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  • On the Legitimacy of Virtuous Indignation

    Posted on June 29th, 2010 Helian No comments

    As noted in an earlier post, Mark Shapiro has informed us that he is “outraged” about the publication of the Journolist e-mails. Of course, as I write this, virtuous indignation is as common as dirt on both sides of the political spectrum, but the incident illustrates something I’ve occasionally referred to before; the disconnect between what morality is and how it is perceived.

    Morality is a term used to describe certain manifestations of human behavioral predispositions hard-wired in the brain as we evolved. As such, it does not and cannot have any legitimacy in itself. However, when Shapiro tells us that he is outraged, he is not merely describing his emotional response to a given external stimulus. His statement also implies the claim that his outrage is actually legitimate and justified. Rationally, however, this is nonsense.

    Since time immemorial, philosophers have been seeking a logical basis for the legitimacy of morality. None of them has ever succeeded in finding one, for the very good reason that the existence of such a basis is impossible. Good and evil are not real objects, things in themselves independent of human emotional traits. Rather, they are the outcome of subjective processes that cause us to perceive them as real objects and things in themselves. We all share this illusion, presumably because the perception of good and evil as real things is effective in promoting our survival, or at least was effective in times very unlike the present. As a result, when Shapiro says he is outraged, we immediately understand what he is talking about. He is referring to moral good and evil, things that we also experience as real, independent objects, and that most of us actually believe are real, independent objects in spite of the fact that they cannot actually exist outside of our imaginations. As a result, our response is not simply to reply “So what? What difference does your current emotional state make to me?” Rather, we wrack our brains for arguments to demonstrate that Shapiro is mistaken in his belief that he has correctly identified the “real” moral good, and to substitute a different, more legitimate version of our own.

    In fact, one person’s emotional response can be no more “objectively legitimate” than another’s. As one of the quatrains of the “The Rubaiyat” puts it;

    The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d
    Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d
    Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep
    They told their comrades, and to Sleep return’d

    The “ethics experts” of our own day are just the modern versions of the people the poet Omar was talking about. They are no closer to the truth than the Persian sages and prophets of long ago. In spite of the increasingly common acceptance of recent scientific revelations about what morality actually is, they continue as before, chasing the illusion. Before one announces one’s outrage to the world, it is well to consider the fact that one is declaring allegiance to just such an illusion.

  • Atheists Don’t Have Songs?

    Posted on June 28th, 2010 Helian No comments

    Apparently not. However, it doesn’t matter, nor does it matter that some people think religion is necessary for morality to exist, nor that some people think that religion is necessary to give us a purpose in life, nor that some people think that there are no atheists in foxholes, nor that some people think atheists cannot love their country or serve it loyally. In the end, what matters is whether there is a God or not. If God does not exist, then we are lamentable creatures indeed if we conclude with Voltaire that we must invent one and force ourselves to believe a lie because we are too weak to accept the truth.

  • David Weigel and the Journalistic Fish

    Posted on June 28th, 2010 Helian No comments

    If you bother to read the dead tree media at all anymore, you’re aware of how quickly and uniformly the latest talking points and memes of the left make the rounds.   Sometimes it seems as if the same hand had written all the stories, merely changing a few words here and there for the sake of appearances.  Like a school of fish, they move in unison, acting for all the world as if they were guided by some hidden mastermind.  But there is no mastermind, nor is there any “conspiracy” to fix the daily slant.  Like the individuals in our school of fish, the editors don’t obey a single will.  They just act according to a common algorithm.  Whoever hacked David Weigel’s e-mail has now just given us an excellent opportunity to peak at the lines of source code in that algorithm.  We get to see, up close and personal, how the message is coordinated, or, to adopt the much more expressive term once used in Germany, “Gleichgeschaltet.”

    For those of you who haven’t been following this story, it revolves around the “Journolist,” described by its creator, Ezra Klein, as ” An insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another.”  It was recently hacked by someone yet unknown, revealing the details of the “smart, ongoing conversation” to the rest of us.  Among other things, David Weigel, assigned to blog the conservative beat by the Washington Post, contributed such gems as,

    There’s also the fact that neither the pundits, nor possibly the Republicans, will be punished for their crazy outbursts of racism. Newt Gingrich is an amoral blowhard who resigned in disgrace, and Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite who was drummed out of the movement by William F. Buckley. Both are now polluting my inbox and TV with their bellowing and minority-bashing. They’re never going to go away or be deprived of their soapboxes.

