lunes, 28 de febrero de 2011

Giving Bush a Kind of Credit for Lebanese Freedom

A Lebanonese blogger gives a wonderful perspective on the Cedar Revolution and its friend—George W. Bush:
Bush had nothing to do with the impetus for our protests in Lebanon.

He was the reason we went to bed afterward.

This quote is tremendous because it gets it right. Bush didn't create the desire for democracy in Lebanon. His policies and his actions just give Lebanese people the hope that Syria couldn't kill them all.

Let's be honest. We turned a blind eye toward the occupation of Lebanon for decades. I'm glad that we finally have a leader in America that can give them the encouragement they need to fight for their country, their sovereignty, and their freedom.

I hope one day that I can visit places like Lebanon and Iraq, walk the streets as an American and see a country and a people in charge of their destinies and grateful to be alive and hopeful for their futures. Too much of the Middle East is mired in misery and unhappiness and anger—and they don't need to be. They must realize that demonizing America doesn't make their miseries disappear.

In many ways, the Middle East is like a large segment of America's underclasses—content to blame the rich for their own failures, angry because of perceived wrongs, unable to take responsibility for their own lives. It's so much easier to blame everybody else.

jueves, 26 de mayo de 2005

The Filibuster Deal from Hell: A Lose, Lose, Lose, Lose Situation

Conventional wisdom, I suppose, says that the Republicans got the short end of the stick in the recent compromise on judicial filibusters. For my part, I think everybody loses from almost every conceivable angle.

The losses for the Republicans are numerous and costly, indeed: . . . credibility down the crapper . . . further disillusionment of base . . . makes their majority status seem an irrelevancy . . . giving Democrats essentially carte blanche to fillibuster away now during Supreme Court nominations . . . on and on, blah, blah blah.

Less attention has been paid to what the Democrats have lost--and it might not be what everyone has already conceded. It's credibility. By conceding to this "deal" to reserve the right to filibuster the most extreme candidates, they have, in fact, tipped their hands that the slot of judges so far nominated have not, in reality, been extreme at all.

The gig is up: they've been lying. These guys haven't been extreme. If they were extreme, they still be holding on to their right to filibuster them. The very fact that they've reserved a space for more "extreme" nominees reveals the depth of their deception about the current slate of judges: for years now, they've been saying that the likes of Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Miguel Estrada, and David Pryor represent extreme, out-of-the-mainstream judicial philosophies (as if the increasingly minority viewpoints of the Democratic Party has any notion of what is mainstream in American--if it did--they'd be the friggin' majority).

Now that lie is exposed as what it is: a desperate attempt by a political party to cling on to its last vestige of unchecked power—the judicial branch (the only area in which they still maintain a majority).

The problem is: the traditional liberal media will never call them on it and the alternative, conservative media is too angry and wrapped up in hating the wussy Republicans. So I guess the Democrats win even by losing.

Sometimes I feel like w2e conservative voters are like the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox, forever in the hunt for the big prize but never able to pull it off. Call it the Curse of the McCain.

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2005

Insane Troll Logic Meets Sith Logic: Thoughts on Star Wars and the Politics of Absolutism

OK, I didn't see Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith. But I'm already sick of hearing all about how it's an unflattering political allegory for the Bush Administration.

Full disclosure: generally I don't care two whits about the political leanings of artists and their subtle inclusion of political messages in their works. If it's overbearing, that's one thing. But if extremely good anyway or if the politics doesn't scream at you, I'm OK with it. For example, I'm a HUGE Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, yet its creator, Joss Whedon, is apparently an obnoxious, pointy-headed liberal. Doesn't matter in the least to me—if fact, I interpret Buffy in many ways as supporting my evil conservative ideas—SO THERE.

But back to Lucas and his so-called political allegory in the final SW project. Much of the hullabuloo surrounds the following statement : "only a Sith thinks in absolutes." Apparently, many people see this as a dig at our beloved President Bush and his simplistic tendency to see the world in stark terms of good and evil.

