Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rick Santorum Does Not Understand that Words Mean Things

I held this particular gem in blogular reserve, because the sense of what my former senator was saying was rare and illogical to the kind of degree that that one needs time and sensitivity to broach.

But here is the thesis:

During the discussion, Santorum said that Christians have allowed their faith to be removed from the public square and need to start fighting back, arguing that removing the Bible from public school classrooms is not neutrality but rather the promotion of the secular worldview. He suggested that conservative Christians should respond by "calling secularism a religion because if we did, then we could ban that too."

Now, some people of faith are altogether comfortable enough calling us atheists and agnostics religious: we're accused of being pagans, of being Satan-worshippers--this isn't new. But the actual, basic definition of secularism is the separation of religion from government business. Just because some confused people decided to call secularism a religion, would not make it a religion. There is no particular way that secularism imposes other religions upon people of any particular faith. It only happens that attending public schools might make a child reared in a certain faith aware that people of other faiths exist--and living on our planet would eventually reveal that special information.

Secularism is kind of a protection against religious discrimination in that no particular faith is imposed--or critiqued. I've often wondered what a genuine course of study of the Christian Bible--a no holds barred study, might accomplish--but it would genuinely provide a distraction from the reading, writing, and 'rithmetic curriculum that any student might find more useful in the long run, so I've never thought it to be a curricular necessity as, oh, critical thinking might be.

Certain religionists, however, explicitly reject even the value of critical thinking. I find that appalling. If our capacity to act as moral creatures relies in part on our ability to reason--how is deriding reasoning in any way a valid start to a moral education?

I'm not shocked in any way that possible 2016 GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum thinks this way--he has for a long time been skeptical of the value of education and practically equates information with sin. I'm not even not clued-in that numerous other Bible-bangers are trying to rewrite history to make things appear more amenable to a moral narrative that never previously existed.

I suspect that might be considered "bearing false witness", but I am not pretending to be expert in such things. I'm just being critical--as any secularist might well be.

John McCain's Shadow Has More Reflection Than He Does

Even if in jest, former half-term Governor Palin's admission that she may have contributed to the failure of the 2008 GOP Presidential ticket betrays a very real paradox:

“To claim last night, also, our president saying ISIS is not Islamic, um, ISIS says they’re Islamic,” Palin continued. “They are so full of deception that America should be concerned with the policies that are going on. And, as I watched the speech last night, Sean, the thought going through my mind is ‘I owe America a global apology. Because John McCain, through all of this, John McCain should be our president.’ He had the advice, today, still giving it to Barack Obama, and he will not listen to it, about the residual forces that must be left behind in order to secure the peace in Iraq that we had fought so hard for.”
The first sentence is absurd, and insulting to not only largely Islamic nations and groups that US interests intend to ally with, but to the hundreds of thousands of Muslim people slain by extremists boasting this murderous and unorthodox doctrine of indiscriminate slaughter. Leaving aside that Palin's syntax largely consists of intermittent dog-whistles and static mixed with uncertain subject/verb agreement, she makes the case that Senator McCain should be president, but is not, because she agreed to run with him.

She's being entirely too hard on herself. The only reason she was in a position to agree to that unfortunate bargain was that he asked. And he asked, because his campaign had begun in such a perpetual motion of fail-flail that she looked like a good life preserver anchor. (Recall, things got so bad at one point that he needed not only to be propped up by herself, but also a stand-in for Everyman in the form of Joe the Plumber.) She looked like a serious running-mate to him. The individual who went on to blustering with a struck-deer face though a relatively soft-ball Katie Couric interview and made Dan Quayle sound like Marcus Tullius Cicero whenever she opened her word-hole.

