"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iran Sees the Weakness in Pretty Words

From Breitbart: link here

Iran had a statement today:
"US President Barack Obama's offer to talk to Iran shows that America's policy of "domination" has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday.
"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
"Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change," he added.
After nearly three decades of severed ties, Obama said shortly after taking office this month that he is willing to extend a diplomatic hand to Tehran if the Islamic republic is ready to "unclench its fist."

Gholam Hossein Elham is a government spokesperson for Iran. I would love to say that his comments are the normal propaganda that he regularly rattles off. The problem is, if you take into account Obama's own comments and speeches (including his inaugural address), how is this not a perfectly valid interpretation? Is this what the American people really believe? Does Obama's views truly represent what the American people feel?

Notice Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments. Apologist positions and language do not satisfy avowed enemies. Bush was roundly criticized for this observation. It's so much easier to just wistfully wish for things to be different and better. Ahh... change...

Emergency Stimulus? Part 2

When taking a closer look at the "stimulus" bill, another remarkable thing sticks out. Well-observed in this National Review article, link here, is when this "hurry up, we don't have a moment to lose" stimulus package will stimulate.We need to hurry up, don't bother reading it-- this is an emergency, and pass this sweeping bill that spends more money than anything else in the history of mankind so that it can kick in next year in 2010. Seriously? As noted in the article, most recessions run their course in a year or two, anyway. This "stimulus" isn't scheduled to kick into high gear until the recession would most likely be almost over anyway.
The difficulty for me is to think that the white house and its people don't know this already. From the National Review article are the programs scheduled for $10 billion+:

"$20.0 billion to increase the maximum benefit under the Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program (i.e., Food Stamps)
$18.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs
$20.4 billion for programs administered by the Department of health and Human Services
$20.0 billion to renovate elementary and secondary schools
$17.6 billion for Pell grants and other student financial assistance at post-secondary institutions
$29.1 billion for other elementary and secondary educational programs
$30.0 billion for highway construction
$13.1 billion for other transportation programs
$11.2 billion for housing assistance programs administered by HUD
$19.5 billion (minimum, could be higher, as per Title XIII) for education grants to states
$27.1 billion for increase unemployment benefits
$13.3 billion to increase health insurance for unemployed workers
$11.1 billion for 'Other Unemployment Compensation'
$20.2 billion for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments to encourage providers to improve healthcare IT
What does this sound like to you? It sounds to me like a wish list for the left wing of the Democratic Party."

Does any of this really sound like it will save the economy? Don't be fooled. This is not stimulus. It is pork. It is a blatant attempt to further build big federal government by exploiting the unreasonable panic from a recession, ironically, brought on mostly by federal government intervention.

Friday, January 30, 2009

According to MSNBC We're All Pigs

Finkelblog.com found this little bit of wonderful journalism from MSNBC's Morning Joe. The hostess Mika Brzezinski's response to criticism of a proposed tax on cigarettes and soda pop was "No. We’re a bunch of pigs. We need some guidelines." Article at Finkelblog.com plus clip here.

Is it just me or this idea of government as a moral compass just getting out of hand. I wrote a post on this earlier, but this "pigs" business is just rubbing me the wrong way. Since when is it the government's purpose to legislate morality? Do you really want people of a politician's character to impose moral authority on the country? Are laws not supposed to reflect the moral will of the people? When did a government of the people transition into the people's shepherd?

I think this comment shows the overall contempt that people in the mainstream media hold for the common person. We NEED guidance. We NEED to be told what's best for us. This is an undeniably elitist attitude and should not be tolerated.

