Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Regarding faith

I found this article to be a bit bothersome. It talks about how Mother Theresa had doubts, and didn't feel certain about the existence of God and had torments about her beliefs. I've done some deep thinking about faith, and two other virtues that are similar: love and courage. All three of them are, in my opinion, best viewed as bulwark virtues, virtues whose purpose is to stand against troubles.

Courage is not the absence of fear; it's foolish to be unafraid when there's something to be afraid of. Truly "fearless" people, people who don't ever feel afraid, tend to be dangerous, to themselves and to others. Courage is what lets us decide that there is something more important than fear, and act properly and bravely despite how we feel.

I think some folks get confused by this because there are changes in how we respond to fear. For example, a new soldier might panic the first time under fire; the realization that there are unfriendly folks who really do want to kill you is a brand new feeling for most people. Later on, a soldier who panicked the first time is likely to be able to respond to fire appropriately, but this doesn't reflect a lessening of the fear so much as a recognition of it. The fear might be the same, but this time, he's ready for it.

Similarly, love is not always the absence of apathy, indifference, or dislike. Love is the willingness to do right by people even when you don't really want to, when you'd rather blow it off, ignore it, or even watch the other person suffer. It's not that you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy to do things; sometimes it's that you feel cold and prickly and it's a pain in the butt! Love is what keeps you from standing by when loving action is called for.

(There are, of course, many definitions of the word "love". Referencing Lewis Carrol's Humpty Dumpty, "love" deserves a great deal of overtime pay. In this instance, I'm referring to the type of love C.S. Lewis called "agape".)

And faith... so many people think of faith as the absence of doubt, the presence of belief, but if you look at its origins, you see that there's something else going on. Faith originally referred to the kind of faith we think of when talking of a "faithful servant", one who is true to that which is served. Faith isn't supposed to be about belief; faith is how you hold to your principles, even when you are shaken by doubts. That Mother Theresa labored hard when filled with doubts shows that she was extremely strong in her faith!

That this could be confusing is one of the reasons that Christianity is facing such huge problems today. There are a great many people who try to look faithful, and who think that faith is certainty, and hence, they act ever more certain of their correctness in the eyes of God. This has the side effect of making them more willing to follow their own path, and their own beliefs, rather than God's. But true faith would lead them to hold the the teachings of Jesus, even when they feel that those gentler teachings might not be sufficient.

If the loudest Christians of today had faith, they would be calling for help for the poor, the hungry, the sick; they would be working for justice for all. They would oppose public displays of piety and faith; Jesus told them not to do these things, that those who try to show off their faith are seeking the rewards of people, not God. Instead, the loudest Christians are shouting about other people having sex (and occasionally needing abortions, or, *gasp* having sex with members of the same sex), and they're demanding the right to show off their faith in the public square. They might claim to have strong belief, but they don't seem to be all that "faithful" a servant to Jesus' message and mission.

That is the example they should draw from Mother Theresa. Do what's right; help the sick, the poor, and otherwise needy. Have faith that helping others is all that matters, even if you're not sure about how things will work out. In the end, though Mother Theresa may not always have been secure in her beliefs, it seems that she was always rock solid in her faith.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Discussions of manliness

I don't like shooting down conservative commentary too often - too many targets, so little time - but there are times when I feel it might be a public service.

Here, we have the unmanly trying to prove they're manly by being just like other people who are trying to prove they're manly.

There was a book once, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche". My response? "Real men eat whatever the hell they want, and aren't intimidated by an amusing book title." See, a real man isn't afraid someone's going to look at his plate and smirk, and say "Real men don't eat that kind of stuff." Because real men are, you know, real. The image doesn't matter. What is matters more than some bonehead's opinion.

Similarly, you won't get real men supporting quotes like this:
The problem is that it actually works the other way. People who are in fact masculine (or feminine!) don’t maintain a checklist: Well, I need to demonstrate that I’m masculine, therefore I shall buy a gun/cheer a sports team/ogle nubile teenagers/ride a motorcycle. Instead they do those things and others automatically, without thinking or any specific intent, because they are expressions of the underlying characteristic.