It could be worse, of course. Sarah Palin has hardly been the albatross to Sen. McCain's credibility that, say, wanting to arm Gaddafi or, say, ISIL, should be. And yet the fact remains that Sarah Palin is, as these things go, a guest on a putative news-related program doling out foreign policy critiques when she is far better versed with drunken brawls * than the intricacies of basic newspaper-content. And McCain himself is still left claiming that he knows very well who to arm in Syria.  And I would humbly posit this claim is murky at best. But probably less murky than whatever impetus allows for McCain still being put out there by news-outlets as expert in any damn thing when the legacy of his 2008 run, Sarah Palin, follows him like a very loud and wrong shadow.

She is the proof of how unsuited for office he ever was and is.

*About which--you'll find the link comprehensive if not obsessive regarding the Palin Clan's dead common behavior, with such appallingly déclassé touches as a "stretch Hummer", the tacky war-cry of the barely-been: "Do you know who I am?", and the mental image of Track Palin, tipsy and shirtless, as though auditioning for a role on that long-running FOX reality program--Cops. Yes, there is a touch of schadenfreude within that scene--but however did she and the family end up in such a scene? It would appear, a lack of even basic social diplomacy skills, tribal loyalty, and a predilection for violence. And yet, not once has Sen. McCain issued a "global apology" for elevating the status of this unique creature to serious consideration for the Oval Office.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ted Cruz is Hard to Stand...With

I think I've made it known that I think Senator Cruz (R-TX) is a schmuck. He has a naked ambition and a reputation for smarts, but he just isn't likeable. I've tried to argue things he does from the "is stupid" vs. "thinks everyone else is stupid" POV, and have found--I don't care. 

He comes off as a clod is all. It's no difference to me why he does--it's that he does that determines his political fate. I hope--because I understand that being a clod has a certain limited appeal in some circles. So upon hearing that Cruz wrong-footed it at a do for Arab Christians, I simply thought he was being a clod again. So he mentions standing with Israel--Israel and Hamas have been in the news recently, which might have brought Israel to mind, and then, there is the shared history of people experiencing persecution. It didn't strike me at first that he'd done anything more than be sort of off-topic.

But in reading further, I find I am in agreement with Rod Dreher and Rep. Dent. It looks to me like he was changing the subject from Arab Christian persecution (which is, in light of recent events, an extremely dire situation), to soliciting support for a regime in Israel that is perceived to be anti-Arab and there is some perception that they are anti-Christian, or at least, discriminatory, as well.  It does not help that his response to the criticism he received was to blast his detractors with the charge of anti-Semitism. One does not need to be an anti-Semite to have reservations about Israel's policies as a government.

It seems like what Cruz was saying, in effect, mirrors the literal Biblical words:

Genesis 12:3: “And I will bless them that bless you and curse him that curses you.”
Which seems to be a significant token amongst certain, mostly dispensationalist fundamentalist Christians, whose support of Israel has a lot to do with their hope in the return of You Know Who. Where Ted Cruz became possessed of the idea that this is a helpful spirit to inject into a forum where there are people with real-world issues to relate--not "next-world" aspirations, is not actually even all that much of a puzzle.  But I think it is really telling about his character that he pulled that kind of stunt.
The US is a diverse nation, and we are one nation in a diverse world. Cruz's signifying and tone-deafness suggest that he just isn't capable of relating to the challenges of leading a nation like ours in the world we have because he sees things in a terribly limited and even mean-spirited way.
I find his POV actually scary.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Happens Every Year

There's a good reason Bretagne is my lead-in to this post--she's a good old girl. She's 15, which is old in dog-years. She's the last known 9/11 service dog left.  In  her way, she's had a more intimate experience of the destruction that happened than a lot of people do--but it has literally been a dog's age.

Today a co-worker remarked "Did you know this is the 13th anniversary of 9/11?" and the question just seemed weird. Of course, the date is 9/11--was it that it's been thirteen years that seems odd? I didn't ask. It's just math, or aftermath. Babies born then are in middle school. We're still in Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead.

For awhile, there were bumper stickers that said "Never forget" (still are on older cars), and I can't and I won't. But time does pass. I heard a speaker on some news show say that it is never over for the families of victims, and while it's undoubtedly true, I wonder if the event recedes--it seems like it should. There should be healing.