Now there's a big problem to me with seeing this as a slam on Bush:

Instapundit points the problem out nicely—"The political angle is way overblown. In fact, the Kenobi 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes' line is deeply ironic, since immediately afterward Anakin/Vader plays the moral relativism card, responding that while Obi-Wan may think Palpatine is evil, that's all a matter of opinion: From his point of view the Jedi are evil. The NYT editorial board couldn't have done it better!"

I don't know whether this irony was purposeful or not (I don't have the highest regard for Lucas's intellect and self-awareness), but it nonetheless gets at a profound truth. (I'll wait a moment so that you can retreive a writing utensil and write the profound truth I'm about to tell you down so that you can pass it on to posterity.)

"Everyone is an absolutist, except when there're not."

Yep, that's it. I'll expand on my brilliant insight: "When we're sure about something, we're sure about it. When unclear about something, we're unclear." (Do you need a moment to soak this profundity in?")

Remember when his majesty Gov. Mario Cuomo remarked that liberals don't do well in talk radio because they think in too nuanced terms, they see things in all their complexity, while we conservatives see it in childish black and white, good and evil terms that connect with angry talk radio listeners. Um, OK, condescending much?

Beyond that, dishonest much, Mario? Shall we run down the list of issues on which liberals can't see that there's any nuance, any complexity?—abortion, taxing the rich, school lunches, school vouchers, evil Republicans. Can anyone really say that Howard Dean, for example, sees nuance when he says on Sunday's Meet the Press that he didn't want people with flaws criticizing other people's morals? So, you're either perfect or shut up, eh, Howard?

And, on the other side, conservatives have plenty of areas on which we're plenty conflicted about and see in relativistic terms. I've yet to hear a Christian effectively defend the death penalty in anything but relative terms. Plenty of conservtives play the electoral politics game—well, it's wrong, but the voters support it, so fuck it—that's relativism at its finest/worst.

And even the President doesn't see the world in absolutes, really. If he did, the whole Middle East would be leveled right now. But, he obviously sees the value and necessity of different approaches for different situations. Remember how the liberals screamed "what about North Korea" when we invaded Iraq, the argument being that if you invade one country over a set of issues, then any other country with those same issues must be treated the same way.

Who was thinking in absolutes there? Certainly not Bush, who factored in a lot of complexities into decided on a case by case basis how you handle foreign countries.

So, whether or not Lucas intended to call out Bush's "absolutism" is irrelevent—we're absolutists (except when we're relstivists, that is) and I say that absolutely.

Christianity Is Hard: Just Ask Howard Dean

My father, an avowed atheist, has said more than once to me that he envies my ability to accept the easy answers religion offers and curses the dastardly realism with which he is cursed. Now I love my Pappa, flaws and all, but to him and others that think the same as he does, I have one thing to say: Easy? Heh. I wish.

Being Christian is a big pain in the ass, especially when you are trying to be good at it. There are hardly "easy" answers. Everywhere you look in that rather large book called The Bible are more questions than answers. And even when there are occasional "easy" answers, there're really, really, really hard to live by. I mean, come on—no "coveting"? Yud. Kinda hard.

But figuring out what exactly God wants from us is sometimes maddening. Case in point: Howard Dean. Now Howard seems, on the one hand, to have take the injunction "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" to heart, as evidenced from his appearance Sunday on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. Witness this exchange:
MR. RUSSERT: But is it appropriate for a physician to mock somebody who has gone into therapy and the abuse for drug addiction?

DR. DEAN: Here's the point I was trying . . The problem is it is galling to Democrats, 48 percent of us who did not support the president, it is galling to be lectured to about moral values by folks who have their own problems. Hypocrisy is a value that I think has been embraced by the Republican Party. We get lectured by people all day long about moral values by people who have their own moral shortcomings. I don't think we ought to give a whole lot of lectures to people--I think the Bible says something to the effect that be careful when you talk about the shortcomings of somebody else when you haven't removed the moat from your own eye. And I don't think we ought to be lectured to by Republicans who have got all these problems themselves.