I'm kinda curious as to how, if there's no checklist maintained, those activities are selected as being "masculine"? Sorry, guys, you can't pretend there's no checklist, and then list items from what it contains... uh, would contain... uh, if it existed... which it doesn't.

As soon as you start saying "this is masculine", sorry, pal, you're maintaining a checklist. That's how it goes; if you have a list, and can check items off it as part of your test, it's a checklist. And you're a wimp for thinking it matters.

More importantly, those activities aren't all that masculine. Buying guns? Guns are tools, and the masculine men I know appreciate fine tools that do the job they're supposed to do. But buying them just to buy them? Eh. If you need a wrench, you buy a wrench. Sure, guns can be a hobby as well, but if you think collecting guns because they're really cool is more manly than collecting stamps because they're really cool, you don't quite get the whole manhood thing. Hobbies are hobbies; they're for fun and entertainment, and only a wimp has to mock someone else's idea of what's fun. (I'd say "a boy" instead of "a wimp", but, you know, I've known a lot of mature boys who'd never dream of mocking a person's hobby as being not masculine.)

Cheering sports teams is masculine? Playing slow pitch softball, or bowling in a sub-100 league, or, hell, anything, is more masculine than cheering. Sorry, that's just the way life is. Sports are fun to watch... but there's nothing specifically manly about watching other people do something difficult.

Ogling nubile teens? Eh. Men look at women appreciatively, but specifically teens? Women are beautiful; there ain't nothing special about teens, and if you think there is something really special about teens, I'd have to wonder if you could handle a real, mature woman.

Motorcycles? They're fun, agile, and you see and feel *everything*. They're no more or less manly than any other mode of transportation.

This is the thing that's so crazy about this. You have these people thinking that they know that they're real men, because they don't have to consciously try to measure themselves up to some imaginary standard, but because they do measure up to some imaginary standard.

And I'm sorry. That's the sign of a man not confident of his masculinity. I'm more masculine wearing a tutu that I've consciously chosen to wear, for my own reasons, than some bozo would be wearing military fatigues, "not because I want to look masculine, but because masculine men like the look of military fatigues!"

(I can't imagine any reasons for wearing a tutu. Not even to prove my claim that I'd still be masculine, because if you don't understand the truth of it, me proving it isn't going to improve your understanding. The point still stands.)

There's more circular reasoning there; more "being a man means conforming to one stereotype or another, because of who you are, but not because of the stereotype, yet the stereotype still determines what being manly is." It's ridiculous.

To be a man is to be what you are, powerfully, bravely, and unashamedly, and it's got nothing to do with stereotypes. Masculine stereotypes are for wimps who need to measure themselves.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bush and history

Okay... so, Bush is now saying that history will show that invading Iraq was a good idea... just look at how South Korea and Japan are all looking good, so historians will look back and say that invading Iraq was a good idea.

There's just one problem with that. Historians aren't stupid.

Oh, sure, there are stupid historians; there are stupid people in every profession; some stupid people can even be elected President of the United States. But as a general rule, historians look at decisions, and the events surrounding them, and recognize stupid decisions for what they were. What are they going to note about Iraq?

First, I'll bet that they'll be appalled at the moral blindness that America had entered. Going to war is a serious issue, and the reasons raised for a full scale invasion were simply not important enough to justify bringing the horrors of war to the Iraqi people.

Second, I'll guarantee that they'll be bemused by the ridiculous idea that you can impose freedom by force. "Yes, that's right," Bush said, "If you beat people up and order them to be a free people, they'll by-god *be* a free people, if they know what's good for them!" Yeah, sure... people are always more free when forced to be that way by outsiders.

