Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Bob Herbert has taken leave of reality

Bob Herbert at the NYTimes is a good man. It was he who exposed a real scandal in a small town in Texas, involving a sheriff who was routinely arresting innocent black people, including a one night bust that pretty much cleaned out the town. (No links on this one. Sorry, but it happened about a year ago.) It's sad, then, to see someone become so disconnected from reality. In a Nov. 19, 2004 op-ed, Herbert went on a completely unanchored rant about Bush's temerity in placing on his cabinet people he trusts, whom he knows will carry out his agenda. (And I'll say again, Bush did win this election.) Tidbits from this "article": "Competence has never been highly regarded by the fantasists of the George W. Bush administration. In the Bush circle, no less than in your average youth gang, loyalty is everything. The big difference, of course, is that the administration is far more dangerous than any gang. History will show that the Bush crowd of incompetents brought tremendous amounts of suffering to enormous numbers of people. The amount of blood being shed is sickening, and there is no end to the grief in sight." Boy, I bet Herbert's one of those people who checked out the Canada website. "I look at the catastrophe in Iraq, the fiscal debacle here at home, the extent to which loyalty trumps competence at the highest levels of government, the absence of a coherent vision of the future for the U.S. and the world, and I wonder, with a sense of deep sadness, where the adults have gone." Now, it's the paragraph above that bothers me. "Catastrophe in Iraq?" What catastrophe? It was not a bloodless war, but what is? In over a year and a half, we've lost only a few more than a thousand troops. Each is an individual tragedy, but collectively, it's one of the neatest, cleanest takeovers of a country in recorded history. Yes, the bloody-minded insurgents are still out there, but we are cutting their numbers, cutting their financing, cutting their materiels -- what more could one want. "The fiscal debacle here at home?" What "fiscal debacle?" Thanks to the burst bubble, which had nothing to do with Bush, plus the fallout from 9/11, Bush received a terribly sick economy. Despite a war, he's turned it into one of the shortest recessions ever. "The absence of a coherent vision for the U.S.?" Bush has an extremely coherent vision -- it's just not Herbert's. It's also a vision that 51% of the country buys into, for better or worse. It seems to be that the only proven fantasist revealed in this article is Herbert himself.

Could the AP -- gasp! -- being trying to advance an agenda?

The headline says "Violence Breaks Out All Over Baghdad." The story, however, paints a somewhat different picture:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Baghdad exploded in violence Saturday, as insurgents attacked a U.S. patrol and a police station, assassinated four government employees and detonated several bombs. One American soldier was killed and nine were wounded during clashes that also left three Iraqi troops and a police officer dead. Some of the heaviest violence came in Azamiyah, a largely Sunni Arab district of Baghdad where a day earlier U.S. troops raided the capital's main Sunni mosque. Shops were in flames, and a U.S. Humvee burned, with the body of what appeared to be its driver inside.

U.S. forces and insurgents also battled in the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi, where clashes have been seen almost daily. Nine Iraqis were killed and five wounded in Saturday's fighting, hospital officials said. In northern Iraq (news - web sites), U.S. and Iraqi forces uncovered four decapitated bodies as they continued a campaign to crush militants who rose up last week. American and Iraqi forces detained 30 suspected guerrillas overnight in Mosul, the U.S. military said Saturday.

I'm sorry, but in a country the size of Iraq, fighting in a Baghdad neighborhood and in the Sunni triangle, and some grisly discoveries and arrests in some unnamed place in Northern Iraq, do not equal "all over Iraq." I suspect that the AP, which realizes most people are merely headline readers, might be trying to shape the public view about what's going on in Iraq. Am I surprised? No. Dismayed and a bit disgusted? Yes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The New Blood Libel

I’ve been surprised by the savagely anti-Christian rhetoric pouring from the Left in the wake of Bush’s reelection. Christians, apparently, are evil (which is news to me, since modern American Christians strike me as an exceptionally humane bunch of people). I’m Jewish, and grew up hearing stories about the horrors of the blood libels against Jews: that they killed Christian babies to make their Passover Matzoh. It seems to me the Left has come up with a new blood libel surrounding the abortion issue: the Christians are evil because they refuse to kill babies. (BTW, I’m squeamishly pro-choice in the 1st trimester, but I recognize the moral superiority of the viewpoint espoused by anti-Abortion advocates.) Strange world we live in.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Gay Marriage v. Civil Unions

