Wednesday, January 28, 2004
My Respect For The Guardian Rises...

...albeit a little late. This is really old news (about 6 months, to be exact), but as it has only just come to my attention, I feel a need to comment on it.

I've stated before that I do not enjoy the Guardian. This feeling is a matter of bias-preference and a distaste for rather loony (for lack of a better word) commentary. But I do admit, freely, that the paper has taken appropriate steps to correct its own record in the past. It has performed much more professionally than certain elements of its partisan ally the BBC.

I say 'certain elements,' because it is clear that not all members of that state news organization lack the ability to recognize the proper action to take in response to fault. Here's hoping the BBC will echo the Guardian's past record on self-correction.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Why Europe Is Doomed...Again

This is quite possibly the most upfront anyone has ever been about the nature of the thinkers behind the European Union.

In her new book, Danish Liberal EU spokesperson Charlotte Antonsen questions the use of referenda as a useful way to build up European democracy.

The book - "Towards the European Constitution" warns that the EU could fall apart if the Danish practise of consulting the people in referenda over important EU treaties is copied by other member states.

"Referenda have a very conservative effect on development. If the other countries copy us, the EU will fall apart", she writes.

Mrs Antonsen, a member of the Danish Parliament for the ruling Liberal party, argues that representative democracy is just as democratic as referenda.

"Referenda are in fact pure gambling. There is no guarantee of a positive outcome, unfortunately".
Now, I'm not really a fan of referenda in general - as a tool it seems too unwieldy, and would come in a distant second to representative government - but Good Lord! This is a blatant dismissal of the democratic system! I refer you to USS Clueless [emphasis in original]:
Think about what she's saying here. These questions are far too important to trust to the voters to decide. We cannot do what we need if we consult them in order to find out what they really want.

"There's no guarantee of a positive outcome." You should never hold a referendum unless you can be sure ahead of time that it will result in approval.

You should not consult the people and actually let them decide because they choose the wrong answer.
Pardon me while I adjust my tote board on European Union intellectuals.
Well, THAT Was Disappointing...

So I'm headed down to campus yesterday evening. It usually takes twenty minutes or so (depending on where I'm going) to get to class, and it was snowing like I've rarely seen, so I allowed a full hour to get to the lecture. Turns out, I needn't have bothered, as it still only took me upwards of twenty minutes to arrive, even in what I was told later were 'blizzard-like conditions.' (That was probably an exaggeration by my informant, but I'll milk it for all its worth).

So I'm in the class room, one of a number of students waiting for the professor to arrive. As I'm rather early (I blame the too-prompt TTC), I pull out my latest novel for my Canadian lit class and begin to read. It's rather absorbing, and before I know it, it's 7:15. Class begins at 7:10. No professor. Well, it is snowing pretty badly out there. Give him a few more minutes.

As it approaches 7:20, the rest of the students start to get antsy, and a general conversation breaks out - "What's going on?" "Where is he?" "Is the snow that bad?" "Should we wait?" During this confusion, it comes out that the Prof. has said before that he only lives a five minute walk away from the building. There must be something wrong - perhaps he's sick? Something happened?

Half of the half-filled room starts packing up to head out, the other half giving the Professor the benefit of the doubt and waiting until 7:30. 7:30 arrives, and the quarter-full room collectively groans. No Prof, no class. Griping ensues, as the rest of us pack up to head home.

When I arrive, I discover that everyone else in my house knew that there were no classes this afternoon - the decision was made three hours before I left. "So let me get this straight - even though a majority of the class was able to get to the lecture room, and even though the TTC was still running, they cancelled class anyway? If we were all able to get there, why couldn't everyone else?"

Ah well...at least I got some reading done.

Monday, January 26, 2004
A Wealth Of Additions

Just a brief note to let everyone know - the 'link list' (on the right) has been thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded. Thanks to Blogger's new Atom software technology, I now have a site feed that is compatible with quite a few NewsReader applications (for those of you in the know, it is not RSS, but is supposed to be compatible). I've also added links to past musings I've had on varying subjects, now easily available for your perusal.

Further, I've added a Friends & Family section to my BlogRoll, and skimmed and trimmed the list to reflect that. Archives are now located at the bottom of the column, and I'm currently researching a 'search' feature for the site. That may take a bit, as I can't devote a lot of time to it just yet. Stay tuned for further developments.

A Brief Post On A Complicated Topic

Several of my friends have asked me why I believe Same-Sex Marriage would be detrimental to marriage in general, and I'll try and more exhaustively detail my responses a bit later (when I have more time); but I just came across (thanks to The Corner) an example of a post-SSM region that exemplifies the direction I believe SSM will take us [emphasis in original]:

Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern--including gay marriage--is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.

More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.
Aside from any religious viewpoints, my opposition to the establishment of SSM has always been based in two areas: the issue of parenthood (addressed by the article), and the issue of top-down imposition of law (legislation handed down by a panel of unelected judges, rather than drafted and voted upon by the elected representatives of the people).

More will come later, but for now, read the whole thing.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Allow Me To Elaborate

Well folks, I've now got my first spin-off blog! My brother Evan, who has posted here on occasion, now has his own blog, The Raging Silence:

I've decided to make my own blog. I have created this blog because a few people have told me they would like to read something more from me, and my brother (the transplanted Texan) posts so much on his site, that my posts are overshadowed. My style is also different from my brother's therefore making it difficult for people to read especially when my posts are very far off topic. While I will most likely still post every now and then on his blog, I will do most of my blogging here for my own enjoyment.

I hope that anyone who reads this blog will enjoy it, but keep in mind that I am not as politically minded as my brother, and my posts will, perhaps, be more of the humorous variety.
Go, read, and enjoy!
Just a test

Howdy I hope this thing works right: The Raging Silence. If it does that'll be great.

[It did work, for the most part, but I touched it up to straighten out a few formatting errors -- Ed.]

Well, Whaddya Know!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of my best friends. He's just recently entered the Blogging world, and is getting his feet wet in the new medium, so do him a favor and give him a few hits.

I'm fascinated by his style - nearly stream-of-consciousness, and just about poetic. Very cool. They say that if you want to better know a person, you must see to whom it is that they relate. So if you're interested in knowing me, getting to know Aaron is gonna be helpful, and vice versa.

In other news, look for the sidebar on the right to contain a new section of links soon - not to other blogs, but to my own. I've been having conversations in the 'real world' of late that touch on things I've discussed here, but because those posts are only in the archives (and not available upon first sight, or without heavy searching), the points have to be reiterated. Thus, to makes things a bit easier, I'm going to add a 'Thought' section in which I'll keep posts that I hope to cite again in the future. Look for it in the next few days.

Thursday, January 22, 2004
Updated Information

While the shells found by the Danes came up negative, the search continues.

