Monday, January 29, 2007

Quick hits for Monday morning

1. Re: Scooter Libby. I think the media really really really wants this to be the next Watergate, but it's not going to happen. First, it's nowhere near that big. Second, I've been following this with mild interest for a while, and I still can't tell what exactly anyone's on trial for (or if they're even on trial at all). Third, even if you wish really hard and you're good for a whole year and don't hit your sister even once, not even after she bit you that one time back in June, you don't always get what you want. Deal with it. If the media tries to influence this one, it will be a serious breach of ethics. But I doubt that'll happen. Most of 'em aren't that far gone.

2. To: the Palestinians. From: the rest of us. Re: Getting your own state. Message: Okay guys, seriously. You want your own state? Quit blowing stuff up. Seriously. All it does is deplete your own resources and make everybody else mad. Use those explosives in construction or something, get your people out of those slums and into some decent apartments and I guarantee you'll have an easier time of it. It's called a "good faith" gesture. Only rule: don't renege.

2.a. Also, you might want to avoid displays like this one:

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, a large crowd gathered outside the bomber's home to praise the attack. "Mohammed be happy. You will go directly to heaven," the crowd chanted, while children held pictures of the bomber. He looked pensive in one image, and held a machine gun in another.
If there's a better way to make people doubt your good intentions, I haven't heard of it.

3. On the upside of things . . . 200 killed ain't bad. 200 of theirs, that is.

4. Finally, here's a list of the top 10 myths about Iraq. It's a logical breakdown of some of the main talking points. Good stuff.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood, I guess . . .

New column up at The Scenic Route. Hope it's a good one.

A thought on history

I was thinking about my generation, and how years of living in safety and comfort have made us forget just how hard it is to acquire and keep safety and comfort, when this question occured to me:

If the Great Depression had never happened -- if the prosperity of the twenties had continued right on through the next decade -- would America have fought WWII the way it did? WWII would probably have happened either way, but if Americans were used to being undisturbed and happy, would we have been so aggressive and willing to fight? The isolationist movement in America was pretty strong at that time. I have the feeling that without the hardship and deprivation of the Depression, it might have at least in part prevailed -- much like we see it doing today. It's easier to put on your boots and fight if you've got nothing to lose. Get too used to being coddled, and you lose that drive.

Anyway, that's what I think. Discuss.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

If half our politicians were half this thoughtful, the world would be in a lot better shape right now.

I got this essay in an e-mail this morning. It was posted on a young man's MySpace page before an IED killed him. The gist of the essay: he joined the Army because mushy feelings and fine platitudes about "humanism" don't do squat to help people, but actions and bullets fired at their oppressors do.

The author is 2Lt. Mark Daily. You can see his MySpace page (complete with the essay) here. I'm also going to post his essay in its entirety so people with firewall issues can read it. It's not paragraph formatted, so it may be a little hard to read, but stick with it.

Why I Joined: This question has been asked of me so many times in so many different contexts that I thought it would be best if I wrote my reasons for joining the Army on my page for all to see. First, the more accurate question is why I volunteered to go to Iraq. After all, I joined the Army a week after we declared war on Saddam's government with the intention of going to Iraq. Now, after years of training and preparation, I am finally here. Much has changed in the last three years. The criminal Ba'ath regime has been replaced by an insurgency fueled by Iraq's neighbors who hope to partition Iraq for their own ends. This is coupled with the ever present transnational militant Islamist movement which has seized upon Iraq as the greatest way to kill Americans, along with anyone else they happen to be standing near. What was once a paralyzed state of fear is now the staging ground for one of the largest transformations of power and ideology the Middle East has experienced since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to Iran, Syria, and other enlightened local actors, this transformation will be plagued by interregional hatred and genocide. And I am now in the center of this. Is this why I joined? Yes. Much has been said about America's intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. Many have framed the paradigm through which they view the conflict around one-word explanations such as "oil" or "terrorism," favoring the one which best serves their political persuasion. I did the same thing, and anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me). I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn't confront the Ba'ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America's intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow "humanists" and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday. Others would point to America's historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America's initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America's moral crusade. And maybe it is. Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are. So that is why I joined. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction. Some have allowed their resentment of the President to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere. I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined. In digesting this posting, please remember that America's commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration and would exist into our future children's lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago and were up until now held back by the most cruel of cages. Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don't overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war but don't cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction. So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include "Good Luck."
Good Luck, Mark. Godspeed. God bless.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Just some random stuff