Thirdly, and most importantly, they'll be stunned by the idiocy of the arguments. The United States was attacked by a massive criminal organization. Three thousand people were killed. Bush decided that he could ignore the massive criminal organization, and go after a completely different target, one that was not affiliated with that criminal organization. He decided he would risk an open-ended, costly war, without thinking that his plans could fail, without making any contingency plans, and, let's face it, without even making any plans for what to do after the initial conquest was completed.

John Kerry called it a distraction; he was wrong. It was much, much worse.

Look, Osama bin Ladin knows that a single terror network, consisting of a mere 20,000 people, can't do a huge amount of damage to the United States. But if he could goad us into doing something stupid, like invading a country we've already been damaging (with the sanctions for which we were the primary champions), then he could use that to whip up more anger against us. He could also tire out our military, strike against our soldiers and military equipment, and make us spend massive amounts of money and resources, making us weaker.

And it has worked. One massive terror plot, and he goaded a foolish American President into committing us to a war that's cost over three hundred billion dollars, and counting, that has reduced our military readiness to a pitiful level, that has killed over 3500 of our best and brightest, and that has caused us to bring a huge amount of suffering and chaos to the Middle East.

Historians will not record this as a success. They will not record this as a good idea. They will record it as what it is: the most incredible blunder imaginable given the circumstances. The main question that historians will answer is now "was invading Iraq a good idea?" but instead "how did America become so blind and stupid as to do something so clearly foolish?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Padilla verdict

So... I've been thinking about the Padilla verdict. I have two thoughts on it.

First, I'm convinced his lawyer messed up.

Second, I'm convinced that we have good reason to believe Padilla may[1] be innocent.

Let's look at the facts.

First, the FBI has intercepts with multiple defendants, including Padilla. In those intercepts, terrorism isn't explicitly discussed. It's discussed in innocuous seeming code words. Padilla never uses those code words (or, at least, not in any intercepts that the jury heard). So, it's not impossible that Padilla didn't understand the code. We might generally assume that he did (especially after hearing a lot of crap about dirty bombs and blowing up apartment buildings), but nothing that the jury was told showed that he was intending to engage in terrorism.

Second, Padilla filled out a form for Al Qaeda. What warmaking skills does he include on his form? Carpentry.

Just a note: there was no section for "warmaking skills", just for "skills." I'm mocking the idea that the form showed that he was interested in warfare. What, exactly, does a terrorist organization need with a carpenter? This is another indicator that maybe - just maybe - he wasn't fully aware of what he'd gotten involved with. Reference those intercepts again... what if he wasn't in on the code? They made it sound like they were planning relief missions and charitable works, since they knew there was a risk their call would be intercepted. What if he thought they really were there for charitable works?

When he filled out the form, Al Qaeda knew that they had someone they felt might have been a potential recruit, who was a US citizen... this would have created a bit of a stir, and his name would probably be well known so he could be targeted for special attention. Thus, his name would be known to Al Qaeda higher-ups, and could be revealed under torture. (Remember: torture can get people to talk, but they'll say whatever stops the torture... which may or may not be the truth.)

Padilla was an ex-gang member. What if he got religion as an adult and turned away from his childhood screw-ups? This is hardly a rare occurrence. What if he, rather stupidly, but nevertheless innocently, tried to hook up with some Muslims who it sounded like were interested in doing charitable works? What if they brought him along, hoping he'd join the cause?

His defense attorney insists that he didn't fill out the form... and I think that ruined the defense's case. I think they should have said that he did fill out the form, and point to its contents, and ask the jury: which seems more likely? That he offered his carpentry skills to a terrorist organization for purposes of making war, or that he did so to try to demonstrate that, gee, he's not really into this whole "killing the innocent" thing, and just wanted to help build something for some fellow Muslims?

Look, I don't know what Padilla did. It's possible he's guilty as sin. But the fact of the matter is, there's a whole lot missing that's needed to convince us that he's guilty. And for me, there's one last thing that sticks in my mind, one thing that makes the whole case stink.

