Friday, July 21, 2006

The Israel variation of Godwin's Law

We need a new variation of Godwin's Law. The original reads:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

The new variation could read:

As a political discussion about Israel grows longer, the probability that a defender of Israel will level accusations of anti-semitism against the critics of Israel approaches one.

The same holds true for any discussion about a Jewish politician.

(Post inspired by this from Steve Gilliard).

And we need a new rule: any accusation of anti-semitism must be backed up by specific examples of said anti-semitism.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Parts is parts

Bush on stem cell veto: ‘These Boys and Girls Are Not Spare Parts’

Parts is parts (WARNING: graphic image. Don't click if you are easily upset.)

Bob Dylan and The Masters of War

I just discovered that there is a Bob Dylan song called "Masters of War". Forgive me for my cultural ignorance.

Unfortunately, the song is limited in its view point and actually proves the point of my previous post.

Dylan sings about the Masters of War as if they are only the rich leaders of the military industrial complex who send young men off to die so that they can increase their profits. But, what I am talking about is the desire of all people to become the Masters of War. This desire to chain War and make it do our bidding is a desire that all people have at one time or another.

But it is a fool's desire because War can never be mastered. It can only be survived.

Dylan's song proves my point in its final verse as it expresses the desire to turn War back on its alleged Masters:

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

This is a clear call for the moral clarity of War to work for the oppressed instead of the oppressor. But the clarity of War is a false one whether it wielded in the service of the rich or the poor.

War is no man's slave.

The Masters of War

Kevin Drum puts his finger on it:

It is, often, not so much war itself that people long for, but the moral certainty that comes with it; thus the venom directed even toward those who are skeptical of war, let alone those who are resolutely opposed to it. It's not that the skeptics prevent the hawks from getting the war they want — they usually don't — but that they deny them the moral certainty they so desperately yearn for. And that cannot be tolerated.

Many people want to believe there is a clear demarcation of Right and Wrong but the uncertainties of our contingent world often spoil their attempts to sustain that belief. War, as Kevin says, clears the picture of all those confusing contingincies and gives, at least for the moment, a sense of moral certainty. Chris Hedges wrote similarly in his book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning (highly recommended). War, for all its terrifying aspects, makes us feel alive and certain about our direction.

War, like a torrential downpour, clears the air of the smog of uncertainty and gives us, if even for a brief moment, a feeling that the path forward is clear. War, like a forest fire, clears out the underbrush choking the forest so that new trees can grow.

But floods and fires also drown and burn. Floods and fires are forces of nature, unleased in nature's own time for nature's own purpose. War, if it is to be seen as a force of nature, should never be seen as something desirable. It is, at best, a consequence of the natural process of life and, like death, something that comes in its own time and its own way.

It makes no more sense to sound the drumbeats for War, to see War as a good thing, than it would be to cheer on the burning of a forest or the flooding of a coastal village.

Those who think they can be the Masters of War are creating a false idol. And, like all idolators, they will eventually burn in the fire of their own arrogance or drown in the flood of their own hubris.

We will never be the masters of War. The best we can do is learn how not to be its slaves.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Don't play the game when the rules are rigged

It's fairly obvious what David Brooks is trying to do.

"What's happening to Lieberman can only be described as a liberal inquisition," writes Brooks. "Whether you agree with him or not, he is transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men. But over the past few years he has been subjected to a vituperation campaign that only experts in moral manias and mob psychology are really fit to explain."

"I can't reproduce the typical assaults that have been directed at him over the Internet, because they are so laced with profanity and ugliness, but they are ginned up by ideological masseurs who salve their followers' psychic wounds by arousing their rage at objects of mutual hate," Brooks adds.

Brook's is trying to perpetuate the frame that the only people who oppose Lieberman are crazed, left-wing nutjobs. This is how the right-wing noise machine keeps Democrats in line, "do what we think you should do or we will throw you to the crazed, left-wing wolves." And a lot of Democrats buy into it.

Worse, a lot of opponents of Lieberman do as well, by simply arguing against the Brooksian frame.

Brook's argument doesn't deserve reasoned response because it is not a reasoned argument. He and others do not provide evidence that Lieberman is the victim of a crazed, left-wing inquisition. He simply states it as fact and then hints about the things he has seen which prove it but which he cannot reproduce because it might offend his reader's delicate sensibilities.

Don't fall into the trap of trying to refute the "crazed, left-wing nutjobs" frame because doing so will only give it weight. Simply re-iterate the argument against Lieberman. If your argument is good it will win people over. But if you get pulled into a shouting match with people like Brooks you will just convince the audience that the "crazed, left-wing nutjob" frame may have some truth to it.

Our argument against Lieberman is strong enough as it is. We don't need to waste time refuting nonsense. Just call it nonsense and move on.