Sunday, May 29, 2005
But I find MTV's actions here to be laughable and pitiful. "The Hand That Feeds" is not an offensive song - it reflects a general theme of the album; finding out who you really are. So Trent wants to perform in front of a unaltered backdrop of Bush - so? But that was too much for MTV, who requested for Trent not to do that. Trent said, "See ya!"
Now, MTV has every right to say what happens on their station. And if they pay, they decide. I don't say they don't have a right to do this.
I do say, though, that what they did smacks of cravenness for these reasons.
a.)they like to portray themselves as edgy, but disallow this? Isn't this pretty much what rock n' roll is supposed to be, questioning authority?
b.)many of their reality shows are some of the worst on TV for celebrating bad behavior and being something you don't want your kids to see - but a pic of Bush, now, THAT'S bad news!
They were scared of the response they would get - truly, the spirit of music has died over there. Of course, given the fact that MTV needs to drop the M anyway, we knew that already.
From Fark, I saw this column from Orson Scott Card. Read it.
Orson Scott Card's a big supporter of the Iraq war and has written several columns where he takes to tasks negativity, stars who criticize the war, and the like. Here he attacks the media.
You'll note he recommends that organizations that run a story that would "provoke outrage in Muslim lands, without first making sure it was true" should be frozen out of press conferences and the like - go on the outside to look in. It's an interesting idea - but there's several problems with it. Abu Gharib was widely derided as exaggerated for some time before the pictures came out - where would this fall under Card's system, when the media ran stories about it? What value of "true" do we use - one source, two sources? Would there have to be total confirmation for a story to run, and if so, how does the notorious Bush Admin's massaging of the news and reluctance to talk to the press lend itself to confirmation? And aren't you basically asking the government to admit it's done wrong in this case, something which seems beyond naive to think will happen willingly and easily?
He calls the Koran story "false" and "obviously a lie". This is a drastic interpretation, at least on the "obvious" line - there have been several allegations, from multiple sources, of mistreatment of the Koran, some incidents of which have been having it flushed down a toilet. "Obviously a lie" seems to be a far cry from what it was - "multiply claimed yet unconfirmed." An obvious lie would be "I was shot to death by a guard," say, or "I was raped by a guard" when you weren't. The Koran story, though, wasn't obviously a lie - unless Mr. Card is privy to some information we're not, in which case it would have been nice had he mentioned it.
I love the snide shot about "So Newsweek kills people with a false story that is actually a lie (unlike anything President Bush ever said about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction), and nothing happens to the perpetrators." Excuse me while I chuckle. Let's see, substitute what really happened for "false story that is actually a lie", which is "story that has bad sources", and it seems like damn near a carbon copy of what President Bush et al did. Right down to nothing happening to the perpetrators - it came out that people involved in the intelliegence debacle have gotten bonuses for their work. Akin to Jeffery Skilling getting "Employee of the Month" from Enron. Glass houses, stones, have you met?
Up until now, Orson Scott Card has been "just" partisan - by which I mean willing to overlook facts to smear something he doesn't agree with since it makes his side look bad. A failing, yes, but the things he says next makes this failing seem as innocent as dandruff.
He argues that we are in a war, and the media shouldn't publish information that will make it seem like we're in a war against Islam, not just terrorists. He gets quite colorfully hyperbolic about it, accusing the media of living in "Smartland" (zipcode IQ180, I guess) and having an agenda to bring down President Bush. Then he says radical Islam hates us so much mainly b/c of the citizens of Smartland - who apparently dumped their trash in the Islamist's yard. He also says the Smarties jeer at the values Heartland people hold dear, one of the prime ones being Adam Sandler movies. (I jeer at Adam Sandler movies, by the way. Nice to know that a matter of taste determines whether or not you're essentially a traitor.)
Here's a quote: "From Hollywood to newspeople to the soft-subject professors in our universities, the culture that makes people like Osama bin Laden want to blow us up or crush us into dust is the culture of the R-rated movie, the anti-religion intellectual, the glorified abortionist, the babies-without-marriage crowd, and the what-me-worry media elite."
The Passion - an R-rated movie that, I would wager money on, bin Laden hated.
The anti-religion intellectual - like that Baptist church which put up a sign saying, "The Koran needs to be flushed"? (*)
The glorified abortionist - I'd like to where he gets that one from. I know of few abortionists who are "glorified". Defended, yes, but glorified?
