Sunday, September 30, 2007

From the World of the Fatuous and Banal

Tom Friedman manages to say nothing and whine vaguely about a lot. Nothing specific and all things we've heard before. Much more, with all the digressions, it reads like three essays that got copied and pasted together. At least he referenced The Onion.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We've never seen this before!!!

I am sure that John McCain's illegitimate black baby would have something to say.

A Waste of Time and Resources

Such was Sam Harris' assessment of the mass Shiite pilgrimage to a nearby holy site shortly after the liberation of Baghdad. The march included fanatical displays of religious zeal such as pilgrims flagellating themselves into bleeding near-corpses and the requisite murder of a few Sunnis along the way. Now were my country to be invaded and rid of a murdering sectarian thug, its infrastructure badly damaged, and the rule of law quite precarious I don't think my first impulse would be to whip myself into a state of near catatonia. Truly a waste of time and resources.

In this spirit I couldn't help but think that a similar verdict could be justly rendered to the Bureau of Prisons' effort to compile a list of acceptable religious texts, as reported in today's New York Times.

In their wisdom they have seen fit to convene a panel of religious "experts" (which is about the same as being an expert in the metaphysics of Bambi) and-after having once removed all books deemed inflammatory, then replaced them-given this panel of "experts" (their designation as such has incidentally upset some others who won't have their say) the task of compiling a list of appropriate material.

I don't see the value in giving books, which have been known to incite violence in the simple minded and desperate, to people who are simple minded, desperate, and known to be violent. Much more the thought has doubtlessly not crossed their minds that rather than give prisoners books claiming to be the dicta of the creator of the universe, we should maybe educate them in the ethical thinking of those people whose thoughts form the basis of civil, western democracy. After all I have never heard of someone being incited to violence when reading too much Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Montesquieu, Kant, Hume, or John Locke. Too advanced for the prisoners? Well maybe the confusion will keep them sedate. Unfortunately no. The main concern of people like Moses Silverman, quoted in the Times, is that we not "throw the baby out with the bath water." My opinion on what we should be throwing out need not be repeated.

Much less why are my tax dollars being spent to compile a list of appropriate commentary on genocidal fairy tales for criminals? I am sure that even the most extreme crimes committed by these men pale in comparison to the incitements of the god of the Old Testament and Koran. And I am sure that not even the most schizophrenic and delusional amongst them can dream such insanity as to be found in the Book of Revelation or such vitriolic babbler-on-the-street-with-sign like prose to be found in the letters of Paul. There really is no separation of church and state, and apparently men who have lost the right to decide when they leave a 5x10 cell retain their right to the scribblings of religious demagogues.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ron Paul is the Only Non-Stooge

I have often laughed at those who claim that despite disagreeing with someone we should still respect their opinion. After all, I do think that aggressively arguing against someone's point of view rather de facto shows you don't respect the opinion. I tend to take the view that while disagreeing with someone you can still have an appreciation for their intellectual capabilities. But I think in Ron Paul I have someone I respect regardless of his views, many of which I think range from wrong to crazy- his love of the gold standard coming to mind. I respect him because he is the only candidate from either party who is not a completely partisan, whimpering stooge. How easy is it to see Romney standing beside whatever on of those idiots actually wins the nomination and endorsing him with his full TV weatherman smile on display. A field of ten candidates with nine looking to find ways to disagree by parsing each others words and accusing each other of flip flopping. Is there any accusation which is more hollow, more vacuous, more asinine, and more a waste of time? It reduces to claiming, "I agree with you now but in the past I wouldn't have if we were debating like we are now and I promise never to change my mind like you claim to have done recently." Romney is a fraud, Giuliani is insane, John McCain's campaign is something like Hemmingway's old man at sea, and Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo believe in ghosts. Ron Paul is the only one who's not a phony stooge.

