Thursday, October 05, 2006

On Purpose?

It's weird that Woodward has credibility in his criticisms since he once absurdly praised this lot.

Was that part of some plan?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

enough already

with the Foley crap. Is this important? No. It's unworthy of most of the bloggers spending thousands and thousands of words on it. Yes, OF COURSE, those who are the most sanctimonious about sexuality are hypocrites. Tell me something I didn't know.

It makes me depressed to see these intelligent progressive waste hours and words on something that is, by its nature, trivial. Yes, yes. It's bad for old men to chase underage boys (or girls) and it's even worse when they use their power and position to do so. Of course, its effects are not trivial since politically damaging the Republicans is obviously critical at the current time. And, yet. It looks stupid to generate that much moral outrage over some sexual hypocrisy and deceit when you have just finished channeling outrage about torture and the loss of basic civil rights and the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. Political strategizing on this idiotic sex scandal is a good thing if you are looking at the main chance--but don't go on and on about it with a tone of high dudgeon and outrage. It trivializes other issues, wastes time and never works for the left anyway.

Friday, September 29, 2006

They Did It

The senate. They did it. Twelve democrats. I feel sick.

ETA: Digby says that they know there has been a de facto coup. Yes, something of this seems true judging from my many emails about how we must be sure every vote is counted this November. They can't even get paper ballots and fair elections. The plan for democracy.

I can't even talk about the politics of it now. The strategizing. The analysis. It's all beyond me at the moment. What is maddening is not that this party did this or that or what am I to think of the democrats. It's that it happened at all. It's hard to wrap my mind around in some ways. In other ways, it's entirely expected.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The New Yorker Usually Does Not Suck

Which is nice, in a world where many things do suck. I was asking myself the other day what the New Yorker would be like if Tina Brown were still the editor and it's not a pretty picture. The New Yorker has been the source for countless important stories on Iraq, on Katrina, on the environment and the disastrous results of the current administration. Yet, I don't know who the current editor is. Was it always so political? I don't think so. I don't remember it being so. I started reading it in the '90s. For the short stories. mostly. It seemed full of vignettes and then, under Tina Brown, Vanity Fairesque worship of the rich and famous. Not much political insight.

Still, there were two articles in the September 11th issue that continue to bother me. What surprised me was that, because they were in The New Yorker, they came in under the wire, as it were. I accepted their presuppositions without realizing it.

The first was George Packer's "The Moderate Martyr: Interpreting Islam for the Modern World." It's about the Sudanese Islamic philosopher named Taha. (I'd never heard of him before.) Briefly, Taha makes it possible for Muslims both to embrace modern universalistic ethics and to believe in the Koran by positing two versions of the Koran: A Medina version and a Meccan version. The Median version is universalistic and the Meccan enjoins Muslims to regard women as lesser and to kill infidels, among other things. (Strangely, perhaps, a fundamentalist Christian member of my family actually mentioned to me about six months ago that "something happened to Mohammed after he left Medina." Freaking out that this person, whom I love, was going to say something horrible, I tried to change the subject but I gathered that Christian fundamentalists are turning to critiques of Islam, which is scary. But they are also thinking about Islam religiously and finding out about its history, which is sort of interesting.)

What disturbed me about the article: That it so quickly embraced and confirmed the idea that Muslims who care about equality and justice have this terrible problem in that Islam enjoins them to affirm inequality and injustice. Is this true? It is true in the sense that all the major monotheisms have a long history of intolerance and inequality and some scary-ass things in their central religious texts. Islam says slavery is OK, and so do Judaism and Christianity. But beyond that it makes it sound as if any attempt to marry these more ancient views with a modern enlightenment morality are just somehow pathetic and inauthentic. I know many people who would agree with this, about all three monotheisms. Yet, we know there are a number of instances where Islamic political power and Islamic culture has taken a just and reaonably enlightened (for its time) form. Medieval Muslim rulers were supposed to be more tolerant than Christian rulers of the same period. And most of the people who want to condemn all monotheisms for immoral statements in its foundational texts would not be comfortable with the idea we should throw out Kant and Aristotle because of their racist and sexist views.

In any case, what I didn't like was the author's implicit assumption that all forms of Islam other than those by this guy Taha are inevitably oppressive and supremacist. That it's sort of inimical to Islam to be that way. At least, I found myself thinking "Oh. I guess maybe Islam is sort of a naturally violent and cruel religion." The article kind of slips that in, in what I thought was a disturbing way.

The second article does a very similar thing. Jeffrey Goldberg's article about Hamas. I think it was written with a bit more honesty. What it says is most likely true but I have to wonder what isn't said. Much interviewing is done of men shooting rockets into Israel, political leaders who want their sons to "grow up to be martyrs, as long as they kill Israelis." Yes, there are Palestinians who want their children to be suicide bombers and think that they will shoot rockets into Israel until Israel somehow goes away. (It is very strange, this claim they make--do they forget the existence of the Israeli bombs? The Israelis have PLANES. The Israelis have MISSILES. The Isralis have NUCLEAR WEAPONS. How could they possibly believe that they will harass the Israelis with their little rockets into up and leaving, even if they do happen to get their hands on much better rockets?)