Tony Blair says there is "absolutely no doubt" weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

He said investigations are still under way and that the search hadn't been downgraded.
And now, yet more news on the 9/11 front as regards a possible conspiracy (though not the one for which the CTs were hoping):
On what had been the eve of his widely expected acquittal, the trial of the second person charged by German authorities as an accomplice of the Sept. 11 hijackers was thrown into turmoil Wednesday after prosecutors disclosed the existence of a surprise witness purporting to link Iran to the hijackings.

The mysterious witness, who goes by the name Hamid Reza Zakeri and claims to have been a longtime member of the Iranian intelligence service, is said to have told German investigators that the Sept. 11 plot represented what one termed a 'joint venture' between the terrorist group al-Qaida and the Iranian government.
More details as they develop.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Americans & Canadians

A friend of mine has written a bit on his reactions to my post which referenced Bill Whittle's long piece about guns. Jason is a Canadian who spent some time in America, living and working, and has a better perspective on the differences between our two countries, being a bit removed from his own experiences. He notes that:

When I got back to Canada, and people asked me about my five years in the United States, it was so hard to describe! I told them that I liked the US better, that I missed it there... that things were different, that I started out being so nauseatingly pro-Canadian (read anti-American) that I even sickened myself, but eventually started to see things differently. I couldn't quite explain it.

All I could say was this: it's a DIFFERENT kind of freedom.

We might not even be free here in Canada. Sometimes it feels like I have to be sneaky to get away with it. Like I'm breaking rules to be free. We're so about rules here.
I think it's time to clear some air about a few things I've noticed while here in Canada. Southern Ontario is the political equivalent to New York City, or Southern California. It is rather Liberal politically, and the country as a whole leans further to the Left than the United States does.

However, this does not mean that everyone here thinks this way. Though this should be a rather obvious fact, I find that too often the only side that gets any play in the media is the government's opposition to American policies, and the rather muted anti-American feeling that covers so much of the nation.

In fact, I've had quite a few comments given to me that flow against that 'overwhelming Canadian feeling.' I've met several people who feel similarly about several of the issues I've addressed here. And not only that, I've had a good friend recommend me to others as required reading. [That's a compliment beyond words, and I thank you.] Let it be known, here and now, that there are Canadians who stand with Americans, even though their government may not. Even though all of their friends may not.

It's an encouraging thing to me, a heartwarming display, and I thank my Canadian friends for it.

[NOTE: This is not to say that my Canadian friends have expressed dislike for their own country - not at all. I wouldn't dream of implying that. They are proud of their nation, what it is and what it could be; and they want to fix what problems it has - and I say good for them! Go to it!

Too often it is assumed that because a person expresses an affection for something, they are implying a disaffection for something else; and in a few cases, this holds. But not in the majority of cases - I can like the color blue while still enjoying the color red, after all. It's not always an either/or proposition. A person can like Canada and the United States at the same time, without decreasing their affection for either.]
Never Thought I'd Say This...

...but bravo, President Clinton:

I NEVER thought I'd give Bill Clinton a standing ovation. But last week in Qatar I did just that.

Our former president gave the most perfectly pitched, precisely targeted speech I've ever heard to a hall filled with Muslim intellectuals and officials. And they listened.
Further, he provides a wonderful example (another statement I thought I'd never make) for Americans who go abroad to speak ill of our nation's leadership:
Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience.
I'm...well, I'm amazed, and a bit humbled. I tip my hat to you, sir.
French Corruption

Yesterday, I updated a post on the struggle to integrate Muslim populations into French society with a link to Prospect Magazine's article on corruption among the French elite. Now, thanks to James Taranto (Best Of The Web Today), I have an example:

[Syrian dissident Nizar] Nayouf was granted political asylum in France in July 2002 and fully expected his vocal opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime to be welcomed by his new hosts. After all, it was former French prime minister Lionel Jospin who, in 2001, urged Assad to release Nayouf so he could receive proper medical attention in France.

Assad, eager to strengthen Syria's European ties, quickly consented. But after a promising start, Nayouf's French experience quickly turned sour.
Despite repeated requests by Nayouf during the last 18 months, the French government has refused to grant him access to official documents that would allow him to travel freely and continue his human rights work. Moreover, upon asking French authorities last month for the political refugee passport he was legally granted in 2002 (and is due to him by French law), Nayouf was denied yet again and told, much to his surprise, that he 'already had' a Syrian passport.

Agnes Vondermull, an official at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, said last month that Nayouf had been asked to turn his Syrian passport over to French authorities in 2002 but refused to do so. But Vondermull admitted that a refugee does not need such a passport to begin with, and that the two issues should not be connected.

In any case, Nayouf has an official document issued by French police stating that his Syrian passport has been missing since December 2002. It would appear, then, that there must be another reason behind Nayouf's bureaucratic nightmare.
Is this merely a case of bureaucratic bungling? Or is something more sinister at work here?
As a result, Nayouf remains confined to Paris, denied permission to attend Syrian human rights conferences, where he has often been invited as a featured speaker. Most recently he was unable to attend a November conference of Syrian democracy advocates in Washington, D.C. that spawned a fledgling Syrian Democratic Coalition led by the Syrian-born Farid Ghadry.

Nayouf says he was "advised" by French police not to attend the conference and speak out against the Ba'ath Party. According to Basheer Bakr, a journalist from the newspaper Al-Hayat, a senior French official confirmed that his government did not want Nayouf participating in the conference.

....................

Nayouf's case, following the vociferous French opposition to the American operation in Iraq, raises concerns about France's close relations with Middle Eastern dictatorships. Vongermull assured us that France is unwavering in its support of freedom and will be the last country to stop Nayouf, or any other activist, from continuing their pro-democracy work. But until the French government shows an inclination to put Vongermull's words into practice, questions will remain.
I'm beginning to slip over to the side of thinkers like Steven den Beste, as regards France [this excerpt does not address the current story, but demonstrates Mr. den Beste's position]:
[T]here's no reason to assume that nations which had previously been seen as friends will remain friends, or that former enemies will remain enemies. Some will, some will not. Russia was an ally in WWII and an opponent in the Cold War, and is now an opponent. France was an ally in WWII, but was conquered before the US entered the war. The Free French were allies after that. Now France is an enemy, for all intents and purposes.
Monday, January 19, 2004
Japan The Honorable

Steven den Beste says that we haven't given enough credit to a faithful ally:

The Japanese don't have anything like the same kinds of "issues" about the US as "old" Europeans. There was never any question of Japan offering military support for the invasion, of course, but in all the ways that Japan could help, they have done so. On the level of diplomacy they've been strong and reliable supporters, and Japan has been extremely generous monetarily. And now the Japanese have taken the unprecedented step of sending troops to Iraq.

And it isn't a token commitment, either.
The 1,000-strong Japanese contingent, expected to arrive in Iraq by March, will help purify local water supplies, rebuild schools and provide medical care in the country's south. They will carry arms for self-protection but their role will be noncombatant.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has delivered a speech to his Parliament on the issue:
"We won't have fulfilled our responsibility as a member of the international community if we contribute materially and leave the manpower contribution up to other countries because of the possible dangers involved," Koizumi said.