At Least They Scorned Him

Buffoon that he is, Jim Gilchrist known mostly for founding the most visible manifestation of nativist paranoia and vigilantism, The Minuteman Project, could hardly be called as pernicious a fellow as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nonetheless, at Columbia, where Gilchrist was roused off the stage, the President of Iran was given a forum. Well at least the forum had a hostile audience, which in its front page article the Times goes to great length to point out. Among the false, silly, and downright insane things uttered by Ahmadinejad:

“It’s not a crime to be a woman. Women are the best creatures created by God. They represent the kindness, the beauty that God instills in them. Women are respected in Iran.”

That there is not “sufficient research” on what happened to the Jews during World War II.

“We love all nations. We love the Jewish people. There are many Jews living in Iran, with peace and security.”

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country.”

I see it as a positive sign that he at least admitted they have women in Iran, though I doubt its outside the scope of his powers of fantasy. We are talking about a man who believes the apocalypse will come with the return of the 12th Imam. A doctrine that like all eschatology, has as much basis in reality as Resident Evil. I really wish someone could have asked him about that. Although a better question would have been why Al-Sadr decided to take a vacation there back in February.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Roger Cohen echoes Dragged from the Bottom!!!

In the NYT Roger Cohen writes an article about France that was presaged by yours truly. Well Cohen's article is admittedly a bit more polished and informative but it will suffice to say that I am always right and should be assumed to be without question.

What is right about Cohen's article is that unlike Will Cohen recognizes the importance of the character of Sarkozy, and goes through a list of political and cultural taboos that Sarko is breaking. He recognizes that his importance lies not in the technical policy reforms he is making, for those will take years, but in the fact that the personality of Sarkozy marks a sharp contrast with French tradition. No more hugging farmers, no more literary poseurs, and no more politicians drawn from the same incestuous group of friends at ENA France has just been liberated from 10 years of being run by cow kissing a slave to France's fascistic "fonctionnaires" with the energy of brain starved zombie. Not to mention that he was flanked by a wrinkled, weak chinned, aristocratic hangdog, dilettante who fancied himself half Rimbaud half Léon Blum, but could manage only half Gerald Ford half Jimmy Carter. Give Sarko some time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iraq is not like Vietnam

Matt Yglesias has endorsed the position of Steve Simon's pamphlet "After the Surge: The Case for U.S. Military Disengagement from Iraq" which advises withdrawal from Iraq on grounds that we have heard before but Simon does phrase them a bit more clearly.

Leaving U.S. forces in Iraq under today’s circumstances means the United States is culpable but not capable—that is, Washington bears substantial responsibility for developments within Iraq without the ability to shape those developments in a positive direction. In consequence, Iraqi support for the U.S. presence has collapsed. Polls indicate that most Iraqis want the United States to pull out. Moreover, the Iraq war has fueled the jihad and apparently been a godsend to jihadi recruiters—and the process of self-recruitment—as indicated by the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the global war on terror. More broadly, the Iraq war has had a very damaging effect on the U.S. reputation in the Arab and wider Islamic world. Authoritative opinion surveys show this as well. The continued presence of U.S. forces is thus a severe setback in the canonical war of ideas, which the Bush administration has correctly assessed as crucial to American interests. [...]

In 2004, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to Osama bin Laden, said of the U.S. intervention: “America is between two fires. If it stays in Iraq, it will bleed to death; if it leaves, it will lose everything.” His forecast comes disturbingly close to describing current circumstances. It need not, however, be prophecy. More than three years after the intervention began, to be sure, the United States finds itself in an agonizing strategic position. The time has come to acknowledge that the United States must fundamentally recast its commitment to Iraq. It must do so without any illusions that there are unexplored or magic fixes, whether diplomatic or military. Some disasters are irretrievable. Having staked its prestige on the intervention and failed to achieve many of its objectives, the United States will certainly pay a price for military disengagement from Iraq. But if the United States manages its departure from Iraq carefully, it will not have lost everything. Rather, the United States will have preserved the opportunity to recover vital assets that its campaign in Iraq has imperiled: diplomatic initiative, global reputation, and the well-being and political utility of its ground forces. [...]