Write a letter to MSNBC. Let these people know how you feel. Write a letter to their commercial sponsors. Let them know what's being said and how it reflects on their product and image. Both of mine are in the mail.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Zimbabwe's Woes

Unemployment is at 94% in Zimbabwe, according to the UN. AFP's article here. Notice the last two paragraphs:

"Adding to Zimbabwe's woes are consecutive years of drought and a land reform programme launched in 2000, in which some mostly 4,000 white-owned commercial farms were seized and redistributed to blacks.
"The scheme has punched a gapping hole in agricultural production, which once accounted for 40 percent of the economy, as most of the new beneficiaries lack both farming equipment and expertise"

Spreading the wealth around is better for everyone, huh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Emergency Stimulus? Part One

It is astonishing to me that this "stimulus" bill is even being discussed. Despite muted objections, it will pass in one form or another, most likely largely retaining the shape of Obama's desires. In these urgent times, urgent action is needed, seems to be the mantra of the bill pushers. I suppose one must ask, are times indeed so urgent?

In recent memory, the economy was far worse. After Carter left office, unemployment was significantly higher than it is now, inflation was rampant (into double digits), unemployment was at a record high, major American-made products, such as cars, were shoddily produced. Does this honestly describe conditions today when interest rates are at a records low? The misery index (a figure arrived at taking the unemployment rate and adding it to the rate of inflation) at the end of Carter's tenure was at 21.9 while in July of 2008 it was 10.5, less than half, per The Boston Globe.

When conditions were much worse, the American economy recovered without the need of a tremendous "stimulus" bill. Free market economies are prone to downturns and correction. Market adjustments are part of the unimpeded course of a free market and, while painful, are simply a fact of economic life. While one could argue for the government to take measures to soften the correction by providing various economic cushions for consumers, homeowners, etc., the idea of rescuing the economy itself is both unrealistic and ineffective. A market must (and will-- even in a command economy) correct itself. There is no other solution. The real question is what sort of damages will be inflicted and how to best deal with these damages.

But hard reality is unpopular. And politics can be (and often is) more about popularity than reality. While it is historically correct to say that the American economy is robust and has weathered far greater crises than our current recession, to say so is to be labelled as "ridiculous" and "out of touch." When Gramm famously said we were turning into a generation of whiners (what else would you bluntly call it when people are running about screaming that we're facing the worst crisis since the Great Depression), he was chastised by McCain and his crew. Political popularity has nothing to do with reality.

The popular answer is to say that the government will kiss it and make it all better. The popular answer is to say green technology will rescue us. The popular answer is to say that greed is what drove us to this "desperate" and "dangerous" situation and government largess will rescue us all and stabilize the economy.

This is nonsense. It is an option that has been tried again and again both in command economies and in relatively free ones. The Japanese in the 1990s, the Soviets, the British, the Chinese, the Koreans (north and south), have repeatedly tried to save the economy during times of readjustment. The simple answer is it doesn't work. Such efforts simply make things worse.

How many times do we have to make the same mistakes to learn this?

Monday, January 26, 2009

George Bush: the Left's Emmanuel Goldstein

Newsbusters.org catalogs Keith Olbermann's latest bit of nonsense. Link is here. Synopsis: Bush is to blame. It's all been "Bushed."

Granted that we're only a few day into the Obama presidency and that Bush is only a few days out, but it it strikes me as significant that the media's case of B.D.S. shows little signs of abating. Honestly, I'd be surprised if it goes away at all in the next four years. After all, the Democrats hold the clear majority in both houses of the Congress and now hold the presidency. When things don't work out-- when the economy tanks because the bailouts prove to not be the magic answer for an expected market readjustment, when European economies really start to feel the heat of America's decreased spending, when Iran starts flexing its nuclear muscles and Obama will have no idea how to respond, the Democrats will need a scapegoat. Cue old Bush clips, bash Bush, it's his fault... we're having to clean up his mess... etc.

He'll be the Emmanuel Goldstein from 1984, the lurking threat that is, contradictorily, equal parts incompetent and nefariously brilliant. The "schemes" he had put into motion during his presidency will thwart Obama's great leap forward, make wind power less efficient, drive schisms within the Democratic Congress, destroy our image overseas, ruin our economy, etc. Despite the booing and jeering and celebrations at Bush's departure, the left can't let Bush go away. They need a highly visible scapegoat.