And then he gets into la-la land, when he claims: "No they won't. Whom do I think I'm kidding? They'll still blame it on Bush or the Christian right or the oil companies, because the central tenet of their belief is that their side can do no wrong. " Which appears to be close to what he's advocating for his side, in essence - "we" may do wrong, but it shouldn't be reported. It seems, in his mind, to be a difference of refusing to admit you're wrong vs. refusing to let people say you're wrong.
His next section, for a while, isn't so bad. He brings up the fact that, hey, the people who rioted are wrong, shockingly placing blame on the people who did the rioting rather than Newsweek - must have been a slip. He brings up his Mormon beliefs and how they were "attacked" on Cold Case Files, which I don't watch so I can't comment yea or nay. (Of course, he has no problems attacking the beliefs of "Smarties" - or their beliefs as he sees them, which I'm sure is what Cold Case did. Pot, kettle, have you met?) But there's a disconnect again - he rails against Cold Case but says that's okay, because the Mormons didn't riot in protest. When the Muslims riot b/c of what was though to be desecration, that's wasn't okay, it was childish and a temper tantrum. Does this excuse the rioters? Not at all - but for Mr. Card to compare a shot from Cold Case Files to desecration of the Koran smacks of the infantile and condescending. Which, I guess, means if the Mormon Church ever views a central tenet of its faith attacked in such an indignity as flushing the Koran is to Muslims, they won't do anything in protest but grumble and mumble.
His next section is okay, although I would argue that while we do TRY to wage a humane war, things go wrong, and that should be noted and dealt with. Perhaps if we had looked into the abuse allegations from the start and punished some higher-ups instead of the rank-and-file...well, the idiots would still have rioted, yes. But the rest of the Arab world may not have been wondering if the reports could be true, given our past behavior.
In the next area, he shows he's been too busy writing books to see the current political climate when he says: "It's the fact that the West is deeply divided, as a new religious movement -- politically correct Puritanism -- is perilously close to seizing control of the governments of most of the major nations of the West." He's got the right description of the movement, but the wrong people behind that movement. Dobson et al seem to be much more in control of the government that any p.c. people right now.
He then mentions the "Taliban of Smartland", just in case you still had any respect for his political thinkings.
I would hope this essay was written in the heat of the moment and posted before he thought about it. There seems to be a lot of venom and hypocrisy in it, and some statements which are close to the outright pathologically partisan. I don't know, but it seems like the essay is something which, if someone on the other side had written it, he would have stridently condemned as un-American, unpatriotic, and just plain wrong. So he fails my honesty test I mentioned below - not that he cares, I'm sure, but I do.
LATER THOUGHTS: Mr. Card also seems to make the assumption that's it's only the media who ever portrays this war as being against Islam in toto - ignoring images like this pic. Add to that Boykin's moronic statements about, among others, "I knew my God was a real God, and his was an idol," regarding his killing of a Muslim, and it seems that for some people this IS a war against Islam. But this is the media's fault, surely.
(*) - This is a late update to that story - ever since I got so sick I've been behind on magazines and papers, and I didn't see this on the Internet (which has become my day-to-day news source) - the minister who put up that sign has taken it down, and has also apologized for it. Kudos.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
We need to broaden the lines available for research, as the HoR has recently passed and Bush is threatening to veto. Of the sixty or so Bush "allowed" for federal research, we can only use about twenty or so - the others aren't viable. And of those twenty or so, many were "grown" using tissue from mice, which means using them in humans becomes more difficult and likely to be rejected. (I am nowhere near an expert on this topic - I think I've got the basic ideas straight but may be off in others. Check other science blogs for more specific information - say, Chris Mooney's.)
Many people are against fetal stem cell research for various reasons, but it seems a common thread is the one articulated by Andrew Sullivan, copied here in full b/c I can't find the link to it...
