Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thinking Reasonably About Reason

The technology to actively, accurately and effectively study climate change hasn't been around all that long. We can estimate, but cannot be sure of, what the Earth's temperature was like 1,000 years ago. One can look at the archaeological evidence in Jerusalem, say the Temple was destroyed, and point to the Roman victory over the Jews nearly 2,000 years ago as causes for the latter's dispersal around the civilized world, but that's because we have evidence, a lot of historical material to work with that backs this up. It's not so simple with global warming. That the Earth is warming, I'm inclined to agree with - I've stated that many times.

However, as I've also stated many times, I also think global warming is natural - how, after all, did past Ice Ages end but for global warming? Anyone who observes the planet Mars will note that the Martian polar ice caps expand and retract seasonally - is the industrial advancement of Little Green Men to blame, or natural processes affecting the Red Planet? And, hello, anyone thought about the planet Venus lately? That world is the poster-child for extreme global warming, and humanity is not even one whit to blame.

I find it incredibly funny that it is often the same people who accuse Israel of collectively punishing the Palestinians, and decry the Jewish state for this perceived slight, are the ones so inclined to place collective blame for climate change on the human race, letting Mother Earth off scot-free. If only these people held the Palestinians as collectively responsible for voting in Hamas and reaping what they've sown as they hold Israel for its defensive actions, or humanity for global warming. The world would be a much better place by far than it already is were they to do that.

There is an absence of reason in the world today. Former Vice President Al Gore, who has emotionally urged us to fight global warming by calling climate change an emergency that must be dealt with immediately (or else), is the author of a book titled "The Assault on Reason". I thumbed through it once; it seems like ages ago now, in New York. I put it down, hopefully never to open it again unless absolutely necessary, when I saw that Mr. Gore, in accusing others of the very same crime - demagoguery, scare-mongering - he is guilty of, was not inclined to admit guilt of it himself.

As I will urge time and time again, we have to think logically and reasonably about global warming, not rush to judgment about climate change. We are not experts on our world; there is still so much we do not know about it. We can take frozen cores out of Antarctic ice shelves, compare what we find in 10,000 year old air bubbles to the air and temperatures of our own time, and come to whatever conclusions we like. But while inherently correct in hard data, those conclusions could very well be wrong - because we're not looking at the world as it was 10,000 years ago from the viewpoint of 10,000 years ago. We're looking at it with our preconceived notions, our biases, of today.

Look at it this way: Those who claim to be experts about planet Earth, who are seemingly all-knowledgeable about its processes - even the ones yet to be understood - have only been around a number of decades. Widespread use of the automobile has only been around about as long; jet airplane travel is, when compared with the history of the wheel, still remarkably new. Massive factories belching out toxic smoke are, as well, a relatively recent occurrence in the long span of recorded human history. Climate-change demagogues are, furthermore, accusing those who probably haven't been alive as long as they have of being the ones primarily responsible for the ruination of our planet.

We are not the Masters of the World. We are not the Masters of the Universe. We live on the planet Earth, we wish to defend it, yes, as if it were our own Creation, but we cannot in a correct state of mind actually posit that we are the owners of it. We are merely caretakers, inseparable participants - wherever we go - of an ecosystem created for us; we influence the conditions of that environment, but we are responsible only for how we ourselves, in our own time, interact with it.

This self-flagellation regarding global warming does nothing to heal the planet, but much to polarize the people living upon it. We should not hold ourselves guilty for the "crimes" of our parents, our grandparents, or our great-grandparents; the Federal Republic of Germany may pay reparations to the State of Israel and the Jewish people for the Holocaust, but not because it is guilty of the crimes of Nazi Germany.

