S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Thursday, December 11, 2003

There are some people in the political and cultural elite in this country who cannot stand that entertainers can help inspire Americans to dream of a world that could be better than the current one. John Lennon's Imagine is a utopian anthem, a song that leads people to dream for a brief 3 minute interval.

Right-wing columnist Joel Engel of the radical rightist Weekly Standard sells us the by-line "On the anniversary of John Lennon's death, it's worth taking a look at the gibberish in his beloved anthem." How can this columnist be taken seriously when he mixes popular music with policy? Lennon was imagining, he was not legislating. For Joel Engel to take the occasion of John Lennon's death anniversary to attack his political views reveals the soulessness of that particular right wing columnist.

Joel Engel writes:

Imagine there's no heaven . . . No hell below us . . . Imagine all the people living for today. Okay, let's imagine that; let's imagine six billion people who believe that flesh and blood is all there is; that once you shuffle off this mortal coil, poof, you're history; that Hitler and Mother Teresa, for example, both met the same ultimate fate. Common sense suggests that such a world would produce a lot more Hitlers and a lot fewer Teresas, for the same reason that you get a lot more speeders / murderers / rapists / embezzlers when you eliminate laws, police, and punishment. Skeptics and atheists can say what they like about religion, but it's hard to deny that the fear of an afterlife where one will be judged has likely kept hundreds of millions from committing acts of aggression, if not outright horror. Nothing clears the conscience quite like a belief in eternal nothingness.
This guy needs to lighten up, I can feel the starch from his shirt crawl up my fingers as I type these words in response. What Joel Engel doesn't understand is the call for 'no heaven or no hell, and people living for today' is a call for people to act on what is in their physical interests. To not believe in religion or heaven and hell is not to believe in no consequences.

Hitler will always be more hated by humanity and Mother Teresa will be beloved, not because one is in hell and one is in heaven, but because humanity looks at their lives and understands that one was a genocidal maniac and the other was a generally decent, caring nun. To say, as this conservative does, that human disbelief in heaven or hell (or religion) would create more Hitlers shouldn't be taken more seriously than my 4 year old sister's knock knock jokes. Atrocities have been committed in the names of all varieties of ideologies and belief systems, religions are not excluded from this fact of human existence.

The reason I picked the above quote is because I think it reveals the darkest aspect of conservative thinking. When Con Engel says "it's hard to deny that the fear of an afterlife where one will be judged has likely kept hundreds of millions from committing acts of aggression, if not outright horror", he's tacitly saying that religion is meant to keep humans from committing heinous acts, rather than to inspire us to do good by one another as a human community.

If the function of religion is simply to keep us from screwing eachother, then the secular law would be a sufficient replacement for religion; but the purpose of religion is not simply to prevent the worst, as the right wing columnist claims, it should be to inspire people to lead better lives, to help eachother out, share eachother's burdens and to help make our lives and our existence more meaningful than the boring world of cause and effect that the right-wing thinks is pragmatic, but is simply bland, redundant and boring.

We are not simply placeholders who have to be restrained from doing the wrong thing, we are human beings who seek to be better than all humans before, and when religion helps us do that, it leads us to an end that resembles John Lennon's 'Imagine' much more than it lends itself to any right-wing philosophy of complacency and conformity through fear of damnation.


The Secret Service took responsibility yesterday for sending an Arab American waiter home from his job at a Baltimore hotel before a presidential fundraiser last week....

While expressing regret over the incident, the Secret Service also stopped short of offering the apology that the waiter, Mohamad I. Pharoan, 58, has sought.

He had expected to help serve lunch to 550 people at a banquet at which President Bush raised $1 million for his reelection campaign. Instead, he says, he was given a few minutes to change clothes and was escorted off the premises after a manager asked him one question: "Is your name Mohamad?"


The nine candidates stood at wooden podiums arranged in a semicircle on the stage of a theater on the University of New Hampshire campus. Some Democrats have suggested that the debates have been unwieldy and should be limited to the major candidates. One of the long-shot candidates, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, took exception to Koppel's questions and used them to challenge the political status quo.