Padilla is a broken man; he's been tortured by our government to the point that he was angry with his defense attorney for vigorous cross examination of an FBI agent. He didn't want his defense attorney undermining President Bush's authority, you see.

So he's broken, right? And he's confessed that he connected with Al Qaeda, but wouldn't confess to anything past that. He's angry at his lawyer's cross examination of an FBI agent, he's hampering his own defense, but he won't confess?

And then, he asked his mom to talk to President Bush to get him to intervene. Now, look, I'll admit that I haven't studied the effects of torture on folks, but I still have to ask myself this: who would ask for Bush to intervene? A man who is convinced this is all some big misunderstanding, and Bush can straighten this out? Or a man who is really guilty, and knows it? I can see the former; I can't see the latter.

The idea that Jose Padilla was a loser who ended up in bad company due to a combination of bad luck and stupidity fits all the data we have. None of the data we have proves that he did anything wrong... the closest we have is that application form, and it just proves he met with Al Qaeda folks; it doesn't prove he plotted nastiness with them. And we have reasons to suspect that maybe he's innocent. He didn't confess under torture; he thinks that President Bush can set things right; he never spoke in code words during the conversations they played for the jury.

None of this proves anything. But I don't think we've seen nearly enough proof to be convinced that he truly is guilty. Sure, the jury believed he was, but they jury also had reason to believe his defense attorney was lying about Padilla filling out the form, which blew the defense's credibility. I think if this alternate explanation was offered, Padilla would have had a chance at an acquittal.

[1] Note the rabid right-wingers: "may" indicates a possibility without indicating the probability.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Scarecrows and other brainlessness

Okay, let me check this out. I'm going to try arguing like a Bushie.

(NB: By "Bushie" I don't mean "a supporter of Bush", but "someone who argues using the same pathetic logic and mendaciousness that characterizes supporters of Bush.")

"It's true that some conservatives think there's nothing wrong with the murder of innocent people, if you've declared that you're fighting a war, but I must point out that they've forgotten the lessons of 9/11, where we saw a terrorist-declared war lead to an atrocity that staggered our national imagination."

Damn. That's easy. It's also got some truth to it... the Bushies saw nothing wrong with invading Iraq, which clearly led to the murder of innocent people. Yes, I know, I know, "but murder is the unlawful killing of people! This is war!"

See, in Iraq, our invasion wasn't lawful, and the killings we caused weren't lawful. It's just that the entire government didn't have the power to arrest our invading force and hold them for trial[1]. Calling it "murder", since it was not done to prevent a imminent greater wrong, is reasonably accurate. If Iraq had been about to invade us, or even about to launch an attack, or even looking as if it was going to launch an attack... but it wasn't.

So, no, killing people, even in a war, is not okay. The Bushies are okay with it, and even too-damn-many conservatives are too, as long as it's not US citizens who are dying.

It's not fair, but it does have some truth. Which is scary, because I was inspired by Christopher "Scarecrow" Hitchens. I call him "Scarecrow" because he should be off to see the wizard for raising brainless strawmen. For example, in one column, he suggested that there was a big question over whether Saddam Hussein might have sent envoys to Niger to discuss possible uranium sales.

That was never a question. No one cared if there was talk; Niger knew what side of the bread was buttered, and it wasn't the Iraq side. Further, Bush's "Sixteen Words" weren't about talk... they were about "significant quantities," a suspicion of an attempted purchase.

But now, now, he's attacking "myths" about Al Qaeda in Iraq. I suppose it's easy to bash myths (like the myth that conservatives don't care about the deaths of innocent people) when you make those myths up yourself (as I did above).

Here's one of my favorite quotes:
The founder of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who we can now gratefully describe as "the late." The first thing to notice about him is that he was in Iraq before we were. The second thing to notice is that he fled to Iraq only because he, and many others like him, had been driven out of Afghanistan. Thus, by the logic of those who say that Afghanistan is the "real" war, he would have been better left as he was. Without the overthrow of the Taliban, he and his collaborators would not have moved to take advantage of the next failed/rogue state.