Lenin had Trotsky. The left's media has George Bush.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Iconography of the Obama Presidency

Real nice, huh? Michelangelo beware.
I found this little bit of hubris at this freerepublic.com link here:

The L.A. Times is really pulling out the stops here. Now I grew up in the L.A. area and I know that the Times can get a little "artsy" in their layouts, but as I recall it was usually for something a little more significant than the election of a president. I remember a layout similar to this for the Challenger disaster. Yes, I know... first African-American president and all... but something this political and immediate (this is a depicting a sitting president) seriously challenges journalistic objectivity (as if that still exists in great abundance).

Then there's my all-time favorite Obama picture (I believe it's from the AP but I wouldn't swear to it):

I just love the American halo. Very chic. And the benevolent expression. Just like Christ on the cross...

Okay. We all know that the media has been heaping religious imagery on this guy. And if that isn't enough, it appears that Obama is pushing for only his "official" photographer to be present at press conferences. Why does Obama feel his image is so important that he must keep such tight control of it?

The press has swooned over his jeans, written about his "glistening" pecs in The Washington Post but that doesn't seem quite enough. Maybe after taking the media for a ride once, he knows that it's only a matter of time before he starts earning some actual scrutiny. Then he'll have plenty of stolid, beaming head shots to feed to the editors. The article about some misspent government funds, tax increases, and falling markets will be accompanied by his benevolent visage, posed and contrived. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recommended Movie

Check out the German film "The Lives of Others" from 2006. It won an Oscar (for whatever that's worth-- "Crash" for best picture? CRASH?! and Gladiator?) for best foreign film. The film does a superb job of capturing the feel of East Germany in 1984, something to think about as we edge more and more toward socialism in this country. Mix together refreshingly complicated and unconventional (as in not stereotyped) characters, superb acting and an intelligent script and, not surprisingly, you get a great movie.
Now I'm not silly enough to expect Hollywood to produce these sorts of films, but our much-touted "independent" film-makers might wanna take note of the recipe. Nah... too busy making super-important movies about teenage angst in an American suburban hell. No stereotypes in those films. Nope...

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Trap of Government as a Moral Compass

I support gay marriage. The insipid antics, vandalism, name-calling, threats of violence and the unfair singling out of Mormons, Catholics, and other religious groups that has followed the passage of Proposition 8 in California has not tested that support. I offer nothing to excuse the perpetrators of these crimes and childish displays. If they broke laws (as some have) they should be arrested and prosecuted. I give them no exoneration. I implore them to stop. They are, of course, hurting their cause with each act of vandalism, each threat, each act of strong-arming Prop. 8 supporters and their businesses. This thuggish behavior makes me feel a sharp jab of personal shame when I remember that my position is allied with theirs. Yet, my support for same-sex marriage does not waver.

Why not? Because I deeply believe that the government should not determine what is personally sacred or moral.

When asked why gay marriage should remain legally unrecognized, the answer that I hear and read most often is that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Fair enough. If you believe that, fine. You have every right to. But what does this have to do with a government's recognition of a marriage? As far the government is concerned, marriage is a matter of tax codes, inheritance laws and other distinctly temporal and mundane legalities. It has nothing to do with recognizing what is sacred, nor should it.When I married my wife, we stood in a church before a priest and swore our love for and devotion toward one another. We promised to make a life together in the presence of our families, our friends, and God. That act is what causes me to view my marriage as sacred-- not the wedding certificate. Had we married in the Church and not bothered to get a marriage license I would consider myself married but the state would and should not.

Should people be denied the legal advantages and disadvantages of marriage merely based on sexual orientation? Since they are, how can this practice not be considered discriminatory and thus illegal?

Now please understand what I am not saying. I am not saying that churches should be forced to recognize and allow same-sex marriages. Church doctrine is a matter for the churches themselves and not the business of any government. I am not saying that any individual must recognize same-sex marriage as sacred. If you do fine, and if you do not that's fine too. It is purely a matter of personal morals, and they are your own.

