Joke That Isn’t a Joke

“The best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff.”

–George W. Bush, current President of the United States

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Quote of the Day

“The ‘free market’ doesn’t exist. There is no such thing. All markets are constructed. Think of the stock exchange. It has rules. The WTO [World Trade Organization] has 900 pages of regulations. The bond market has all kinds of regulations and commissions to make sure those regulations carried out. Every market has rules. For example, corporations have a legal obligation to maximize shareholder profit. That’s a construction of the market.”

–George Lakoff, University of California – Berkeley, Professor of Linguistics

Quote of the Day

“The Republican solution for every problem is some kind of new tax-deductible savings plan. It changes your time horizon, over time it changes your party affiliation, and it also changes what you read and what you watch on TV.”

–Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform

Source: Washington Post

Grover (no, not the Sesame Street character) is a conservative whose mouth apparently waters every time the stock exchange’s opening bell rings. This ‘investor class’ theory of politics (read the article here) is exactly the kind of simplistic thinking that has failed in our Iraq strategy. The thinking goes like this – ‘if we think it’s true, it must be true.’ Basically, this kind of thinking is called ‘wishful’ when kids do it, and ‘stupid’ when normal adults do it and ‘irresponsibly arrogant’ when national leaders do it.

No one’s going to change their personality based on their participation in investments. Investments, by their very nature, are an outgrowth of someone’s personality. People typically invest in things in which they place value. Moreover, if they place value in the stock market to begin with, they already come from a certain background.

The myopic viewpoint of these ‘conservative’ (i.e. pro-corporation/anti-everybody else) thinkers stems from the inherent comfort of their positions. They don’t want to see beyond their dumb ideas because that would require them to change their lifestyle, their habits, everything. Instead, they’d rather rely on failed concepts – trickle-down economics, bloated defense spending, and carte blanche for big business. If that hurts the common man, why should they care?

The irony is that so-called ‘neo-conservatism’ is actually mighty radical. Privatizing social security? Government money to religious institutions? Hyper surveilance of all citizens? Lowered environmental regulations that Republicans stupidly label ‘anti-business’?

I suppose as long as their children don’t live near the factories or drink water from downstream one of these industrial plants, they don’t really care what happens. If the air becomes unbreathable, that would just amount to a boon for the air-mask industry. They’ll just invest in companies that make personal oxygen tanks and make a killing. Then, the big-business run government can start taxing air.

Now doesn’t that just make your mouth water?

Screwing the Little Guy: Our National Pastime.

A Wall Street Journal analysis shows “CEOs’ total direct compensation at major U.S. corporations jumped 15 percent to a median of $3,022,505 in 2002 . . . and compensation is expected to rise again this year.” Given that, and the Congress voting themselves pay increases, I’m wondering -who’s really affected by the bad economy?

Oh, that’s right. The rest of us who aren’t ‘The Elite’.

Idiotic Editorial of the Day

Another gem from the good ol’ Richmond Times-Dispatch:

No Conspiracy

The other day the YWCA canned its chief executive, former NOW leader Patricia Ireland. Neither the YWCA nor Ms. Ireland would discuss the issues leading to the firing, but at least publicly Ms. Ireland seems puzzled by it.

The mainline media suggest pressure from Christian organizations forced Ms. Ireland out. (One such group, the Traditional Values Coalition, claimed responsibility in The New York Times.) For her part, “the feminist leader” – in the words of The Times – dismisses those claims. She told The Washington Post, “We had and still have the same positions on many of the issues the right wing was up- set about . . . .I would hate to think that the YWCA would cave to [Christian pressure], and I don’t think [it] did, though it’s among the possibilities.”

Apparently Patricia Ireland lacks the paranoia of Hillary Clinton, who, if in Ms. Ireland’s shoes, would cast the blame on a conspiracy that is vast and right-wing.

Ireland, by the way, was the longest serving member of the National Organization for Women (NOW). U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, and U.S. Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Lynn Woolsey all credit NOW support for their political support.

Two things strike me as odd about this editorial. One: the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the stalwart of the Old South is quoting these Yankee papers on a story that has very little to do with Richmond. Two: Why the stretch to include Hillary Clinton in this story? All in all, this editorial seems just like a poor attempt at saying – ‘oh, by the way, we hate Hillary Clinton, in case you haven’t guessed’ – ‘oh, and also we don’t like women in positions of power.’

Message to RTD editorial board: grow up, simpletons.

The Propaganda Continues…

This just in from Steve Willett on his site Rant N’ Rave:

LAME FOR TV

NBC is preparing for their movie of the week of the Jessica Lynch story to have no commercial interruption for the first 40 minutes. Yeah, because god knows you don’t want to miss a over glamorized depiction of a capture. I don’t get the hype of this story, sure it is great that we got our soldier out, but they were just doing their job. It would be like if I had a story about me called FIRING STEVIE J. History is not written by the victors, it is written by the screenwriters who think they know the demographic the victors are in.

Well put.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page:

Promoting Hate

“Islam, the world hears, is a religion of peace. Numerous spokesmen – Muslim, Christian, Jew, and atheist – say Islamo-fascists distort an ancient and honorable faith.

The other day Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad delivered a speech worthy of Goebbels. He slandered Jews and called on all Muslims to unite for the “final victory.” An Islamic convention cheered every threat. The attendees included political leaders from Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Indonesia, and other states. Mahathir is too smart an obergruppenfuher (and his adoring listeners are too well-versed in propaganda) not to recognize the similarities between “final victory” and “final solution.” The cruel reference must have been deliberate.