"Japan's development and prosperity depends on world peace and stability. We will aggressively contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq."
Bravo, Minister Koizumi-san. Domo arigatou gozaimasu.
Crazy Wesley?

Steyn warns Democrats away from Wesley Clark:

Howard Dean is a sane man pretending to be crazy. Whereas General Clark gives every indication of a crazy man pretending to be sane.

....................

What do Clark's goofs reveal? For example, the bizarre claim he made after 9/11 that ''people around the White House'' had called him on the day to tell him to go on TV and connect the attack to Saddam Hussein. As the weeks went by, he modified the story, until it emerged that it wasn't ''people,'' just one fellow; and he didn't call on 9/11, but afterward, and he wasn't from the White House at all but from some think tank in Montreal, which from the look of the map isn't even in the District of Columbia. And the fellow from Montreal said true -- he had called General Clark -- but they hadn't talked about Saddam at all.

Clark was sold to the Democratic Party as a military man of peaceful manner: Generals are from Mars, but this one's from Venus. But there's a common theme to every glimpse of the real Clark, whether it's his own private fantasies about the White House calling him on 9/11 or memories of those who served with him, like the British general who refused an order by Clark to launch an insane attack on Russian forces in Kosovo: At best, he's a thin-skinned, vain, insecure man with a need to insert himself at the center of every story; at worst, he's a paranoid megalomaniac narcissist.
Read the whole thing.
Hilarious!

This you've just gotta see. I can't stop laughing - it's great!

It Begins...? [UPDATED]

A few months ago, I touched upon the threat of fundamental Islam taking over in Europe. Well call me crazy, but it looks like this is where it begins.

France's drive to better integrate its five million Muslims looked shaken on Monday after a weekend of protests against a looming ban on Islamic veils and a bomb attack on the car of a senior public official of Muslim origin.

The veiled schoolgirls chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) in marches across France and the bomb that destroyed the car of the newly appointed prefect for the eastern Jura area have cast doubt over the policy of winning support among moderate Muslims.
My personal feelings (echoed here) on the French ban of 'religious symbols' are strongly negative - if France wants to better integrate its Muslim populations, it needs to find a better way - but the point in the story that most concerns me is the fact that violence and bombings have already started. This does not bode well.

UPDATE
Given the French elite's penchant for corruption, I think the attempts at integration are being made by the worst possible representatives.
The Virtues Of Hamas

David Frum has more on the Palestinian mother of two toddlers who became a suicide bomber on Wednesday:

Last week's speculation about the motives of Hamas' first female suicide-bomber turned out not to be so speculative after all. According to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Reem Al-Reyashi was forced to detonate herself by her family after her husband discovered her in an extramarital affair.
The source he cites is a Jerusalem Post article following up on the attack. I echo Mr. Frum in his comment:
Can we please, please, please now retire the often-heard line that Western societies have something to learn from the simple, heartfelt faith of the Islamic extremists?
I'm flabbergasted at the fact that the woman's relatives are more upset that she is accused of having an extra-marital affair than the fact that she is now dead. They actually rejoice in her death, and the fact that it killed four men (injuring several others). Whatever their religious affiliation, they remain human beings - how can this be their response?

While her relatives do deny coercing and forcing her to commit the bombing, the following must be taken into account when weighing their comments [emphasis added]:
Awad said that he was proud of his wife, who "identified with the suffering of the Palestinians and felt pain when she watched the Zionist occupation crimes and massacres against the Palestinian people." He also described her as a devout Muslim and a good mother.

....................

Another brother, Seif, denied rumors in Gaza City that that the family had "disowned" his sister because she had been unfaithful to her husband. Some journalists in Gaza City said Rayashi and her husband had been involved in a bitter dispute, the nature of which remains unclear. Some of them quoted the husband as saying that he had recently considered divorcing his wife.
This has only cemented in my mind that Hamas is beneath contempt - they are wallowing in evil. It's enough to make one despair of ever attaining peace.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
More On Gun Control [UPDATED]

WARNING!

The following link is a compilation of discussion about American attitudes toward guns, and why they are so important. It is LONG. This conversation dates back to before Mr. Bill Whittle had his own blog (one I have recently discovered - it complements Mr. den Beste's site brilliantly), and was limited to holding discussions on Rachel Lucas' weblog.

Even though the entry is long, I highly recommend it to those of you desiring a deeper understanding of the American psyche - who we are, why we act the way we do, and why it's a good thing that we do. For those of you who are already familiar with these concepts, it makes for a good refresher course.

Anyway, without further ado: Guns and Freedom.

UPDATE
Mr. Whittle has chronicled and expanded upon those comments on his own site. Again, it's long, but worth it - I'm tempted to make it required reading]

[HatTip to the Peeve Farm archives.]
Headline Bias?

You tell me.

First Headline: "Bush Iraq war advisors advise cutting military ties to France."

Updated Headline: "Bush Iraq war advisors launch tirade against France."

Story Content: The same.

Story Provider: The same

An edit in which slant was added? Absolutely.

[HatTip to Steven Den Beste]

Changing Minds...

Screenwriter Diana Wagman's position on firearms has been slightly modified, as she records in the L.A. Times:

Guns are bad. All my life, it's been that simple. At my son's preschool, if a child pointed a banana and said "bang," he was admonished to "use the banana in a happier way." As far as I was concerned, the 2nd Amendment gave us the right to protect ourselves against invading armies, not the right to buy a gun and keep it under our beds.

So what would make someone like me change my mind? I met this gun enthusiast. As research for my new novel, I asked him many questions, all the while voicing my disgust. My character might use a gun, but I never would. "Come to the range," the gun guy said. "I'll teach you to shoot."

....................

I have to admit: I loved it. I had a fantastic time. The power of that gun for me, a 5-foot, 3-inch woman, was immediately, shockingly seductive. The thrill when I hit the bull's-eye (once) was as great as making a perfect tennis shot. I felt like I was playing a careful game of darts in a small, alcohol-free bar.

....................

I no longer was so sure. I did some research - there are countless testimonials about guns saving someone's life. I looked into shooting as a sport. I spoke to a woman who had found a wounded deer and shot it, ending its agony. I changed my mind: Guns aren't bad.

Which leaves gun violence. At least in California, we don't need more laws ã we just need to enforce the ones we have. What else?

The answer has to be education: teaching people to deal with anger, to solve problems, offering them brighter futures, but also Gun 101.
See, fellow Texans? It is possible to change their minds!

[HatTip to Alphecca by way of InstaPundit]
My Scrabble Score!

I enjoy a good game every so often, and it's nice to know I rate so highly, but honestly, I've just been introduced to a game that puts all others to shame.

Ah, well - Carcassonne isn't available as an online scoring device (yet), so go find out how your own name measures up in the Scrabble system.


My Scrabble© Score is: 24.