Yet, what I personally find most disturbing in this "marriage is sacred and thus can be legally recognized only between one man and one woman" view is the voiced need for a moral stance to be justified by government decree. Although this stance holds the unmistakable desire that these individuals' moral codes should be the law of the land (debatable but understandable), there is likewise an implicit fear that if their moral code is not the law of the land, their ethics are somehow weakened. According to this view, government has become a necessary stamp of approval for morality and virtue.

My fears seem justified as I see politicians and government figures (from both parties) crouch their policies in moral rhetoric, invoking the need for societal morality as either an excuse or an imperative for legislation. This connection between morality, God, and the law is hardly new in America (or anywhere else for that matter). The Declaration of Independence invokes both God and the Creator in the first two sentences. The difference then was that morality (in the form of God or Creator) was used to shape the legal framework for our country. Now our country's laws seem to be expected to shape its citizens' moral code. Whereas laws had been written to codify the moral and ethical beliefs of its citizenry, now it seems that law is invoked to define what citizens should believe.

Atheists and agnostics have often used the legal concept of "the separation of church and state" to advance small but largely symbolic steps in a greater overall agenda-- attempts to wipe the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, chiseling off "In God We Trust" from coins, demanding copies of the Ten Commandments be removed from the steps of courthouses, etc. However one feels about this agenda (which is immaterial to this argument) it has led to the mistaken idea that the "free exercise clause" of the First Amendment is intended to protect the government from the influence of various churches.

The actual clause in the First Amendment reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is difficult to argue that this clause inspiring "the separation of church and state" concept was ever meant to protect the government from religious influence. Legal drafts, letters, speeches, all recorded forms of communication dating from the days of the Revolution onward are filled with references to God. Indeed it seems obvious that the" free exercise clause" was primarily meant to protect citizens' religion from the government and deter a state-run church. One should remember that the British monarch was (is) not just the head of the state, but also the head of the Anglican Church, and that many European settlers of the original colonies came to this land to escape religious persecution and doctrinal disputes in their homelands.

The dangers of a state-run church are obvious. By giving the governing state (even a republic) sufficient power over the spiritual and moral convictions of the citizenry, a State Morality, the state may attempt to act with near impunity, have its every law and policy justified by self-perpetuating church/moral doctrine. As a consequence political opposition could be presented as not just wrong-minded, but sinful and immoral as well. Legal procedure would inform and shape moral beliefs by way of a parrot church rather than any sense of morality shaping the law of government.

It is important to understand that this situation need not arise due to any conspiracy or any conscious choice by the members of the institutions involved. The entire hierarchical body of the state-run church, every member of the legislative and executive branches of the government, could be completely innocent and blameless for for the tyrannical situation that could evolve. The First Amendment clause inspiring "separation of church and state" effectively acts as a barrier from state contrived moral values-- this State Morality. By insuring the opportunity for opposing moral and ethical positions the state's potential powers would be held in check by the citizenry's own sense of good and right.

A problem arises, however, when large numbers of people become uncertain of previously deeply-held moral convictions, and they notice that their moral codes (religious or otherwise) waver. For various reasons (which I will not go into in this post) more and more American people seek vindication through societal approval. This is not a new development, nor particular to America. However, in a society as large, complex, distrusting, confusing and cynical, as the U.S., increasing numbers of people see the political bodies of the national congress and presidency (which, after all, represents the people in the running of the government) as a stand-in for society at large. When this happens, the fine distinction between moral legislation and legislating morality breaks down. Without the need of a formal state-run church, a State Morality has been instituted and all the obvious dangers of a state-run church are then realized.

As a nation, we should expect members and bodies of government to behave in accordance to the majority's standard of decency. It is the basis of our political system to expect a member of government to behave morally. Representatives are expected to propose/pass/reject/enforce legislation according to his/her personal moral code (voters are expected to vote him/her out of office if he/she does not, or if his/her code significantly differs from the constituency), but to expect a member of government to lead the way to morality is unacceptable and dangerous. To expect him/her to legally define what is sacred is unacceptable and antithetical to to our political system. To truly be a "government of the people, by the people, for the people," the government cannot be morally, nor considered morally, superior to the people.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Moral High Ground

Cute. The Left is showing us how they intend to enact Obama's inaugural call "to end the petty grievances" by calling columnist/blogger Michelle Malkin a whore.

