and cognitive dissonance. (I’m way more worried about creeping threats to the Establishment Clause – from liberals even! – than I am about the Second Amendment.) Those are precisely the kind of things I hate Bush for, but when Obama does them, silence. OK, maybe he’s compromising to win the election, but that’s not exactly change, is it? And, needless to say, it would be way too much to ask for the left that is pissed at Bush for scuttling science to call Obama out for this howler:
“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”
The science right now is fucking conclusive, and it ain’t on Obama’s side. (But, never fear, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy are on the case.) Next up for Obama’s bad science, an “open-minded” appreciation of homeopathy?
I like him, and really want him to win, but I’m not expecting much. And, btw, I thought his speech in Iowa was dumb.
Those are some reasons I’m dubious. But here’s what America’s really worried about:
July 7, 2008
July 4, 2008
“Scalia did not like to vote that way,” he said, slipping into the third person, as he often does during comic riffs. “He does not like sandal-wearing bearded weirdos who go around burning flags. He is a very conservative fellow.”
Scalia would have loved to put the defendant [who I heard wore Doc Martins, actually] in jail, he said. It made him “furious” not to be able to. But “I was handcuffed — I couldn’t help it, that’s my understanding of the First Amendment. I can’t do the nasty things I’d like to do.” Other democracies still proscribe the expression of certain unpopular ideas, from race hatred to Holocaust denial to offensive speech about monarchs. The American concept of freedom, as Justice Scalia well expresses, responds to disfavored, even vile, expression with moral opprobrium alone, not the force of law. Those handcuffs must remain in place.
Bonus Free-Born Albertan Free Speech Moment:
The woman in the video later quit her job because of all the media. Good.
May 2, 2008
April 18, 2008
April 13, 2008
March 1, 2008
UPDATED with mp3s and a linke to the Mike Conley Family Memorial Fun.
Mike Conley – who I played in a band with in the early 90’s – died on Thursday in Chicago. In a tragic accident, he slipped and hit his head on the ice.
Try so hard to look away
From everything that I feel
Say goodbye to the american dream
Everything is what it seems
Come on tell me what it is you need
That sets you free
I see you standing so tall
See you run as I crawl
The Daily Pilot:
As the frontman for the Orange County hardcore punk band MIA, Michael Conley raged against war, racism and the isolation of modern life on stage alongside other legendary acts in the 1980s like the Dead Kennedys and Social Distortion.
Boredom is the Reason:
Not surprisingly, none of the obituaries have much to say about his later bands, like Jigsaw…
(That should give you an idea about how very hard he rocked.)
…or the band we were in together, Naked Soul.
We met at the record /crack pipe/coke cutting powder shop where I worked. Mike would hang out and talk about music. His bass player – Jeff Sewell – worked at the shop as well, and I used to go watch them play crappy-awesome covers across the street at Woody’s Warf. Later, they started take me on small tours with them, where we would debauch, or invite me to hang out with them when they recorded.We spent a lot of time together in 91/92 or so, talking about girls we loved who lived far away, and about music.
Once, when he dropped me off at my house he said to me “We’re buddies, huh?” He said it playfully, but its nakedness was unnerving. He wanted people around him who were sincere, and he wore his innocence and loneliness, as he sang, on his sleeve. (Naked Soul might be a dumb band name, but it was a pretty accurate description of him.)
(Naked Soul at Harbor High School, one of those Friday lunch shows for the kids. Before my time, I’m sitting in the front, between Adam and that cute girl in the purple flannel who went to shows – all four of those girls in the front were hot, but like 15. What happened to them? Along the wall in the back ground looking too cool for school are a bunch of old punk rock yahoos like Nate Shaw, John Klein, Nick Sjobeck, and Mike T. I’ll post a better picture when I figure out the scanner.)
I guess this is the time to say how important he was to my life. It’s hard to say; I never stopped admiring him, but it’s not something you go around telling people. I have known tons of musicians, and have had a lot of friends, better friends, but few who changed my life as much. Despite all his faults, he was magnetically charismatic, and inspiring. Not a hero once I got to know him – it didn’t take much to realize how perched on the edge of disaster he constantly was, and that he was likely to drag everyone over the edge with him – but I certainly looked up to him (even if it almost got me killed when we, say, drunkenly stopped to buy coke in a neighborhood like you can imagine). (This is after he got the band’s van hijacked – with all the gear and a sleeping drummer inside – when he, yes, stopped to buy coke. They lost the gear, but the drummer woke up and jumped out.)