Friday, January 16, 2004
More Evidence?

This could be important:

The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed Friday that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as 'yellowcake' that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.
Now a few caveats - it is only barely refined, it's a small amount, and it probably came from a known mine that was operating in Iraq previous to 1991. Okay, that's out of the way, let the questions begin: why was it in a scrap metal shipment to Rotterdam? How did it get to Rotterdam? Is it a remnant of a larger source? I have no information or knowledge about the science required here, but is it possible that it is over a decade old? If not, does this prove Saddam (or his underlings) were harvesting uranium after the sanctions were in place?

So many questions - and answers will only come with time. Along with the earlier discovery by Danish troops of shells that may contain mustard gas (one test says yes, another says no, a third is currently running in Idaho), this has the potential to add to that earlier pile of evidence I mentioned.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
David Frum On Hamas And Feminism

The young mother who orphaned her two children as she killed herself and four others in a suicide bombing yesterday receives some attention from David Frum today:

One question that immediately comes to mind: What happened to the suicide-bomber's husband? According to early news reports, Raiyshi was married. Yet while she swears in her suicide video that she loved her soon-to-be orphaned three-year-old and 18-month-year-old, she had nothing to say about their father.

Is he alive? While the 800 or so Israeli casualties since September 2000 have mostly been women and children, the overwhelming majority of the 2000-plus Palestinian casualties have been men of military age. Yet one has to think that if Reem al-Raiyshi's husband numbered among the casualties of Arafat's terror war, his devoted widow would have mentioned him.

Is he a prisoner? Again, one would think that al-Raiyshi might have had a word or two to say.

So how to explain why he went unmentioned? Might he have divorced and abandoned her under Islamic law - and, still following that law, taken custody of her children? If so, could her abandonment and shame and the loss of her children [partly] explain her willingness to kill and die? Could the twisted imaginations of the local Hamas chiefs have pointed suicide-murder out to her as a solution to her problems - a way to erase the shame of being discarded, a way to redeem herself in the eyes of her family, a way to acquire glory in the eyes of her children, and even a way to earn them some money: for Saudi money still continues to flow to the families of suicide bombers.
Read the whole thing.
Wesley Clark Says I Can't Be A Christian!

Well, General Clark is just pushing all the right buttons on this campaign, hmm? From Hugh Hewitt's daily radio show [emphasis added]:

Here's Clark, captured on tape by National Review's Rich Lowry earlier this week in New Hampshire, on faith and the two political parties: "What we've got in this country today, is one political party that, if you listen to them, you'd think they were connected directly to the Lord God Almighty with a telephone line. They're always talking about religion and so forth. But you know the other party, our party, is not like that. See what I saw about religion in every religion that I have studied and been part of it works like this. They all agree on one thing. That if you're more favored in life, if you've been luckier, if you've had more advantages, then you should help people who are less favored in life and have less advantages. There's only one party that lives that faith in America, and that's our party, the Democratic Party, and that's why I'm proud to be a Democrat."
Ah. So. There you have it. If you are a Republican (which I am not - though I do share some of their conservative ideals), you cannot be a Christian. Or a Muslim. Or a Jew. Not "You're being a poor example." Not "I disagree on where our Scriptures lead us in the area of politics." No - if you are conservative, then you are not religious. You're a phony. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Somehow, I don't think the General has much chance against his opposition for the Democratic nomination, and stuff like this certainly won't help him; but now we've had two of the candidates speak out on the subject of religion [emphasis added]:
Dean's most prominent religious statements have come from that conversation with reporters on Friday [January 2nd, 2004], when he talked about visiting Galilee and standing where Jesus reportedly preached the Sermon on the Mount.

"If you know much about the Bible - which I do - to see and be in the place where Christ was and understand the intimate history of what was going on 2,000 years ago is an exceptional experience," he said.

Responding to this comment, along with earlier statements that Dean has read the Bible cover to cover, a reporter asked the candidate what his favorite book from the New Testament is. He answered by citing Job, a book from the Old Testament.

"But I don't like the way it ends," he said. "Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different. I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later. Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined. It's been a long time since I looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."
Job in the New Testament? Saying he's read the whole of the Bible, then not knowing what happens at the end of his 'favorite book?' It's not looking good for these guys in their pursuit of the Theological vote.

Also, there's something else to learn from all of this: when you puff yourself up, you have much, much further to fall.
Bush And The Press

As I was reading my daily blogs this morning, I came across (via Jeff Jarvis) the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk - a group of journalists dedicated to examining and critiquing journalistic coverage of the 2004 campaign and election. I took a look around, and then added it to my BlogRoll (on the right of the page). This examination of a piece in the New Yorker stood out:

Ken Auletta explores the Bush administration's deeply-held conviction that the press is just another special interest group, not a champion of the public interest.

What is striking is the candid, on-the-record comments that Auletta elicited from adminstration officals, from the top down. Auletta leads off with the following anecdote from a Crawford, Texas barbecue last August:

"During a conversation with reporters (Bush) explained, perhaps without intending to, why his White House often seems indifferent to the press. 'How do you know then what the public thinks?' a reporter asked, according to Bush aides and reporters who heard the exchange. And Bush replied, 'You're making a huge assumption - that you represent what the public thinks."
The entire article is very revealing as to the Bush administration's approach to the press at large. The differences between this President's attitudes and the attitudes of previous elected leaders are quite stark:
Auletta concludes: "For perhaps the first time, the White House has come to see reporters as special pleaders - pleaders for more access and better headlines - as if the press were simply another interest group, and moreover, an interest group that's not nearly as powerful as it once was."
Fascinating.
The 'Bias' Gauntlet Has Been Thrown!

Well, well well - looks like someone's getting called out, hmmm?

The president of a media watchdog group is challenging NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw to a $1 million challenge over comments the anchor made during a recent interview with Columbia Journalism Review.

Brokaw directly took on the Media Research Center and its president Brent Bozell, denying the credibility of their evidence of liberal bias in the press.

"What I get tired of is Brent Bozell trying to make these fine legal points everywhere every day. A lot of it just doesn't hold up," said Brokaw. "So much of it is that bias - like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder."

"I know our evidence does 'hold up' and we'll prove it," Bozell responded. "I issue this challenge to NBC and its anchor: let's assemble a mutually agreeable third-party panel and have them review a compilation of the Media Research Center's 16 years of evidence of liberal media bias.
I wonder how this will turn out...
The al-Qaeda Connection

It's been discussed many times over. It's been beaten to death, resurrected, and beaten to death again. The question of whether or not Saddam Hussein had any connection with al-Qaeda was and is one of the loudest harping points by anti-war (pro-Saddam?) protestors, and even Democratic Presidential hopefuls. Well, after months of debating and questioning, perhaps this will help clarify things:

U.S. troops have captured a handful of big-time al Qaeda terrorist suspects in northern Iraq, acting on tips from Iraqis who are increasingly emboldened to help coalition forces after the arrest of Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Pentagon officials said last night that a series of raids by the Army's 101st Airborne Division in the northern city of Mosul over the past week, including one on Monday, targeted members of al Qaeda and its local affiliate, Ansar al-Islam.

