Monthly Archives: March 2003

rant/iteration

Ok, so I haven’t been updating recently. For one thing, nothing’s been happening to me personally worthy of comment. Though I did have some weird dreams this morning, I didn’t retain sufficient memory of them to warrant any remarks. (One, however, involved me playing DDR naked. I’m sure you’re all thanking me for that image. The naked-in-public dream is extremely cliched, so I should note here that I don’t typically have this sort of dream.)

I could always comment on the politics, but lately it seems like the same tired arguments for and against war have just been repeating, despite the near-total certainty that the war will, in fact, occur. It seemed today everyone was commenting on Jimmy Carter’s opinion piece in the NY Times, which surprised me since I didn’t think his arguments were particularly persuasive. (For those who feel my media sources are too one-sided, let me note here that one rebuttal I read was on the National Review website. For those who are worried that I am reading the National Review all of a sudden, I assure you I thought the author was an idiot.)

Something else that has drawn comment lately is that many Christian denominations have been expressing opposition to the war. Christopher Hitchens expressed his opinion on this in Slate. (My opinion is that Christopher Hitchens is also an idiot. See, we’re very bipartisan here.) It seems to me that all that needs to be said here is that clergy are not generally considered experts on foreign policy, diplomacy, nation building, counterterrorism, or really any of the relevant issues here, at least not more so than Hollywood celebrities or physics graduate students. Who really cares what they think? (It might be argued that these various priests and ministers are experts on morality, to which I respond by pointing to Cardinal Law and the very rev. Jerry Falwell.)

Of course, as my favorite New Republic editor points out, the opinions of religious leaders are relevant in one sense: they seem to disagree with Bush about whether God’s on our side, and that is the one topic on which they are supposed to be expert.

My conclusion: they’re all idiots. I’m really starting to agree with this guy. And besides, all this arguing is keeping our focus away from North Korea, who is just as scary this week as it was last week.

linkage/plug

I’m pleased to announce that my father’s first novel, The Night of the Dance, is available for preorder from Amazon and will be published in May. I fully expect all of my readers to purchase a copy, but not until I’ve set up the link so I get the commission from Amazon. At some point I’ll figure out how to put a static link in the sidebar…

reflection/cosmic

By way of Plastic I just found this poll result suggesting that American voters would elect “an unnamed Democrat” over Bush. They declined to say whether Unnamed Democrat could be found next to Arch Stanton. In any case, I hope they find him soon, because if closet Republican Joe Lieberman is the Named Democrat (as the rest of the poll suggests), I don’t see Bush’s defeat being likely.

I didn’t post an entry yesterday because my writing was devoted to a bitter and pointless Plastic discussion. The discussion was nominally on Nicholas Kristof’s editorial in the NY Times regarding mockery of religious beliefs in the media. Now, my initial contributions were to say that there’s nothing special about religious beliefs; one should avoid mocking any kind of belief since this carries with it mockery of the believer, and this isn’t really a terrific argumentative tactic.

However, I resisted my better judgement and responded to a post elsewhere in the discussion that claimed that (a) Einstein was religious (in fact he was agnostic) and we should consider his opinions on religion to be authoritative, and (b) great scientific discoveries are impossible without a religious mindset. After a exchanging a couple posts it became evident that this guy has an intellectual blindspot you could drive a truck through; any questions I asked him were met with essentially “Since I have faith I don’t need to examine my beliefs”. Faith is not a “Get out of thinking free” card! To me having faith in something suggests that you believe it could stand up to scrutiny, so I don’t understand this avoidance of examining any potential flaws. Anyway, it soon became evident that we were talking past each other, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

contemplation/paint

Every time I start to become convinced that war on Iraq is justified, George W. Bush manages to change my mind. Imagine if Saddam Hussein had sent fighters to intercept an American spy plane. I have a feeling such an action would move up the invasion timetable, to say the least. But when North Korea does it, “The president continues to believe that this matter can be handled through diplomacy.”

As many others have pointed out, the reasons cited for invading Iraq also apply to North Korea. They have weapons of mass destruction (and are demonstrably on their way to mass production of nukes), the ruler is an evil dictator who gassed his own people, and so on. Furthermore they’re tossing rockets into the Sea of Japan and intercepting our planes.

Now, I understand the problems with going to war against North Korea: Chinese involvement and the vulnerability of South Korea and so forth. I understand why diplomacy is a much better option than war in this situation. But it strikes me as inconsistent when Bush continues to appeal to diplomacy on this issue, and pushes for war on the less dangerous and volatile situation in Iraq. Just because diplomacy is hard doesn’t mean we should go to war when it’s more convenient. War should be the last resort.

contemplation/amendment

To say a little more about the Pledge case, I’m happy that the Ninth Circuit made the right decision but I’m worried about the consequences if the Supreme Court does the same thing. Specifically, the overwhelming opposition to the original Ninth Circuit decision in the executive and legislative branches as well as the general public demonstrates that there would be no obstacle to the enactment of a constitutional amendment allowing “under God” in the Pledge. This would be far more damaging than the current state of affairs, and harder to correct than a bad Supreme Court decision.

This puts me in the rather odd position of praising the Ninth Circuit decision while hoping the Supreme Court overturns it. In the end, the Pledge thing is not a big deal. Sure, some powerful people have used the “under God” phrase to justify anti-atheist rhetoric, but the real threats to church-state separation come from other directions.

If it’s not a big deal, then why am I so pleased with the decision? It’s not as if a huge oppression has been removed from me. However, it’s bolstered my faith in the judicial system; it shows that there are judges who will support church-state separation even when it’s vastly unpopular. This is important when those aforementioned real threats come along. Of course, Bush has stated that he will appoint judges who think that “our rights derive from God”. That would be really scary, given the way God is said to treat unbelievers.