Like the Germans, we too can be remorseful for what past generations of our kind
have done, and "pay reparations" if we so choose (if it soothes our consciences, and helps us be mindful of the egregious mistakes humans can make), but doing so in the case of global warming only makes sense if we are mindful that when it comes to climate change, Nature, and Nature's God, are fully-engaged participants in the affairs of Man and the Earth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Lebanon is Plenty, Thank You

"As all those who write about civic matters show and as all history proves by a multitude of examples, whoever organizes a state and establishes its laws must assume that all men are wicked and will act wickedly whenever they have the chance to do so." - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Lebanon is a country that has a really screwed up political system, one that increases sectarianism rather than working to bridge the gaps between Christian, Sunni and Shi'a Arabs there. The President of Lebanon must be a Maronite Christian. The Prime Minister must be a Sunni, and the Speaker of the House in Parliament must be a Shi'ite. It's no secret that instability and Lebanese politics go together like spaghetti and meatballs; it doesn't help when Syria helps to assassinate lawmakers opposed to the Alawite' dictatorship's meddling in Lebanon's affairs. In my humble opinion, a opinion I think is shared by many others, Lebanon's political arrangement as it now stands makes future civil wars (along sectarian lines, as always) that much more likely than another arrangement would.

Now let's take a look at Iraq, to see if maybe we can't divine at least some understanding - aside from Iranian influence, former Ba'athists, and long-simmering resentments amongst the populace - for why that nascent democracy's political system is, in its current arrangement, I think doomed to create another Lebanon in Babylon. How is the current Iraqi government organized?

We need only look at the dangerously fragile system attempting to govern diverse peoples from Beirut to see where the geniuses behind the set-up of the relatively still-new government in Baghdad got their inspiration. In Iraq, as in Lebanon, the government is divvied up along sectarian lines: the President of Iraq is expected to be of one group (say, the Kurds), the Prime Minister is expected to be of another (say, a Shi'a), and the Assembly Speaker is expected to be still another (say, a Sunni). The way they see it, it's only fair. In order for the government to function, each religious-ethnic group wants its share of the pie, right up front. Each ethnicity has its political party, and in turn that affects the makeup of the government.

And people wonder why the benchmark goals set by the United States aren't necessarily being met when we feel they should? That isn't exactly a recipe for effective, efficient governance they've got over there. Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis are worrying more about their own people than the Iraqi nation at large; this isn't to say that there aren't justifiable grievances held by majority Shi'ites and oppressed Kurds against Sunnis, who maintained a privileged position under dictator Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, this focus on a "me, me, me" mentality rather than one of "us, us, us" is dooming the Iraqi government to future failure, and putting America in the uncomfortable position of having to continue to pay with blood for the mess that results.

The best solution for Iraq, short of ripping the country into several parts, is the strengthening of federalism in the country. As it stands right now, the State of Iraq is constitutionally a federalist entity, but in reality it...isn't. Federalism is not just about creating individual states - in Iraq's case, governorates/provinces - where those of a certain ethnicity or religious identification can claim to be a majority. It's not, or rather, it shouldn't be, just sectarianism by another name. It's about those provinces governing themselves, to the best of their ability, and working with the national government on problems affecting both the province individually and the nation as a whole.

We don't hear too much about governance in Iraq's many provinces; all the news focuses, generally, on the failures of the Iraqi national government to take the responsibility and show the courage needed to rise above sectarian interests and do what should be done for the country. We hear, yes, about the concerns of other ethnic groups in Iraq regarding Kurdish administration of Iraq's northern oilfields; the others want the wealth to be shared, rather than hoarded by the Kurds. That's a fair request, for sure, but at the same time, it is again motivated less by purely political or economic concerns, but by sectarianism.

When we do hear about the provinces, on the whole the news focuses on the security situation in each of them. If you ask me, the media is contributing to sectarian strife in Iraq by only focusing on how many Iraqis or Allied troops died today or last week in al-Anbar governorate; we are - that is, the American people, and the world at large - counting on Baghdad, and not a council in Ramadi, to help bring political stability to the region. We are counting on the national government of Iraq to rise above tribal allegiances, instead of trying to organize a stable provincial government that could potentially provide services in a more immediate manner than Baghdad is able.