BUSH'S VETO: In my view, he's right to veto federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. There is a very clear principle here: do you take life to save lives? My conviction is that you don't, and that the human life in embryonic form is still human life. The idea of cloning embryos to experiment on them is morally repugnant; equally, using left-over, frozen embryos for the same purpose is using human beings as means, not ends. If that isn't a clear, moral line, then I don't know what is. My own religious faith in the dignity of human life is not necessary to support this argument, whatever the NYT says. We're all humans; whatever we believe about our origins or destiny, we can all agree that each of us deserves to be treated as ends in ourselves, not material for others' benefit. If we cede that principle, then we will slide (and have already slid) toward hideous forms of eugenics. Now I know many people disagree. But the pragmatic arguments they deploy - these embryos will be destroyed or kept in limbo anyway, they're teensy-weensy - don't circumvent the deeper moral issue. The only logical justification is an entirely utilitarian one, in which the use of "lesser" humans for the benefit of more developed ones is justified. But this begs an important question: in our society, there is no fundamental moral consensus any more, especially on contentious issues like these. Under those circumstances, it seems to me that the government should remain as neutral as possible between moral claims. The NYT interprets neutrality as funding embryonic stem cell research. That's a funny form of neutrality. In this case, the president has carved out a policy that is, indeed, about as neutral as it could be. If the private sector wants to pursue this course, it can; if individual states want to, ditto. But no American taxpayer should be required to fund from her own dollars what she regards as a moral outrage. Keep the feds out of it. Let the states and private sector do as they will.
Okay, my problem is this. These embryos should be treated as ends in themselves, i.e. as humans and not material, is Andrew's argument. If this is the case, shouldn't anyone who discards an embryo be arrested for murder? Shouldn't adults who agree to have their embryos discarded be arrested for child abuse? It seems the common argument is: These are people, they shouldn't be used for stem cell research; that's turning them into material. But if these same embryos are discarded, what are they then? It seems to be that there's a large logical gap there - they're human if they're to be used in fetal stem cell research, but they're not human if they're to be discarded. The intent determines the status.
The bill recently passed would call for permission to be given by the parents on embryos about to be discarded. This is not smash and extract science. People will have an informed choice about what to do - which makes it a lot like first trimester abortion; something Andrew does reluctantly support. (Again, I don't see a link on this, and I don't want to c&p another post, but the difference to him is that the embryo is in another person's body, and their liberty outweighs the fetus. See his site for the complete post.)
If you do feel that frozen embryos are really human, here's the question to ask yourself: You live next to a reproductive facility that has frozen embryos. It breaks out in fire. All of the workers get out before the blaze gets bad. You are told the fire department can't make it to the fire, and the building will burn down.
Do you run into the building to rescue the frozen embryos? Would you answer change if the building burning was an orphanage? (I saw this question first on Eschaton, credit where credit is due.)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
"“I’ve never read the Bible cover to cover; maybe I should have,” Santorum said"
Now, given the bruises he has all over his chest from thumping it on religious issues, one would have thought he'd have read his own User's Guide. Funny thing, though - many people who say they are Christians haven't read the Bible all the way through either. For most of these people, it doesn't matter - they're of the "live and let live" religious bent; whereas they may disagree with you, they don't feel compelled to condemn you loudly, publicly and monotonously.
But there are some who are just stupid about this. I was in a debate in a religious chat room, and someone challenged the room to state a bad episode in the Bible. I mentioned the horrifying episode of Elisha's bald head, the kids who made fun of it, and the bears who "tare forty and two children". (2 Kings, 2:23-24) This worthy person immediately called me a liar and stated that HER Bible would never have anything like that in it at all. She was backed up by many, who stated that I had to be lying. After I posted the verses, they went quiet. It seems that many of them went by what they THOUGHT the Bible should say and not what it does say. So Santorum, while proving himself once again to be a stupid man, isn't alone.
There's a reason I don't listen to people who state that we should live our lives by the Bible - usually stating this belief to back up their anti-gay beliefs or the like. There are three possibilities to the Bible:
a.)It's completely and totally Holy - so all of it should be followed to the letter. Go read Leviticus and tell me if you know anyone who follows all of these laws. No fair arguing times have changed - I don't see an expiration date for these laws.
b.)It's completely and totally secular - so claiming divine law doesn't work.
c.) Parts of it are holy; parts aren't. We don't know which are which. So picking and choosing what you want to believe says more about what YOU think rather than what GOD thinks, doesn't it?
Part of the reason I became an agnostic was because I read the Bible cover to cover and realized there's quite a lot in there I can't find acceptable in a deity who's supposed to be a loving God. Maybe if other people read it, instead of imagined it, they'd be a little less prone to screaming that they know the answers from God's mind.