But I especially loved the band, and I played their first demo cassette until the tape evaporated (it sounded like and better than those later Replacements records, but when Naked Soul put those songs on a CD, they were worse. The producer and the record company were hunting for the next Nirvana). I’d give anything to have a copy of that tape…
This song does well by those days:
And now we’re on the row
Heading for the same freak show
I’m out walking around
Catching all the stars on the ground
You and me, dizzy
Find a chair in the Frolic Room
One more glass and I’ll be doomed
Listen to “Live at Leeds”
Oh, It’s send me…
Wait and see,
We will be free, dizzy
Jesus on my radio
Got nowhere to go
Hang on to you
FallingI need a taste
Someone took my place
Looking for you
When Jeff quit, Mike asked me to join, even though he knew I was only barely competent on bass (he was like that, bringing people – like Jeff and me – under his wing even if they couldn’t cut it at first. He always wanted to help people.)
Lonley Me, Lonely You:
We did two tours of the US together, and if I wasn’t lucky enough to be touring the US as a member of one of my favorite bands, one of the tours was opening for my very favorite band at the time, Big Drill Car (who were ex members of Mike’s band MIA, who invited us on tour partly to give back to Mike some of what he gave them in MIA).
Nothing wears down a friendship like touring. We had a lot of fun, and a lot of dumb fights. We used to learn songs in the van, and then play them without even rehearsing them. That drove me to panic mode, because I could barely play the songs we’d rehearsed (and all the songs were easy). There was none of the normal money stress from touring – the record company bought us a fantastic van (we left it running with the air-con on at night in Florida, while Big Drill Car sweltered – ha) and they paid us decently – but the romantic notions I had about Mike became less simple as we slept in the same bed.
After that tour, we got dropped from our record label, and broke up. I worried about Mike, because he was so volatile and didn’t seem able to exist outside of music – he kind of new Naked Soul was his last shot to make a career out of music. But he did well, beyond anyone’s expectations, and raised an amazing family, and opened one of the best bars in Orange County. We didn’t see each other much over the last few years (I live far away) but everything I know says he was a fantastic father, boyfriend, and boss.
(Mike, sometime recently)
I’m going home to California in the summer, and one of the things I was most fantasizing about was going to see him at his bar, to talk and remember, but mostly, this time, I wanted to thank him. He gave so much inspiration so many opportunities to me, and expected – and got – nothing in return. I’m desperately sad. I’ll miss you, buddy.
(Mike and I somewhere on the road in Florida. We saw this graffiti out the window of the van the day Kurt Cobain died.)
He leaves behind a long time girlfriend, Syd, and three daughters, Alex, 18, a freshman and Division 1 soccer player at La Salle University (!); Zoe, 9, and Ava, 5. You can help with their education:
February 26, 2008
February 8, 2008
READ THIS! READ THIS! READ THIS! READ THIS!
The UNHRC mocks our greatest achievement, and, if it hears about it at all, the world shrugs.
Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s son, Ronan Farrow, is apparently a precocious super genius (I think he got into Yale Law School at 15). A human rights activist/editorialist for various national newspapers, he no doubt thinks Israel deserves a good talking too (as it does), but it doesn’t – amazingly – seem to be very high on his list of priorities (which it shouldn’t be).
Last week the U.N. Human Rights Council held an emergency session, organized by Arab and Muslim nations, to condemn Israel for its military actions in the Gaza strip. That the council is capable of swift and decisive action is a welcome surprise; that Israel remains the only nation to provoke such action is not. In the 17 months since its inception, the body has passed 13 condemnations, 12 of them against Israel.
That right, 13 resolutions, 12 against Israel, none against Zimbabwe, Syria, China, NORTH KOREA, Hamas, America even… take your pick.
The council replaced what was widely viewed as a cancer on the United Nations — an ineffectual “Commission on Human Rights” that also had a single-minded focus on Israel. According to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “the selectivity and politicizing of its activities [were] in danger of bringing the entire U.N. system into disrepute.”The removal of the diseased commission two years ago was heralded by U.N. officials as “the dawn of a new era.” Its replacement was designed to have stricter standards for membership, and rules to prevent politicized voting. But such safeguards were neutered by the time the new Human Rights Council was approved, and the results are that the council is no better than its predecessor.
I’ll quote myself, because there’s not much to add and nothing has changed:
“Forget what you think about Israel, for a moment. In during the 61st session of the General Assembly of the UN (2006/2007), while 22 anti-Israel resolutions were passed, none, not a single resolution, was passed on Sudan’s genocide in Darfur, to take just one example. This fanatical obsession with Israel allows hundreds of thousands to be slaughtered with impunity.
