Sunday, May 31, 2009

More on “Pro-Life”

Here’s a You Tube segment on Bill O’Reilly commenting a few weeks ago on Kansas abortion clinic, Dear Gentle Reader(s).

Doubtless now that Dr. George Tiller has been murdered, O’Reilly will protest the taking of a life.  Doubtless, too, he will eschew any responsibility disregarding the inflammatory language he uses at the end of the clip.

We are all shamed by O’Reilly’s actions.

Trust, but verify.

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Pro-Life? Yeah, right.

Here’s all you need to know, Dear Gentle Reader(s).

Too soon to tell anything about the perp, but someone shot Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed abortions, as he walked into his church this morning.


Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alas, if you can’t trust Masterpiece…

…who, then, Dear Gentle Reader(s), can one trust?

The Masterpiece series on public television recently broadcast a Wallander segment titled “One Step Behind” which, it turns out, was a bit unfaithful to the book. 

The villain in the screenplay (is there a word for a videoplay?) is limned as a jealous drag queen who kills for attention and for revenge.

That’s not what happens in the book.  No spoilers here for readers, but the tinge of homophobia which colors the screenplay is totally absent from the pages of the novel.

Why might that have happened?  Other than a bit of imaginative laziness on the part of the video’s writers, it’s hard to think of a reason.

Other than the villain’s rationale, the video is faithful enough to the book.  It’s a 90 minute play developed from a 408 page book—much has to be truncated, characters omitted, incidents compressed.  There was no reason, though, to alter the villain’s explanation.  The book makes much more sense.

So, Masterpiece is one to be trusted, but read the book for verification.  (Which is not a bad thing.)

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take a Letter to Andrew (but don’t tell him where I am) Updated*

Dear Andrew Sullivan,

Today you recounted a joke President Obama told at a fund raiser last night: “One of them said, 'Obama keep your promise.’ I thought that’s fair. I don’t know which promise he was talking about.”  Of course, the joke was that Mr. Obama did, indeed, know what the protester was talking about, since the day prior the SCOC had upheld Prop 8.  Except that Obama didn’t “promise” anything about same-sex marriage; he said he supported “civil” unions instead. 


As Sullivan himself points out, Obama made several “promises” which might have been included in a protest staged primarily by GLBT (sounds like a sandwich) activists: “…how about an end to the HIV ban, an end to the military ban and a federal recognition of full civil equality for gay married couples? Three clear promises.”  And three clear promises for which there has been, ahem, little progress in their fulfillment.  Ergo the joke.

Sullivan’s post ends with a reference to the fact that the attendees at the fundraiser were enjoying themselves, and laughing along with the president as he acknowledged that there has been little progress (but some) which deserves a response:  “And then I remember why I'm not a Democrat.”

Um, actually, Andrew, you’re not a Democrat because you were and are and doubtless will be (now that you have a chance to help re-shape the Republican party) a Thatcherite toff-in-spirit-if-not-in-fact.  (Alas, you probably didn’t/don’t have enough money to be a thorough toff.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do trust, but verify.

*Several of Sullivan’s readers upbraided him and he posted some comments and a video of the remark.  I think Sullivan is wiggling about being wrong--“Maybe I jumped too soon”—seems a rather weak acknowledgement, but read the post and judge for yourself.  Trust, DGR(s), but verify—even me.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Speaker and the CIA

Maybe, Dear Gentle Reader(s), Speaker Pelosi did say the CIA lied to her somewhere at sometime; the clip I saw, however, had her using “mislead” rather than “lie.”  “What’s the difference,” you ask.  I dunno.  Perhaps what’s the objective of the person lying/misleading.

Misleading is akin—or the real definition—of/to “spin,” which we all know so well these days.

And the CIA is known for its spin—remember “Slam dunk” about the WMDs in Iraq?

The most egregious example of the CIA’s ability to spin/mislead can be found in the archives of most libraries, even the library at the CIA, and it concerns the CIA’s long-running estimate of the economic vitality of the Soviet Union.

There’s a particularly interesting little piece available for general perusal at this CIA website titled “What Did the CIA Say?”  It defends the CIA; it is, after all, an in-house site.  Parsing the piece, though, is fun and perhaps a bit illuminating.

Take, for instance, this quote:

While most of us who were participants in the effort believe the CIA did get most of it right, and are prepared to argue-on the basis of the record-what was right and what was in error, the primary purpose of this monograph is not to ``prove'' CIA was ``right.'' Rather, the objective is to demonstrate that assertions that CIA got it blatantly wrong are unfounded-that charges that CIA did not see and report the economic decline, societal deterioration, and political destabilization that ultimately resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union are contradicted by the record. Arguments about who was ``how right'' are of less use, much as we might wish to engage in them.

Look at “blatantly wrong.”  The author of the piece isn’t arguing the CIA didn’t get the situation wrong; the argument is that the CIA didn’t get it blatantly wrong.  That is a bit of equivocation, DGR(s).  Nor is the author concerned about “who was ‘how right…’”  That, too is equivocation.

Is equivocation misleading?  Of course, it deflects the attention.

Magicians and follow-the-pea artists mislead.  It’s how they make their living.  The CIA must mislead at times.  Agents in the field would be at risk if they weren’t protected by misleading statements which protect their identities. 

In the case of the Speaker, the question is whether or not the national defense was somehow weakened by what the CIA said and what the Speaker heard.  And make no mistake, torture weakens the U.S. far more than whatever grain of intelligence might strengthen it.

