Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jena and Iraq

So the general allegations of Jena are here. As it is, 6 black high schoolers are being charged with murder because some white high schooler got beat up enough to have a mild concussion and some reoccurring headaches a few weeks later. This is after white kids hung some nooses above a tree when some black kids didn't stay in their place, and a massive escalation of tension and conflicts in the following months.
The real question seems to be "what happened the night of the alleged kicking?" Was the Kickee actually knocked out, viciously stomped, or did he just lose a schoolyard fight (which included a few kicks to the gut, but it's just an asskickin, not deadly assault. I mean, does this kid just need to suck it up, or was this serious?
The only complaint since the attack, after healing up, is recurrent headaches (there was a swollen eye and a bit of a concussion). With that level of injury, that the extent of the harm (when 6 humans, in an attack, could clearly do so much more if they wanted to kill or maim someone) the charge is clearly excessive.
That is excessive, and the individuals should be punished. Suspensions, community service, and participation in public discussions on respecting human rights and dignity (including not whaling on people to give then concussions, unless sanctioned by the Leviathan (strange how Hobbsean our society has become lately, with all authority ceded to the executive in the name of protection).).
Jena is almost a twisted metaphor for Iraq. There is a sectarian dispute, the local gov. just favors its own sect, past murderous violence is referenced, and one side starts taking matters into its own hands. Because they believe they are entitled to have... well, that's where the analogy dies. One is just high school, with some kid who got beat on a bit, the other is geopolitical chaos.
I am from the south, and while the executive and city council branch of that town were just pouring gas on a smoldering fire, it's not representative of the area. Hopefully, it will be a lesson to us all in the need to respect the freedom and dignity of our fellow man, and if we follow that precept (a value truly honored by our founding fathers), if we remember that we must live free or die defending individual liberty, we will continue to prosper as a people. I only hope the recent misconduct, both overseas and by corrupt and tyrannical government entities can cease.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Opiate of the Masses?

Some Greek guy in a dress once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would tend to agree. But I like to use general reason, experience and empiricism to figure things out. Others prefer to put their stock in belief, in faith, in a "movement." Both lefties and righties can be guilty of this, both nanny-staters and libertarians.

There is a debate going on right now over at Sully's blog, with a discourse between an atheist, Sam Harris, who feels religion isn't so good and the practicing Catholic (who subscribes to the "theology of doubt"). In the linked post, he quotes Harris on the bible and koran, who stated:

So why not take these books less seriously still? Why not admit that they
are just books, written by fallible human beings like ourselves?
A reader responds to this attack on his favorite holy book (who knows which one) and states:

Religious books are not "just" books. Rather they are books that try to guide
human beings, and their conduct, through the mystery that is human life.
And when I say "mystery" I don't mean it in the sense of "Wow, that's
cool!" I mean it in the sense that we don't know where we came from, or
where we are going, or how, on the one hand, we can have a profound sense of
self, but, then, on the other hand, must live with the unease that our
entire sense of self - without religion - will somehow some day cease to
. (emphasis mine)

So if you truly believe that there is an afterlife, you get to toss off your angst. Nothing about the truth behind religion, more of "it's like prozac for me. I'm not as worried about what happens when I die when I turn my brain off and blindly believe in fairy tales."

The commenter further states:
Religion, and religious books are designed to help us with these problems of human existence. They are designed to show us - based on very old traditions - about the proper courses of conduct to lead one to the eventual pride in having lived to the full and to the good the one life that one was granted. They make us glad to be alive... Other books do not help. Even philosophers are of little use for these areas of life, and most will gladly acknowledge it. Perhaps some people don't need religion. But most of us do, even if our religious devotions are tinged with more or less worldly skepticism... For reasons we cannot put into words, we feel at times - after a Beethoven quartet or a Shakespeare play - that we have been touched by something so special, that it could not be the mere product of "just some guy." (my emphasis)

It's almost tough to know where to begin with this guy. I think the Bible is one of the best records we have of the brutality and barbarism of early man, of our tribal life. Constant warfare, slaughter, sacrifice to gods and idols, fire and brimstone, sinners in the hands of an angry god that brings fires and floods and earthquakes and plagues. That is the proper course of conduct? It's all about the smiting.

Listen, one of the greatest problems of the Islamic world is this constant yearning for the time of the Prophet, to go back to the 700s, because of the belief that everything was pure and just then, and it has been nothing but a corruption of Islam since that moment. Instead of looking ahead, they look back. There can be no progress, there can only be an eternal striving to return to the life of a warring desert and trading people, for that is the way of Mohamed and he is the purest man to ever live.