“In other words, while perhaps – maybe – hundreds of Palestinians were killed by Israel, and while tens of thousands were killed in Darfur, Israel received 22 times the condemnations while being responsible for 1,000 times less deaths, that is, if you could multiply by zero, the amount of condemnations against Sudan (nevermind the intentions of the Israelis compared with the intentions of the murderers in Darfur, or the guilt of the dead). The computations defy the brain.”
I challenge anyone who is concerned about geopolitics, or who is upset about human rights, to tell me why there is anything more pressing than this. Not because of Israel, but because we, the world, should be doing something about human rights.
A nearly-achieved universal consensus on human rights seems to me to be the greatest achievement of our species. Squandered, defiled, made a mockery of by the UNHRC, ignored and rationalized by the media and the liberals in the bar. (Yes, conservatives don’t care either, but despite it’s mixed past and mediocre present, I still expect more from the left.)
Not only are we not doing anything about human rights, nobody even knows this farce is taking place at the UN.Cheer for Hillel, be astounded by the response, and then start giving serious thought to Ron Paulian, Boltonesque solutions for the future of the UN:
THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. Tell me if I’m screwed up, or inaccurate, because I can’t believe it myself and never read about it in the paper or in blogs or anywhere. Let me know if I’m misunderstanding this travesty, because I’d be much more comfortable living in a world where the UN wasn’t this fucked.
Here are a couple of long essays. Read them when you’re not spending hours discussing the miniscule differences between Hillary and Obama, reading up on Neocohen shenanigans, or commenting that while you didn’t really agree with Loose Change, it sure made you think. This is something worth demonstrating about.
February 6, 2008
There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in,
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
A limerick of Robert Conquest’s, one of the few intellectuals to see through the Communist/Trotskyist romanticism, and one of the very few to call others out on their rationalizations and qualifications. His first book, not including poetry, was called “Common Sense About Russia,” a title that well reflects his long career (he’s now 90, and still writing).
“A few years ago Conquest said to me that the old distinctions between left and right had become irrelevant to him, adding very mildly that fools and knaves of all kinds needed to be opposed and that what was really needed was “a United Front Against Bullshit.” “
The book that should have completely overwhelmed left’s romanticizing of the Soviet Union (and Communism) was The Great Terror, but in 1968 the far left was happy to plug their ears, close their eyes and ballyhoo any totalitarian dictator that styled himself red and sang the praises of the wretched while devising their wretchedness.
When his publisher wanted an new title for the book after the fall of communism, Conquest suggested “The Great Terror: I Told You so You Fucking Fools.”Unfortunately, in a more humble moment he accepted “A Reassessment,” which was, after the Soviet archives were opened, more of a confirmation and vindication than a reassessment.
The book to read though is Reflections on a Ravaged Century.
Paul Berman – the man whose writing about “the Neanderthal remnants of the 30’s” got fool and knave Michael Moore canned from Mother Jones – updates the United Front to include Islamism and masterful prose in his primer on the ideas of death, “Terror and Liberalism.” The best non-fiction I’ve read:
Martin Amis exposes the suckers – particularly his best friend Hitchens – and praises Conquest – his father’s good friend – in Koba the Dread. This is a book written for anyone who flinched when I wrote the left romanticized Communism – they did, and do.
Bonus Conquest limerick:
First you get puking and mewling
Then very pissed off with your schooling
Then fucks and then fights
Then judging chaps’ rights
Then sitting in slippers–then drooling
A summary of the Seven Ages of Man…Pretty good, huh?
February 6, 2008
Daniel Dennett took on the grandees of philosophy while still a student at Harvard and Oxford, then turned to pioneering and controversial work on artificial intelligence, consciousness, and free will. With Richard Dawkins he has fought the ‘Darwin Wars’ and, when not sailing or farming, making cider, sculpting or playing jazz, is writing a new book opposing the rise of supernaturalism.