A: I'll have a new post up at The Scenic Route by lunchtime today (Friday). Depending on your time zone, it may be up by the time you read this (which means if you're in Guam, you're pretty much hosed until tomorrow. Sorry).

B: I have an appointment with my therapist after lunchtime today.

C: These events are more related than you would think. It's not anything bad, just . . . unsettling. I've got issues I need to work through. Like the fact that once I write something and file it, I can't call it back. It's out there. It's published. It's done. I can't spend all my time perfecting it, but I can make it the best I can in the time allotted. I don't think I quite did that this time. There's something about this column that bugs me.

Maybe it's just my insecurities coming to the surface like trash that pops up through the 15th green at one of those landfill-cum-golf course things. Maybe it's my "preachy" radar coming through. Maybe it's neither of those things. Maybe it's sleep deprivation. I don't know. All I know is that I'm uneasy. I may edit it more before I put it up. Or maybe not. I don't know.

Maybe I just need to go to bed.

UPDATE: Column's up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Will Apply for Coffee

Not much posting here this week unless I can find the time - I've got three internship application packages to send out by Friday or I don't get my $5 Starbucks card. (Sometimes the most basic bribes work best.) Luckily, I've realized that the only thing really holding me back from applying for internships is the dreaded cover letter. I'm scared of writing letters to people I've never met because I'm not sure if I'll inadvertently press their buttons or raise some sensitive issue and then they won't like me. My brain tells me this is ridiculous, but there it is.

Thank God I'm quickly getting over it. Onward!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ain't that the way it goes

or

What the heck has he been reading?

Today I had a brief conversation with a professor on a rather (for me) uncomfortable subject. He asked me what my column was about, I replied that it addressed my belief that the "Islamophobia" phenomenon is over-stated and we got into a conversation. He brought up the Crusades and asked me what it would take for Christians in this country to rise up in arms. All I could come up with was that such a scenario was extremely unlikely. He countered with the example of the wackos in Montana and elsewhere and I explained that the Christian mainstream works hard to distance itself from that type.

It got more disturbing from there. I repeated the example in my column that you can't walk into a Christian bookstore and buy videos glorifying abortion-clinic bombers. He said, "Yeah, but you can probably buy them on the Internet."

I thought, What? Where is he getting this stuff?

I realized not too long ago that what I should have said in answer to his up-in-arms question was "Short of massive invasion by a hostile foreign power, practically nothing." But it's only rarely that I come up with a really killer answer on short notice, and this afternoon was no exception. Luckily I had class right after the incident so I didn't get the chance to dwell on it.

It was disconcerting, though, and made all the more so by the fact that I like and respect this professor. He's normally a very laid-back guy, and his converstaion today was out of character. He seemed like I had pushed one of his buttons (which maybe I had), and he seemed unwilling to budge in his opinions in the face of information. I'm not pointing fingers here - Lord knows I've got no room for that - but it was odd.

Ah, well. I did get a lot of comments on the paper's Web site, though. Nice to know I've got people reading and responding.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not this blog . . . t'other one

*tinny speaker feedback sound*

Attention, students and faculty. There is a new column at The Scenic Route. Repeat: There is a new blog at The Scenic Route.

That is all.