"Indeed, a prince seeking for glory in the world should be glad to possess a corrupt city, not to ruin it completely, as Caesar did, but to reform it, as Romulus did."
- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Though I am but an observer, currently residing on the East Coast of the United States, no longer as "close" to the action as I once was in Jerusalem, Israel, I think what we are doing is, instead of showing the Iraqis how to govern, helping them to learn how to
pretend to govern. We may ask Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to sacrifice their self-interests for the greater good, for a greater good where their self-interest would have a better chance at being protected in a non-sectarian, truly federal system...but at the same time we are enabling the Iraqis to avoid rising above their sectarian and tribal concerns by supporting a governmental, constitutional system that protects sectarianism rather than abolishes it.

It might be the opinion of a great many people that the key to stability in Iraq is a strong central government, with a well-trained, large-numbered national army protecting its authority and expressing its will, but the fact is that Iraq's long history of central governance - taken to extremes in the form of the Hussein dictatorship - has made the country ill-suited to continue to support such a system, when all that system really does is change the method of choosing the central government without changing its nature. Iraq's proportionally partisan system isn't the answer.

Only by abandoning lip-service to federalism in Iraq by actively embracing it and utilizing its merits there, only by inculcating a culture of federalism amongst the Iraqi populace, educating them as to why it - and not their tribe - is best suited to looking out for their individual interests, only by devolving the Iraqi government in a meaningful way, by giving limited autonomy to the provinces to handle their own local affairs while allowing the national government to bring its attention to bear elsewhere, only by having one set of empowered representatives in Baghdad and still another in an Iraqi's own province...only then would we be setting the Iraqis up for success, rather than failure.

I think it would be in the best interests of the United States' Government, the Middle East as a whole, and of course Iraq in particular for us to say something like this to the Iraqis, maybe not in so many words, but in sentiment, style and substance:

"Listen, you're a proud people and you have a right to be - you have a long history in this region and we don't wish to emulate you by being here forever having to babysit you. At the same time, we know a bit more about democracy than you do, we know better than you how to bring peoples of diverse religions and ethnicities together for the common good, and we have centuries' more experience than you in organizing and maintaining a stable governmental system in such a way that it can endure from generation to generation without violence tearing it to shreds every decade or so. We're gonna show you how it's
really to be done, and if you don't want us to come back every few years so as to pull you folks away from each other's throats, you'll get wise and follow our lead. If you want us out of here, help us out here."

I could be wrong, but I feel that only in pursuing the above course in governmental development suggested, in conjunction with pursuing our security-military goals in Iraq, can we truly hope to avoid turning that country into little more than just another Lebanon, with Iran meddling in Iraq like Syria meddles in Lebanon, with Kurd, Shi'a and Sunni focusing on their sectarian interests in Iraq just as Christians, Shiites and Sunnis in Lebanon do there, with a future Iraq being just as prone to civil war as modern Lebanon was in the 1970s and still is today. You needn't be a rocket scientist to see how such an eventuality would be very bad for all parties concerned - and in case you've suddenly forgotten, we are one of them.

"Therefore, the welfare of a republic or kingdom does not lie in its having a prince who governs it prudently while he lives, but rather in having one who organizes it in such a way that it may endure after his death."
- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Monday, September 24, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Idiots

“We thank God that our enemies are idiots.”

Those are the words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he has a point: Columbia University, despite its supposedly being an institution of "higher" learning, has demonstrated the truth of Ahmadinejad's words by having extending him an invitation to speak, and then allowing him to do so. This idiocy - if I may be so frank - was further demonstrated when Columbia's Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, John Coatsworth, defended the university's invite to Ahmadinejad by saying "If Hitler was in the United States and wanted a platform from which to speak, he would have plenty of platforms at which to speak in the US....we would certainly invite him."

The Columbia Spectator wrote a self-congratulatory editorial on September 20, in which it was said "A university has an obligation to provide its students opportunities to deepen their knowledge and understanding of world events. Columbia has done as much through its invitation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and should be commended for a decision that will earn it few favors in the public eye." Here is the knowledge that, I'm sure, the writers of that editorial were thinking Columbia students would gain by letting the world's foremost state-sponsor of Islamist terrorism speak on campus: “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury.”