The raids were directed at suspects whose names were on new lists of terrorists that Army intelligence has compiled recently with the help of Iraqi citizens, military officials said.
Okay, so now we have definitive proof that Dr. Howard Dean is incorrect when he asserts that "the capture of Saddam has not made America safer." Further, this is only the latest piece in a mounting pile of evidence that suggests Saddam was, at the least, supportive of what al-Qaeda did, both with his heart and with his pocketbook.

The series of raids over the past week run by the US Army's 101st Airborne were successful precisely because those Iraqis who were previously afraid to leave their houses were comforted by the fact that Saddam is now in custody. This news has brought wholly new, clear intelligence out of people that refused to speak before, and only because Saddam had been apprehended. Even the prisoners in Guantanamo - few of them Iraqi, and the rest supposedly not affiliated with Saddam Hussein - expressed feelings of shock over the event.

So now - we've ascertained with certainty that Saddam Hussein's capture has made Iraqi citizens more willing to talk, and has affected those already in custody, pressing them toward a feeling of despair that will make them more likely to divulge further information. These new data have allowed US forces to apprehend more insurgents, more foreign terrorists, and even (now) more al-Qaeda operatives. I'd say that this all adds up to a safer future for America - how about you?

[HatTip to Power Line]
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
"We have a terror-cane heading in from the southeast, bringing hazardous conditions. Everyone in the area should buckle down, and stay indoors."

Pollution, CFC, the Greenhouse Effect, a hole in the Ozone layer, emissions, and second-hand smoke all make the mind think of two ideas: changing weather, and "our planet's going down the tubes." Why do these collections of letters emancipate feelings of horror in North America? That is a good question.

Before the time of pollutants, harmony and peace ruled the world with an iron fist; then the Industrial Revolution occurred. What sparked extreme growth in technology, and knowledge? Historians say that the Industrial Revolution was the next logical stage in the development of the Western world.

While other countries like France had much space for agricultural survival, England was beginning to grow beyond its capabilities with its limited land and resources. Natural cause and effect took place, the cause being a limited agricultural territory, and the effect - the development of new ways to produce goods. England prospered for many years in its newfound industry until other countries saw the good that came of manufacturing produce. Soon the entirety of Western Europe and North America was industrialized for better of for worse. Railroads were built, steamboats cruised the rivers, and people found new and improved ways to kill each other. A new stage in naval warfare was developed, and leaders were able to, "Speak quietly, and carry a big stick." Along with growth came poverty, and everyone knows the stories well. Sometime later the modern age was birthed, and while the struggle for Rights began, the belabored mother of peace and harmony delivered the sickly child of terrorism.

Historians say a lot of stupid things. On the other hand real answers and hard facts are about to be spilt upon this page with unmatched zeal.

Remember the list of words in the opening? Think about those again. What really sparked the Industrial Revolution? In the Middle East, before the revolution, was a group of brooding Orthodox Radical Islamic Fundamentalist Communist Russians looking for something to hate. The ORIFCRs saw England's position, and decided to make a move. The group understood how the world worked, and clear to them was the ability to create pollution by industrialization. Creating this "pollution" was not the only goal however. The ORIFCRs believed that in the future there would be massive amounts of pollution in many forms, enough even to change the atmosphere, and create new weather patterns eventually destroying the planet beginning with the West.

ORIFCRs: the Weather Terrorists. Oh yeah, we're screwed.

Save These People From Themselves

The unthinkable has happened:

A Palestinian mother of two blew herself up Wednesday at the main crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, killing three Israeli soldiers and a private guard and wounding seven other people.

....................

"I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for," [Reem Raiyshi, 22] said with a smile.

Raiyshi's brother-in-law, Yusef Awad, said she had an 18-month-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Raiyshi and her husband got in a fight with the rest of the family two months ago and had not been seen since, Awad said.

Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin said the use of a woman bomber was unique, but added that holy war "is an obligation of all Muslims, men and women."
Words fail me.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
A New Blog

Every year (for the past four), I've gotten together with several friends and taken part in a Fantasy Baseball League. It's grown every year (we have twelve teams now), and last year we turned the group into a Keeper (one in which players are 'kept' by their owners for the next season). At the same time I began playing in a second Keeper league, this one with another group of friends in my parents' city. Both leagues are run online, with stats, message boards, and even dedicated websites for each.

The reason I bring this up is that this year, my friends from the Toronto league (Ghetto League Baseball) have decided to start up a blog for the discussion of all things related to either us or the sport. I've already written a post discussing the current state of the game, and my concerns about its future. If you're interested in that sort of thing, take a look (you might first want to read the post that triggered my little rant).

Monday, January 12, 2004
Steyn Takes On Illegal Immigration

Quite the piece by Mark Steyn yesterday, on the 'amnesty' just proposed by the Bush administration:

America takes in roughly a million legal immigrants and half-a-million illegals each year. Even routine visa and green card application take years to process: two, five, 10 years. Not because the feds are spending two, five or 10 years doing unusually thorough background checks, but just because that's how long it takes to shuffle the paperwork. Imagine a branch of ''60-Minute Photo'' that takes 60 minutes to develop the photos but three months to move them from the front counter to the lab at the back and another eight months to move them from the lab back to the counter. Right now, the system has a backlog just shy of 5 million. Drop another few million from the Undocumented American community in their laps, and lawful immigrants can add another half-decade and a couple more circles of hell to their own applications.
I don't know anywhere near enough about the situation (and at the moment, can't take the time to educate myself) to make any comment one way or the other about Bush's plan, but I can point out that the folks at National Review's Corner aren't exactly pleased. I would be remiss, however, if I failed to mention that their opinions are not the only ones.
A Clarification On Media Bias

Several people have asked me, both in 'real life' and on the web, to make my position on media outlets a bit clearer, so that they can understand it better. A great number of my Canadian friends, especially, can't understand why I don't see CNN as a 'pro-America' station, why I view England's Guardian with more than a little skepticism, or why I get so visibly upset when I watch the CBC news broadcasts.

Basically, it all comes down to bias. Before we go any further, however, let me echo the Minnesota Star Tribune's James Lileks and his comments on the subject (scroll down), for the sake of clarity:

As I've said before, I don't believe that most papers have an explicit agenda; the morning huddle does not begin with a rousing rendition of "The East is Red." No. Obviously, no. The "liberal" bias usually manifests itself as a certain comfy sort of groupthink. Most people in the newsroom are Democrats. They vary wildly from issue to issue, perhaps, but there are some tenets that bind the tribe, and a good number of them are based in certain attitudes about conservatives that were quite possibly formed at birth. Certainly in college.
The remainder of his piece is very informative, and deserves reading, but this paragraph neatly summarizes my own opinion on the issue. Further, let me say that I don't believe bias, in and of itself, is a bad thing - not at all. Matter of fact, it's unavoidable. Everyone has bias (certainly I do!), and it can be brought to bear on nearly any subject. The presence of bias is not the issue to which I object. Camouflaged bias is what raises my ire.