Yeah, we knew it's all empty rhetoric, but proven so soon? Disagree with Obama do you? Well let's check the list. If you're white: you're a racist. If you're not: you're a sell out. And if you're a woman then we add-on whore.

Link to her page is here:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/01/22/whore-for-the-far-right/

From the Huffington Post by way of Malkin's website:


"Michelle Malkin Doesn’t Care About Black People

To mark the day, Michelle Malkin kept a whimsical inauguration cliché count, supposedly monitoring utterances of the 'First black president in American history' and 'We are witnessing history.'
Michelle didn’t hide her contempt for all this attention being paid to Obama or for the credit he’s getting for being our first black president. [emphasis mine] She also made space on her blog to point out that no one in the media was covering how Obama inauguration celebrant Jay-Z often uses the word “nigga.” Then she uploaded a video on her site to prove it and sniffed, 'And you wonder why some of us don’t believe MLK’s dream has been completely fulfilled …'
Now, many of you may be wondering why someone who is of Asian decent would be so antagonistic toward Obama and his background. And while Michelle may be a whore for the far-right — and she is certainly being a good one by discounting this momentous event — it still gives us pause. While most whores love to bring joy to people, it seems this one only seeks to spread hate."


Personal attacks-- the hallmark of the politics of tolerance. Now, I know Malkin can take these petty assaults but this is still way below the belt. And for what? For keeping "a whimsical inauguration cliche count." That's what! Everything else is presumed. "Spread hate"? Are you kidding me?

Tolerance, huh? Man, I hate hypocrites.

By the way, I love this line: "...the credit he's getting for being our first black president"? What is Obama supposed to get credit for? Being black? If we're celebrating that a black man can be elected president shouldn't the voters get the credit for his election and not the candidate? What are we supposed to be celebrating that Obama's black and president or that voters are willing to vote for a man regardless (or because of) his race?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Pledge...

Here's a sweet little video full of snort-worthy promises. Make sure you read Breitbart's text as well.
http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/breitbart/2009/01/19/where-were-you-celebrities-after-911/


Kudos to Andrew Breitbart for addressing this vid and not letting this arrogant bit of Hollywood hypocrisy attempting to pass for altruism slide by.

What's my pledge? Well since you asked and you know I got one...

I pledge... to strive to be a morally upright person regardless of who is currently president.

I pledge... that my values are not dependant upon a leader telling me what they are.

I pledge... to judge a person by the demonstrable content of their character and not by his/her popularity.

I pledge... to not compromise my integrity for the sake of unity.

Oh yeah... and I pledge to turn the lights off, cause I used to leave the lights on but we want to conserve energy so I’ma turn the lights off, you turn the lights off...

And I pledge to not go into a public restroom after Jason Bateman since he might have only had a single instead of a deuce.

Here's a link to Iowahawk's very funny take on the Obama pledge:

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/01/i-pledge.html

A Benediction for Post-racialism?


Well, despite my misgivings I did manage to make myself watch Obama's inauguration. While managing to avoid much of the ostentatious spectacle, I watched the important parts-- the swearing in, the new president's address. Like most of Obama's speeches it was filled with vague but high-sounding rhetoric and short on anything concrete beyond general platform statements. I generally don't expect much from inaugural speeches, so it would be unfair to expect much more from this one.


The irony of humility being a theme du jour of a $150 million extravaganza seemed to be lost on the television announcers. Nothing surprising there.

What I did find both striking, however, and perhaps telling was Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction in which he implored:
"We ask you [God] to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

Cute.

I've been hearing a lot of buzz about post-racialism following the election. Like many political buzzwords the definition of "post-racialism" seems to be murky to the point of obfuscation and meaninglessness. Based on the linguistic construction of the word, however, you might think post-racialism would mean an end or moving beyond the concept of race as being a significant factor in whatever is being referenced. For example: A post-racialist South, post-racialist country, post-racialist world, etc.