Wow. That's...enlightening, isn't it? Such statements show how reasonable a man the current president of Iran is. Considering that just last week, the Iranian government promised it would issue a "response" to Zionism's supporters at the end of Ramadan in October, maybe we'll get a preview of this response from whatever "wise" words the man Jay Leno has referred to as "Mahmoud I'm-a-nut-job" shares with the delusional student body and faculty of Columbia University.

What "understanding", besides Ahmadinejad being a brilliant advocate of the idea that “The Zionist regime is a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm,” can American university students possibly come to about the troubles afflicting the Middle East today? In Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's own words, "He who sows the wind will reap a hurricane and this will be a very strong storm in the whole Middle East region, which will strike painfully…” Yikes. This is a man whose idea of a Middle East at peace is a Mideast under Iranian control following the deaths of seven million Israelis.

And not only was President I'm-A-Nut-Job of Iran planning on speaking to Columbia during his visit to the Great Satan's Most Jewish of Cities, New York. No, the man who once addressed the United Nations' General Assembly and said afterward, "On the last day when I was speaking before the assembly, one of our group told me that when I started to say 'In the name of God the almighty and merciful,' he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura. I felt it myself," is to speak before that assembly once more.

He expanded on the event more: "I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn't bat an eyelid, I'm not exaggerating because I was looking at them. And they were rapt. It seemed as if a hand was holding them there and had opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic republic."

Personally, I think the guy was high on hashish when this happened, but that's just me. You can see some crazy shit when you're high.

Anyway, Columbia University wants to give those who claim they are not being heard a place to air their thoughts, but how could Columbia feel I'm-A-Nut-Job's voice wasn't being heard when the man has an official "Council for Spreading Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Thoughts" in Tehran behind him? Not only that, the man has the ear of the Third World, he has captured the hearts of left-wing media, he's adored by opponents of democracy, and one of his Best Friends Forever is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a man who knows how to make his positions known...and then some.

If only I had a "Council for Spreading Jeremy Slavin's Thoughts." Maybe that would earn me a Columbia University speaking engagement. No, wait, maybe I need to fund Islamic terrorist groups first, deny the Holocaust, and call for the complete destruction of not just a government, but an entire democratic, multi-racial country and all of its people on the basis of their faith - and then stick to my statements. Maybe I need to give speeches to the General Assembly of the U.N. (Useless Nuisance), later claim I was surrounded by an aura at the time, and later order naval ships to kidnap British sailors in international waters. Maybe that's what I need to be taken seriously.


This part, this part I'm writing after actually having seen Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia University, and his answers to questions posed by students and faculty afterward.

My thoughts as written above stand, though allow me to add that Columbia University president Lee Bollinger's scathing comments about President Ahmadinejad, spoken aloud in front of the man himself, that I'm-A-Nut-Job called insults, are to be commended - maybe he's earned back for his university some respect it might've lost prior to the event.

As for Ahmadinejad, his rhetorical acrobatics around directly answering the question "Do you and your government support the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state," could, if transformed into corporeal form, win the Islamic Republic of Iran a gold medal in Beijing next summer. If only Evasiveness was an Olympic sport...

Echoing sentiments I read in the Jerusalem Post over the weekend, let me say this: Maybe letting the President of Iran speak at an American university isn't so bad after all. When you let a crazy man who seeks nuclear weapons denounce you in public, you, who are thought of as being overly paranoid when talking about the danger he poses, you look a whole lot saner when you take action to defend yourself from his efforts, especially when those efforts are clearly designed to threaten you and your friends.

Truly, as I quoted above (in a different context), may it be said also by America, Israel and the rest of the free world about the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “We thank God that our enemies are idiots.” Were Ahmadinejad's opinions kept secret, it would make the positions of Washington and Jerusalem (and Paris, among others) that much more difficult to defend than it, sadly, already is.

