Sunday, September 28, 2008

Summon the League!

I just got finished talking about why McCain's League of Democracies is both a silly name as well as an idea. So of course, look who's scrambling to get on board:

Mostly this has received more favorable attention as a concept rather than a plan. McCain hasn’t laid out a detailed proposal for membership, rules, funding, or location, nor would he until he became President and could open negotiations with a founding group of nations. The creation of any multilateral organization requires the cooperation of its founding member-states, but the initial acceptance of the concept is critical.

As they say in France, "le duh?" Also, let's hear it for generalized and undefined plans! Four more years!

Critics say that the world doesn’t want to give the US a mechanism for bypassing the UN. However, the Western world has clearly been frustrated by Moscow and Beijing over the last several years in addressing critical situations like Iran and Darfur. The two Asian giants have blocked all attempts to stop a non-rational Islamist regime and terror financier from getting nuclear weapons, only agreeing to the mildest of sanctions and refusing to stop assisting in their nuclear efforts.

Wait, Russia is an Asian giant? Since when? It makes far more sense to call India an Asian giant, who, incidentally, seems to like us just fine. Also, we have Japan, who is also pretty big over there. Just saying. And I like the addition of "non-rational" to that description of Iran. Because we all know folks like Hot Air don't mind Islamist regimes as long as they're rational. (How can we know how rational they are if we never talk to them?)

If nothing else, the threat of the creation of a League of Democracies will have a salutary effect on Russia and China. Such a development will seriously weaken their prestige and their influence. They may react badly at first, but eventually they will have to forestall the League by acting less intransigently in the UN Security Council — and to start cracking down on the Iranians and the Sudanese. The threat may prove even more effective than the League would, at least in the short run.

MAYBE, but it sounds like what's really needed is less of an independent institution and more of a firm agreement between like-minded organizations to act in concert. The problem with creating a new organization from whole cloth, as the Atlantic notes, is that is assumes the problem is a lack of a proper institution, rather than a difference in viewing what is best for the individual countries we're talking about:
John McCain appears to think that the democracies of the world will naturally have an overriding common national interest, as democracies. Although being a functioning liberal democracy will have some effect upon the perceived national interest of a country, this notion of McCain seems naive. If there really were such a large amount of shared interest, the democracies of the world would already be acting in concert in the United Nations.

As Nikolas Gvosdev has noted on The Washington Realist, problems with getting democracies to act together on a topic are ultimately caused by unwillingness to do so on part of the countries, not by institutional obstacles.
And because we've had eight years of telling the world to shove their opinions about us up their butts, we're hardly in a position to get them to see things our way. Just saying. Oh, and I don't think China and Russia really give a shit about their prestige at this point. Russia is assassinating dissidents with nuclear waste and China is killing their own babies with tainted milk to make a buck. They're a little beyond us using the finger-shame motion on them, wouldn't you say?

Even McCain seems to realize that on a practical level, getting his League of Questionable Implementation together would be a challenge. Here's what he said about starting a Free Trade Agreement with the EU:
Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane following the event, McCain admitted that negotiations for such a proposal might be difficult.

“You notice that some of their environmental standards and labor standards are higher than ours, not lower,” McCain said. “So it would be very interesting to see how those negotiations went and how the opponents of free trade agreements in general react to that.”

Sorry Johnny, but if you and the Europeans can't even agree on how much crap to release into the atmosphere, what are the odds you're going to be able to show a united front to bad guys like Ahmadinejad?

Memos to the candidates

McCain: Talking about a "League of Democracies" doesn't just sound silly ("Summon the League to the Hall of Heroes, Dr. Destruction is at it again!"), it also doesn't make much sense as an idea. "We're going to start our OWN international institution and we'll only invite the democracies that like us, so there!" At this point that's like, what, the UK and Poland? I agree that there are states on the Security council who aren't exactly our friends (Syria, China, Russia) but I don't think the answer is to create our own separatist UN. I mean, fine, there's the Arab League, but I don't think they're really the guys we want to look to for government and international diplomacy ideas.

Obama: Stop being so damn nuanced. Every time you say, "John is right about that factual statement, but I think his plan is bad," most people just hear, "John is right." Meanwhile he's talking about you like a retarded four-year-old who can't understand why eating lead paint is bad for you. Clarifying why he's full of shit is good. Taking the better part of five minutes to get to your damn point is not so good. I know you hate the soundbite, but this isn't NPR. Get it together.

McCain: Terms like "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" and "it's not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning" will hopefully become great bumper stickers someday, because as campaign slogans they're too damn confusing to parse. Also I am very interested in how a defeat in Iraq could "make things more complicated throughout the region, including in Afghanistan" given that Iraq is in the Middle East and Afghanistan is in South-Central Asia. Exactly which region are you talking about? Pan-Muslim land?

Obama: Start hammering back on McCain for some of his BS. We know, for instance, that he's profited from earmarks. If he's got no shame in plugging Conservative websites during the debates, you could at least tell people to google some of his abuses of the system, too.

McCain: Nobody thinks your bad jokes are funny, as evidenced by the several times you made your creepy smirk with no response. There was a particularly toothy one that just gave me the creeps (can't seem to find a good picture of it, will keep looking). Also, I'm not sure if the fact that every answer about foreign policy was prefaced with, "Well you know I've been to South Ossettia- got lunch at Glubasz's Drive-In- let me tell you, that was some good pie," really helps you out all that much. There's no question that seeing facts on the ground is always useful- on the other hand, recent inventions like telephones, photography and the Internet make it so that it IS possible for people- like the CIA, or say, the President- to know what's happening somewhere without actually being there in person.

Obama: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland the Czech Republic have all been democratic for almost 20 years. I think they'd be surprised to hear they're still on the "fledgling list." For the record, my short list of fledgling democracies would include Pakistan, Liberia, Nepal and Bhutan. Actually, at this point, maybe even Iraq. Not Afghanistan, though.

McCain: I know you want to seem like Mr. (Capt?) Rambo on Iran, but here's the thing: half the population is under 25. Most of them don't like Sharia, certainly not how it's implemented in practice there. We all agree Ahmadinejad is a dick, but the previous President was actually pretty darn moderate, and we also know that unlike a lot of other places, at least the country as a whole respects their democratic institutions (it is the only state in the Middle East besides Israel where an elected head of state was voted out of office and, A- left after his term, and B- continues to live as an everyday citizen, not killed, not exiled, not imprisoned). In other words, the country is primed for a change- but it will come from within, not without. We have to encourage the Iranian dissident population- who don't like the mullahs but don't want to have American visions of what their country should look like imposed on them- to want to step up and take power. Not only is not talking to Iran at all a bad way to foster good will with the FUTURE rulers of the country, the people we want to be positively disposed towards us, but punishing them with more sanctions is a particularly bad way to get them to like us. Ahmadinejad having nukes is bad and nobody wants that to happen, but he is not going to be around forever, and treating the whole country as a bunch of Ahmadinejads is stupid and counter-productive.

Obama: You let McCain get in three free shots about Iran nuking Israel, a second Holocaust, etc. Those were tailor-made to get old Jews nice and scared. You have GOT to go on the attack with that shit, because even though people like my Grandma are life-long Democrats, voting for a black guy who "might be a Muslim" scares the tacky golfing shorts right off them. If you lose the Jews, especially the old Jews, you're fucked. Remember that. They will definitely vote, and you need them.

Shape up for next time, bozos.

Coming up next week: the VPs ramble and preen for the cameras, and everyone wishes they were dead.

(Transcripts available everywhere, including here.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

War of the hats

For many years I have had a hat fetish. It started around age twelve, when my father gave me one of his old newsie caps. I wore that one into the ground and was rewarded with one of my very own. There is a great picture somewhere of me wearing matching sweatshirt and pants, a reversible corduroy vest made by my grandmother decades ago for my father, newsie hat and, wait for it... velcro sneakers. I truly was my own fashion icon.