Well, in this benediction the concept of race is certainly not being referenced as being insignificant. With annoying hubris, God is being asked to conform to our own self-imposed racial definitions and segregated identities that have been cloyingly simplified into the West Coast's categories of Black/White/Hispanic/Asian/and Other. Maybe we can also start asking God to conform to our concept of baseball and help us get over the designated hitter rule while we're at it. Most bothersome to me, however, was exactly what Lowery seemed to ask God to help us accomplish.

"... for that day when black will not be asked to give back" Give back? What does that mean? Asked not to give back to the community, the country? That doesn't seem to jibe with the "remaking America" and the embrace our neighbors in need shtick. Now, according to a reader of Michelle Malkin's blog, this portion of the benediction was apparently referencing an old civil rights chant called "Bill Broonzy Black, Brown and White" the lyrics of which can be found here on Michelle Malkin's website: http://michellemalkin.com/2009/01/20/about-that-race-based-benediction/

In the lyrics the repeating phrasing is "get back" regarding black. Now every transcript I've seen (at least three) has used the phrase "give back" and when listening to the vid of that line it is pretty difficult to hear clearly since his voice is hoarse, accented, amplified and aged. But I think that it is fair to assume that he actually said "black will not be asked to get back" which is far more acceptable. Sort of. I mean when was the last time a black person was actually asked to "get back" because of race. Get to the back of the bus? In the last twenty years? Really? I mean there was that Denney's thing about 10 years ago and Denney's was immediately sued and paid up both in money and bad publicity for their breach of law and manners. I guess I'm just totally out of the loop because I'm not just not seeing the overt racism from "Big Bill Broonzy Black, Brown and White" in any significant form outside of the mostly impotent and incredibly marginalized white supremacists and separatists that everybody, outside of themselves, feels are an absolute embarrassment. When will this day come that a black man/woman can walk into a restaurant and legally expect to be served? Or be legally allowed into public swimming pools? Or be legally allowed to keep their seat on the bus? Or legally allowed to use all public water fountains? Or be legally allowed to live anywhere they can afford? Wasn't that day about 50 years ago?

"...when brown can stick around" Well, even in the overt racism described in the chant, brown could stick around. What's being wanted? The right to stick around and exist? How giving and noble... allowing brown to exist. Thank you for granting the right to exist.

"...when yellow will be mellow" Cute. I don't know of too many Asian-Americans who like being called yellow-- none actually. Well at least Lowery didn't say "buck-toothed" too. Real sweet of him. But this cavalier manner of using such insulting imagery seems quite odd when so many Americans feel perfectly justified at flying into a rage over such slights. It all suggests a racially privileged position. Yellows need to get over it, but blacks shouldn't have to get back. Also oddly suggested is that "yellows" are not currently mellow, that Asian-Americans are running about like hyperactive children on a sugar rush. Hey, maybe they might be mellow if you stop calling them yellow. Ya think?

"...when the red man can get ahead, man" Great... Does anybody else remember the Washington Redskins flap? Cleveland Indians and Chief Brave Spirit? The Kansas City Chiefs? Does Rev. Lowery not remember that a great many (read: all that I've met) Native Americans don't really like being called "red." I suppose that hoping for Native Americans to get ahead is better than telling Asian-Americans to calm down. But again the flippancy of language...

"... and when white will embrace what is right." Hmmm. That must mean that whites haven't been embracing the right. The abolition of slavery, the passing of a plethora of Civil Rights Bills, the wiping away of segregation, the openness and acceptance that is, quite rightly, lauded by the mainstream media, the endless classes on tolerance, the widespread acceptance of mixed marriages and bi-racial children, the opportunities afforded to excel as easily evidenced in the numbers of black lawyers, business owners, doctors, professors, teachers, politicians, policeman, firemen, etc., is not embracing the right? What exactly is the "right" whites must embrace?