As far as her press conference is concerned, Speaker Pelosi got it right.  She did not accuse the CIA of lying to her.  She said she was mislead.  That is a much more “spinnable” word.  And the right wing is on shaky ground trying to put that albatross on her—even the CIA’s Panetta in his letter to the “troops,” didn’t use “lie.”

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, May 18, 2009


Feel like a little religion v science today, Dear Gentle Reader(s)?  Then go to “God Talk, Part 2” by Stanley Fish in today’s The New York Times.

Mr Fish takes on readers who challenged a recent column.  By his account, he successfully parried all thrusts.  And he well may have.

What he, and those who he quoted, did not do,though, is to present the essential point about religion which seems too too seldom mentioned:  religion began as a pragmatic tool for tribal survival.

If the study of the Andaman Islanders in the early 20th century taught anything, it taught that societies will develop taboos which enable it to survive.*  It’s an easy step from a “man” driven taboo to a “god” driven taboo.  It becomes a relatively safe “The other guy did it” as tribal leaders deflect any dissent which might challenge the taboo.

Nice jobs, Mr Fish and Mr Hitchens.  For the rest of us,

Trust, but verify.

*See, for instance, p74 of The Social Anthropology of Radcliffe-Brown

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meanhwhile, back at the…

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), it seems we are in for more of the same—on so many different fronts.  Half truths, three-quarters truths, possibly even 99 and 44/100% truths are still on the table.  Maybe there’s no such thing as the whole truth.

On or about April 27, General David Petraeus spoke to an audience at Kansas State University.  His topic was principles used in Iraq and how they applied to Afghanistan.  It makes for interesting reading.  You are encouraged to go to the Centcom site for the Pentagon’s press release.

In his talk Petraeus spoke of the success of the “Surge,” and how its principles would apply in Afghanistan, with one teensy omission:  paying Sunnis to work with American forces out in the Iraqi provinces.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the success of the Surge in Iraq had as much to do with employment as it did with troop buildup.  We simply weren’t told about it at the time.  (And the breakdown of that employment program has contributed in no small measure to the current rise in violence in Iraq.)

Petraeus should acknowledge all facets of the Surge in Iraq if he wants us to trust his judgment in Afghanistan.  And some journalist, somewhere, should ask him about them.  Otherwise there will continue to be that niggling sense of unease whenever our leaders speak to us.

Trust, but verify.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

The True Danger to Kids

The good folks who are using children as pawns in the marriage equality debate don’t seem to have a good grasp of the damage their stated goals could very well have on the psyches of those youngsters they purport to “protect.”

Instead of respect for self, respect for others, and a sense of accepting responsibility for choices, these people instill confusion and a sense of alienation in the minds of those children whose sexual orientation will eventually not be in synch with the teachings of their “protectors.”

If same-sex relationships are not worthy of the sanctity of a child’s religion, what is a child to do as he or she grapples with budding sexuality as the person approaches physical sexual maturity?  Where does the child go for advice?  For guidance?

The next time someone pleads “child” against the development of marriage equality, ask that person, Dear Gentle Reader(s), how much that person really thought about the consequences of his actions, instead of merely reciting a rote response.

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Devil and Ms Prejean

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Strange.  That’s the only word for it, Dear Gentle Reader(s). 

The link will take you to a U.S. News & World Report blog called “God and Country.”  It contains a “Here's the transcript:” section presenting a portion of a radio show presented by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in which Dobson leads Ms Prejean in a conversation about her brush with the Old Boy himself at a recent beauty pageant.

In case you missed it, here’s the transcript provided by USNWR:

Dobson: It sounded, Carrie, like your first reaction was to hedge, to say "Well, this is a free country" and then something took over.

Prej ean: It really was a switch.

Dobson: And you did one of the most courageous things I've seen anybody your age or anybody else do. What was going on in your mind?

Prejean: I started off by saying I want to win this pageant so bad, I've worked so hard, I wanted to sound politically correct but still stay true to my values. But I just knew at that moment that God was just telling me "Carrie, how bad do you want this? Are you willing to compromise your beliefs for a one year crown of Miss USA." And I just knew right there . . . And I said you know what and the switch went off. And I said, "A marriage should be between a man and a woman and that's how it should be. "

. . . . And I knew there was no way I was going to win Miss USA. No way.

Dobson: So you put it on the line, that's what I mean when I said you're courageous because this was the goal of your life to that point. And yet you gave it up. And yet the Lord is using you all over this country.

Prejean: And we are all faced with that at times. And just by me being here, I want to encourage other people that when you're faced with an issue which you know in your heart what to say, but you're faced with someone asking it, don't ever compromise that just for pleasing them. Your goal should be to please God, not to please man . . . .

Dobson: Why did you give the answer you did with regard to the affirmation of marriage?

Prejean: . . . I felt as though Satan was trying to tempt me in asking me this question. And then God was in my head and in my heart saying, "Do not compromise this. You need to stand up for me and you need to share with all these people . . . you need to witness to them and you need to show that you're not willing to compromise that for this title of Miss USA."

And I knew right here that it wasn't about winning. It was about being true to my convictions.

You gotta love “something took over” and “I felt as though Satan was trying to tempt me” and “then God was in my head and in my heart…”

Kool Aid time.

The magazine’s blog ends with this:  “Could Prejean's next job be in Christian media, perhaps on Christian radio?”

As the erstwhile Veep nominee from Alaska would say, “You betcha!”  Move over Joe the Plumber.

Trust, but verify.  (And good luck getting past God’s Admin Sec for a verification interview!)

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