Maybe, then, we should be grateful. However, it would be not to Columbia University, but to Allah, the compassionate, the merciful, that we would owe our thanks, for allowing this man who likes to hear himself speak, who has organized a "Council for Spreading Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Thoughts", to say what he has to say in such a way that it makes it easier for the more perceptive among us to see through I'm-A-Nut-Job's bullshit and, God-willing, do what needs to be done about him and his sad regime.

I just hope we - or rather, chiefly the delusional and utopian among us - abandon the idiocy on our side, before Ahmadinejad's idiocy transforms into an unmistakable determination, in the name of the Islamic revolution, to plant mushroom clouds in the skies of the Middle East, Europe, or the United States of America. If we let it come to that, we ourselves will share the blame for the destruction of our cities, our loved ones, and the institutions and principles we hold dear.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Could It Be I Just Wasn't Made for These Times?

Do you know who Trista and Ryan Sutter are?

When I was at a supermarket earlier today, I walked by one of the check-out aisles and saw an issue of Us Weekly - I'm not sure how recent the issue - with Trista and Ryan on the cover, with their new baby. The headline screamed "Trista and Ryan's New Baby Pics!" (or something like that) and though I was happy to see another cute little baby face in the world, I had no idea why they merited a place on the cover more than any other family who had been trying for a while, finally conceived, and successfully birthed a new person into the world. I was perplexed, so I opened up the magazine and flipped through until I found the photo gallery of Trista and Ryan and their baby, and read that the two adults had been on The Bachelorette. Well, whoop-de-freakin'-do!

It's not that I hadn't heard about The Bachelorette, because I had. But why, I wondered, did Trista and Ryan deserve that cover space more than coverage of Britney Spears' latest breakdown (I'm only assuming she's had another one), or the latest juicy photos of "Brangelina"? Did they - Trista and Ryan - do something special, so utterly fantasmagorically amazing I'm not aware of that it earned them a prominent place on a national entertainment rag? I don't think so. But then, what do I know?

"I keep looking for a place to fit
Where I can speak my mind
I've been trying hard to find the people
That I won't leave behind..."

I don't really know jack about Trista and Ryan, but I do know that those Democrats demanding an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq are pretty hypocritical. Why? They say President George W. Bush has ran the Iraq War irresponsibly, that he had a plan for war but not a plan for peace. They aren't wrong, in this respect. Where they are hypocritical is in their having a plan for removing American troops from Iraq, but not a plan for containing the chaos that would spread throughout the Middle East without some sort of powerful check on its expansion. Two conflicting, irresponsible and wrong policies don't make a pullout right. Tell that to, though.

No, I don't know shit about Trista and Ryan, but I do know that the relative silence of the world following a recent Israeli "foray" with warplanes - they dropped some bombs - into northern Syria has to mean something. I could, really, care less about O.J. Simpson's latest arrest, and what he says in his defense; when North Korea and Syria - two oppressive dictatorial regimes - are the loudest voices of protest following a democratic Israel's sortie against some sort of target in the Realm of Damascus, I get suspicious that more is going on than just diplomatic bravado, and pay little attention to the affairs of the pointlessly rich and violent in the U.S. when there are reports - even unconfirmed - of Syria drafting reserve soldiers.

"They say I got brains
But they ain't doing me no good
I wish they could..."

Oh, don't get me wrong - I love frivolous stuff. I can't wait for the return of Jericho to CBS; I love Hugh Laurie as the cranky Dr. House on Fox's House. I think it would be awesome to get drunk and party with Robbie Williams. When my Dad came to New York earlier this year, we walked by the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the Late Show with David Letterman is taped. We found out that Jeff Goldblum was being interviewed and would shortly exit the theater via that side entrance where fans tend to wait, and, well...we waited. I'm a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum, after all. But here's the thing: I don't care about Jeff Goldblum's life more than my own.