What did Mr. Moore feel he could have offered to the debate? Rhetoric? Got enough o' that. Hyperbole? Check, got that too. Religious beliefs masquerading as scientific fact? Plenty. Maybe Mr. Moore just wanted a few more press pictures of him for his scrapbook, or his ever-more-possible governor run. Either way, his contributions in the debate would have been less than worthless, a common value for him. It would be nice if he took all this ire and bluster and actually do something Jesus-like - tend the sick, help the poor, you know, all that stuff in the New Testament. I guess he got a different version, where the Golden Rule was, "Love thyself, and do get as much attention as possible."
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
2 entries found for treason.To select an entry, click on it.
Main Entry: trea·son Pronunciation: 'trE-z&nFunction: nounEtymology: Middle English tresoun, from Old French traison, from Latin tradition-, traditio act of handing over, from tradere to hand over, betray -- more at TRAITOR1 : the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family
Spencer Bachus, on the other hand, feels treason is telling a joke about army enrollment:
""I think it borders on treason," Bachus said. "In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country." "
It's so refreshing to meet an open mind, isn't it?
If we're gonna water down treason to telling a joke, I'd like to recommend we arrest Spencer Bachus himself - wasting time by calling Bill Maher treasonous while there's a war going on and many, many more important things to worry about certainly undermines the security of our country. Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned, but at least he got some practice in, whereas Spencer seems to just like the sound of his own insanity.
"You're either with us, or you're treasonous!" - the new slogan for Bachus' campaign. Also, "Humor need not apply." Or, perhaps, "Defintions? We don' need no stinkin' definitions!"
The essay sums up a particularly troubling trend for me. Nowadays, people swear fealty to a party, not an ideology, which brings about shifting standards for judgment. Actions no longer are judged by how they stand up to beliefs - they're judged by who initiated it and who will be hurt by it.
The best examples today are, of course, the Republicans. This is the "conservative" party who have passed budgets that are Enron-esque in their juggling, the "conservative" party of small government who wanted to overturn the filibuster, the "conservative" party of state's rights who gleefully intervened in Florida over Terri Schaivo and who went against various bills in other states (Oregon's medical marijuana, for example) when they felt it was wrong by their standards.
All these actions should have truly conservative people screaming out loud, tearing out their hair, even threatening to cancel their subscription to National Review. But most aren't. A few have raised objections here and there - William Buckley condemned Abu Gharib and other abuses, and George Will has, now and again, mentioned that some of Bush's ideas and plans aren't too well thought out. But the rank and file - Rush Limbaugh (rank emphasized there), Ann Coulter (and again), Jonah Goldberg, et al - don't care that many of the current Administration's actions go against all tenets of conservatism. They just look at who started the acts - the Republicans - and bingo! All is well.
This makes any beliefs very easy to abandon - if it benefits my side, it's okay. It also makes formulating your philosophy very hard - it comes down to "I'm against it unless my party does it and for it unless the other party does it." Sand in high tides are more stable.
The blogs are, of course, front and center in the intellectual eliding. Power Line wholly supports things they would have WORN OUT THE CAPITAL LOCK KEY over if Clinton had done them. Instapundit has yet to admit anything wrong happened in Iraq, from WMD fallacies to prison abuses. Some have admitted problems - The Moderate Voice has been reporting on troubles in Iraq even though they supported the war, Balloon Juice has been very vocal about problems he sees in Republican acts, and Andrew Sullivan has also been commenting about troubling issues. But for the most part, conservatives seem willing to betray ideals for the sake of the party. To see how dangerous this is, imagine if Powell's views on Iraq had been able to gain ground, i.e. more men on the ground and better post-war planning, instead of his being vilified and ridiculed and ignored.
The intellectual abandonment is horrifying, because if you base your whole belief system not on personal thoughts and philosophies but only on who offered it, you're nothing more than a drone who will help push a party over the cliff. If anything they do is okay, everything they do is okay, until people who do think - a seemingly vanishing breed but still around - rebel and either switch sides or start their own party. At least one blog has said they feel that a rebel from outside politics could be the dark horse this next Presidential election cycle (I'm sorry I can't recall which one), and I can see that as well. Either way, the party (here the Republicans, but Democrats have their own sheep followers as well) will suffer.
This is the test to use - for any action, bill, motion, etc.: would you feel the same about it, if it hurt your party/helped the other party? If you say yes, you're actually thinking. If you say no, you're substituting party loyalty for gray matter.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
I've also become addicted to System of a Down's "B.Y.O.B." I love the rhythm changes and the guitars are great. It sounds sorta like what Frank Zappa may have written if he had been in a heavy metal band. I think I'll start getting their albums.