    It’s really a disgrace that an amoral shut-in like Drudge maintains the influence he does on the news cycle while gay-baiting, lying, and flubbing facts to this degree.

    …this need to give equal/extra time to ‘real American’ views, no matter how fucking moronic, which just so happen to be the views of the conglomerates that run the media and/or buy up ads.

    In a word, Weigel didn’t exactly sympathize with the people he was supposed to be “objectively” covering.  Having been caught in flagrantihe resigned, releasing a string of groveling apologies in the process, such as,

    I was cocky, and I got worse. I treated the list like a dive bar, swaggering in and popping off about what was ‘really’ happening out there, and snarking at conservatives. Why did I want these people to like me so much? Why did I assume that I needed to crack wise and rant about people who, usually for no more than five minutes were getting on my nerves? Because I was stupid and arrogant, and needlessly mean.

    We are alarmed to learn that some of Weigel’s collaborators on the left are “outraged” by what has happened.  Striking the familiar pious poses, they are rediscovering their inner H. L. Mencken, wondering how anyone can be so lacking in common decency as to leak private e-mail conversations.  Like the Paris fashions, they shrug off ridicule.  For example, from Mark Shapiro,

    I do not know Weigel (and actually do not remember most of his postings on JournoList), but I am outraged over what happened to him. It is one thing to castigate a reporter for the accuracy of his journalism or to deride a blogger for the rigor of his arguments. But it is morally repugnant to heist someone’s e-mail comments — and to leak them in a way designed to embarrass him with the people whom he is covering. The obvious and odious parallel would be to secretly place a tape recorder on a table at a dinner party and then to turn the most inflammatory sound bites into a podcast.

    It’s enough to bring you to tears, isn’t it?  And, yes, in case you’re wondering, Shapiro’s remarks did include the de rigueur suggestion that the remarks were ”taken out of context.”  I am not aware of Shapiro’s reaction to the hacking of Sarah Palin’s e-mail, or to the citizens who have recently assumed the right to reveal National Security Information as they see fit by virtue of their superior moral authority, but I rather suspect it was somewhat lacking in the bathos he managed to work up on behalf of Weigel.

    Well, none of this can be too surprising to media connoisseurs.  We could have had more fun with the story ten years ago, when a handfull of journalists still had the chutzpah to claim that they were purely objective with a straight face, but I fear the breed has died out in the interim.  Meanwhile, in his post announcing the demise of Journolist, Ezra Klein predicts,

    I’m proud of having started it, grateful to have participated in it, and I have no doubt that someone else will re-form it, with many of the same members, and keep it going.

    And, sure enough, Son of Journolist has already made its appearance.  What can you say?  Chalk it up as one more data point, and leave it at that.

  • The Rubaiyat of Edward Fitzgerald as a Critique of Islam

    Posted on June 24th, 2010 Helian No comments

    According to Voltaire, “one merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words that prose.” The Rubaiyat of Edward Fitzgerald is a case in point. It is a succinct refutation of the Judeo-Christian religions in general and Islam in particular.

    I say the Rubaiyat of Edward Fitzgerald rather than the more familiar Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam because the version most English speaking people are familiar with, while it may have been inspired by the Persian poet, is really attributable to Fitzgerald. A book review in the Guardian coined the very appropriate term “transcreation” for it. Anyone reading the modern translation by Peter Avery and Heath Stubbs will get the point. Many of Fitzgerald’s quatrains bear only a vague resemblance to the original Persian, and others were apparently invented entirely by the English author. Taken together, however, they are consistent and effective critique of Islam, and an expression of the author’s own world view.

    Fitzgerald was certainly an agnostic, and may have been an atheist. According to his bio-sketch at Wikipedia,

    As he grew older, FitzGerald grew more and more disenchanted with Christianity, and finally gave up attending church entirely. This drew the attention of the local pastor, who decided to pay a visit to the self-absenting FitzGerald. Reportedly, FitzGerald informed the pastor that his decision to absent himself from church services was the fruit of long and hard meditation. When the pastor protested, FitzGerald showed him to the door, and said, “Sir, you might have conceived that a man does not come to my years of life without thinking much of these things. I believe I may say that I have reflected [on] them fully as much as yourself. You need not repeat this visit.”