Dennett, from Secular Philosophy:
The West screwed up badly when the denunciation of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie was not closer to unanimous. (I will never forget or forgive the shameful silence of some writers who shunned the invitation to join in a firm but not hostile rebuke.) The West screwed up badly again when the Danish cartoons were not reprinted world-wide. What many didn’t understand was that the staged riots were a political strike against moderate Muslims, not non-Muslims. The “tolerance” urged by many voices outside the Muslim world played into the hands of the radical Islamists. Now we get a third chance to come to the aide of moderate Muslims all over the world, but so far, I haven’t heard much outcry. Several days ago I sent the following letter to the Boston Globe, which has not yet indicated that it will publish it:
The conviction and pending execution of an Afghani student, Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, for blasphemy is an appalling circumstance, but it offers an opportunity that we should all seize. The time has come for Muslims to step up to the plate and demonstrate that Islam is a great faith that has no need for violence or intimidation to maintain the loyalty of its congregation. And we outside Islam must make it crystal clear that we cannot respect or honor a religion that would consider blasphemy a capital crime, no matter how ancient the tradition from which this decision flowed. Muslims who support–or refrain from condemning–the conviction and sentence of Kambakhsh must be made to realize that they share responsibility for bringing dishonor to their cherished heritage, and if we non-Muslims do not speak out, we too must share in the blame. Friends don’t let friends commit, or condone, evil. The best way of showing our good will towards Islam is by helping it shed an indefensible aspect of its legacy. Every religion has much to atone for, but that is no reason to button our lips and tolerate fresh grounds for atonement.
There is no need, yet, for anger. Let us all just remind Muslims everywhere of what they must surely know: blasphemy is not a capital crime in any society worthy of respect. It is now up to Muslims to prevent some of their number from defiling their own precious culture.
Toxoplasma gondii in this video (신혜위해):
If you can endure Bill Moyers, this is even better:
I stil don’t get free will though. I don’t even understand the question.
February 4, 2008
The greatest summary of Bush’s war-type thing I’ve read. Some points he makes:
“Without the anthrax attacks, Bush probably would not have invaded Iraq.” I must say, that’s a new one. Read on, brothers and sisters, and he’ll convince you kinda.
“Cheney himself chose not to be vaccinated [for smallpox. You’ll get it in context].”
“Libby and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had long been interested in their friend Laurie Mylroie’s unified field theory of terrorism [if you don’t know who that nut case is, you don’t want to. Suffice it to say she’s the Chomsky of Neocons].”
“In another administration, there would have been various checks on this kind of collective delusion. A Kennedy, a Nixon, a Clinton, and a George H. W. Bush all would have considered evidence to some degree.” Ah, the days of Nixon.
“For the congenitally pessimistic vice president, transforming the political culture of the Middle East can’t have been more than a castle in the sky, a long-shot best-case scenario. But the vice president surely recognized that the grandiosity of the neocon vision of a new Arab world would resonate with the president.”
“Had he been someone capable of acknowledging error, Bush’s misjudgment in invading Iraq might have been mitigated by skillful improvisation.”
“He should have blocked, reversed, or at least understood the significance of Paul Bremer’s two first and most disastrous orders, to disband the Iraqi army and bar those with Ba’ath Party connections from serving in the government. (Bush later told author Robert Draper that disbanding the army wasn’t his policy, and that he wasn’t sure why it had happened.)” Oh, hi.
“This obstinacy has been evident in his personnel practices as well as policy choices. The more the media demanded Bush yield up a head—CIA Director George Tenet, Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—the longer that person was likely to be staying around.”
My favorite: “[In 2004 Bush Sr.] gave him a memo that Scowcroft had asked him to pass along about Iraq. The president glanced at it before throwing it aside, telling his dad, “I’m sick and tired of getting papers from Brent Scowcroft telling me what to do, and I never want to see another one again.” With that, 43 [said ‘boo hoo,’] stalked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.”
“It is hard to believe that anyone other than Bush and his speechwriters, who seemed increasingly to be making his foreign policy, thought about the issue of democracy promotion in such shallow, utopian terms. [More about that in a sec.] Within a year, no one in the administration other than Rice wanted to talk about the Freedom Agenda. This idea did the impossible: it caused Dick Cheney and the State Department bureaucracy to agree about something, namely that the president’s policy was a pipe dream. The dissonance between Bush’s message and his cavalier attitude toward civil liberties discredited him as a moral messenger.”
“The final irony of Bush’s foreign-policy crackup was the way it vindicated his father’s choices. Not “finishing the job” and taking ownership of Iraq in 1991 now looked like an act of wisdom. Not making a triumphal speech when the Berlin Wall came down appeared as shrewd management of a dicey situation, which advanced the practical cause of freedom more than a provocative speech would have. Appreciating the value of stability sounded like maturity. Avoiding needlessly bellicose rhetoric seemed like common sense. As the historian Timothy Naftali writes in his generally admiring 2007 biography of George H. W. Bush, “As the younger Bush’s own presidency limped to an end, many missed the elder Bush’s realism, his diplomacy, his political modesty, and, yes, even his prudence.” [It would have been prudent if you hadn’t voted for Nader.]
But read the whole thing. The first chapter’s on the NYTimes website, but it’s booooring. Just begat, begat, begat.