The issue is neatly (if hyperbolically) displayed by Frank J.'s satire:
"And, I guess another factor was the [loss] of any positive coverage of the Bush candidacy upon the destruction of Fox News." [said CNN anchorwoman Paula Zahn.]

"Quite a boon for us," Wolf [Blitzer] chuckled. "It was quite a surprise, though, when Bill O'Reilly's unchecked ego grew so large that it actually gained mass, finally becoming so immense that it collapsed upon itself and pulled all of Fox News into a black hole. Thus, only our liberal slant was left to 'inform' the American public."

"And we can admit that we're liberal now that we have no real competitor," Paula smiled.

"Hence our new slogan: 'We control what you know, and thus we control what you think.'"
Frank J.'s IMAO is known for its rather outlandish humor and its fantastic tendencies to grotesquely caricature public figures (in the spirit, if not the style, of those great British satirists of the 18th and 19th centuries), and so one musn't make the mistake of thinking Frank is 'serious.' But like all good humor, this piece is rooted in a small bit of reality.

Television news networks, news magazines, and newspapers reach a great number of people across the world. For quite a few people - those who have more important things to do than surf the Internet - these outlets are the only interaction they have with world events. If someone were to control all the information a person received, they would be able to shape that person's opinion quite easily.

For example: if I were to tell you that a man was being unjustly tried for murder, was being accused of things that he did not do, that he had no idea were going on, you (as a normal human being) would feel anger, sympathy, and a desire to see justice done. But what if you never heard that story? What if, instead, I told you that this same person was a murderous madman, intent on brutally torturing his victims in a multitude of ways before they died; and that, further, it was impossible to keep him locked up - the man was a regular Houdini: if he was imprisoned (even for life), he would certainly escape and would begin to murder everyone around him - perhaps even you and your family! What would your opinion be then?

I think it's fairly clear that information is power. If even I can (theoretically) manipulate your opinion by controlling the news and perspectives that you take in, then how much more could an organized media outlet do so? Fortunately, Big Media (at large) is not organized, nor cohesive, nor even all of the same mind - there is no worldwide, absolute monopoly on the news (and I don't think there ever will be).

Just because a 'total monopoly' doesn't exist, however, does not mean that we are out of the woods. Limited monopolies do exist, and they can be just as dangerous as those that are world-wide. I was talking with a housemate a few weeks ago, about the idea of bias and its relation to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). For those of you who are not familiar with Canada, the CBC is a publically funded broadcast group that is shown throughout the Great White North. There are many aspects of its programming - entertainment, news, sports, etc. - and it is generally well-produced. As James (my housemate) pointed out: (paraphrase) 'There are places out in the prairies and territories that get only one or two channels - but one of those channels is always the CBC. It's a uniting feature, a national symbol.'

All the more dangerous, then, if it is manipulating information, no? If the only national and international news source a person has is leaving out bits and pieces of stories and is looking upon world events with tinted perspectives, is it not plausible that this person will begin to see everything the same way? Indeed, is it not likely?

Let's take a look at what exactly I'm talking about when I say media bias. It can be as blatant as an outright opinion embedded in a news article or as subtle as placing scare quotes around terms with which a reporter or editor doesn't necessarily agree. It can be evident in a headline ("Howard Dean Best Candidate Available" vs. "Dean Leads In Democratic Polls"), or even in something as apparently minor as article placement ('front-page in 24-type headline' vs. 'page A22 in 10-point typeface'). It can come from the mouths of news anchors, or it can come from their silence.

The issue for me is not that these folks have opinions. I'm glad they do; it makes for a more interesting and diverse intellectual world. The problem is that these people claim to convey news, not opinion. When the Op-Ed page bleeds over into the rest of the paper, without disclaimers, that's when I take umbrage.

So what is my suggestion for cleaning things up? Free transfer of information.

Alright, so that's a bit vague ("And doesn't that already exist?"). Allow me to elaborate. Yes, for the most part we have a very free system of information distribution. The popular media has no government censor, other than what information is or is not released concerning government decisions on policies and issues of national security. (Some would see this as too strict a practice, but I vehemently disagree - some activites on the State level are necessarily kept from the public: data concerning issues of national security, or diplomatic maneuvering cannot, and should not, always be immediately released). Outside the flow of data from the government body to the citizenry, the various media are free to pursue whatever information they would like. This is quite non-trivial stuff: local, national and international events, as they happen; scientific discoveries; diplomatic relations between nations; etc. They are even free to pressure the government body to release more information (and they have done so in the past, to varying effect). Ideas are flying back and forth so rapidly and so freely, especially with the advent of the Internet, that a total widespread censorship is impossible (limited censorship remains, but only under totalitarian regimes - see Iran and North Korea).

Well, then - if information is so readily available, what am I complaining about? Simple: while the information we are given is wonderfully transparent, those that bring us that information tend to be a bit more opaque. If I were to turn on CNN, or CBC, or ABC, etc., and watch a news program for the first time, I would be relatively oblivious to any biases they are including in their reporting. As a matter of fact, if I had no other source for information, I would be completely blind to whatever 'spin' these news agencies placed upon that information (whether that inclusion was unconcious or otherwise). It is my opinion that these biases need to be made clear to the viewing and reading public. It needn't be so blatant as "This is CNN...a news channel of the Democratic Party" (and yes, that's hyperbole again), but there should be some indication of where the reporters, anchors, editors, etc. stand on issues at large. We all know already that they have a perspective - we want to know what it is! If we don't have all the information (not only on the news, but also on the news-giver), how can we make informed decisions? At the very least, they should take the Paul Harvey approach ("This is Paul Harvey...news and comments").

As reported by Jeff Jarvis, the Fox News channel comes the closest to doing this sort of thing (of course, I wouldn't know, as it's not allowed up here in Canada) with it's wide-open biases and blatant opinions - the sort of things that tend to be hidden on other networks - and (what do you know!) audiences are responding:
The audience is telling us that perspective and opinion are OK -- no, welcome. In America, journalism became dull in part because it worked so hard to become objective. That, I believe, is a result of the growth of one-newspaper towns; it is an effort to be a responsible voice when you are the only voice in town. But look at Britain, where national media rules and where media admit their leanings. You can read the left Mirror or right Sun, the left Guardian or right Times. They still give you the news. But, like Fox, they also give you their perspective.

....................

Of course, I don't agree with lots of what Fox says. I find O'Reilly's hectoring unfair and irritating. A couple of their personalities are as dumb as my TV. But in general, I've found their war coverage to be as effective as anyone else's.

And it's still important to stand back and look at the ratings and see that the audience -- the people we in media are all trying to serve -- [is] flocking to Fox. There must be a reason for that.