Bretagne sniffed out the bodies of the fallen, but became an inadvertent therapy dog as well to humans on-site. I don't know how dogs understand things, or what memories she has. But there's something to be said for understanding that that intimate scent of death is in Bretagne's past. And ours. But the therapy goes on. For all of us.

We are still, in some ways, a nation in recovery from a terrible shock, and the actions that have taken place since are many, and the world is a little different for those of us old enough to comprehend a genuine sense of "before" and "after". We are still at war with terror, even if we don't call it a war on terror. In a way, this war is picking at an old wound.

I don't think our wariness is wrong. It only needs to be informed and right. I don't think the lingering trauma is wrong--everyone heals at their own pace. But I think the day comes that the focus needs to be on healing, service, and fixing the broken parts of our past so suddenly disrupted on that beautiful late-summer morning.

And it may happen even on some late-summer beautiful day that someone remembers--isn't it 9/11? as if they almost forgot. I think that day has to come. It may take more than a dog's age, but it will come. And it will then be normal.  And it won't be so bad, even, that it is.

We Have Always Been At War WIth ISIL She Sighed, Orwellianly

Just for a little background on the possibility of going to "operations" in Syria, it was this time last year that I was writing about the US possibly going into Syria against Assad. ( I referred to Assad as unelected--an inexcusable use of hyperbole to show my general opinion of some countries' manner of acquiring leaders--not that I think he's such a legitimate guy.)

So what do I think now that President Obama is suggesting going into possible operations in Syria to degrade and eventually destroy ISIL, who, if you haven't noticed, I have exactly no earthly use for?

Well, it's complicated. Because the dynamic hasn't changed, has it? We still have the Assad regime on one hand, which Obama himself admits having no sympathy with. There's ISIL, who only a bloody incompetent like Sen. McCain could temporarily love (I kid--only partisans out there in the world we created might think that.) There's the Free Syria Army, who are distinctively not human rights angels. Basically, there aren't any good guys, except for the millions of people who are likely to be displaced, as a million or so others have been already displaced, by this kind of effort.

Because these are the sort of unintended consequences we're seeing already in Iraq. I think it's very reasonable to ask what is to be done in the event that we are successful in routing out ISIL--because that has to be the extent of our business.  We are not responsible to build any other nation besides our own. The idea of setting up a temporary regency is inviting trouble and graft. Leaving a power vacuum seems to invite strongmen and militants to become the stewards of Syria's fate.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Meet the Press: The Optical Delusion 2

Via Balloon-Juice:

Which essentially shows that the "optical delusion" dynamic is essentially the same as it ever was.

But this is your media on Twitter (imagine an egg cracked into a skillet in a very '80's War on Drugs era metaphor).

Meet the Press: The Optical Delusion

Just to follow up on the previous post, Chuck Todd made a fairly silly error in not noticing that President Obama (the Big "Get" interview for his debut, no less!) actually said "Syria" four times before Chuck Todd "noticed" that he had not mentioned Syria. Expect for those four times.

What did Chuck Todd get more granular about--oh, the optics of golfing. What, no follow-up questions about the tan suit? Oh, I kid. I've gotten my own digs in about golfing, but funny thing is--I don't actually get to interview presidents, so sometimes, golf is what I've got. Chuck Todd has the POTUS right there. He could probably get something more substantive.

I think the problem is what I will call an "optical delusion", where conventional Beltway wisdom colors everything. Todd's Syria question comes from the popular misinterpretation of the lack of "strategy in Syria" (per POTUS) with a lack of desire to get one.

What he should have said, rendered into Washingtonese, is  "We in the White House are currently considering all of our options in Sria and are leaving nothing off the table. When we have adequate information, we will make known our plans to the American people."  It's the formulaic way of putting war-golems to sleep until further instruction.

Obama speaks Washingtonese like a gifted, but recent, speaker. He doesn't stroke the right appendages. Todd, sadly, is already mad-fluent. In other words, the show is going much like I expected, only without  Luke Russert, unless I missed him.