Kaplan in his new book follows up on the Utopian theme:
“Finally, the world might be a more peaceful place if every nation were free and democratic (or all alike in some other way). It’s merely utopian to believe that this someday might happen; it’s folly to base policies, as Bush did in his second term, on the premise that this utopia is imminent.”
“There is no Universal Man marching inexorably down a common path to freedom.”
Justin Sullivan has the last word, in Purity, the song in the far right sidebar, and here:
Across the flatlands
We came out of nowhere special
Like a peasant revolution –
Makeshift weapons in our hands
We crashed the gates so hard
We’d never heard that kind of sound before
And braced ourselves for victory
And the spoils of the land
Defences melt away
Before our frozen blank surprise
From the palace now we stare
Into a million waiting eyes
Oh, in case you thought this post would be devoid of Jew content, here’s the first comment on the Newsweek website. A perfectly common example of the comments – particularly the incomprehensibility – you will find in almost any politics post on the internet:
“Besides the attack on Iraq being a Bush War with Cheney in control, I’d say that for a great part it was the notion of putting Israel ahead of our own country with manipulations by Wolfowitz, Perle, Libby, Hadley, Kristol [Ah! All Jews! Run for the hills! Hide your daughters! Wait, he forgot Weisberg!] and all the others who signed that first letter to Bill Clinton about attacking Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein.
Later this guy chimes in. Watch how he goes from making some kinda reasonable statements, to totally nuts when he decides to talk about “Zionist Jews,” back to sanity:
“What an appalling indictment of this sad excuse for a leader of men, a President of our poor Republic. The story appears to be done with some sympathy for the man if not the peoples he has destroyed, the nation that is in shambles, a world facing its greatest crisis with opposition rather than leadership from America.
“It is equally appalling that so many GOP leaders have been equally poor enablers of this corruption. The failure of the news media, the rise of Fox propaganda outlets, the implementation of American Fascism have flowed from George, adding to the misery of America and the world. Of course the acceptance by George of the Zionist propaganda and his exuberant support of their illegal, immoral, and deadly practices both in their “nation” [because it’s only hypothetically a nation, or perhaps a provisional one], within the “occupied” [are they not occupied?] territories, and especially their invasions of neighboring states by the Zionist Jews in Palestine have made a mockery of George’s grandiose schemes.
“It is a shameful indictment of the peoples of America that such a shallow, ill-prepared, and incompetent man could be elected and reelected to be our leader. It continues to be an indictment of the once respectable Republican party that the current crop of aspirants are no better than George in more than one case are much worse!”
YAO-MAN FOR PRESIDENT!
February 4, 2008
For you, elite unit man Kobi Mor! Well done.
A picture of three things you won’t find on a beach in Palestine: equal rights for women (imagine this: the only women allowed to serve in any military capacity are the female suicide murderers), alcohol (one “journalist” complained that he didn’t want to go to Gaza after the Hamas takeover not because it was dangerous, but because you could no longer get a drink there), and hints of lesbianism (the biggest suckers in the world have got to be Queers For Palestine).
January 29, 2008
Obama says “change” so much it makes you remember the suckering they got by “accountability” back in 2000 — and he’s stinky in the morning too. Hillary’s got ambition dripping down her cheeks, and she’s probably one of those lesbians. McCain went and warned them in song, and never tried to escape either.
So, after much soul searching, I endorse Yau-man Chang.
The dude could bedroom-eyes Sayyid Qutb into an alliance and turn him into a culturally sensitive softie faster than you can say “The person who is voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council Area immediately.”
We need him, not only because of the alliances he’ll build for our great and free nation, but because ultimately there’s no challenge the Yau-man couldn’t overcome: Israel/Palestine? Please. Give the man an afternoon, a bow and arrow, some ball bearings, a bottle of WD40, and a wooden box with no hinges, key or lid, and he’ll get it done.
Is he generous and honest? Check. Does he hold a grudge? Negative. Does he care about the wretched of the earth? You bet he does. Is he a doer? Yep. A complainer? Not likely. Does he want change? You’d be wise to believe he does (but he doesn’t yap about it: Yau-man lives Change. ) Can he solve Iraq? Come on people: did he not open a box with no hinges, keys, or lid when no one else could?
The voting starts Feb 7th. It’s his world, and we just live in it. The time has come for him to lead us: rock the vote, kids.
January 27, 2008
Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton so badly in South Carolina it may spawn some new kind of Southern colloquialism. When Clemson spanks an opponent by five touchdowns it will be called an Obama. Fans will taunt the losing team as they walk off the field by making an “O” against their foreheads.