Iraq was the next failed/rogue state! Seriously:

To say that the attempt to Talibanize Iraq would not be happening at all if coalition forces were not present is to make two unsafe assumptions and one possibly suicidal one. The first assumption is that the vultures would never have gathered to feast on the decaying cadaver of the Saddamist state, a state that was in a process of implosion well before 2003.

Iraq was teetering on the brink, and *that* is why we had no choice but to invade to bring about regime change, because, uh... well, gee, if Iraq was a decaying cadaver, we could have found a better way than a full invasion, couldn't we?

And it is well known - even Bush knows this! - that AQI arose in the chaos after the invasion. Bush (with Bushies like Hitchens cheerleading him) created a chaotic situation that couldn't be controlled with the available resources; bad things happened because of this. Is this a surprise?

This doesn't faze people like ol' Scarecrow, though. He knows that the decision to invade was right, all he has to do is angrily insist it was, making up specious arguments along the way!

[1] Technically, of course, they wouldn't have been held for trial, but as POWs. The main point is that the Iraqi government would not consider the killings of its citizenry "lawful", since they had not acted aggressively against us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tortured stupidity

I've been thinking about my last few posts, recognizing a bit of a common thread. In the past few blog entries I've made, I've been getting ever more frustrated with the stupidity of those in power, and the stupidity they are expecting from us, the voters, in believing them. It's driving me batty.

Here's something: there's been some talk in the liberal blogsphere about torture, a recent New Yorker article on the torture done at the CIA's black sites, and about how Jose Padilla was tortured.

Back in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, I remember reading an interrogator whining about how, if they dial back their techniques, well, how can they determine if someone is a terrorist or not in the time they have available?

Think about that, if you're not the idiot the Bushies want you to be.

The interrogator was complaining that he wasn't allowed to torture innocent people, along with the guilty, hoping the torture would force the guilty to confess. What kind of idiocy is required to think like that? And what kind of idiot wants to torture innocent people? As soon as you're known as a torturer, you've made enemies, but if you torture only the guilty (or the people you're sure are guilty), people can understand that. If your friend was planting bombs and got tortured, well, your friend knew the risks of fighting against a government that uses torture; it's barbaric, but it's the way the world is sometimes. Torture everyone you've caught up in a sweep, and the innocent people you've tortured are going to talk to their families and friends, and do you think those people are going to be willing to risk their lives informing on terrorists or insurgents?

I mean, isn't it obvious that, when you're a foreigner fighting an insurgency, your survival depends on the common people seeing you as someone worthy of basic human concern? If they think you're a brute, they won't risk informing anyone about plots against you. They might even help the insurgents hide themselves (or weaponry) among them, or join the insurgency themselves.

This isn't rocket science; this isn't even firecracker science! This is just basic common sense.

And there are still some idiots out there thinking that the problem is that the US isn't being tough enough. If only we were a little more brutal, if the good folks of the world had even more reason to be upset with our behavior, then we'd make more progress.

What kind of a state is the nation in when you even have to debate stuff like this?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time to call out stupidity

Three years ago, there was a debate going on. People were saying that John Kerry would treat the war on terror as an issue of law enforcement, while Bush understood that it was a military war.

Now, the military war believers have had their war continue for another three years, and what do we have?

It's true: in Iraq (in Kurdish territory, not controlled by Saddam) there were some terrorist training camps, camps we could have bombed, but didn't (part of the case for war was the existence of those training camps, you see). And it was vaguely possible, far in the future, that Saddam Hussein might have reconstituted his WMD programs. However, the CIA was quite confident that he was afraid to use them, or see them used, against the United States. He'd tried to assassinate the first President Bush, and he got hit hard in return, and wasn't willing to see what terrible retaliation we'd perform if he caused us real damage. Iraq, while in a terrible state, was stable.