First, as I said, the media is biased - biased towards bad reporting, in this case as shown by the urge, need, addiction to be first with a hot story. This led them to base a story on one source, and several non-denials. This can cut two ways, of course - if you expect a government official to comment on every single portion of a story in confirmation/denial, well, you're gonna be there a while. On the other hand, people were asked about the Koran portion of the story, and didn't comment, which was should have been reflected in the Periscope item. A "no comment" isn't nearly as good as a yes, but it isn't a no either. Still and all, shoddy reporting.
However, the recent rush to blame the rioting wholly and completely on the Newsweek article is wrong - Dick Meyers himself said so in reference to the riots at Jalalabad. I'm willing to bet that some riots are due to this report, but not all. Of course, that doesn't stop McCllelan from blaming them, and several other bloggers have started the "Newsweek lied, people died" meme. Thus showing that trite sayings are exempt from the 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' adage.
As Andrew Sullivan says - and I agree - thanks to our actions at Abu Gharib, Gitmo, and outsourcing prisoners to countries that torture so we can piously proclaim we don't do it (which always reminds me of the offense taken when a drug dealer was arrested and asked how many drugs he had taken that morning - "Dude, I just sell it, I don't use it!") the reports of Koranic abuse aren't completely outside the realm of possibility here.
Also, don't forget so far there has been no official denial from the Pentagon itself. One report wasn't looking at that allegation, and others claims have been found "not credible." I seem to recall Abu Gharib was, at one point, "not credible", so pardon me if I don't find this a ringing declaration of innocence. Many detainees have claimed this happened, so Newsweek didn't exactly just pull this story from its rear end.
And finally, I think Newsweek can cut the Bush Admin's protests off at the knees by admitting their source was a man named "Curveball".
It's been a fun time here at the house Owned By Cats. The entire family was fighting a low-key bug for the last couple of weeks - first the wife, then the kid, then the wife and kid together, and finally me getting it on Thursday. Problem is, whenever >I< get something, it tends to be after everyone else has gotten over it, when it's had a chance to mutate, evolve, and kick some serious ass. Put another way, whenever I get sick, it's proof of evolution. I get the ones that got better, stronger, faster - the Lee Majors bugs.
So Thursday night I go to bed and start to shiver uncontrollably, and this doesn't stop for an hour and half/two hours. In the middle of this Saint Vitus shuffle, I get incredibly nauseous, so my poor wife makes me a little combination pallet/igloo in the bathroom, so I can freeze to death and vomit to my heart's content. When my head finally stops shaking, we take my temp. 104.5.
Long story short, we call 911, they sends the paramedics out, they tell me it's the flu, I skip the E.R., go to the doctor next day and find out I got something going on here. My lungs still have markings/straitions on them from way back when I got pneumonia back in February, my WBC is up...I'm not hypochondriac, seems to be the bottom line. So I think you guys can understand why the posts have been as rare as admission of mistakes from the Bush Administration.
But now I'm up and moving, feeling moderately better, and will attempt a few posts. You have been warned.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." (italics added)
I've always said that Bush and co. fell prey to groupthink - where all of them believed in something so strongly that all facts against were minimized and all facts for were maximized. (I must admit, though, that there was so much double-talking that almost had to be intentional - Saddam being involved in 9/11 hints, say - that I would not be surprised if it came out the WMD intelligence was massaged from the start.) They wanted the war, so the intelligence was fixed around it.
As I wrote a way back, the media's behavior has made the claims of conspiracy, selective editing, outright bias, lies and everything else tossed around about news stories more likely to be believed - on both sides. Don't like the way a story about, say, Tom DeLay and Abramoff makes the Republicans look? Claim bias, or maybe false reporting. Does a story about Hillary Clinton bring up some bad points? No problem - the source itself has to have its own agenda.
This is extremely harmful to the public intellect. It allows people to believe only the facts they find acceptable, not the ones that are true.
So what happens when the government does it? It verifies that for some people, ideology trumps truth. As Azir Nafisi wrote in her book "Reading Lolita In Tehran" (highly recommended), "We lived in a culture that denied any merit to literary works, considering them important only when they were handmaidens to something seemingly more urgent - namely ideology." Expand that out a little bit to include "scientific works" now.