Are there no Palestinians who are thoughtful and have insight into what is happening? Why is it so rare for us to hear their views? What is the real position of the "Palestinian moderates," whose existence is only postulated by some Israeli official?

I suppose one thing I always think when I read about the dangerous Muslim extremists--why is there never any mention of the fact that they are so outgunned it isn't even funny? I'm not sure what Goldberg could have put in his article to make it less of an affirmation that Palestinians are just crazy and there is no hope for peace with those crazy Palestinians. Maybe it's just the case that there is no hope for peace with those crazy Palestinians but is there no one he could interview--no Palestinian whatsoever--that could give a different perspective. It's just: Crazy Palestinians and a few Israelis who are presented as somewhat moderate.

At some point--I get very lazy writing a website that no one reads--I will explain in more detail my absolute and unwavering commitment to the existence of Israel.

I like to think of myself almost as an outside observer. I have some strong feelings about criticism of Israel when it seems anti-Semitic. (Yes, such a thing is possible. Even rather commonplace.) OK, I have some very strong feelings about that. But in general, I analyze the stories I read in a somewhat disinterested way. I have no axe to grind, in particular. I'm not a freaked out anti-Zionist or a ferocious pro-Zionist (at least of the Palestinian hating type). I am concerned about the deep suspicion of Muslims that I see creeping in (if it wasn't there already) to the less extremist news sources. The failure to present a multi-faceted picture of Islam, Muslims, Palestinians, the Palestinian situation. And of course, I cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt there is a multi-faceted picture. I suppose I go by the principle that there always is one. Well, almost always.

It is ridiculous to say perhaps but I worry a bit for the Muslims. Things are bad for them in a variety of ways and I suppose I worry they will get worse. At some point, if things do get worse, then we will have to admit that Muslims are being targeted as Muslim. Then, of course, I worry for the rest of us because we have to live with Muslims and things are not going to be pretty for any of us if large numbers of them turn to violence in response to oppression. I think lefty bloggers tend to avoid such discussions because then it plays into the rightists hands--they have set things up so that concern about the anti-religious turn things are taking sounds like concern for the terrorists. Also, some progressive bloggers are uncomfortable with religion or actively opposed to religion. But at some point we have to ask when the attempt to get a few bad people by sifting through a whole group of people who share characteristics of those bad people (primarily religion but also national origin) starts to become the persecution of a people as a whole.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I just has this strange premonition that Hilary Clinton is going to be president

And yet. It cannot be.

And yet it might.


Off The Deep End

OK, last post went a bit off the deep end perhaps. Good thing no one reads this. I can't believe I started out thinking that I would avoid anything controversial and simply gather data for my officially sanctioned research. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

In any case, this little website still retains its status as a secret diary. And I want, today, to say: Dear Diary, Please remind me to move to Canada.

I'm very tired of being told I cannot move to Canada. First, who is moving to Canada? No one. There are no mass migrations. Yet. So what harm would I do if I did move to Canada? And I suppose the real question is: What good do we do here?

I WANT TO MOVE TO CANADA. I am desperate to move to Canada in fact. That is my prayer of the week: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Somehow, please get us safely entrenched in Canada. With jobs. I will happily give up my citizenship if it is what is required to overcome Canada's protectionist work policies. I will learn the Canadian national anthem. I already know the title! "O, Canada!" See? I'm practically Canadian already.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Many people have theories about why the Bush administration wants to legalize torture, wants to be able to treat detainees in any way they want without any legal oversight or human rights protections.

Krugman says: It is because they can.

But I think it is something else. And if the horrible thing is true, that Bush's intentions are shared by some of the United Statesans, then this will be the reason: It's a symbolic exorcism of hate and fear. I think the reason Muslims and only Muslims (so far) are to be tortured is that there is a terrible fear, a remarkable and incredible fear of Muslims that has been created by this government. Remarkable in that this government is killing Muslims at a rate of (at least) 100 to 1. I think one thing at the root of this fear (and accompanying hatred, the resentment of each and every Muslim for making these cowardly people so afraid) is simply the fact that there are a whole, whole lot of Muslims and they are different and Not Like Us. But mostly, because there are a lot of them.

To torture is to exercise power. It is an act of power. It conquers your fear. If only for a little while. It is interesting that people comment about the Nazi hatred of the Jews but less about the Nazi fear of the Jews. The Jews were seen as all-powerful, as controlling all political events, even the military response to Nazi aggression. Each bomb dropped on Germany was seen--by the most crazy people in the Nazi party, not the opportunists probably--as a Jewish bomb. What is horrific about the Holocaust is not just that so many millions were killed but what was done in addition to the killing--the torture. It was if the Germans had to reduce each Jew to powerlessness and witness this powerlessness in all its forms to expunge their fear. And death alone doesn't do that for some reason, when you are killing a person and what you fear is an abstract idea. And of course, we know that some men torture women for related reasons.