But raising the prospect of desperate deterioration in Iraq and its environs after an American military disengagement necessarily tends to obscure two things. First, the presence of U.S. forces has not stabilized Iraq thus far. Second, conditions for instability have become structural elements of Iraqi politics. Given these facts, how long should the U.S. keep troops in Iraq, when its military presence only delays an inevitable escalation of intra-Iraqi fighting?

Well said, but I have yet to hear a single advocate for complete withdrawal grapple with the consequences of allowing Iraq to fall into the hands of the forces of Al-Qaeda, or to the influence of its neighbors. One may see shades of the domino theory here and accordingly cry foul, but there is a crucial difference. Vietnam was at the not encircled by powers hoping to divide up the loyalties of its people for various forms of the ideology we are trying to fight. The neighboring countries of Laos and Cmabodia fell to Communist influence so the domino theorists may feel vindicated but at the time we entered, surrounding countries were not trying to make Vietnam a proxy state. The struggled in Vietnam was at it origin, one against colonialism.

Secondly in Vietnam we were not trying to reconcile two sides in a civil war. In Vietnam we were one side in a civil war, and were fighting against a people trying to expel us. The Iraqis may want us to leave but the fighting there is intra-Iraqi, and aimed at establishing hegemony of religious sect.

And thirdly cultural differences in between Vietnam and the Soviet Union would have made a long term alliance between the two untenable. Sino-Soviet relations were always hostile and a people that had been fighting colonial occupation for decades would not have accepted Soviet influence. Nor would they have accepted it from the Chinese with whom there was a centuries old cultural animus. The Iraqi people are not a nation. The territory is the result of European, colonial cartography and the Sunnis will find more to like with Saudi Arabia, the Shiites with Iran, and Kurds with Turkey. Iraq is thus not only already surrounded by various forms of the ideology we are trying to fight but the regional powers who represent it are know to be positively trying to export it.

If we leave Iraq we will leave it to the influence of powers who have international goals and the people will not be so resistant to their influence. The Vietnamese just wanted us, and everyone else, out. The Iraqis are not fighting a war of independence, rather for fear of each other they are fighting one for tribal hegemony.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Mean and nasty"

I can't improve on Mark Steyn's review of the speech give by the governor of my home state on the anniversary of 9/11 so I'll simply link. Suffice to say the speech is as puerile as the above title, but the review is right on the mark and pleasingly... well mean and nasty.

Supporting Darfur makes me feel good... What are we supporting exactly?

A thought. I would like to know how many of the people who stage die-ins and attend art exhibits to raise awareness about Darfur also want us to withdraw from Iraq. After all we are in Iraq attempting to stop the very thing that is happening in Darfur, and it may be lost on them that if we withdraw the results will in fact be worse than the current Darfur crisis. Intervening in a civil war is apparently a good thing as long as we don't actually do it. That would entail putting people in harms way, and yes actually shooting and killing some of the Janjaweed, who undoubtedly if opposed by the US would be redesignated as "insurgents" or "native resistance" or "people fighting for self determination," which in this case includes the right to determine who to exterminate.

Every credible, sane, and qualified commentator I have read admits that withdrawal from Iraq would remove the last obstacle to a massive bloodletting. Why is it that this genocide doesn't merit opposition but the Darfur one does? I'm sure I needn't list possible reasons.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Evolution blogging

A nice thing about evolution is that blogging about it inspires one reflect on the rather elegant coincidence of using a medium which uses constant updates of changes to my intellectual development, to write about constant changes to our species' genetic code. The religious can tune out about now if they wish, unless you're one of those who through tortuous logic can accommodate the theory to your holy book. Alas when confronted with people such as this I always refer them to the words of Pierre-Simone LaPlace, "Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là." He didn't need any god, and neither does evolution. It works just fine without it.