Rush Limbaugh has made a career of belittling other people and making jokes about President Clinton, about Mrs. Clinton and others. I don't think he's in any position to do that, nor do I think Bill O'Reilly is in a position to abuse families of survivors of 9/11, given his own ethical shortcomings. Everybody has ethical shortcomings. We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings.

MR. RUSSERT: But should you jump in the fray and be mocking those kind of people?

DR. DEAN: I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy.

I am the only one that see the farce going on here. Howie hates to be lectured to or ridiculed by people that have their own shortcomings—so what does it do? Lectures to and ridicules people. Is Howard suggesting that he doesn't have his own shortcomings? That he himself is infallible while all conservatives are pigs rolling in their own moral shit while saying they don't stink?

There are so many fallacies to Dean's statements—it's all rather dizzying.

(1) Technically, everyone is a hypocrite, except Christ, since everyone has sinned and yet holds others responsible for their sins and crimes. Actually, there is one other kind of non-hypocrite: the person that makes no judgments whatsoever about anyone else's misdeeds at all. But, find me that person. Sure, there are egregious hypocrites and everyday hypocrites and which kind Rush is must be determined on an individual basis.

But, let's be clear about what happened here. Rush didn't decide on his own to experiment with drugs because he wanted to be high. He had major back surgery, was prescribed legal pain killers, and then became addicted to them. Isn't there some moral distinction between seeking addiction and addiction seeking you? I think there is. That's not to say that Rush didn't do something wrong, but that the initial addiction was not of his choosing.

(2) Even so, how does the fact that Rush is addicted to pain killers make him ineligible to ever make fun of peoples' foibles that have NOTHING to do with drug use (legal or otherwise)? So, if you have any sins whatsoever—however unrelated to what you're critiquing—you lose the right to make that critique at all. Again, wouldn't that turn around on Howard Dean and make what he's doing wrong under that standard. Or, again, is Howard without sin?

(3) Is that really what's meant by "not casting the first stone"—or as Dean rephrases it—"Everybody has ethical shortcomings. We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings." That makes the kind of sense that doesn't. If everybody has shortcomings then we shouldn't lecture each other about our shortcomings? Is that what Jesus meant?

Again, trying to understand how far to take injunctions like "thou shalt not kill," "turn the other cheek," and "don't cast the first stone," is the stuff that tries a Christian's soul. Certainly Jesus didn't want us to let our husband beat us up, right? So, there's certainly a lot of difficult interpretations to make there. But, did Jesus really want a judgment-free world? Is that even possible or desirable in any way?

The very testamony of Howard Dean on Meet the Press proves that that isn't possible. We are born with the faculty of judgment, discernment. Just as Dean couldn't resist bringing on the nasty against the people whose values he hates—so too is it impossible for even the best practicing Christian not to call out behavior he/she thinks wrong.

So what does it mean not to throw stones when one is beset by one's own sins? My belief is that it means: behave humanely, not like an animal or a barbarian. Remember that the sinner deserves to treated humanely, as you would want to be treated if your sins were known to the world. It is also a reminder to keep sins in perspective—that the sins we all commit shouldn't be punished as harshly as the sins committed by the more deeply depraved.

Easy answers? No. But Howard Dean makes his own rules up entirely.

PS. I see nothing in the scriptures telling people to leave their church if there's a dispute over a bike path.

martes, 24 de mayo de 2005

Short Respite from Blogging Due to Health Concerns Now Over

A few readers have kindly inquired where I've been the last two weeks and to that I answer: under the weather. I believe I'm well on the mend now and able to resume my pontificating. I mean, the world may cease to function without my wisdom, right?