I think we are inevitably moving to a media world where opinion and perspective wrap news. FoxNews is not the only harbinger of that. Weblogs are, too.

Like Fox, weblogs recognize that news is usually a commodity; we all link to the same news. What we then add is perspective, opinion, argument. We, like Fox, make news more compelling.

....................

I say that in the ratings for Fox, the audience is telling us something. Listen.
Now, I don't mean to suggest that Fox is perfect - of course not. They tend to lean to the right side of the political spectrum, and while they are clear about what their opinions are, that still is not reflected in their self-identification.

In the best of worlds (perhaps), news outlets would all declare their standing in their greeting to audiences - but that's not likely to happen (and who knows, maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing, anyway - I can already see some problems arising in that approach). So for what am I willing to settle? A removal of hidden slant.

Want to report the news? Fantastic, more power to you. Just do one of three things: 1) be open with your opinions - don't hide them - so that we can detect your perspective easily, rather than having to dig through layers of 'objective' camouflage, 2) make a clear divison between opinion and fact, and keep that separation total, or 3) keep your opinions to yourself. The different commercial ramifications of these three options aside (ie. Fox has shown success with 1, 3 was the 'old school' effort from which Fox is pulling away, and 2 has never been successfully achieved, to my knowledge), any of them would be preferable to the current masquerades.

***

Wow...that was a rather long post, deserving of its own appendix.

Appendix - Answers To (Canadian) Questions About Opening List Of Media Outlets:

CNN is 'pro-American' only so far as its viewership is American, and one can't succeed in an American market without relating to one's consumers. However, their opinions are not always 'pro-American' (certainly aren't 'pro-war,' even though war tends to boost their ratings), and quite frequently seems to call for actions and policies that are not what I view as 'in America's best interest.' Their political leanings tend to be toward the left, and their party ties are (mostly) with Democrats. At this point in time, the Left (note the capital letter) is moving further and further toward anti-Americanism (if it isn't there already), and thus cannot be accurately labelled 'pro-American.'

The Guardian I view with skepticism, precisely because I know about its biases. But this is a good thing. Because I know the paper's slants, I can take what they tell me in the proper context. I can get an idea of what they think, what they propose, and where they think everything should be headed - now, I'm not sure they're as open with their bias as Jeff seems to think (above), but then again, I haven't devoted a lot of time to reading them. If they are, then good for them, and may the outlets on this side of The Pond do the same.

CBC is infuriating to me (at least, in their news coverage) because I am in touch with the Internet, and have access to other news sources that have different looks at the same information that they try to convey. As a result, it is fairly obvious (sometimes painfully so) when the CBC attempts to subtlely shift from news into opinion. It does so far too often for my tastes (note: my tolerance for news anchor opinion is directly proportional to how up-front the media outlet is in pre-communicating its biases), and as it is the 'National' news source (and a publically funded one, at that!) I tend to think it should be a bit more balanced, and a bit less spin-oriented. Of course, their monetary ties to the federal government ('Liberal Party for 75 years and still counting!') and the opportunities for 'conflict of interest' that they bring about are other issues altogether.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
My Head Is Spinning...

Whoa!

I've just spent far too much time on Steven Den Beste's USS Clueless following his thinking and linking. Quite a bit of information on what he refers to as "p-idealists" (philosophical idealists) and their followers in the post-modern world. This one is long...even for him! He addresses a great many things, including (but not limited to) Islamism, Chomskyism, anti-modernism, elitism, "inbred academia," and more. I don't know that I agree with all of his analyses (heck, I think I may even be condemned by some of them!), but I do admit that I'm impressed with the amount of thought that has gone into this one. While my own mind is reeling with all the information I've just tried to absorb, my initial reactions are that of a cautious assent.

Now I have to reexamine his positions and information, just to make sure I've got it right, and then see if I can counter him in a few areas...'Once more, into the breach!'

Ummm...What?!

How exactly can this have happened?

Jailed former President Slobodan Milosevic and another U.N. war crimes suspect won seats in Serbia's parliament as an extreme nationalist party swept weekend elections, according to results released Monday.
Did I miss something here? Is the man not currently in prison before the Hague awaiting trial on War Crimes charges?

And what of this:
Milosevic...can't attend parliamentary sessions, but [his party] can still decide to award [him a seat] when the new parliament convenes in January.

"It would be symbolic for Milosevic to get a seat in the parliament," said his party deputy, Ivica Dacic. "We'll talk to Milosevic about it, and we'll see if he wants it."
Ah, so now we're back to 'awarding' seats of government, hmm?

Giving their political system the benefit of the doubt as far as corruption is concerned (which, given past events, I should not do), it still remains to point out the severe dangers inherent in voting for a political party, rather than voting for individuals. The Parliamentary system here in Canada works in a similar way: you vote for a local representative, and he or she in turn votes for the party leader - beyond that they really have little input into the way government functions, unless they're in the Cabinet. Basically, you are really voting for a body with a political party name attached, rather than a person whose issues and stands are on display.

To be honest, I'm still confused as to what is happening in Serbia, and I may have royally misinterpreted events...but Good Lord in Heaven, people! What's going on?!
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Pleasure

Maggie Gallagher has written her take on same-sex marriage:

Advocates of gay marriage are trying to persuade us that SSM won't affect anyone but the handful of gay and lesbian families. Don't believe it. Listen to Matthew, who has absorbed the message of SSM very well.
Fathers are optional. Children are resilient. Adults are fragile, and their emotional needs come first.
Ms. Gallagher touches on a point that has become evident to me as I've read more about the 'Modern World:' the primary focus of current social thought has been self-edification.

Sloan, a Canadian group with which many in the US may not be familiar, had quite the radio hit a year ago that seems to sum things up nicely. The chorus went something like this:
"If it feels good do it/Even if you shouldn't/Don't let people mess you around."
This type of thinking, of course, is nothing new (the Dionysians of Ancient Greece were very good at it), and so I can't exactly call its appearance in political and social spheres a 'new phenomenon.' But it is one that hasn't recently been around in such a blatant diisplay.

Mark Steyn recently addressed this issue of self-gratification with respect to homosexuality and the Church (the article itself is off the web, but here's the relevant portion):
Needless to say, [openly gay] Bishop [Gene] Robinson had no time for such pretzel logic. He cut to the chase. ''I believe that God gave us the gift of sexuality so that we might express with our bodies the love that's in our hearts,'' he announced to his fellow bishops. ''I just need to tell you that I experience that with my partner. In the time that we have, I can't go into all the theology around it, but what I can tell you is that in my relationship with my partner, I am able to express the deep love that's in my heart, and in his unfailing and unquestioning love of me, I experience just a little bit of the kind of never-ending, never-failing love that God has for me. So it's sacramental for me.''