The New York Times' science section has an article about the gaps remaining in our knowledge of the exact chronology and circumstances of Homo Sapiens divergence from earlier forms. Indeed it looks as if we may have alongside pre-modern humans for some time. This accomplished by geographical isolation of different populations, which hastens evolutionary change, and thus speciation. What should strike one here is how unafraid the scientists are of admitting gaps in our understanding. I will never cease to be amazed at how people who claim to know the mind of the creator of the universe can so unselfconscious as to call scientists smug. The reality is that scientists don't need to be afraid of gaps in their understanding because for one, even if we knew nothing about human origins there is no way to justify using a holy text as some kind of default explanation, and two they are conducting a continuous, sober probe into the origins of species and not administering a metaphysical propaganda machine which can't afford any semblance of inadequacy.

Read the article. If for nothing else but a good update on the current state of our knowledge and the questions to be asked and answered going forward.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Quote for the Day- Mark Lilla

"In the West people still think about God, man, and the world today- how could they not? But most seem to have trained themselves not to take that last step into politics. We are no longer in the habit of connecting our political discourse to theological and cosmological questions, and we no longer recognize revelation as politically authoritative. This is testament to our self restraint. That we must rely on self restraint should concern us." -Mark Lilla, The Stillborn God

With some notable exceptions I think this is true even here in this most Christian of Western democracies. But it expresses more eloquently (and for me in embarrassingly fewer words) what I tried to say here. The separation of church and state we have in this country is fragile, and is held in place by an all too amendable constitution. Sometime I wish that religion at this country's founding had been mixed with state. There would have been two possible outcomes: The stultifying effects of theocracy would have been so embarrassing in the face of an advancing Europe that to salvage national pride, which has always been hyper-sensitive to condescension from across the Atlantic, we would have forcibly dispensed with it. The other more likely outcome would be that a church would have been nationalized and become an ossified, corrupt, petty, and bureaucratic arm of the sate thus neutralizing its ability to inspire religious fervor and zealotry. After all no state has an interest in breeding fanatics and as with European national churches all religious fervor that threatened governmental authority would be easily neutralized. This would have been the more likely scenario, and it is what I hope is happening now though less formally. We can only hope that George Bush has become such a symbol of the infusion of religion and politics that the religious groups that have supported him will sink with his presidency. I am possibly being too hopeful. I do often wish though that at the Republic's birth we could have had church and state united and have been judiciously done with it when we saw where it took us. This also the reason why I don't fear a takeover of evangelicals or the fashionable fundamentalists as I think they should be dubbed. The results would be so hysterically and comically disastrous for the country and their movement that they would be forever discredited.

The knee jerks so fast sometimes

While Pharyngula is a great blog to get out one's need to read ridicule of religious fundies, PZ Myers epitomizes what I hate about liberalism, with a post titled "One million +" he claims "we" have killed a million Iraqis, and that it was for nothing more than the whim of a neocon cabal. I think his knee must have jerked into his face. It must take a lot of confidence to make such an extraordinary claim in two sentences. That's the kind of arrogance displays by the religious believers he often pillories so well. Read the comments section for the clusterfuck of groupthink. It may be a thought stopping hammer to protect an infantile president, but I think that calling this symptomatic of Bush Derangement Syndrome is not unjust.

"Apres moi le deluge!" Greenspan on Bush

If you needed any more confirmation that Bush is not a conservative, and indeed has no comprehension of what the term conservative means, then the newly released book by Alan Greenspan should suffice. The New York Time has a synopsis.

When you run a party which has to appease intellectually dim religious fanatics with money to run programs that serve no purpose and indeed make us a more ignorant and backward country then there can't be an expectation of fiscal restraint. And much like the war in Iraq, when the Dems take office and we reap the consequences Bush will score a propaganda victory. And also much like the war Bush's attachement to ideology got in the way of sound decision making. He's the "Decider"... unfortunately. Rajiv Chandrasekeran's book on Iraq describes this in detail. Although he, and now probably Greenspan, must just be hysterical liberals because for them the family values agenda doesn't trump all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Classic Separation

My article on Muslim outrage over the Swedish cartoons depicting Muhammad might lead the reader with justice to believe that I am a passionate defender of the separation of church and state. I am this and as long as people's minds remain so intractable and unimaginative that they prefer the comfort of a millennia-old book written by people with no understanding of the natural, it will remain one of the cornerstone guarantors of freedom. As long as people derive their beliefs regarding ethics from books which cannot be said to admit of tolerance and open debate then there really is no other way to limit their ability to reflect the barbaric prescriptions of these books in our laws than to say they can't in our founding documents.