Surely, there are race problems in the U.S. Under no circumstances and conditions should I be interpreted as claiming that there is not. What these problems are and who they are perpetrated by is a hugely complex issue that I'm not even going to think about tackling in this already lengthy post (I must mention that I do not believe it is solely any racial group, nor is any group absolved). But I will say that this benediction touches on more of the real difficulties than I would've imagined possible in a short, contemporary, inaugural prayer. The problem is that it didn't mean to.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Inauguration


You know, I just can't bring myself to watch the Obama inauguration. $150+ million dollars... or to put in another way with all the zeroes intact $150,000,000+ to celebrate. As many others outside the MSM have already said Bush was criticized for a $40+ million ($40,000,000+ just to be fair) price tag on his own inauguration. Too expensive while we're at war they said. Hey, now we're at war and in a recession... better bump up the spending on this one. My favorite headline regarding the inauguration, oh I wish I could remember from which paper, "Forget Economy, Go for the Glitz." Geez...

It seems there's a lot of things we need to forget. Forget about Iran developing nuclear weapons (don't worry... they're just a little nation), race mongering spiritual mentors (that's not the Jeremiah Wright I knew...), Illinois political machines, Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground (rock group from the '60s?), ACORN... Better stop here... think I need an aspirin. By the way, does the composition of this Obama photo turn anyone else's stomach?

I know pomp has its place here. A peaceful transition of power (which this represents) is something Americans largely take for granted but is actually a very rare thing, historically speaking. Many modern democracies, such as Columbia, the Ukraine, Thailand, Zimbabwe, and many, many more have a real devil of the time with the act.

So sure, celebration is in order here. But what exactly are we celebrating and what should we be celebrating? This inauguration, as in most inaugurations, seems to be celebrating the winner. Obama won! Yay! Bush's inaugurations were little different, as were Clinton's, and Bush the first's, and Reagan's, and Carter's, etc. Some years it's Democrats partying like it's 1999 and other years it's the Republicans.

But shouldn't the inauguration mean more to the country than mere partisan gains? Whether I approve of the winner this election or not (newsflash: this time I don't), it behooves me to remember the beatings by partisan thugs during Zimbabwe's elections, La Violencia following Colombia's Jorge Eliécer Gaitán's assassination. It's a stark reminder of the thinness of the line between transition and rebellion, between political change and political violence. We Americans seem to believe this line to be indelibly etched into this nation's consciousness. We do so at our peril. Do not be arrogant. Do not think that we are so very different from other, less domestically peaceful democracies. We're not.

So today, I suppose, I will be celebrating in a way. I'm not going to be purchasing a tacky Obama commemorative plate anytime soon, nor an Obama coin set, nor an Obama poster, nor an American flag with Obama's portrait emblazoned upon it (spare me...). But when I'm assailed by the media with this event, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I will remind myself that I live in a country that values domestic peace over partisan violence, a country that believes that peaceful opposition can effectively bring about political change, a country that still believes that the members of its government are subject to the law of the nation. And that is something to celebrate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pearls

I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of what's considered contemporary American literature. Yes, there are some current American writers who produce works of great beauty and merit, but if you were mention their names to most people frequenting university English departments they would merely scratch their head and say "who?" Katharine Haake, a writer of rare quality and seemingly an absolute unknown outside of small So. Cal. circles may be chief among my list of the under appreciated.


I suppose part of my problem is the resistance I feel to the writer's authority. It seems that current American writers have taken on the need to have something to say. The theme of the work becomes the primary purpose of the work, suggesting that fiction is synonymous with editorial, that a lecture has somehow become equivalent to "story" or conversation. The author throws his pearls of wisdom to the swine, the ignorant rabble groping for comfort and leadership (if not for the author, maybe they'll cling to their guns or religion). For the most part, American literature since the 1950s seems intent on teaching the reader "great" truths, imparting upon him/her some pat wisdom, and changing his/her mind toward a set viewpoint-- a set goal.