Over the years I made my way through several more pairs of caps, but it wasn't until college and SG that I found my newest hat niche: the brimmed hat. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of weather, both nice and not-so-nice, and it necessitates a head covering. SG saw a need and filled it with a tan $15 number from Bi-Mart. I wore that until this past spring, when, sadly, it was accidently knocked off my head while rushing to get into the car as my mother, SG and I were leaving an outlet mall. It wasn't until we were almost home that I realized I had left my precious, precious image sitting on the parking lot!

SG let me mope for a while and then presented me with a nifty black poly-cotton trilby from Berkeley. I have become quite fond of this hat (the first time one of my students saw me wearing it, she commented, "You're so handsome!").

Unfortunately, or at least entertainingly, Mother Superior Yid is not a fan. She has repeatedly told me this, in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most amusing exchanges:

Mama Yid: I have to tell you, I really hate your hat.
Me: I know. You've mentioned it.
Mama Yid: It's just... it's so... ethnic.
Me: I don't even know what that's supposed to mean!
Mama Yid: And it's not even the
right ethnicity.

This was news to me. I thought she didn't like it because it looked too Jewish. But, never one to let her get away without explaining a ridiculous comment, I insisted on dragging it out of her.
Me: Really? And exactly what ethnicity is it?
Mama Yid: Well, if you must know... it makes you look Hispanic.

At this point Abbot Yid made an unkind comment about my pale skin and her bad eyes.

Another good one-
Mama Yid: I've decided something.
Me: Yes?
Mama Yid: I will buy you a new hat. If you agree to not wear this one around me.
Me: If I agree to not wear ANY around you, can I have two?
Mama Yid (excited): Really? You'd do that?
Me: No.

And most recently-
Mama Yid (looking through a magazine): I've found it! I've found the hat for you!
Me: I have a hat.
Mama Yid: No, a good one.
Me: Fine, where is it?
Mama Yid (pointing) this one.
Me: Dear God.
Mama Yid: What? It's authentic and everything.
Me: First, it's a Halloween costume, and second, it's too tall for my head. I don't understand why you object so much to a fedora with a small brim when you apparently want me to wear a ten-gallon cowboy hat.
Mama Yid: Don't make fun.

I can only wonder where this ongoing fixation with what I wear on my own damn head will lead.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Burning Questions Revealed

In which we discover that some questions do, in fact have easy answers.

Case in point:

Are Bibles 'giants' set for return?

New experiments in genetic engineering could open the doors for the return of fearsome "giants" described in the Bible – the offspring of human women and fallen angels – warns author Thomas Horn

Sorry, no they can't.
In the Book of Genesis, beings of great stature called "giants" appear, which some biblical scholars believe came into existence after powerful angels known as 'Watchers' descended to earth and used women (or their biological matter) to construct bodies of flesh, which they used to "extend" themselves into the material world.

Their biological matter? What the hell does that mean? Construct bodies of flesh? Now you make them sound like those weirdos from Men in Black.

Horn hypothesizes that, through genetic engineering, [the Watchers] created blended beings, not entirely human or animal – creatures that neither humans nor animal spirits would indwell, for they were neither man nor beast.

You mean werewolves?
"The results of this genetic modification were the giants known as Nephilim," he says.

Oh. Well, close enough.

"But imagine the staggering implications of such science if dead Nephilim tissue was discovered with intact DNA and a government or rogue agency somewhere was willing to clone or mingle the extracted organisms to make Homo-nephilim," says Horn. "If one accepts the biblical story of giants as real, such discovery could actually be made someday, or perhaps already has been and was covered up. The technology to resurrect the extinct species may already exist, and cloning methods are being studied now for use with bringing back Tasmanian Tigers, Wooly Mammoths and other extinct creatures."

Is the world on the verge of bringing back demonic giants?

Horn believes so.

And that's why he's a bozo. Next!

- Does Jonathan Falwell long for the good ol' days when Christians suffered torture for their faith? Signs point to yes:

I'm sure there are young people who think, I'd like to participate at my school's See You at the Pole meeting, but some kids in my classes will make fun of me.