What shouldn't be assumed is that I think the separation of church and state found in Western societies is a especially strong defense against theocracy. But through over two centuries of political discourse it cannot be claimed by any impartial observer that religion has not been used as an explicit qualification for office in the minds of voters or that political beliefs have not been directly derived from those beliefs. Indeed it cannot even be a reasonable expectation that secular and religious beliefs are distinct things. If a person believes they know the mind of the creator of the universe it is impossible that they would not want to petition the government to enact laws as such. Laws of which the creator of the universe would approve.

And alas the Constitution can be changed. There is nothing other than public consensus which keeps our government separate from our churches.. Even in this country that separation is tenuous. The separation of church and state reflects the bourgeois, aristocratic values of the 18th century deists who wrote it. Religious fervor was an ungentlemanly thing indicative of a lack of education, cultivation, intellect, breeding, and an excess of "enthusiasm," a word they never tired of using. Religious participation was a social grace and a sign of conformity. And the matter was walled off as strictly private precisely so few of them believed it and knew politically imprudent to say so and thus they created a convenient prophylactic. Their separation of church and state cannot account for a person who actually believes they know the mind of the creator of the universe and believes it wrote one of our holy books. Such a person cannot by definition allow religious dogma to be separated from the law because the books themselves forbid that t be. They do not believe that religious temperance and tolerance are virtues and indeed are unable to. Any unpacking of the beliefs of a so called religious moderate will reveal that his notion of a god is so vague and so shrouded in metaphysical contortions that it bears no resemblance to anything believed in by those such as those Muslims offended by the Swedish cartoons or the people who advocate teaching pseudo-scientific ignorance in American schools.

The separation of church and state is an impoverished notion, and can contain nothing but tepid bourgeois religious belief. The aforementioned values with which religious fanaticism was incompatible were paramount concerns of 18th century gentlemen and more than that their republicanism (they were not democrats) was aimed at preventing people who didn't share these values from gaining power. If you don't believe this then do some reading on the type of men they envisioned occupying the electoral college, itself a relic of classist republicanism.

But alas such people can take power. And they can alter our constitution and the respect and politeness which have been inculcated in our nation towards them is a result of our belief that our government was, by force of our Constitution and the insistence that religion is private, (a singularly American notion) immune to theocratic ambitions. It is not and that is why religion must be confronted, humiliated, and discredited with the only weapon we have and should have at our disposal; free speech.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Quotes for the Day

"And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the Earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worst, in a free and open encounter?" -John Milton, Areopagitica

"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans, we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its Republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments to the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." -Thomas Jefferson 1801 Inaugural

Hence the reason people of my persuasion don't burn books, issue Indexes of Prohibited Books, and why we don't ask for apology and censorship of everything that offends us. Bill Donahue, CAIR, ect. If was driven to apoplexy every time someone said something untoward about atheists I don't think I'd be able to get out of bed.

More Muslim Outrage

The Muslim world is outraged... again. And my stars!... the last country containing containing artists with the balls to dare offend them is Sweden. And now, as if burning embassies, rioting, murder, and vicious threats of violence weren't sufficient displays of arrogance, a dispatch of ambassadors from Muslim countries is demanding that Sweden enact laws to protect them from offense. They suggest something along the lines of, "the protection enjoyed by Jews and homosexuals," which is entirely appropriate as this happens to be nothing.

