Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

A little perspective on the current “crises’ on the American mind.

From Michael Yon:

We might take a moment to remind ourselves that we do not live in a land of tribal law or a place where intergenerational feuds are part of the social fabric.  Look at Afghanistan. Widows abandoned and shunned.  Orphans everywhere. People missing limbs from the millions of mines still dotting the landscape.  Millions.  Tribes and warring ethnic factions and police so corrupt they make the Mafia look like do-gooders.  Taliban.  HIG. Al Qaeda.  And a lot more suicide bombers than Senators.  (Trust me on that one.)

The people of Afghanistan are extremely friendly and welcoming.  But let’s face it. They live in a world of constant struggle. Their country was already primitive, and their existence difficult enough before they became a place of conquest, civil war, and now a clash of civilizations (or, to put it more accurately, a clash between dozens of civilized countries and violent anarchy).

The full column.

So eat your spinach and like it!

Ugliness revisited

I need to retract my displeasure with Gov. Palin regarding her comments on Sen. Obama and Bill Ayers.  On looking further at the issue, I’ve found that their relationship was closer than I was willing to assume, and that Ayers is less-than-repentent about the bombs that he built and placed while he was active with the Weather Underground (I wasn’t willing to just assume that he was directly involved with the terrorism of his group).  Based on this, I find Gov. Palin’s comments to be not nearly as much of a stretch as I previously thought.

For those who hadn’t seen the full quote in context (I hadn’t), these two paragraphs come from the New York Times blogs.

“I get to bring this up not to pick a fight, but it was there in the New York Times, so we are gonna talk about it. Turns out one of Barack’s earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol. Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.

“This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”

This statement is arguable, but it’s not false, it’s not rumor, and the context makes claims of an appeal to racism clearly wrong.  When you’re facing a half-black candidate, there is no need for an appeal to racism — anti-black racists aren’t going to vote for him anyway. 

Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

This will seem out of a clear blue sky for most of you.  Sorry.  Feel free to ignore this if you don’t know what it’s about.

Racism is something I take pretty seriously.  I also take accusations of racism fairly seriously.  When someone accuses Gov. Palin of making a racist comment, I want to see a solid fact pattern to back that claim up.  When that fact pattern doesn’t exist, the accusation is a problem, and I’m not going to play patty-cake about that.  Racism is a serious thing to accuse someone of, something which shouldn’t be done lightly.  Not just because you disagree with them, or can make up  some long chain of reasoning to make it a racist statement because of code-words or assertions about the stupidity of the average voter.  No, if you have to make that kind of gymnastic reasoning, you’d better put a bit of qualification into that accusation. 
Continue reading Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

P.J. O’Rourke faces mortality.

I have loved P.J. since my subscription to Rolling Stone back in the days of Terrence Trent D’Arby.  He is insightful, deprecating of self and others in a way that is hllarious and yet instructive.  Now, he’s been diagnosed with cancer, and discusses it in a very interesting way in this column

I looked death in the face. All right, I didn’t. I glimpsed him in a crowd. I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, of a very treatable kind. I’m told I have a 95% chance of survival. Come to think of it — as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat hound — my chance of survival has been improved by cancer.

I still cursed God, as we all do when we get bad news and pain. Not even the most faith-impaired among us shouts: “Damn quantum mechanics!” “Damn organic chemistry!” “Damn chaos and coincidence!”

I’ve been on limited net access since Friday, so there might be some catching up the next few hours.  Consider this warning.

The War Won’t End in Afghanistan

Totten’s latest column in Commentary:

Senator Barack Obama said something at the presidential debate last week that almost perfectly encapsulates the difference between his foreign policy and his opponent’s: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.” I don’t know if Obama paraphrased Gates correctly, but if so, they’re both wrong.

If Afghanistan were miraculously transformed into the Switzerland of Central Asia, every last one of the Middle East’s rogues gallery of terrorist groups would still exist. The ideology that spawned them would endure. Their grievances, such as they are, would not be salved. The political culture that produced them, and continues to produce more just like them, would hardly be scathed. Al Qaedism is the most radical wing of an extreme movement which was born in the Middle East and exists now in many parts of the world. Afghanistan is not the root or the source.

Some comments on Christianity

I wrote this in response to a post on ‘s LJ:

In response to your last paragraph, I think this is where the punch is. Again, it’s not a matter of “my team/tribe has this all right, while yours has it all wrong,” as I think it’s just a human thing. When I did my NLP Practitioner Training, many years ago, we talked about meta-patterns, which are just basic ways that people work. Some people move toward what they want, while others move away from what they don’t want. It’s a subtle, but fundamental difference, and, like all dichotomies, it is false when taken too far — we all do some of both, but we will tend to fall on one side more than the other.

But it’s something we have some choice about, if the choice is presented to us so we know we have it. We can choose to build more of what we want, or to try to tear down what we don’t want. We can try to sustain what we hope for, or to run from what we fear. This doesn’t mean that we can just up and choose the positive over the negative every time — if we don’t run from some of the things we fear under certain conditions, we don’t survive to pursue our hopes anymore — but it’s something we can reflect on from time to time, and find ways that we can lean more toward the positive and away from the negative.