The same could not be said for those who latched onto copies of People magazine after actor Patrick Dempsey had twin babies - another awesome cover story there for "McDreamy"! I truly wonder whether young American mothers today spend more time reading about Hollywood babies - those of Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, Trista and Ryan, et al - than they do raising their own. I wonder if many of those who held vigils for Paris Hilton when she went to jail would do the same for a family member imprisoned for a similar offense, or if they would resign their family members to a fate they wouldn't dare wish upon Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie.

"Each time things start to happen again
I think I got something good goin' for myself
But what goes wrong..."

No, I don't know much about Trista and Ryan, but I do know that President Bush's pick to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General is an Orthodox Jew, who at one point had a price on his head after he prosecuted a case against a sheikh who was behind the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. I may not have ever watched an episode of The Bachelorette, but I do remember watching the second tower fall on September 11, 2001. I may not have ever cast a vote in favor of a contestant on American Idol, but I have cast a vote in a democratic election in a Middle Eastern country.

I could care less about Lindsay Lohan's relationship with her parents, because I've had enough issues with my own parents over the years. If I'm interested in Tom Cruise's efforts to film scenes of a movie at a certain location in Berlin being blocked by the German government due to concerns about Cruise's Scientology (he was later told he would be allowed to film where he wanted to), it is only because the movie he's making is a true story about a high-ranking Nazi officer who tried and failed to assassinate Hitler; as anyone who truly knows me knows, I'm a sucker for World War II-related stuff. Of course, I don't expect others to be interested in a news story like that; to each his (or her) own.

"Every time I get the inspiration
To go change things around
No one wants to help me look for places
Where new things might be found."

Please, don't think that I'm simply making fun of those who voluntarily invest their time and money perpetuating the myth that the lives of people who are famous for, sometimes, just being famous, somehow have more value than their own. I don't hate such people, nor do I pity them. They are choosing to live their lives their way, and I mine. We're all still managing to coexist in this country, one way or another, though when Paris Hilton converts to Islam I wonder how many tens of thousands of people will follow her lead simply out of their perceived need to be just like a woman who wouldn't ordinarily give "the little people" the time of day.

And, for the record, having been in a relationship that was for several months a subject of much gossip amongst complete strangers, gossip which, I suspect, is more than anything else responsible for earning me and an ex-girlfriend an embarrassing pre-Rosh HaShana TV interview aired before the nation on Channel 1 in Israel in 2004, I do know something - have had however small a taste - of the other perspective...of how it can feel to be the subject of so many whispers, how the pressure of stares grates, how it feels to have people pay an inordinate amount of attention to you simply because you're shtupping that pretty French girl...

"Where can I turn when my fair weather friends cop out
What's it all about..."

I'm a little angry that we have allowed ourselves to become this vacuous, this...decadent. This unprincipled. I'm not above celebrity gossip as diversion - but venerating celebrity gossip as the focus of your life, and you're not a paparazzo (and even if you are)? Nuh-uh. And I am a little disappointed that if I call certain people during the latest all-important, Earth-shattering, more-amazing-than-Swiss-cheese episode of American Idol, I'm probably going to get their voice mail and, later, an admonition against calling while Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell are holding court.

" Sometimes I feel very sad..."

When George Clooney gushes about presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying he's "like a rock star", I think "You're like a moron, George," and then cringe, because it hurts to know people actually think Clooney a trustworthy political commentator by virtue of his work earning big money pretending to be other people on a big screen (I do think he's a reliable entertainer - but not much more). You might say, "Of course he's trustworthy. He's not a politician, he's an actor!" Well, so was John Wilkes Booth. Who was John Wilkes Booth? Go pick up a history book and find out! I don't think you're stupid - just mal-informed!

" Sometimes I feel very sad..."

Okay...getting back to the point, no, I don't know much about Trista and Ryan, who, because they met thanks to ABC's The Bachelorette in 2003, got married, had some pregnancy problems, had a baby, and earned the Rightful Love and Praise of a Distracted Nation. No, I don't know much about Trista and Ryan, who I saw this afternoon in a big picture on the cover of Us Weekly and then couldn't, for the life of me, identify why they were on it. Woe is my knowledge, I guess.