Hopefully the Swedish authorities will channel Teresa Heinz and tell them to "shove it" but I am not hopeful. The entirety of this episode could be solved by telling these representatives that in a democracy a government has no responsibility to police the thoughts expressed in its nation's privately owned publications but such principles seem to be derogated when the offended group has utterly no comprehension of or respect (something they feel due to themselves) for the concept of free speech, and as such have no comprehension of why in such a society blasphemy is not a crime.

But alas, as we are unceasingly reminded, we must respect people of faith. And in that spirit of respect the Swedish Prime Minister has agreed to meet with Muslims to discuss the criminalization of satirizing Islam. One would be tempted to think this a quite insidious threat to a free press, but this concern has escaped the Muslim representatives, and their proclamations that "work needs to be done," "comprehensive measures are needed," and that "students should be taught to express themselves in ways that don't cause offense or hurt." If their is anything I hold dear it is the freedom to say anything I desire about their illiterate, epileptic, and sanguinary prophet but I along with the people of Sweden will undoubtedly find it in ourselves to refrain from rioting and arson in the face of this utterly castrating arrogance.

I don't know how any sane reader can see this as anything but a direct demand that free speech be abridged. Whether the cartoon is compatible with the perceived journalistic responsibility of the newspaper is irrelevant as a private newspaper has the right to publish anything it pleases, and yes this includes a right to insult. Liberals, Conservatives, gays, and Jews are not protected from offense and the fact that blasphemy is not a crime is indicative of nothing more than the fact that we are not a theocracy- a form of government so natural to them that they have no comprehension of how a people could value a system of government when they don't believe the creator of the universe endorses it.

Is there any way to express this to them? Is there any way to convince them that if they want to end criticism of their religion it is to argue against it or reform? No there isn't and it is stupid to try. This is a threat equal to the threat of terrorism which underlies all their paroxysms of outrage, and it seeks to undo everything that is worth saving in our culture.

The Algerian ambassador called his meeting with the Swedish PM "was an excellent initiative taken in a spirit of appeasement." They're not even trying to hide the creepy historical parallels anymore.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ponnuru on Fred Thompson

In a political era in which the cost of a man's haircut can be treated as though it were a window into his soul, you'd think people would be a little more curious what it says about Fred Thompson that he'd do work—even just 3.3 hours of it—for indicted terrorists.
-Ramesh Ponnuru on Fred Thompson's defense work for Libyan terrorists.

Maybe because he believes in respect for the integrity of the American legal system? Something right wingers find it increasingly hard to do these days.

Monday, September 10, 2007


This has to go down as a classic of obfuscation. The whole presentation here.

What everyone already knew

A new study describes the differences in brain activity between liberals and conservatives. I never considered myself a liberal but I will say that I never consistently took the same route home from high school.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tell me about the thousand dollar seed!!!

Though I try to keep my criticisms of religion academic (or some facsimile thereof) we needn't forget faithful readers that religion is good for a laugh. Pun intended.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Brooks on Iraq

David Brooks has a must read column about Iraq, even if I do detest its ending. He notes the change in US strategy from using the surge to give Iraqi politicians time to make compromises to using it to help local tribes establish themselves as the locus of law and order. And relates an incident which goes far in illustrating just what a mess this war has become.

"In one scene, a Sunni tribal leader has been captured by the National Police, who are about to hand him over to the Mahdi Army to be murdered. He manages to call the Americans on his cellphone, who launch a rescue mission. After a tense standoff, he’s freed and can go back to stabilizing his town.

In other words, as Gordon notes, a former Sunni insurgent and enemy of the U.S. ends up calling the Americans so he can be liberated from America’s supposed allies."