The bishop would seem to be comparing gay sex not with anything so footling as the Sacrament of Marriage but with the Anglican Church's two ''Sacraments ordained of Christ''--that's to say, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, through which one experiences ''God's good will toward us'' and ''by which He doth work invisibly in us.'' If Bishop Robinson feels God working invisibly in him during gay sex, good luck to him. In older times, he and his partner would have set up their own church founded on the principle thereof. But back then the Episcopal Church still understood itself to be part of the Kingdom of God, not a federation of self-esteeming cantons where a sacrament is whatever turns you on.

And that seems to be what matters to Gene Robinson, a man who broke up his family because he put his sexual appetites before his daughters. I doff my hat to the bishop. This week he got the church to endorse not just his gayness but his narcissism. Sacramental for him, but what's in it for the church?
I think it might be educational to examine what the adherents of this kind of 'feel good' ideology looked and acted like back when the concept was first thought up. Euripides' "The Bacchae" has examples:
When the Bacchanals become possessed in The Bacches, they exhibit signs of ecstatic predominance as they start to live in an alternate reality where conscious responsibility, control, and rationality become secondary in importance to following the flow of nature and truly acting in accord with their inner selves. All worldly inhibitions set upon the Bacchanals by society are rendered void, and the initiates become true to their inner guides in life.
Sound familiar yet?
...another basic characteristic of Dionysus comes to light. Dionysus is a god driven by passion...His emotions drive him to act without too much importance given to rational thought. He furthermore displays excessive behavior by ripping the king to pieces, which is in a way analogous to the excessive indulgence in both wine and ecstatic rituals that are characteristic of his religion. The picture that Euripides paints of Dionysus is a god who is very close to his natural impulses. In this way, all of his followers are portrayed as equal to each other (as they are to the rest of the world) on account of their common basic attributes as human beings.
Interesting, no?
In the end, Dionysus' character is very simple to describe. The sum of what he has to teach his followers is that they cannot really experience reality unless their basic emotional characteristics are allowed to guide them. The world cannot be seen as it truly is unless one becomes mad in society's eyes, because a sane mind has closed eyes.
The cult may be gone, but the ideas and adherents remain. The idea that the only person or people that matter is one's self or one's group, the abandoning of rational thought (especially when it contradicts one's position), and the worship of pleasure above all else are three staples of our post-Modern world. Granted, the Dionysians took these ideas to the extreme (that was pretty much the point), but if we travel a path (literal or figurative) without knowing where it ultimately leads, the probability of a 'bad ending' is very high. And, of course, that probability is a certainty when one does know where such things lead, and yet pursues them anyway.

I'm not going to make pronouncements about the future of society (other than to say in general terms that things can be modelled after a pendulum's arc), for those kinds of things are very easy to get wrong. I'm not going to say that we're heading toward a Dionysian future; but it is important to note that, at the heart of things, we as a society are incredibly self-centered. We increasingly pursue pleasure at the expense of other, more rational and necessary things.

Don't get me wrong - pleasure is a good thing (by definition). Like all good things, however, it can also be a bad thing if attained or pursued in excess. If we are not careful, this pursuit can and will lead to our own destruction. The things we want are not always the things we need, and if we pursue our desires at the expense of our 'requireds,' then we have no one to blame for our demise, save ourselves.

So what's the application? It varies in varying situations (as most things do), but I think a guideline or two might lead us in the right direction.

1) That which pleasures the self is not necessarily that which benefits the self.
2) Pleasure is not the ultimate goal in life, and sacrificing too much for its sake leaves one empty and pained.

More will come, as I think on this further.
Disaster, The True Test Of Political Systems

Mark Steyn has written on the ability of governments to handle 'Events':

By the standards of the world, Iran, China and France are all wealthy societies. They're vulnerable to 'events' because of their organizational principles - a primitive theocracy which disdains modernity; a modified totalitarianism which thinks you can reap the benefits of capitalism without the institutions of liberty; and a cradle-to-grave welfare state that has so enfeebled its citizens' ability to act as responsible adults that even your dead mum is just one more inconvenience the government should do something about.
There are some chilling examples in this article, including:
The two images that for me sum up the aftermath of September 11 - on the one hand, the New York firemen pounding up the stairs of the World Trade Center to rescue those in the towers; and, on the other, a fire in Mecca a few months later.

Some young Saudi girls were trying to flee a blazing school, but they were prevented from doing so by the mutaween - the religious police - who beat them with sticks and drove them back inside the building to perish in the flames. Why would they do such a thing? Because the girls, in their haste to escape the inferno, had neglected to put on their head scarves. Fifteen of them died.
The entire piece is worthy of your attention.

On a side note, to those who have written me in the past month via email: I'm still getting back into the 'school groove,' and have not (as of yet) gotten around to responding. I will do so as soon as I can, but please, be patient. Thanks!
Monday, January 05, 2004
Whaddya Know!

Hey, check this out! It's a real rocket scientist - you know, one of those people that 'it doesn't take'? And he's got a blog! Let's apply Mr. Starkman's intelligence theory to this Genuine Intellect:

Politics is not Rocket Science, but all the Rocket Scientists I know are Conservatives.
Hmmm...the Starkman Theorum needs some work, I think.
Civility Revisited...

Ahem. I return from Texas to discover the latest in anti-Bush rhetoric in the pages of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

What...can account for so many people being so supportive of the president?

The answer, I'm afraid, is the factor that dare not speak its name. It's the factor that no one talks about. The pollsters don't ask it, the media don't report it, the voters don't discuss it.

I, however, will blare out its name so that at last people can address the issue and perhaps adopt strategies to overcome it.

It's the 'Stupid factor,' the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright.
Brian and Tim have already said all that is necessary about the content of the article, so I won't reiterate their points on the obvious issues the author displays.

My issue is that the blatant elitism and barely concealed hatred for 'the commoners' exhibited by Mr. Neal Starkman (author of the piece) is the perfect example of what Rabbi Mirel was talking about in his article. Mr. Starkman has basically insulted (in his own words) "a substantial minority -- perhaps even a majority -- of the populace." He declares that:
It's not merely that some people are insufficiently intelligent to grasp the nuances of foreign policy, of constitutional law, of macroeconomics or of the variegated interplay of humans and the environment. These aren't the people I'm referring to. The people I'm referring to cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect. They're perplexed by issues comprising more than two sides. They don't have the wherewithal to expand the sources of their information. And above all -- far above all -- they don't think.
I want to laugh at him; I want to scream at him; I want to do a hundred things; but mostly what I want to do is shake this man out of the self-delusion in which he seems to reside (one in which he and a few of his like-minded friends are the only intelligent people on the planet). I don't know that it's possible, though, and that saddens me. Please tell me this is not where the Liberal Left is going.

Hmmm...would it be uncivil of me to point out the 'stupidity' in the lack of forethought in a newspaper (named the 'Intelligencer' no less) running a piece on the 'stupidity' of its readership? Perhaps - it depends on my word choice, I suppose. But either way, he started it!

A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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