    If he did admit the possibility of God’s existence, and the inscription on his gravestone, “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves,” implied that he did, he nevertheless denied that we should devote our lives to some divine purpose, or that we could expect any reward in heaven or punishment in hell for our earthly deeds:

    Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
    Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
    The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
    The leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

    and:

    Some for the Glories of This World; and some
    Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
    Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
    Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

    He saw no reason to believe that any of the conflicting accounts in the different religions of life after death were factual:

    And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
    And those who flung it to the Winds like rain,
    Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
    As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

    Strange, is it not? That of the Myriads who
    Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through,
    Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
    Which to discover we must travel too.

    The familiar Moslem and Christian accounts of heaven and hell, were simply human fantasies taken to their extreme:

    I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
    Some Letter of that After-Life to spell:
    And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
    And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and
    Hell.”

    Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
    And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
    Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
    So late emerg’d from, shall so soon expire.

    The revelations of the prophets were so much imposture:

    Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
    Of the Two Worlds so wisely – they are thrust
    Like foolish Prophets forth; their words to scorn
    Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with
    Dust.

    The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d
    Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d,
    Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep
    They told their comrades, and to Sleep return’d.

    Having excluded the existence of a God, or at least a God who had any claim on our affections or actions, Fitzgerald concluded that there could be no legitimate “purpose of life.”

    Alike for those who for Today prepare,
    And those that after some Tomorrow stare,
    A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
    “Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There!”

    That being the case, deep philosophical reasonings to uncover such a purpose and make sense of human existence were futile:

    Myself when young did eagerly frequent
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
    About it and about: but evermore
    Came out by the same Door where in I went.

    With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
    And with mine own Hand wrought to make
    it grow
    And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d –
    “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

    If any answers to the questions posed by philosophers really existed, they were beyond the grasp of human understanding:

    There was the Door to which I found no Key;
    There was the Veil through which I might not see:
    Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee
    There was – and then no more of Thee and Me.

    Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn
    In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;
    Nor rolling heaven, with all his signs reveal’d
    And hidden by the Sleeve of Night and Morn.

    Fitzgerald rejected the Moslem belief, reiterated over and over in the Koran, that humans will suffer eternal fiery torture in hell for “sins” which are predestined, and therefore unavoidable. He points out the inconsistency of such a God, capable of calling beings into existence from nothingness in the full knowledge that he would later subject them to almost unimaginable tortures for the paltry sins he knew they would commit, with the moral sense that very God, if he existed at all, must have planted in our consciousness:

    Oh Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
    Beset the Road I was to wander in,
    Thou wilt not with Predestin’d Evil round
    Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!

    But helpless Pieces of the Game He Plays
    Upon his Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
    Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
    And one by one back in the Closet lays.

    Such a God would be more in need of forgiveness than the creatures he created:

    What! Out of senseless Nothing to provoke
    A conscious Something to resent the Yoke
    Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
    Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

    What! from His helpless Creature be repaid
    Pure Gold for what He lent him dross-allay’d:
    Sue for a Debt he never did contract,
    And cannot answer – Oh the sorry Trade!

    Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
    And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:
    For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
    Is blacken’d, Man’s Forgiveness give –
    and take!

    The poet elaborates on this theme with the metaphor of a potter and his pots:

    And has not such a Story from of Old
    Down Man’s successive Generations roll’d
    Of such a Clod of saturated Earth
    Cast by the Maker into Human mould?

    The pots speculate about why they were made, their purpose, and their eventual fate. Once again, Fitzgerald returns to the theme of the Creator as tyrannical monster, a being capable of calling into life creatures far more inferior to Himself than amoeba are to human beings, and then torturing them for billions of years because they didn’t deliver what they “owed” him, even though he knew in advance that it would be impossible for them to do so:

    Then said a Second – “Ne’er a peevish Boy
    Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
    And He that with His hand the Vessel made
    Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”

    He elaborates on the absurdity of eternal punishment for sins that are predestined, and therefore not the fault of the created but of the creator:

    After a momentary Silence spake
    Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
    “They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
    What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

    One of the pots suggests that such an irrational “potter” can only exist as a concoction of the pots themselves:

    Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot –
    I think a Sufi Pipkin – waxing hot –
    “All this of Pot and Potter – Tell me then,
    Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

    Whereat another agrees and concludes that the real Potter isn’t really capable of such an extreme departure from the notion of moral righteousness with which he has imbued his Pots;

    “Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell
    Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
    The luckless Pots he marr’d in making – Pish!
    He’s a Good Fellow, and ‘twill all be well.”