Tis is of course an indictment of the utter incompetence of the Bush administration in managing the war, traceable to the liquidation of all experienced civil servants, including the army, and their anathematization for petty reasons of politics and PR. Rajiv Chandrasekeran's work on this is great reading though I should mention it is the only book length treatment of the subject I have read. These are reasons to detest Bush. They do not stand as arguments in favor of ending the war or the strategic benefits of withdrawal. Christopher Hitchens recently said that the surge should be supported even if it is not succeeding, and incurred some vitriolic criticism from Andrew Sullivan who asked "so are we to support a policy regardless of its effect?" No not, regardless of its effect, we should support it because of its goal. Anyone who recognizes the necessity of preventing the collapse of Iraqi society into sectarian anarchy, and the loss of a geopolitically central state to the forces of militant (though is there any other kind?) religious fanaticism, would not be hard pressed to find reasons to support the entire effort of which the surge is integral. Sullivan of course wishes to withdraw from Iraq and a reading of his blogs on the subject reveal a disconcerting comfort with the prospect of a sectarian bloodbath.

The encouraging part is that we have found a more effective way of moving toward peace in Iraq, if an imperfect peace founded on tribal thuggery. This may be all we can hope for and if so it will prove how tone deaf to culture was and is the neoconservative belief that democracy can be started in a country without correlative traditions and institutions. As Brooks notes:

"The surge was intended to bolster the “modern” — meaning nonsectarian and nontribal — institutions in the country.

But the surge is failing, at least politically, because there are practically no nonsectarian institutions, and there are few nonsectarian leaders to create them. Security gains have not led to political gains."

Possibly, and I have oft wondered if a more lasting and in the long run beneficial solution for Iraq is a dictator in the vein of Pinochet who would genuinely help the country rather than run it as an oil financed fiefdom. For the neocons' this is unpalatable and likewise for the American people who would not tolerate a view of themselves as exporters of autocracy. I myself cannot fully reconcile supporting the creation of a regime I myself would not tolerate. A facile "ends justifies the means" logic is barely serviceable.

He ends with a paragraph that makes me wince on grounds of stylistic preferences:

The key questions now are: Can U.S. troops help Iraqi locals take control of their own neighborhoods? Is it worth more American lives to help them do so? And, if so, how?

Yes, David, I happen to be reading your column and the august newspaper that publishes it to answer those very questions. I don't expect your column to lay them to rest but I don't need to be patronizingly reminded of them.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Republican Retreat from Reality

Mark Levin has a column at National Reveiw that epitomizes just about everything that is wrong on the American right. By the way, I know that National Review likes to have a bit of fun but what is a baseball capped talk radio buffoon like Levin doing writing in the same space as Bill Buckley? Levin links the Larry Craig scandal to just about every problem with American, and then blames liberals for it. The column is so fatuous and irrational I don't even know how to begin to discuss it but I will excerpt the last paragraph and ask a question.

There is indeed a culture of corruption, and it extends well beyond any single politician. It swirls around big government. It always has and it always will. It has become institutionalized in many ways. And that culture of corruption celebrates clever word games used by unelected judges to exercise power they don’t have as they rewrite the Constitution; it demeans people of faith who speak out against the culture of corruption and for — dare I say — family values; it undermines and seeks to demoralize Americans in uniform as they fight a horrible enemy on the battlefield; it demonizes entrepreneurs and successful enterprises; it uses race, age, religion, gender, and whatever works to balkanize Americans; and so on. This is the real culture of corruption. Let’s call it what it is — modern liberalism. And its impact on our society is far worse than the disorderly-conduct misdemeanor to which Larry Craig pled guilty and for which he has now resigned.

With reasoning like this what kind of thoughts would be beyond legitimacy? Is there anything that could conceivably happen which might make Levin evince even a semblance of self criticism. Are any of his beliefs at all open to doubt or evidentiary testing? When faced with the hypocrisy of his own party for which he is a shill, he simply excuses it and then hysterically blames liberalism for every wordly evil imaginable. Even in the space of one paragraph he feeds the persecution complex of the religious right and then blames liberals for balkanizing people base don religion. So apparently people of faith should never trust liberals but it is the lefties who are balkanizing people. This is a talk radio shriek in a published column. With this kind of reasoning, what exactly can't be blamed on liberals?