Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Logic

President Bush made this statement in his speech yesterday in South Carolina, while he was trying to drive home his talking points:

Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us.

Apparently, someone who notes the simple fact that al Qaida wasn't in Iraq before the botched US follow-up to the invasion, and wonders what that has to say about our being in Iraq and the war on terror, is guilty of flawed logic.

The person asking that question is not suggesting that the terrorism is caused by U.S. actions.
I know, because I have the same question.

The questions we want answered are:
1. Al Qaida was not in Iraq before we invaded, and could come into Iraq because we botched the follow-up. Can you say what went wrong and what we could have done differently? That is an important question, not to harp on mistakes of the past, but to learn for the future. (Imagine that we do invade Iran sometime...)
2. What do we need to do to keep al Qaida from coming into other countries in the Middle East? We know the Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan. How can we prevent al Qaida from coming in with them?
3. Why should we trust the intelligence information you now present to "prove" al Qaida is in Iraq and what their intentions are any more than the intelligence information upon which you went to war?
4. How's the hunt for Osama bin Laden going?

If any of my 5 readers can show me where my logic is flawed, I'll write an email of apoplogy to the President.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Demotivation

At DESPAIR, INC., we believe motivational products create unrealistic expectations, raising hopes only to dash them. That's why we created our soul-crushingly depressing Demotivators® designs, so you can skip the delusions that motivational products induce and head straight for the disappointments that follow!
Here are a couple of their posters. Great idea! I feel better already!




Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One language

Our administration is trying to insist that English be the only spoken language in the U.S.
They are pursuing that goal with their usual competence:

Winner or loser?

The other day I read this piece in the Washington Post: Why Bush is a Winner.
I thought it seemed to make some good points.
Then today I read an answering piece: Why Bush is a Loser.
The real title should probably be: Won some, lost some.

The primary task of a President is to represent his country.
People should see in him - what he is like and how he acts - the basic core values of our country, and be able to depend on them.

And on that score, Bush is a loser, in my book.
His inability to articulate clearly and with nuances.
The fact that torture and wiretapping are associated with the United States.
World-changing decisions based on faulty intelligence and unfounded assumptions.
New Orleans: "you're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie!"
Al Qaeda is rebuilding and Osama is still at large.
Scooter Libby pardon.
Administrative chaos at the Justice Department and Walter Reed.

A recent example is the answer Bush gave to a question from a reporter about the morality of senior administration officials (whoever they were) leaking the name of a CIA agent (the press conference of July 12). Here is the Bush response, and it is so different from his statements in the 2000 campaign about restoring honesty and morality to the White House. His policy had been to fire anyone leaking information from his administration. That was a campaign promise. Bush had told voters at a campaign event in Pittsburgh that his administration would "ask not only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves." Remember?

As the one representing our values, this non-answer speaks volumes about how bad things have become:
I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? But it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's run its course and now we're going to move on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Distraction

My sermon this morning was disaster.
A combination of: difficult subject (The parables of judgement by Jesus), wanting to say too much, a few listeners whom I knew didn't agree with me, and a congregation that was tired after a week of an evangelistic sport camp.
Anyway, I was able to sleep on the couch for a while this afternoon.
Later I finished two paintings I had started.
Since last January I have taken up painting.
It's a great distraction.
And today was no exception.
Her is one I finished:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Zimmers

Heard of The Zimmers yet?
I'll bet you have.
A British rock band with the oldest members in the world.
Art, the lead singer, is 90, Buster, at 100, is the oldest member.
Protesting against the way elderly people are treated in our society.
I think this is a big problem in Western Europe.
Good on you, Zimmers! Sock it to 'em!

Their song?
My Generation, by The Who.

Take a look! Here are the lyrics...for those of you who are too old to remember this song.

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby



Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to d-dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stop Gay Marriage Now!

The Religious Right has been has been fighting now for years to stop Gay Marriage, one of the reasons being that when gays marry, it weakens heterosexual marriage.
Now the the correctness of that position is becoming crystal clear.
Marriages of important (Christian) people are failing faster than we can keep track of them.
The latest is David Vitter.
Read the commentary of Jon Swift on it here.

Withdrawal

I've never been ashamed of reading the New York Times (online).
A pretty good editorial about Iraq.
Some quotes from it.
Read the whole thing here.

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit....
While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost....
Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige. This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops.
And it created a new front where the United States will have to continue to battle terrorist forces and enlist local allies who reject the idea of an Iraq hijacked by international terrorists. The military will need resources and bases to stanch this self- inflicted wound for the foreseeable future.
There are already nearly two million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, and nearly two million more Iraqis who have been displaced within their country....Beyond the suffering, massive flows of refugees — some with ethnic and political resentments — could spread Iraq’s conflict far beyond Iraq’s borders....
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.
This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Torture

An article in Harper's Magazine about torture and the Bush administration.
Some excerpts:

One of the truly disturbing aspects of the Bush Administration’s program of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is that there’s nothing new about them. Each of the techniques is well known; each has a very long legacy. The practice of waterboarding, for instance, was closely associated with the Spanish Inquisition, and appears diagramed and explained in woodcut prints from the early sixteenth century. Similarly, the practice we know as the “cold cell”–or hypothermia–was carefully developed by the Soviet NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, as a means of preparing prisoners for interrogation. The Soviets used the motto “no blood, no shame,” and the same motto recently emerged in units of the American armed forces in Iraq.

Many of these techniques were also practiced during World War II and the years leading up to it. They were certainly not practiced by the United States, however. The practitioners were German, particularly the Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst or SD, the intelligence arm of the SS. The procedures were known as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or in German, verschärfte Vernehmung…

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture–”enhanced interrogation techniques”–is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pardon me Mr. Libby

Certainly not the last word on this here.
Probably not even the smartest word.
Seems like a real dumb move by Bush, especially in the light of current public opinion.
Here are some comments I read on Right Reason: the weblog for conservative philosophers (for you Right Wingers who think I don't read anything from the Right. For more proof that I keep informed on opinions from the Right, click here.):

Strange coincidence that Marc Rich's lawyer (Rich was pardoned by Clinton at the end of his term and that of course is getting lots of press again now. [NV]) was none other than Scooter Libby. One good turn deserves another. I especially enjoyed the arguments on NRO and elsewhere that there was no underlying crime, so of course there was no reason to prosecute. Seems like I have heard that argument before...must be a trick of the memory.

What a fall - from the promise to "restore honor and dignity to the White House" to be defended (by several of the usual Republican suspects on cable tv) by the pathetic, "Well, Clinton made some really bad pardons." But I guess that promise was already rendered a bad joke a long time ago.

Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, it appears to me to make no difference. The action seems to be that those with money and power take good care of one another.
So even when political parties change, the rules don't.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Married




Today our son Ben married his girl Ramona here in Heemstede.
The Dutch laws about weddings are different than those of the U.S.
A minister has no official right to wed a couple.
Only a specifically appointed official of the township may do that.
He or she always wears a black robe.

It is a very offical ceremony: the couple is asked specifically if they will uphold the responsibilities laid upon them by the laws governing marriage, and after they say "yes" the official proclamation is made.
Witnesses are asked to sign the marriage certificate.
This is in case the marriage certificiate is ever lost, and the township records are lost. Someone can always prove they are married by calling the witnesses.
The church service for Ben and Ramona will take place next December. That was the only time we could get our whole family together.
Strange as it seems to American ears, that's the way things are here.
Anyway, we're grateful and thankful for them. They are a great couple.

But this is a pretty nice couple too, right?

Here are the four of us: