Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP Benazir Bhutto: ...everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology.

From Journeying to democracy by Benazir Bhutto,
As I board the plane to Pakistan, I am fully aware that the supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have publicly threatened my assassination.

Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander, has said that his terrorists will "welcome" me on my return. Everyone understands the meaning of these comments. And I fully understand the men behind Al Qaeda. They have tried to assassinate me twice before. The Pakistan Peoples Party and I represent everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology. We represent the future of a modern Pakistan, a future that has no place in it for ignorance, intolerance, and terrorism.

The forces of moderation and democracy must, and will, prevail against extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one. Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Elgin's First Universalist Church to be a Church again.

Permission to establish church (Iglesia Principe De Paz) in the historic First Universalist Church Building is on the Elgin City Council's agenda for today.

I hope these good souls have the money to renovate it because the building must be in sore need of it. What better use for Elgin's gambling money than kicking a few points over to this brave congregation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lucien Sève « Le communisme est mort, vive le communisme ! »

French Marxist Lucien Sève on the crisis of the French communist party,
With the death of what was so improperly called communism, history has entered a new phase. In view of the limitless freedom that capital enjoys today, we are in for boundless catastrophes. While on the left there still is no effective political alternative, not even a mental set of opposable political references. All our woes stem from this void. The task of those who follow in the wake of Marx today is therefore clear: for years we have been talking of inventing a communism for the 21st century. Now, at long last, the time has come to do it. We have had enough talk on the subject.
...not even a mental set of opposable political references... no kidding, the left worldwide is in the void.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Krauthammer's An Overdose of Public Piety

He writes elementary stuff indeed on Romney's speech, and for some reason the elementary is impossible for almost everyone else who've I've read comment on the speech --and that's a fair number-- see.

Also check Rick Moran's: Drunk with Religiosity and Ed Morrisey's Will 'Holly Holy' Become A Campaign Theme Song Next?

Camille Paglia: Religion and the Arts in America

Paglia writes,
I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion. Let me make my premises clear: I am a professed atheist and a pro-choice libertarian Democrat. But based on my college experiences in the 1960s, when interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was intense, I have been calling for nearly two decades for massive educational reform that would put the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum. Though I shared the exasperation of my generation with the moralism and prudery of organized religion, I view each world religion, including Judeo-Christianity and Islam, as a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe. Knowledge of the Bible, one of the West's foundational texts, is dangerously waning among aspiring young artists and writers. When a society becomes all-consumed in the provincial minutiae of partisan politics (as has happened in the US over the past twenty years), all perspective is lost. Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.
It's a good essay and deserves more comment than I have time for, but lease read, and expect me to come back to it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Torture: What did Pelosi and her colleagues know - and when did they know it?

Enemy combatants captured fighting outside the rules of war i.e. Geneva Conventions, should, in my opinion, be coerced to give up information beyond the Geneva's provision for name, rank, and serial number.

Whether water boarding is allowable way to coerce, I don't know. McCain said no. He takes a stand. The administration struggled to draw the lines.

But Democrats have demagogued it, and for sure leaders were briefed long ago. Here's today's Boston Herald Editorial: Who knew what on Capitol Hill?
The Washington Post reported Sunday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top congressional leaders were briefed in September 2002 on CIA interrogations designed to squeeze information from suspected terrorists. Among the techniques described, according to the Post, was waterboarding.

“In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” one official present during the briefings told the Post. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ ”

And yet, once word of the harsh techniques became public, Pelosi, among others, began employing it as a blunt political instrument - proclaiming the practice of waterboarding as an illegal form of torture and condemning the Bush administration for allowing it.
Also, Hitchen's today on Abolish the CIA. Destruction of the water boarding tapes the last straw.
And now we have further confirmation of the astonishing culture of lawlessness and insubordination that continues to prevail at the highest levels in Langley. At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence. This deserves to be described as what it is: mutiny and treason. Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Theodore Dalrymple: What the New Atheists Don’t See

Grace before meals seems one of the most important acts we can do. It is indeed necessary for gratitude and decency and its seems to me even atheists should promote it. It's one more thing atheists don't get. Perhapes because it leads to this.