By doing things the "military war" way, we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, we've exhausted our military forces, we've lost over 3500 of our best and brightest, and had many thousand more maimed. Al Qaeda in Iraq formed in the chaos following the invasion - that is, they formed because we gave them the opportunity to form - and both Iraqi and foreign terrorists have been able to practice methods of killing people in a real war zone. We have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis' deaths, and each one of those deaths is the potential for a friend or family member to have enough hatred for us to be willing to join the terrorists.

What do we have after three more years of doing things the military way? An unstable country with no visible political solution to its instability, a real risk of a civil war that could draw in other nations in the Middle East, and a place where there are more terrorists being trained than captured.

While I'm all for trying to be understanding of other people's opinions, isn't it long past the time that we start recognizing that invading Iraq was about the stupidest move anyone could have made? Isn't it long past time that we started treating the people who support such stupidity as the idiots that they are?

I mean, I've long been willing to point out that the war in Iraq was evil, that there was no moral reason to start killing thousands of innocent people given the information we had. But maybe it's time to start in on a simpler, and equally obvious message: the invasion was stone stupid. And if anyone can't admit that, why should we trust them not to be equally stupid about anything else they have to say?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The idiocy of preventative warfare.

I was reading an article about how Christians should view warfare. Of course, it mentioned that Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword, so the author clearly wasn't too bright. I mean, Jesus was speaking about how he would divide people, because his message held real power, and his mission was one that demanded righteous action, not that you should go off and start killing people. But then it continued on asking if Christians believe one should be able to fight a "just war", one in defense against an attack (or a clearly imminent attack).

And then it went on to suggest there were times it was okay to fight a preventative war. Again, this proves the author wasn't too bright; an intelligent author wouldn't let his own prejudices dig him in like that. What he really meant to ask was "Is the invasion of Iraq justified?" and the answer is, of course, "no", but he didn't like that answer, so he created a snow job for himself and others.

But one of his points regarding preventative war was correct. It's not immoral to use military force to prevent harm to others. It's ridiculous to say that it's moral to use military force to defend one's own country and the people within it, but then claim it's immoral to use military force to defend other people. It's moral to defend those who are unjustly attacked, period.

The reason Iraq was such idiocy is that we weren't defending people who were being unjustly attacked. First and foremost, we were fighting based on lies that President Bush's people spread (lies that he was careful about repeating, so he could avoid responsibility as much as he could). But the last reason we were fighting (after the lies about WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda) was to make life better for the Iraqi people. It was, as so many idiots claimed, preventing the further harm of continuing to live under a dictator. That, they said, was moral.

I believe the polite term for such an argument is "Male bovine excreta".

The morality of an action is not determined by what you want to do; the morality of an action is determined by reasonably foreseeable outcomes. You can't fire a .44 magnum at a person's head and say it's okay, you were just trying to kill the bee that was buzzing around that person - that person is deathly allergic to bee stings! No, even an idiot knows that firing a gun pointed at someone's head is likely to cause more harm than good.

Using precisely the right amount of force to prevent a tragedy, and remaining in control of the situation for the foreseeable future, can be moral. Using massive overkill, and creating a situation where even an idiot should realize that there isn't going to be any control, can't be.

If anything good had come out of Iraq, it would have been due to luck. It would have been in spite of, not because of, the idiocy of the Bush administration.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why the new FISA bill is bad

There's been much talk about the recent modifications to FISA, and much of it castigating the Democrats for rolling over and playing dead. And that's deserved, but I think the reason it's so well deserved might have been missed by some people.

Why should this law be scuttled? What's horribly wrong with it?

Well, first off, the Democrats worked with the director of national intelligence to get the technical changes that the feds needed to avoid truly stupid barriers, like not being able to spy on a phone call from Saudi Arabia to Syria between two members of Al Qaeda, if the call went through am American router.