``I want the American people to see where media takes politics in this country,'' Kucinich said to cheers from the crowd. ``We start talking about endorsements, now we're talking about polls and then talking about money. When you do that you don't have to talk about what's important to the American people.''


"One Republican who speaks regularly to White House officials said there was serious thought about pursuing the earliest and most aggressive of the plans under consideration: putting Mr. Bush into full campaign mode soon after he delivers the State of the Union address in late January. In that way, the Republican said, Mr. Bush could get a quick start on defining Dr. Dean as too far to the left for the country before the former Vermont governor can wrap up the primaries and begin trying to move himself toward the political center."

Dean?! Too far to the left? The political discourse still needs some fixing.

Monday, December 08, 2003

"F___ Saddam. we're taking him out." Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase.

The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. The President left the room. A year later, Bush's outburst has been translated into action, as cruise missiles and smart bombs slam into Baghdad.


And he's fucking right! AWOL DID FUCK UP IRAQ! But the right wing media, and the "librul" media and the stuffy political establishment is saying, "Johnny is a bad bad man! He said the 'f' word, he said it and my fucking babies died!" The radical rightist New York Post spews forth:

Struggling 2004 Democratic wannabe John Kerry fires an X-rated attack at President Bush over Iraq and uses the f-word - highly unusual language for a presidential contender - in a stunning new interview with Rolling Stone magazine....

Kerry yesterday angrily cited his war record in Vietnam when asked by a New Hampshire student about charges that it's unpatriotic to attack the commander-in-chief, fuming: "I left some blood on a battlefield that President Bush never left anywhere."
John Kerry is right on more than one level; Bush fucked up Iraq, and there's no better way to put it, especially for the audience of Rolling Stone Magazine. The interview is good, and he is exactly right about the nature of Bush's regime and war mongering; how could he vote for the war resolution? Did he not understand how the Bushies would play their cards? Did Kerry not see how these motherfuckers played their cards after September 11? How they pushed through the PATRIOT Act and their police state powers and what not? Kerry got duped, just like every person who placed any trust in these people.

Kerry does mention that Bush's dealing with Iraq is "[w]orse than incompetent. Clouded by ideological excess, a misinterpretation of history, a willful denial of facts....

RS: Did you feel you were blindsided by Dean's success?

Well, not blindsided. I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, "I'm against everything"? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."

Dean is pissed about how things went down, and so are a lot of Americans, the Americans who are for this war are going to overwhelmingly vote for George aWol Bush. Politically, Kerry didn't see this, and politically, Kerry is losing.


They were hungry.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The New York Times describes the tactics as "tough," and "selective."

The Americans embarked on their get-tough strategy in early November, goaded by what proved to be the deadliest month yet for American forces in Iraq, with 81 soldiers killed by hostile fire. The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counter insurgency campaign in the occupied territories.
What a comparison, perhaps the comparison is somewhat warranted. Does anybody believe that the Palestinian people will be granted a state by the Radical Rightwing Likud-run Israeli Government? I don't think so, there is no reason to believe that Likud intends to do anything but demolish more Palestinian villages in the West Bank and Gaza and build more settlements for Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, people who are not Israeli citizens.

Iraq is quickly turning into that situation. No occupation of Iraq can survive when the Iraqi resistance will not allow for its existence. The spirit of Representative Government will never emerge when the Tyranny of oil corporations, bombs, demolition and police statehood is imposed by George "aWol" Bush and his cronies in the current Republican-run government.

We should challenge the New York Times and the national media to call the conditions in Iraq what they are: anti-democratic, police state measures. Occupation is not liberation.

In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identification card printed in English only.

"If you have one of these cards, you can come and go," coaxed Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the battalion commander whose men oversee the village, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. "If you don't have one of these cards, you can't."

The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line. Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in anger.

"I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," he said. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam fell."
I think Tariq understands the impulses and desires of the Iraqi people better than George, Dick, Colin, Condi, or Don.

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