    It seems such thoughts must occur to anyone who has the courage to question the validity of received religious “truths.” In the Islamic world, of course, the amount of courage needed is somewhat greater, because the penalty for apostasy can be extreme. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it is death. When the penalty for thinking is that extreme, truth must inevitably be a casualty.

    Fitzgerald did think, and the world view he arrived at did not include a Master of an eternal torture chamber as God. It was, however, somewhat pessimistic. In fact, the poet accepted notions of predestination usually attributed to Islam:

    With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
    And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
    And the first Morning of Creation wrote
    What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

    It’s interesting to speculate on the effect the revelations of the probabilistic world of quantum mechanics may have had on such a deterministic world view. For that matter, it’s interesting to speculate on whether Fitzgerald’s apparent conclusions about the ultimate purposeless of life might have been moderated if he’d taken a closer look behind the veil that Darwin had lifted more than 20 years before his death. As it was, those conclusions were lugubrious enough:

    When You and I behind the Veil are past,
    Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
    Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
    As the sea’s self should heed a Pebble-cast.

    A Moment’s Halt – a momentary Taste
    Of Being from the Well amid the Waste –
    And Lo! – the phantom Caravan has reach’d
    The Nothing it set out from – Oh, make haste!

    There is some consolation in the fact that, if we must die, at least we’ve all been there before,

    And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
    End in what All begins and ends in – Yes;
    Think then you are Today what Yesterday
    You were – Tomorrow you shall not be less.

    Fitzgerald’s poem has touched more than a few readers over the years. In fact, more copies of it have been sold than any other English poem. I suspect many among those who can recite its lines by heart have come to conclusions similar to those above about what the author was trying to tell us. His quatrains have enabled them to repeat opinions they may have felt uncomfortable stating in so many words. As Thomas Hardy put it, “If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.” Fortunately, the inquisition is no longer with us, but, until quite recently, there have been serious social sanctions against “free thinking” in matters of religion in the West. Of course, those sanctions not only still exist, but are becoming stronger in the Moslem world. There is some solace in the thought that that world provided the inspiration for one of the most devastating critiques of its own theocratic ideology.

    Edward Fitzgerald

  • Is Extraterrestrial Life Possible in our Solar System?

    Posted on June 23rd, 2010 Helian 1 comment

    Some have speculated it may have evolved on Io, Europa, Mars, etc. If these places can really support life, we should be looking for microbes and, perhaps, more complex life forms on earth that could be adapted and transplanted there. If there is anything like a “prime directive” for mankind, it is to insure that the life that has evolved on our planet survives. Transplanting it to other worlds, in whatever form they can support, is something we must do as soon as possible to insure that it does.

  • Sarah Palin and the Eagleton Meme

    Posted on June 22nd, 2010 Helian No comments

    When John McCain nominated Sarah Palin as his running mate, it unleashed the most hysterical storm of media muckraking and villification I’ve personally ever witnessed.  She was perceived as a serious threat to their “anointed one,” Barack Obama, and they dropped any pretense of “objective journalism” in attacking her.  For a week and more, one couldn’t watch any legacy media news report that wasn’t repeating some hackneyed anti-Palin smear for the umpteenth time.  Now I’m no fan of Palin, but I couldn’t help feeling outraged at the time at the shear mendacity of their attacks.  Yet journalists as a species are as utterly convinced of their own righteousness as any Pharisee, and in this, as in so many other cases, they ended up believing their own cant.  In their fevered imaginations, they managed to magnify the paltry smears they’d managed to dig up by dunning Palin’s political enemies into derelictions of the first water.  The result was the now largely forgotten Eagleton meme.

    Those of you with long memories will recall that George McGovern nominated Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate after clinching the Democratic nomination for President in 1972.  When it was discovered that Eagleton had received medical treatment  and was under medication for a mental health problem, McGovern threw him under the bus, replacing him with Kennedy in-law Sargent Schriver.  Of course, the “similarities” with Palin immediately occurred to mainstream media journalists.  For them, the historical parallel was ”obvious,” and they immediately got in the tiresome habit if asking anyone they could find to interview if they thought Palin had been properly “vetted,” as if the whole world must believe the same fairy tale.   They were cocksure McCain would have to abandon her, and that with alacrity.  For example, from Joshua Green of the Atlantic:

    Here in St. Paul, talk of Palin has dominated the Republican convention—even more so than cable news—and by Monday night discussion among Republican operatives and reporters had turned to whether Palin would survive or become the first running mate since Thomas Eagleton in 1972 to leave a major-party ticket.