"I guess I just wasn't made for these times..."

If anyone reading this thinks I'm behind the times because I don't know much about celebrity couples, let me offer this defense: I don't know much about algebra either. But at least algebra's relevant.

"I guess I just wasn't made for these times..."

All above italicized song lyrics from "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Which Bush is the Real Bush?

You know what I find incredibly funny about people who hate George W. Bush? I'm talking about people who really hate him, not about those who just deplore his policies. Usually, these sort of people, when they regularly accuse him of craftily attacking our civil rights and systematically restricting our civil liberties, are the same people who at other times openly, gleefully question his level of intelligence, based primarily on how many mistakes he makes when he's speaking. They make him out to be both an evil genius and a complete nincompoop. They imply he is a simple man, a simpleton, for holding to his deeply-held religious convictions, yet they feel no shame in just stopping short of equating him with the Devil.

So I'm really wondering...which is it? Is President Bush a crafty demon, hell-bent on picking apart our Constitution bit by bit in a phased plan to completely destroy it, or is he the complete opposite, "Dubya", the embarrassing President of the United States of America, whose English capabilities are indicative of an inherent intellectual inability to carry out the duties of the office he was elected to serve the American people in? Is he the devious behind-the-scenes planner of 9/11 that some conspiracy theorists make him out to be, or is he a dunce forever stuck in a stereotypical frat-boy/cowboy mentality? Is he a wily aspiring quasi-monarch, or a dimwitted Chief Executive?

You see, I'm confused. Senator Barack Obama can screw up big time and say 10,000 people died in a trailer park after a tornado swept through it, and George Clooney later equates him to a "rock star", but President George W. Bush calls himself "the decider" - "decider" being a real word, meaning Bush used it the correct way - and celebrities, pundits and political opponents alike latch onto it, pillory him for saying it, adding it to their ever-growing collection of "Bushisms" (some of which are pretty funny). Can someone please set the record straight?

Well, until they do, I'll have a go at it (I'm impatient). Here's my theory, or at least a theory, as to how this system works:

When Bush-hating (as opposed to open-minded) critics accuse President George W. Bush of creating and implementing policies that, in their design and execution, obviously require the sort of mental faculties the Bush-haters are unwilling to credit the President with having, they're really attacking Vice President Dick Cheney - after all, they've always perceived that the Veep is the real "power behind the throne"; at one time, this might've been about Rove too. Only when critics make fun of "Bush 43", even if it be only for a grammatical flub or a choking-on-pretzel episode, only then is the criticism actually meant for the sitting President himself, on his own...unless of course the political criticism is by people who actually haven't surrendered their reason to blinding hatred.

As it stands now, while hardly definitive, that's the theory I'll stand behind. Why?

Because it's the only way I'm able to reconcile, at the moment, those two seemingly paradoxical lines of thought held by the Opposition. They say President Bush is smart and dumb at the same time. They say he's too Christian, too religious, and yet vilify him as if he's the root of all evil. They disrespect the President, and then have the gall to demand his respect for them. It's okay for them to ignore the Constitution, but not okay for the White House to (in reality, it's not okay for either to do so). It's really kind of FUBAR.

So, until I have a good explanation given to me as to how exactly it is that President Bush is a dimwitted evil genius, a frat boy of questionable intelligence who, paradoxically, somehow managed to single-handedly fabricate convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...well, I'm sticking by my theory as expounded above.

I'm not saying don't make fun of the Prez when he deserves it (he can be his own worst enemy), or to withhold justifiable criticism when it needs to be voiced (sometimes, it needs to be voiced - a lot). I'm just saying think before you speak, 'cause you're coming across as being even dumber than Dubya, or at least dumber than the version of Dubya you're propagating to the world. It's pretty funny, actually.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

God, please fix the AC

Dear God,

Please fix planet Earth's air conditioner.