Putting on the Christian identity does not make one a Christian in any substantive way on its own — it’s in choosing and walking the Christian path that one comes closer to the proclaimed Master and joins the fold of the Good Shepherd. That path is strait (note the lack of “gh”) and narrow, and few there be that find it. But those who continually seek it will find it, and those who ask will receive, and those who knock will be opened unto. It’s not something that is done in a moment — it’s something that is grown into, or planted and nourished until it grows within us and transforms us. It’s like dew, that distills so subtly that you don’t notice it’s coming until it’s there.

I’m a fan of a Christian life, rather than a Christian identity. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s a lot easier to put on the latter than to live the former, and not a few will stop once they’ve done the latter and think that they’re done. A life-Christian will strive to love all, especially their enemies, while a identity-Christian will berate them for having not been saved. Being saved in an instant by cheap grace, and then being able to sin however one wishes and put it on the Jesus account is a mockery of the Christian message, and it is far too popular within the Christian Church.

It’s not the Christianity that’s the problem, and you can replace the name of almost any team or tribe or party or -ism where I said “Christianity.” The problem is always going to be more in the building of the positive values and living into them than it is in taking the name and doing it for show.

Election clarification, just for the record.

I think everybody here is probably already clear with where I stand with regard to the presidential election. 

I am a Republican.  I’m voting for the Republicans that show up on my ballot.  I’m not voting for them because I necessarily, like/love/respect them.  I’m voting for them because, on more important issues than not, I agree with them. 

To be specific, I do not find John McCain to be the perfect candidate.  And, while I’m one of the few folks who has never been there who knew about Wasilla, Alaska before she was nominated, I’m not entirely ga-ga over Sarah Palin.  Neither one of them is perfect, and neither one of them is the source of all evil in the world.  And neither of them is in lock-step with George Bush or much of anybody else. 

And I do not think Barrack Obama is secretly Muslim, or racist, or particularly evil.  I think his agenda of “Change” sounds a whole lot older than he is.  Joe Biden can be fun to listen to sometimes, but I’ve not liked him very much for a long time.

I don’t trust any of them in the “Here are my car keys and fifty bucks and my daughter” sense.  I’m not choosing them to marry any of my children.  I’m just picking a candidate to vote for.  I’m not going to read through all of their policy and position papers (I’ve written positions and speeches and ads for candidates, including myself, and I know how much they do and don’t reflect who a candidate really is) (mine represented me).  I don’t want one that can leap over tall buildings in a single bound.  I just think things are better when more Republicans are in office. 

The only really fascist bone in my body is the one that wants to round up all of the idiots of any party that are spewing hateful nonsense about the other parties candidate (I should warn you that “McCain is just like Bush,” considering the sources, qualifies as “hateful nonsense” in my book, right next to “Obama is secretly Muslim/racist/evil.”) and tape their typing fingers together so they can’t spew more of that nonsense on the intarwebs until after the election is over (well, or not faster than they could tap out with pencils stuck between their teeth). 

Yeah, yeah, “constitutionally protected free-speech,” I know.  And I won’t.  But I really want to sometimes.  I’d feel better about it if there was more effort shown toward reading and, maybe, comprehending what is in the Constitution and why.  But it’s anti-democratic to want such things.  Sorry.  I slipped again.

So, if I have a favor to ask, it would be this:  please don’t participate in the flood of hateful and misinforming information about candidates for the rest of the election cycle.  Anybody who hasn’t picked who they’re going to vote for for president yet probably isn’t a vote worth chasing anyhow.  If you want to put a sign in your yard, or go doorbell for a candidate, or do something that requires some effort and courage, go right ahead. 

I don’t suspect this will be a problem for anybody who actually read this to the bottom.

The Return of Goodness, Democracy on the Wane

Not connected articles or concepts.  Today’s wins from Arts & Letters Daily:

The Return of Goodness, by Edward Skidelsky

But the pre-modern traditions remain alive under the surface. We cannot but admire feats of courage and self-denial; we cannot but feel disgusted by greed and sloth. Nor are such reactions merely snobbish or aesthetic; they are closely connected to the more strictly moral reactions of respect and indignation. Yet our public language forbids us to acknowledge this connection, forcing us to disguise what are at root ethical responses as something altogether different. For instance, hostility to smoking—clearly at heart a moral aversion to intemperance—must masquerade as a concern for public health or the rights of innocent third parties. Hence the stress placed on the (spurious) concept of passive smoking.

Democracy on the Wane, by Joshua Kurlantzick

The events unfolding in Thailand are part of a gathering global revolt against democracy. In 2007, the number of countries with declining freedoms exceeded those with advancing freedoms by nearly four to one, according to a recent report by Freedom House, an organization that monitors global democracy trends.

Democracy is hard work.  It takes responsibility, self-control and patience, none of which seem to be celebrated values.