But then George W. Bush said more was needed.

Now, when George W. Bush says something is needed, we have to be careful. He said that we needed to invade Iraq. Was he right? No. He said we could handle Iraq. Was he right? No.

In the past, he said that the spying he was doing was lawful and necessary... and yet, suddenly, he's eager to see the law changed, and Boehner suggests that a recent court decision might be to blame for this. So, he said it was legal, and when the court took a look at it, they said "no". So, was he right then? No. Is he right now? Come on, folks... let's be honest with ourselves.

George W. Bush can't be trusted. Even if we could trust him to be honest - and it's clear that we can't - how on earth can we trust him to be competent?

If he says that the provisions he's demanding are necessary and won't be abused, how on earth could we consider that a worthwhile opinion? How stupid would we have to be to trust him when he says such a thing?

I mean, is it that he was so on-the-ball about war planning? How about because of his sterling reputation for disaster recovery? Or his brilliant response to the agent who went to his ranch in Crawford and warned him about Al Qaeda: "All right. You've covered your ass."

Look, I don't like kicking a man when he's down, but let's get real. How stupid would we, the American people, have to be before we'd trust this bozo's judgment?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bush to Congress: "Please be my loyal servant!"

"So far the Democrats in Congress have not drafted a bill I can sign," Bush said at FBI headquarters, where he was meeting with counterterror and homeland security officials. "We’ve worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk. Time is short."

Memo to President Bush:

Congress is a separate branch of government; they do not exist to give in to your every whim. Quite the contrary, in fact.

That Congress has not come up with a bill "that (you) can sign" is shorthand for "they haven't caved to your demands". Come on; you know it; I know it; the world knows it. So let's stop pretending that someone doesn't. And your claims to have worked in good faith don't hold up while you're making such demands.

And frankly, we really have to compare the record here. You're incompetent. You can't work within the law to accomplish your job, and you can't ask Congress to change the law until your secret lawbreaking is exposed. We have to ask ourselves, who is more likely the one who is doing the right thing? Is it you, in making demands, or is it Congress, in drafting a bill?

Let's face it, Mr. President... you've demonstrated your incompetence so often, it's hard to imagine that Congress is doing worse than you.

I do, however, have to admire your chutzpah. You started this issue by breaking the law, committing numerous felonies. You're now claiming that the law must be changed, because of reasons you can't disclose, because it's gathering intelligence that you can't disclose, and is being used in ways that you can't disclose, but we should trust you.

Like we trusted you in Iraq, in the aftermath of Katrina, like those fools who trusted that you were a "compassionate conservative", or that you'd "reach across the aisle".

Let's be honest, Mr. President. You want the law changed to cover your own ass, don't you?

Most sincerely,

the LongHairedWeirdo

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

You know what really ticks me off sometimes? People who can't separate cause and effect.

Did you know that our country was founded by fish, most of whom didn't leave the water, er, people, most of whom had two legs, er, I mean, "educated folks with European ancestry, many of whom were Christian"?

I hope my point is clear; if you point to a bunch of fish, most don't leave the water because, hey, they're fish (boy do I hope no ichthyologists in the audience can contradict me) (HAH! I don't have an audience! I guess this is win/win! :-) ); most people have two legs because, hey, people... generally two legged, except for those who've been injured or were born without two legs. And our nation was founded by people who came over from Europe, where most people were Christian. They weren't our founders because they were good Christians (or deists)... they were generally Christians or deists because of their ancestry, of where they came from. Their religious beliefs were an effect, not a cause.

This started to upset me today, because I realized that there's a lot of people making a fuss about how we're facing threats from "Muslim terrorists". Islam is part of the issue, because it's not like we're facing threats from Christian terrorists, right?