Perhaps if they did read these other books, books that the clown quoted above thinks are useless, then they would have a greater understanding of the human spirit. The great works of Hemingway, the poetry of Tennyson, the words of Bellow, the frenzy of Roth, the wise eye of Naipaul, all these books and more help man deal with the cruelties of existence, to persevere through this vale of tears. And they all help deal with the conundrum of human existence. Even the Bible can help, but the fact it is placed on a pedestal, that it's fantasies should hold mystical weight and the other books are blasphemous, this is a pernicious mindset that should be rejected. Sentiments like those quoted above lead to death sentences on the heads of writers. Just ask Salman Rushdie. And ask him if one of his masterpieces was inspired by God or though his own hard work.

We should not need some crutch to find peace of mind. We should not have to rely on thoughts of the afterlife and prayer to find comfort. We must come to terms with the fact of our mortality, and live our lives in recognition of this eventuality.

A man can spend his day on his knees in prayer, a supplicant to a silent god. He can hope that these actions will show his piety and ensure his place in the great beyond. Or, he can spend his days in good works, trying to leave the world better than he found it, to leave a legacy of accomplishment that will give him solace on his deathbed. I don't know which of these two men is right. But the one who gets off his knees is the better man in my book.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Obama the Anti-Everything?

Obama is truly the golden boy of America at this moment. It really does prove what they say, that the longer you are in Washington and the longer your record, the more mistakes made on the record your enemies can hang around your head.

From Columnist Joe Sorban ( h/t Andrew Sullivan, who called Joe a conservative columnist, but in my first read seemed just common sense instead of ideological)

His greatest strength vis-à-vis Hillary is that he is even more different from
Bush than she is, which makes him more electable than she is. Bush has been a
worse calamity for the country than 9/11 itself. The 2008 election, like this
year’s, will be a repudiation of the worst president, by far, in most Americans’

Right now things are going almost too perfectly Obama’s way. Time will
of course force him to make definite and therefore costly choices, even if some
unforeseeable disaster doesn’t befall him. Or maybe — cruel fate! — he’ll turn
himself into a joke. A single televised gaffe could do it!

I think on the Dem side, he is the anti-Hillary. He's "fresh," in the sense that most dems only first heard him at the 04 convention. And he is quick on his feet verbally, and "uses his tounge prettier than a 20 dollar whore." Which makes him the anti-Bush in at least one way. Damn it would be good to have a president who doesn't mangle the English language unless he is reading from a teleprompter.
The thing about Obama is, he has enough goodwill and dexterity that a televised gaffe can't do him in. He's not stiff necked about things, so if he does something goofy, he will sheepishly apologize and America will love him even more. After all, he's the skinny kid with the funny name who used to knock back lines of blow and smoke weed, but still ended up in the plum (and intellectually demanding) position of editor of the Harvard Law Review. As opposed to Bush and his "gentleman's C's. He still smokes cigarettes, but states that it's a filthy habit. He already knows he's is flawed, as are we all. Once you take that position, you can't get trapped by some silly gaffe.
It's far too early to say that it's his to lose. But the race for the presidency is certainly his to win.

Things are Going to Take Some Time

We've had six years where the Republican Congress put party over patriotism and respect for the Constitution. People who voiced dissent were branded as traitors, "blame America-firsters" (as if a handful of wealthy and corrupt Republican political elites were the avatars of America), and dirty hippies who couldn't be trusted in a time of war and "moral seriousness." And a stenographic media that let them get away with it. Despite that, Bush only got 51% in '04.

I think the Democrats need a good two to three months of hearings, buttressed by the honest Republicans who don't kowtow to King Bush (like Hagel) to really expose the malfeasance. It will take some time to dig up the dirt after 6 years of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil done by any Republican, especially those named Bush. Then it will take a few more months for all this information to sink into the reporting of the media, then a few more to fully sink into the populace. I predict that by November of 2007, the President will lose more support and there will be much stronger calls for impeachment. However, it will be so close to another election, that he will just be censured and then kept under a tight leash by Congress.

Plus it will take some time for the Dems to really get their bearings and understand their constitutional powers yet. Obama used to be a part time law prof. on constitutional law. Perhaps he can lead the way... But why would he want to make those types of speeches and demands on the floor of the Senate when he's got a potential election to think about? Hmm....

P.S.: Long time no post. What are you going to do, I suppose?