    The more circumspect CNN played the familiar journalistic game of using an incendiary headline, but hedging its bets in the body of the article itself.  The headline of an item that appeared on September 3, 2008:

    Betting on a Palin withdrawal

    The more subliminal Eagleton reference in the body of the article:

    Placing a Palin withdrawal at even 12% seems bullish; no presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP selection since Thomas Eagleton left Democratic candidate George McGovern’s ticket in 1972.

    The Grey Lady was less subtle.  It’s headline, by op-ed guy Gary Wills:

    McCain’s McGovern Moment

    and his sage advice, after being “shocked, shocked,” to learn that Palin was ”an initial supporter of the so-called bridge to nowhere; an appointer of a man who had been officially reprimanded for sexual harassment as the public safety commissioner in Alaska; a mother of an unwed and pregnant 17-year-old; and other things being ferreted out by the minute.”

    Perhaps Senator McGovern should not have deserted Tom Eagleton. Perhaps Senator McCain should stick by Governor Palin. But if he does soldier on with her by his side for a while, will he end up having to call another midget convention like the one that had to be cobbled together to nominate Sargent Shriver? That is hardly in his best interests.

    Perhaps Governor Palin, realizing that and trying to minimize her own humiliation in coming days, should withdraw before she is nominated and let Senator McCain turn again to one of his more experienced options. We should remember that Senator Eagleton went on to serve honorably after his withdrawal, both during his time in the Senate and in charitable work after he retired from public office. He died last year, respected and beloved.

    Gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it?  Well, the Eagleton meme is no more, the MSM’s curiosity about whether Palin was properly “vetted” seems to have evaporated, and the former governor’s political stock seems to be doing just fine at the moment.  Still, it’s interesting to recall the fantasy worlds journalists occasionally create for themselves when they take themselves too seriously.

  • Of Iraq, the Left, and Clouded Crystal Balls

    Posted on June 22nd, 2010 Helian No comments

    Whenever the nation goes on the warpath, hearts on the left fondly turn to thoughts of Vietnam.  Remember what they said about about the prospects of the Bush surge succeeding in Iraq?  The Volokh Conspiracy came up with a great list of reminders a while back.  I quote them here again to help keep the memory fresh.

    The only real question about the planned “surge” in Iraq — which is better described as a Vietnam-style escalation — is whether its proponents are cynical or delusional. — Paul Krugman, NYT, 1/8/07

    There is nothing ahead but even greater disaster in Iraq. — NYT Editorial, 1/11/07

    What anyone in Congress with half a brain knows is that the surge was sabotaged before it began. — Frank Rich, NYT, 2/11/07

    Keeping troops in Iraq has steadily increased the risk of a bloodbath. The best way to reduce that risk is, I think, to announce a timetable for withdrawal and to begin a different kind of surge: of diplomacy. — Nicholas Kristof, NYT, 2/13/07

    W. could have applied that to Iraq, where he has always done only enough to fail, including with the Surge — Maureen Dowd, NYT, 2/17/07

    The senator supported a war that didn’t need to be fought and is a cheerleader for a surge that won’t work. — Maureen Dowd, NYT, 2/24/07

    Now the ”surge” that was supposed to show results by summer is creeping inexorably into an open-ended escalation, even as Moktada al-Sadr’s militia ominously melts away, just as Iraq’s army did after the invasion in 2003, lying in wait to spring a Tet-like surprise. — Frank Rich, NYT, 3/11/07

    Victory is no longer an option in Iraq, if it ever was. The only rational objective left is to responsibly organize America’s inevitable exit. That is exactly what Mr. Bush is not doing and what the House and Senate bills try to do. — NYT Editorial, 3/29/07

    There is no possible triumph in Iraq and very little hope left. — NYT Editorial, 4/12/07

    … the empty hope of the “surge” … — Frank Rich, NYT, 4/22/07

    Three months into Mr. Bush’s troop escalation, there is no real security in Baghdad and no measurable progress toward reconciliation, while American public support for this folly has all but run out. — NYT Editorial, 5/11/07

    Now the Bush administration finds itself at that same hour of shame. It knows the surge is not working. — Maureen Down, NYT, 5/27/07

    Mr. Bush does have a choice and a clear obligation to re-evaluate strategy when everything, but his own illusions, tells him that it is failing. — NYT Editorial, 7/25/07

    The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. — Paul Krugman, NYT, 9/14/07

    A nice collection, no?  Hope springs eternal, though.  With any luck we’ll be defeated in Afghanistan.