Why isn't the war in Iraq a Christian Crusade? I mean, the Crusades were a long time ago, but why not pull that offensive term out, and ask why it's not fair for a Muslim in Saudi Arabia to complain bitterly about the Americans launching a "Crusade". I mean, didn't George W. Bush claim he received guidance from God? Didn't Ann Coulter remain a bestselling author after saying we should conquer Muslim nations and force them to convert to Christianity? Didn't a great many Christian leaders praise Bush as a good man? Why would it be unfair to think of this as an act of Christianity, to be paired up with the real Crusades?

Because America is generally peopled with Christians. Most folks you meet on the street are Christians. Not all of them go to church, but the church they don't go to is, generally, a Christian one. If you want to be big in politics in America, you generally have to be a Christian as well. If you claim that you want to promote values, if they aren't "Christian values", you're going to have a much harder sell.

There are people who think Mitt Romney can't get elected President. He is a Mormon, believes in Jesus, but believes that John Smith brought some additional information along... but he might not be Christian enough for the masses. If you want to be an important figure in America, well, maybe you don't have to be a Christian, but it can really hurt you if you're not. As such, that Christians have called for the war in Iraq doesn't tell us it's a Christian war; their Christianity is an effect, not a cause.

And in the Middle East, if you want to be important, you're probably going to be Muslim, and if you're not, you're probably going to have a harder sell. If you can't claim that connection with others, it can really hurt you.

We aren't being threatened by Muslims. We're being threatened by terrorists.

What brought this on? An idiotic article by Christopher Hitchens. Muslims are religious, he says, which is an extremist position to begin with. And then, well, people have used Islam as an excuse for horrible behavior - gee, which maps to Bush saying that he consulted God before the invasion pretty nicely, don't you think? (Let it be noted that Hitchens supported the invasion of Iraq. I don't read him much, but I don't recall hearing him complaining about the horrible extremism of Bush on this point.)

Should we be "afraid" of upsetting Muslims? No. We should respect all people, however, and when it's easy to be a Christian (you don't even have to follow Jesus' ideals!) you should be careful to make sure you don't stomp on another religion. When that religion is being portrayed by some people as being the cause of atrocities, you should be doubly careful. Anyone sensible knows that Islam isn't the cause of the threat, the cause of the threat is evil people who preach Islam because because it's who they are, an effect, not a cause. So, yeah, we should be doubly careful about being fair to Muslims... assuming we're interested in being fair at all.

America's illness

But Cheney, an architect of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, otherwise gave no ground in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" as he defended President George W. Bush's Iraq policy.

He said the Bush administration would still send troops into Iraq if it could do it all over again, even knowing what it knows now, including that more than 3,000 U.S. military personnel would be killed.

"I firmly believe," Cheney said, "that the decisions we've made with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan have been absolutely the sound ones in terms of the overall strategy."

The best estimates we have are that over 600,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the decision to invade Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq formed "in the chaso after Saddam was deposed" by Bush's own admission. Millions of people have suffered, from loss of friends and family members, from injuries, from life disruptions large and small, and from the everpresent fear of what comes next.

He doesn't want you to think about that, about the horrible consequences that are the result of the Bush administration's actions. I imagine the entire Republican Party doesn't want you to think about that. They want to hide the truth, that war is unspeakably ugly, and completely evil, unless there is no other choice - and there was, there were plenty of choices.

Is there anyone who is still willing to do that? Anyone still willing to say that it's okay if a bunch of foreigners suffer and die? Apparently, there are since Bush still has some level of support.

This kind of thing is why I think that America is sick, poisoned by quiet hatred. Not the big, loud kind of hatred, the kind of hatred that's obvious, and hence, ugly. No, the quiet, subtle kind, the kind that lets people toss off lines like "we should prosecute anti-war activists for treason" or "liberals hate this country" or "the invasion of Iraq was justified by what we know."

All of these are ways of not caring about people, not caring how they are hurt, so long as the speakers get their own way.

America is sick, and I hope a recovery is going on, but with people like Cheney still in office, the primary symptoms of the illness are still going strong.

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