*click*

Teh Funnay

I tried to be afraid of commitment, but I couldn't stick with it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New blog project

I started another blog (yes, another one) over at my soapbox gave me splinters. The explanation for its existence is in the first (earliest) post. The whole "chair" thing refers to a discussion we had on the first day of class, where it was suggested that a chair could be construed as a text with a message. Although I could definitely see where my prof was coming from (and I agreed with her perspective) my practical side definitely came out on top.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A comment on our culture

I'm a compulsive label reader when it comes to food. I have one actual allergy and a couple quasi-allergies which make it necessary (or at least helpful) that I check the ingredients before I buy something. Sometimes this leads to nice surprises - my favorite bagels contain no corn syrup, for example. Other times it leads to . . . something else.

I was at Wal-Mart with my mother while home for Christmas break and I found the display of ready-to-make gravy and sauce mixes. Slightly intrigued (and mostly bored) I picked up a packet of milk gravy mix and flipped it over to read the ingredients.

Now, milk gravy is an extremely simple recipe. Not necessarily easy, but simple. You fry something (usually chicken), soak up the grease with flour, cook the grease and flour in the bottom of the pan, add milk and stir until it becomes gravy. Salt and pepper to taste. Simple. You would think that a mix for this gravy would contain flour and powdered milk - just add water and cook. You'd think that. You'd be wrong. The only other place I've seen that many unpronounceable chemicals grouped together is the back of my shampoo bottel, and even that lists plain old water as a main component. On the mix packet, I could barely find where it listed the seasonings, let alone anything that resembled actual food. It wasn't milk gravy. It was non-dairy-creamer gravy. I showed it to my mom (who cooks from scratch) and she almost had a fit.

I think it says something that our simplest recipies have been replaced with chemical mixes. No wonder we're all fat.

Teh Funnay (of sorts)

Don't worry if you don't really get this one. It's kind of an inside joke.

This evening, I saw this headline on Yahoo!'s front page: "Texas-based pizza chain accepts Mexican pesos."

My first thought was, "Ew, why?!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Do D.A.s get do-overs?

Apparently not - and I say it's a good thing.

La Shawn Barber's been following the Duke case since it broke, and she noted the holes in the story almost from day one. As a black woman, she has been especially upset over the way the race angle has been handled, and I must say I agree with her. This gem in particular stands out in her most recent post (linked above):

Nifong [the D.A.] played the race card to the hilt, even going so far as to speak at the black college the stripper-accuser attended. One pea-brained black student said the men should be prosecuted whether they committed the crime or not. “It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”
Leaving aside the sort of resentful non-thought that doubtless led to the student's statement, Nifong's behavior in this instance is inexcusable. Not only did he show undue preference to his client by speaking at her university, he acted in a way calculated to inflame racial tensions in an already divided area. Instead of admitting that the woman's story was full of holes, he made a reprehensible attempt to garner votes at the expense of three young men whose only crime appears to be poor judgement. The North Carolina bar has filed an ethics complaint against Nifong (article) for, among other things, making prohibited comments "that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused." In other words, trying to whip up a mob. Combine this breach of ethics with the mindset of the student quoted above, and it's a recipe for disaster for whoever's on trial. It's like Dinesh D'Souza said (badly quoted, but I don't have the book on hand): "You can't have a working system based on whose ancestors did what to whom." Small-scale, it leads to neighborhood divisions and resentment. Large-scale, it leads to the nastier bits of human history - you know, the ones where entire peoples got wiped out (or nearly). In this case, three young men and their families had their lives needlessly upset over an accusation that anyone not blinded by prejudice (or greed) could have seen through in a moment. Nifong should be disbarred, in my opinion. I wouldn't be surprised if civil suits are brought against him in the future.

I'm back.

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I was seen in public on no less than two occasions in the past three weeks.

Ah, the life of the introvert.

This is my last semester at Ball State. I have no illusions about the amount of time and effort I will have to devote to my classes. I also have other obligations this semester - work at the paper (editing and column writing), internship inquiries (Episode IV: The Search Continues), my personal writing projects and my involvement at church. But added to that list is an attempt at more regular blogging with more of a focus on news/culture analysis and commentary. The Scenic Route will try to be more active, and I want to do more day-to-day writing on this site as well.

As for right now, it's past 1:30 a.m. and I'm still at work with five pages to go. I guess it's lucky I don't have class 'til four.