There are a bunch of people going around saying that the Earth is getting warmer, as if it's some strange thing rather than a natural process that happens every ten to twenty thousand years. But I know the truth, Lord. I know that you're wary of leaving the AC on for too long, like you did back in the day when you left it on, went on vacation, and came back to see that an Ice Age had overtaken your Creation.

I can't say whether leaving the AC on for too long was as bad as not fixing that sprinkler system, which as you know flooded the Earth for some time and led that drunk Noah to build an ark. Some say you let that leak slide on purpose, to teach us a lesson about the importance of water conservation. Be that as it may, you've kept your campaign promise not to flood the entirety of the planet again, though we had a bit of a scare with that tsunami a couple of years ago, not to mention the predicament of New Orleans. I'd like to talk to you about that last situation at another time.

But to get back to the point...Lord, we know we let our room get messy. We leave shit - literally - lying around, and if we get around to picking it up, it's often only after we see a half-naked Indian dude with a tear in his eye crying over what we've done to our home. And we're really not helping the situation by continuing to allow cattle to contribute what some estimate to be 25% of certain greenhouse gas emission from their asses; it seems to me that we should be focusing less on carbon off-setting, and focusing more on bringing about fewer cow farts in the world.

No, I'm not asking for a plague, like the kind you inflicted on the cattle of the Egyptians; I happen to like a steak now and then, so getting rid of the cattle is not something I seek. Perhaps a better ventilation system, one that ranchers and vegetarians could both get behind. Of course, this may involve slapping around a couple of people to get them to acknowledge the threat cow farts pose, but...but I'm getting off track.

I spoke of ventilation before, and this brings me back to my request for you to turn on the planetary air condition system again. God, I was born in a desert. I grew up in the desert. I actually like the heat, to a reasonable degree. But I'm really getting tired of hearing Al Gore warn us about a planetary emergency on the one hand, him being demagogic and all, and then on the other hand writing books about the assault on reason, where he lambastes people - usually Republicans - for using fear as opposed to reason to get his message across (basically, he criticizes people for doing the same thing he's doing).

Of course, it's not just Al Gore I'm tired of; it's the weekly, monthly, daily reports attempting to strike fear into the hearts of all humanity about global warming. All that aside...

All that aside, let's make a deal. You're big on deals, I know it. We can even call it a covenant, if you like. Of course, we can always negotiate on the terms of the deal as I propose it, but before it can be discussed, it needs to be proposed.

Here's what I propose, if it pleases Your Providence: You would turn the AC back on, and we in turn would pledge to keep our rooms a little cleaner. I'll even do my part, and make my bed on a regular basis (or as often as I remember to do it). Also, in exchange for You not raising our utility bills to pay for the increased use of the planetary air conditioning system, maybe we'd do more volunteer work down here, perhaps on behalf of Swedish supermodels, but also perhaps on behalf of people who actually need our help.

How does that sound? Lord, we really need you to turn the AC back on. Or, at least, cut the number of cow farts by...oh, I dunno, half of their current number. Let's see the liberals complain about that one. You cut the cow farts, maybe turn the air conditioning back on for a bit longer than you have been recently, and in return we exercise more, make our beds, and drink less Coke. See, God, I'm a flexible man. I know we can work something out.

Creator of the Universe, in the tradition of Moses, let us dicker. For the good of humanity, for the sake of the children, in the hopes of a better, less smelly tomorrow, let us - humanity - negotiate with You better terms regarding the use (and abuse) of planetary ventilation devices, our upkeep of the planet, and cow anus emissions (CAE).

Remaining, as always, a humble servant of Your Divine Providence,

Jeremy S. Slavin

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thought for the Day

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

- President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1910

Good ole' TR.

My favorite parts of the above quote?

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better."

2: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

3: "...who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming..."

4: "...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause..."

5: "...who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement..."

6: "...who...if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly..."

7: "...his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."