Personally, I get very nervous with the elitist structure that is created from this idea-- the reader subjugated to a passive role, becoming merely a blank and unthinking page on which to emboss the writer's ideology (here pigs take your pearls). It seems to presuppose the basic inferiority of the reader as well as suggest a frightening-- but unrealistic-- malleability.


When I read Yusanari Kawabata or William Golding or Herman Melville, I don't feel that I'm reading a newspaper editorial diguised by pretty words and narrative structure. Yes, certainly Golding (author of Lord of the Flies certainly not a book lacking in a solid theme) and Kawabata (The Sound of the Mountain) and Melville (Billy Budd, the Sailor) all have something to say. The difference being that their work opens a discussion with the reader, not subjects him/her to a lecture. While engaging the work, it is up to the reader to tease out what the writer has to say, and in doing so the reader makes this theme his/her own and gives the reader that much more freedom to reject or accept the theme to varying degrees. With most popular American literature writers, the format creates very little freedom and the reader is usuually only allowed the option to accept wholly or reject utterly because nothing of the work is his/her own. The reader has invested no thought into the work-- only attention and emotion.


I suppose because of this attention to emotion American literary writers seem so attracted to topics that so easily generate emotion-- race, contemporary politics, feminism, etc. Let me be clear, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with these topics being the subject or theme of a literary work. All of these topics are very deserving of thoughtful discussion-- and that probably is my problem right there. How very few times these topics are given thoughtful examination in contemporary American literature.


Something very unique in literature is lost when the writer flexes his authoritative muscles, turns fiction into editorial. One of the great appeals of written fiction, at least to me, is the active manner in which a reader's mind engages the writer's words. The words stimulate, the mind thinks (not merely absorbs like a sponge), and meaning is derived through the interaction. The reader gains knowledge through his/her own mind's active churnings and not passive observation. The writer is a moderator between his/her ideas and the reader. The literary writer is not a teacher.


This audience participation is unique to written fiction, a wonderfully clean place where story is laid down to its essentials, unencumbered by a performance (either by actors or a speaker) outside of the narrative itself. It seems regetable that the current trends in literature seem so intent on controlling the active minds of the readers.

Suggested Reading

I've been doing some research for an upcoming book and must recommend The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca. 1200 by Robert Drews. Although not a strictly new publication (1993) it offers an original and well written argument regarding the puzzling fall of so many bronze age civilizations.

However, the book also presents a great deal of insight into the politics of academia and the way in which contemporary politics imposes itself into such seemingly benign subjects such as the fall of the bronze age. The justification of modern social revolution by using past instances (based upon, at best, scanty evidence) is tangentially mentioned (but not advocated) by Drews. It demonstrates both the dangers of modern views coloring distant and alien cultures (and destroying any hope of historical truth in the process) and the stretches that some academicians will go to shape the world to conform to their contemporary political views. This is far from any arguments Drews attempts to make in his book, but perhaps my concern is far more relevant because of this.

Although his arguments are not quite flawless (he never gives a completely clear reason that certain military innovations that existed for years suddenly caused a great and abrupt collapse in geographically distant lands), they are grounded in evidence and well worth your time and consideration if you're interested in that period of history. Drews manages to make a meticulously researched book thoroughly accessible and enjoyable.

Read. Analyze and ponder. Enjoy.

Welcome!

Welcome!

This is a moment full of firsts-- my first blog, my first entry, etc. I'm excited and I hope you'll forgive the type-os, bad grammar, amd misspellings that may follwo.

What I hope to do in this blog is discuss and/or examine various topics that interest me, within fields that interest me-- namely literature, politics, history, philosophy, and the interelationships that develop or are inherent between them. I don't hold myself to this vague and pretentious mission statement. I want, much like a written story, for the blog to develop according what I feel it wants to do. I don't want this to be an exercise in stress relief, nor some kind of confessional. Much like writing a story, I want this blog to be driven by my curiosity.

As with so many who have come before me, I hope that I'll post entries reasonably often (at least everyday), but I am reasonably sure that these currently honest words will prove to be more hopeful than realistic. I promise to try.