From Dalrymple's What the New Atheists Don't See.
The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

Lenin and the mystagogues: Lesley Chamberlain's The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia

Finished Lesley Chamberlain's book The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia reviewed here by Frances Stonor Saunders and by Bryan Appleyard over at Orthodoxy Today. Appleyard writes,
In September 1922, in St Petersburg, Lenin's political police loaded 25 families onto the German ship Haken. Six weeks later, about the same number were loaded onto another German ship, the Preussen. The ships steamed out into the Gulf of Finland and the families waved goodbye to Mother Russia.
and finds the real heart of the this story,
On board those ships was a peculiarly Russian mix of philosophers, critics, historians, mystics and theologians. They were divided by many things, but they were united by three big things. First, they had all been identified as threats to Leninism; second, they were famous, and executing them would have alienated foreign supporters; third, they had all seen the malignancy that lay behind the hyper-rationalism of the Bolshevik revolution. They had seen, in other words, the fatal weakness in the Enlightenment Project and were seeking an alternative. Chamberlain calls them "the shipped-out mystagogues".

The book's true subject, therefore, is the confrontation between reason and faith. But the banality of that formulation simply does not do justice to the depth and passion that Chamberlain brings to her story, nor, indeed, to the complexities of what we mean by faith. The reason this is such a good book is that the author feels the conflict within herself. She sees herself as a rational secularist and humanist, but, equally, she sees how catastrophically those causes have failed in the past. As a result, she understands the evil of Lenin but also grasps his deep and entirely logical attraction for western intellectuals; on the other side, she sees the vagueness, eccentricity and, frequently, just plain madness of her mystagogues, but also their honesty, heroism and high decency. In almost every sentence, one feels the pressure to codify this conflict into a coherent statement, and the impossibility of the task.
Much of the task and scholarship according to Chamberlain is happening on the web. Here's a nice site on Nikolai Berdyaev and his essays translated into English.

It is a tough book to read in the sense I felt this need to jumb to the net every few pages and google the names from the list of passengers to follow up later with their writings.

Saunder's review quotes Lenin in his scatological mode Marxists prone too,
These metaphysical antiquities [the philosopher exiles -Baar] had no place in Lenin's world, which was anti-metaphysical, rationalist, atheist. As Chamberlain writes, under Lenin reason "took a perverse, political form . . . which became the foundation of the totalitarian system. It led to a militant and incriminating ban on all expressions of faith and an attempt to destroy individual conscience and human inwardness." Lenin spoke of religion as getting off on the dead; he referred to those he was evicting as "the shit". Trotsky, eager assistant in the deportations, described one of the victims as "a philosophical, aesthetic, literary, religious sponger, that is, he's the dregs, trash."

The Forward: Why Annapolis Worked

An Editorial in The Forward. Would it be out of line for Rev Sinkford to as UU's to over a moment at Church in thoughtful support for these two men: Abbas and Olmert? Prayer even...
What happened in Annapolis? In a narrow sense, not much. Nobody betrayed Israel or shoved it down a slippery slope toward doom, as the right had been warning. Nobody offered any new concessions, nor even a promise of specific concessions down the road. In concrete terms, the most that can be said is that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders finally acknowledged to one another the magnitude of the concessions that will be required of each if peace is to be reached.

Beyond that, the two leaders promised only “good-faith” negotiations — “vigorous, ongoing and continuous” — to try and reach agreement on a peace treaty within the next 13 months, “before the end of 2008.” And they declared that the treaty they hoped to reach would resolve “all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements.” So they hope.

Yes, it is infuriatingly vague and noncommittal, as critics of every stripe have pointed out. But there’s more there than first meets the eye. In pledging “every effort” to conclude a peace treaty within 13 months, the two leaders effectively said that reaching such a treaty might be possible. Otherwise they wouldn’t step into the noose, with the whole world watching. Olmert and Abbas are survivors, not poets.

Aafaq: Saudi Activists Organizing Sit-in in Front of Court In Solidarity with the "Girl of Qatif"

It will take some courage to participate in this.