  • The McChrystal Affair

    Posted on June 22nd, 2010 Helian No comments

    Its always a good idea to read the source information before taking anything you see in the legacy media at face value. That’s particularly true of the ubiquitous stories about real or imagined conflicts, because their bottom line depends on blowing them out of proportion. As William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection points out, the McChrystal affair is another data point confirming the overall phenomenon:

    Question: Has anyone actually read the Rolling Stone article?
    Answer: Apparently not

    The article has very few direct quotes from McChrystal, and almost none that could be termed criticisms. There are a lot of “flavor” quotes, such as this:

    “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

    He pauses a beat.

    “Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it.”

    But when it comes to actual criticisms of Obama or the administration, there is almost nothing attributed to McChrystal.

    …and so on. Apparently Obama didn’t read the article in Rolling Stone either.  Why should he?   Things like this distract people’s attention from all that oil in the Gulf.

  • Bush? No, I Don’t Miss Him Yet

    Posted on June 21st, 2010 Helian No comments

    Oh, I agree, Obama seems inept, weak, and lacking in any detectable skills as a leader. But was Bush really all that much better? He certainly didn’t stop the cancerous growth of big government. He launched a completely unnecessary war of aggression in Iraq, freeing the country of a bloody dictator in the process. For that, most Iraqis are probably more or less as grateful as the journalist who threw his shoes at W. The war cost us and continues to cost us blood and treasure that we can ill afford. He got us into another war in Afghanistan that was certainly more justifiable, but failed to take the perfectly sound advice of Donald Rumsfeld to pack up and leave quickly when it was over. Instead, we embarked on a neocon’s wet dream of “nation building,” with the predictable result that we are still bogged down there, with the left and right in cordial agreement that we face almost inevitable defeat.

    Other than that, as the recent “peace flotilla” stunt reminded us, he completely failed to understand the burgeoning threat of a resurgent and politicized Islam that has now become the main contender to fill the ideological vacuum left by the demise of Communism. The evidence is all still out there on the Internet. For example, he strongly backed Turkey’s entry into the EU, as can be seen in this story that appeared in the Washington Post back in October, 2006. Fortunately, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had other ideas.  (Of course, the Turks, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, are probably jumping for joy that they didn’t stumble into the EU’s economic black hole, but that’s another story.)  Read the article, and you’ll see how thoroughly Bush was bamboozled by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister Erdogan.  It was “in our interests” for the rapidly radicalizing Turks to become a part of Europe. The U.S. and its Turkish “strategic partner” were “focusing on ways to counter extremism.” Bush nodded sagely as Erdogan inveighed against the use of terms like “Islamic terrorism.”

    In a word, I wouldn’t exactly put nostalgia for Bush in the U.S. in the same category as nostalgia for Stalin in Russia, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. The choice between Bush and Obama is basically the choice between being internationally hated or internationally despised.  Take your pick.

  • Tony Hayward sans Sackcloth and Ashes

    Posted on June 20th, 2010 Helian No comments

    The media in the U.S. have been making a big fuss about a sighting of BP CEO Tony Hayward at a yacht race. Apparently he’s supposed to be walking around in a circle hitting himself on the forehead with a board like the monks in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” I don’t blame him. He seemed to take the self-righteous hazing he endured at the hands of our grandstanding politicians with a good grace. Rep. Joe Barton, who apparently hasn’t learned that it’s a breach of protocall to refer to McCarthyism by its proper name if it’s for a good cause, actually dared to apologize for the public flogging. However, he quickly got back into line after a judicious jerk on his choke chain. As for Hayward, it seems to me that watching a yacht race is not really a mortal sin. He deserves a break, and hitting himself on the forehead with a board probably won’t significantly slow the flow of oil into the Gulf.