So what! Seriously, there is no greater privilege than being hassled or made fun or because of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Plus, See You at the Pole is a great way to get to know other Christian kids and become united with them.

Yeah! Get yourselves all beaten up for Christ together! It'll be a bonding experience, just like it was for the Christians in Rome. You know what they say, "Those who get eaten alive by lions together... die together."

Also, I have to admit I'm slightly impressed that Jonnie can spend a whole article promoting a teen event called "See You at the Pole" with a straight face.

- Are Conservatives like Patrice Lewis grasping at straws to justify anti-environmentalism? Seemingly so:
It doesn't matter what it costs or how much effort it takes. The important thing is to save the planet.

What a bunch of self-centered jerks! Try to tell me to save the planet for future generations. I don't even like my kids! Now where did I put my plastic bag aerosol landfill-fire?

The DNC isn't alone. Everyone, it seems, is on the bandwagon to save the planet. So what's going on here? Why is it that in the last few years you can't even turn on the radio without hearing how, say, your local insurance company is going green? Why is it now so important for the survival of a business to illustrate its environmental friendliness?

I believe it's because, for the first time in a long time, businesses and politicians can appeal to a religious zealotry that isn't either illegal or politically incorrect. Many in our country are rejecting the religion of our founders and embracing a new creed (complete with its own high priests) with rabid and unrepentant fervor.

Wait, I can't keep up. I thought the new religion was early sex ed and gay-ins, I mean godless Communism, I mean amoral capitalism, or unbridled multiculturalism, or wishy-washy moral relativism, or violent video games, or... wait, what were we talking about?

If I were to place a newspaper ad that said, "House for rent, Christians only" – can you imagine the reaction? I'd be accused of discrimination faster than you can say "ACLU."

But if the ad said, "House for rent, environmentally aware tenants only" – well, then that's different.

Lady, people can discriminate on Craigslist all day long by only asking for pot smokers or cat lovers to apply to rent their broom closets. Get the hell over yourself.
Your local insurance agency would never advertise, "We're going more Christian!" But it can advertise, "We're going more green!" and be hit with a veritable deluge of grateful customers. In other words, it can appeal to the true believers of the new religious movement.

No one would say "we're going more patent-leather briefcase" or "going more dog food," either. Does that mean people are replacing their love of dog food with environmentalism? And, for the record, presumably a insurance agency that caters to Christians or Christian orgs COULD say that- as could a Jewish or whatever agency. But there's no specific reason to go Christian if your goal is to appeal to a wider audience, especially since the assumption is still that "Christian" is the baseline norm. It's a freaking given.
But the funny thing about the green movement is that it has no human-based moral philosophy tied to it. The Judeo-Christian theology, as well as most other established religions, emphasizes kindness and compassion to fellow humans. But the green movement is all about how we can protect/worship/guard the Earth … and people (except as useful idiots) be damned. Humans are ruining the planet anyway. The fewer of us, the better. Right?

A- Someone please show her the areas of Jewish law which talk about the earth as God's creation, kindness to animals, preserving the world for others, yada, yada.

B- How about some sources for this supposed disgust for humanity as the root of environmentalism?

Having nowhere else to turn, Patrice (sorry, that's Mrs. Lewis to bubs like me) goes for the most absurd of arguments, pointing to the obvious fringe of the greenies, those who actually worship the earth. Not surprisingly, Patrice doesn't bother to differentiate semi-serious neo-Pagans from "greenies" or "DNC delegates." Maybe all the fumes from her coal-powered microwave are getting to her.

- Last, Dennis is convinced that if Obama isn't elected liberals will be really mad, and will blame it on white racism. (Oh no, liberals will be mad! Who cares, the conservatives have all the guns. I thought we were inconsequential pansies.) Because if there's one thing we know about conservatives, it's that they're really, really good sports about the politics game, right? We've already heard that all the hammering of Palin is due to Democrats hating women. If McCain doesn't get elected presumably we'll then hear about how Democrats hate veterans, white people, and the bald.