No ranking Islamic figure has denounced Mahathir’s message of hate. When far-out politicians in the U.S. and Europe ridicule Islam or indulge in ethnic slurs, the mainstream rises in fury – as it should. On numerous occasions since 9/11, George Bush has said the Arabs (primarily Saudis) responsible for the enormity did not represent Islam’s true face.

Mahathir is the leader not of a sect or a party on the fringe but of a sovereign state. His words contradict the benign picture. The lack of outrage in the Islamic world and among the Arab bloc resembles the silence that implies consent. The fair-minded have no choice but to assume the worst.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has this one wrong. Calling Mahathir’s speech ‘propaganda’ is erroneous. Propaganda is used to win someone over to a particular cause. Considering Mahathir’s audience – the Tenth Islamic Summit Conference, his comments were less propaganda and more telling his listeners what they wanted to hear and already wholeheartedly believe. Saying that Islam is anti-Jewish is like saying Coke is anti-Pepsi. Hardly worth an editorial.

It is remarkable, though, how much the editors miss by picking out the gratuitous pot-shots at Zionism and not commenting on Mahathir’s overall message, which can be summarized as calling for peaceful solutions. He doesn’t make any bones about wanting to dominate over the Jews, but his message is clearly against violence. Here are a few excerps of the speech that the RTD fails to take into consideration:

“Every attempt at a peaceful solution is sabotaged by more indiscriminate attacks calculated to anger the enemy and prevent any peaceful settlement. But the attacks solve nothing. The Muslims simply get more oppressed.”

“If we use the faculty to think that Allah has given us then we should know that we are acting irrationally. We fight without any objective, without any goal other than to hurt the enemy because they hurt us. Naively we expect them to surrender. We sacrifice lives unnecessarily, achieving nothing other than to attract more massive retaliation and humiliation.”

“It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.”

Given the context, it’s apparent that by ‘final victory’, Mahathir means a peaceful resolution of some sort for the Palestinians. Also, since Mr. Mahathir’s words were not originally in English it’s hardly fair to jump on the translation of his words and compare a certain phrasing to Hitler’s. Saying that ‘the cruel reference must have been deliberate’ would be laughable if it’s baselessness wasn’t so intentionally meant to mislead. In that sense, the editorial itself better fits the definition of propaganda.

Note: My paternal Grandmother, now passed on, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants who came over to Brooklyn from Austria just prior to WWII. I am proud of that part of my heritage, even though I myself am not considered ‘a Jew’ (an attribute apparently stemming from one’s maternal side). I also have Scottish ancestry from my mother and father’s side, as well as English heritage, of which I am equally proud. I have no sympathy for anyone who consider themselves ‘God’s chosen people’ or anything like that – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, whatever. Those that have this mentality and oppress others as a result are simply asking for conflict. The paradoxical solution is for those who love peace to rise up against those that would oppress everyone.

Message: You may think you’re special, but you have to make room for others to live on an equal basis – otherwise, expect trouble.

Quote of the Day

From the latest HR Magazine:

“As children, we cried to get our way. If that didn’t work, we screamed. If that reaped no results, we threw a temper tantrum—kicking, squirming or holding our breath. That usually did it. People did things for us. It took genuine rage and anger to pull that off, but it got people’s attention.

“Now we’ve grown up. Or, have we? I’ve seen managers get angry and yell when others won’t do what they want. It’s a bad way to arrive at a decision, but temper tantrums still work for some.”

–Laura Stack

The Views of a U.S. Officer

An anonymous blogger who blogs on this website makes an interesting statement. It’s totally unrelated to the Boykin matter in context, yet relates directly in content:

“I have one and only one reason for my anonymity: I am a military officer, and though I would never purport to represent my thoughts as anything other than my own, I have to be careful with what I put in the public forum. Using a pseudonym just provides a little bit of distance.”

God Bless America

Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, the new Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of covert military operations. He also is a Christian, an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.” He also stated that God put George W. Bush in the White House.

President Bush has said that’s not what ‘the government’ thinks and Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants the General to be ‘re-assigned’. However, House of Representative congressman Todd Tiahrt, a Republican from Kansas, says, “I am disappointed at the level of intolerance being shown to the general for speaking about his faith in a church.”

The problem isn’t that General Boykin expressed his faith in church. The problem is that his position within our nation’s government, which recognizes a host of religions as being legitimate, makes his public speech more significant than that of a private citizen. He is representing our country. With this guy in charge, Muslims and any one not professing Christ as their savior would be much less likely to enlist in our armed services. It paints the endeavor as a Christian Crusade, which it obviously is not. (It’s a corporate greed crusade – but that’s another discussion.)

Additionally, simplifying geopolitics and our foreign struggles as ‘us vs. them’, ‘God vs. Satan’, where we are the good guy and they are the bad guys – it’s just naive and, frankly, dumb. Especially given the fact that the winner of any conflict can claim – ‘God is on our side.’ Well, I guess it seems that way. But, is that really true? Hard to say. It’s just a matter of personal faith.

And that’s the point. Personal faith and personal belief should remain personal If you want to share your beliefs with fellow believers, that’s great. Take off the uniform, dress as a civilian and make sure you preface your remarks with – ‘This is my personal opinion – I’m not speaking for the government when I say this.’ That way you can say whatever you want to and if someone gets bent out of shape, then you can simply say – ‘Well, you don’t have to agree with me. It’s just my personal belief.’

To his credit, General Boykin did state recently, “I am not anti-Islam or any other religion,” Boykin said. “I support the free exercise of all religions. For those who have been offended by my statements, I offer a sincere apology.”

Fact Sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch, L.A. Times, CBS News