OK, now I sound like Ward Churchill. I think. I actually don't know what Ward Churchill sounds like. Anyway, I sound like some crackpot college professor. I'm also freaking myself out, making myself sick and even scaring myself thinking about these terrifying, sickening things. Also, I violated the cardinal internet rule not to make the Nazi analogy.

Except. I don't know what else to think. The thing I've never understood about the post-terrorism era IS the fear of Muslims. Muslims will obviously become scary to me if they come to believe they are direct political targets and start to fight back in the U.S. Then I suppose I'll be scared of Muslims. But overall, I don't get the overwhelming fear of terrorism that resulted from 9/11 and I don't get the overwhelming fear of Muslims. Of course, I'm not afraid of sudden death in general. I'm afraid of evil. I think the reason the Nazi analogy is so hard to resist right now is that we are seeing a new kind of evil and we don't have any way to comprehend it. There have always been the evils of greed and opportunism and indifference and exploitation--slavery, genocide--these things are not pretty. Those things are over, though, at least in their most direct forms. There is violence against women and racist violence that floats around the fringes of our society even now (affecting the middle, of course). And that has the same whiff of intentional cruelty--by private citizens-- but it is different somehow because we know that is pathological and there are laws against it and it is officially reviled. Intentional cruelty has not really been the U.S. Government's thing. Up to now.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Conservatives and Torture

I was very disturbed by a comment by Maura Liason of NPR (too lazy to google spelling of her name) that took for granted 'the public' was entirely behind President Bush's attempt to make torture legal.

She said something like "oh, of course, people don't want to give the terrrorists special treatment." But then she said that McCain has a special status so that people give him a pass when he says THAT TORTURE IS NOT SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE DONE.

So that...what? Fifty years of international law out the window? The eighth amendment? Poof. "Well, of course, people don't really support the eighth amendment but McCain has special status (as a victim!) and so when he says he cares about morality and the eighth amendment, people excuse his foolhardiness." This is pretty much an equivalent statement to the statement she made.

In my previous incarnation, on a different website which I destroyed, partly because current politics drove me so crazy and the internet made me so suseptible to political obsession, I had many ranting posts about how I hate NPR. Those ones never got any comments. (People used to comment. Being a weirdo, I actually didn't like that in certain ways! I'm not cut out for this and yet I go on.) I guess no one really gets the horror that is NPR who is on the liberal/lefty end of things. So let me just say it again; I HATE NPR. I HATE THEM FOR PRETENDING EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. THAT THIS SITUATION IS NORMAL. They are so FUCKING CHIPPER when they talk about HOW TORTURE IN SOME FORM OR OTHER MAY BE MADE LEGAL.

It really gets to me. Can you tell?

I have been so appalled by recent events, but particularly by this torture issue, that I've started to feel physically ill. Every time I think of this I get sick. I think: IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING? IS OUR SOCIETY REALLY DEBATING WHETHER TORTURE IS OK? What the FUCK!

It's madness. Sheer madness. So suffice it to say that whatshername of NPR's claim got me even more freaked out. I hadn't really thought about THE PEOPLE (sorry, not italics on Safari). I hadn't really thought the American people could be behind such a thing. Undoubtedly that was sheer mental suppression on my part since I desperately fear the discovery that any ordinary person, good-hearted man on the street type, could favor torturing people. TORTURING HUMAN BEINGS. If that is true, then let's just face our society is doomed. Or over. The society we knew---badly guided by sort of enlightenment principles with a large dash of everymanforhimselfism--no longer exists. Call me crazy but it used to be pretty much taken for granted that sort of thing is just so so so so so so so wrong. I mean, I know people occasionally make claims they would like to torture atrocious criminals (convicted ones, mind you) or say that they deserve torture but those claims didn't go anywhere and most of us would say "Shucks, it sounds good in the abstract. But that is not something that we can ever do. Nor would we want to, in a real situation."

I've been wondering what the conservative spin on the thing is. I assume that the spin is that it is not torture. Even though, if you imagine that YOU might have to undergo such practices it's not too hard to also imagine that you'd want to be killed instead. Or you would yearn desperately for your own death. So that seems to clinch the idea--if you were at all honest with yourself--that the practices are torture. I was also thinking: If the conservatives--the supposedly thoughtful ones, who have blogs somewhere even though I don't read them--are supporting this, then that means some portion of the country is. The significant 25% who will follow the fanatics wherever they lead. I went to instapundit. He barely talks about it. But he does mention there could be some arguments against it. Andrew Sullivan seems pretty much against it.

But are they? Are any of them against it? Or has the whole world gone mad?