I happen to side with those who believe that, in battleground states such as Ohio, the presence of an anti-Gay marriage initiative on the balance helped bring extra Bush voters to the polls. I've been thinking a lot about the Gay marriage issue since the Massachusetts Supreme Court and Gavin Newsom stepped in to make changes to the historic view of marriage. What I've been thinking about is, what is marriage? (The following discussion is based on my internal, brain-driven knowledge base. You can find a nice summary of the history marriage here, though.) Historically, marriage had to do with power and money. Women were chattel, and they brought with them to a marriage their father's/family's money and power. One doesn't have to look much beyond the royal marriages in Europe in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to realize that marriage often had little to do with God and sacraments and had everything to do with the balance of power and the shifting of wealth. A subset of the money/power imperatives, of course, was that marriage had to do with children. In a patriarchal world, no patriarch wanted to think that his money and power were going to go outside his bloodline. Marriage was an effort to ensure that a man's children would be the recipients of the benefits he gained through warfare and marriage. So far so good. There are two other definitive strands to marriage, though, one of which arises from the above facts, and one of which has a unique basis unrelated to power and money. First, because the power/money nexus means that children are an integral part of the traditional view of marriage, a marriage must carry with it the possibility of children. In other words, this world view mandates that a marriage take place between a man and a woman because they are the basic parental units. The other definitive strand is religion. Wiggle out of it as much as you want, but the fact is that the Judeo-Christian tradition has God's imprimatur on the man/woman marital relationship. Even polygamist traditions, such as Islam or, say, Mormonism, are predicated on male/female relationships -- they've just increased the number of available females for every male. The above are the boundaries. The question is, why are they blurred? Simple answer in the Western tradition: up until recent times, God & State were intertwined. The King was a Christian monarch, the State a Christian entity. The civil side of marriage (power and money) were inextricably intertwined with the religious side. American, even though it ostensibly separated Church and State (mainly to protect religion from the coercive power of the State, and not the other way around), did not separate the mixed civil/religious implications of marriage. It has never been questioned in America that the State has the power to regulate marriage -- hence, its attack on Mormom polygamy in the 19th century, and the fact that it grants multiple legal benefits to the married (recognition of children, access to the ill, etc.). Merged, they may be, but separate they still remain -- marriage still has a religious element, as evidenced by the fact that people routinely marry in houses of worship; and a secular element, in that a marriage does not obtain civil benefits absent a secular marriage license. I think that, while America has always labeled the intertwined elements under the single heading of "marriage," Americans have always been aware of the separate civil and religious aspects to marriage. That's why the majority of Americans favor civil unions. They recognize that it is unfair to deny purely civil benefits -- such as the right to visit a sick loved one, the right to inherit jointly earned property, and the right to work-based benefits -- to people who have made a life-long commitment to each other. Equally, though, religious Americans continue to recognize that, to the extent marriage has a purely religious element, marriage can recognize only the union of a man and a woman. It is the latter recognition that causes revulsion in even non-homophobic people when they are told that marriage cannot be limited to one man and one woman. I therefore think it was a huge mistake for Gays to try to press for "Gay Marriages." Civil unions are a civic idea, and gays ought to be accorded full civil rights. However, marriage is a religious concept, and I would argue that gays, by pushing for "gay marriage" through civil media (such as courts and legislatures) are improperly attempting to influence religion. If individual religious organizations want to recognize gay marriage, that is their prerogative. However, to force religions through the medium of the State to recognize gay marriage, as opposed to civil unions (with attendant civil rights), violates the 1st Amendment's separation of church and state.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Wholesome Broadway?

Went with the family to see the Lion King and just hated it. I've never liked the movie, which I've found charmless, and I have to say the same for the show. True, the puppets and costumes are impressive, but after ten minutes of that, you're left with an icky plot line; bad dialogue; soggy, politically-correct lyrics; lousy music; and dancing that looked as if it was choreographed by an aerobics teacher. I can never get over the feeling that there is something a little bit unwholesome about the Lion King, something anti-family. And that gets me to the point of this posting. PBS ran a six part show about Broadway's history recently, starting with Flo Ziegfeld and working up to the present. The last two episodes were pretty much devoted to Stephen Sondheim and modern Broadway Disney-fication and big corporate shows (Les Miz, etc.). Now, as a preliminary, I don't like Sondheim. I'll grant him his talent -- it's real, both as a musician and a lyricist -- but I always feel as if I'm being dragged through a sewer when I'm watching Sondheim. He's dressed-up sleaziness. The fifth or sixth episodes of this Broadway history also covered the impact of AIDS on Broadway. One of the people interviewed said that AIDS devastated Broadway, because Broadway "is gay men." And that statement struck me, because that was not always true about Broadway. Thinking back to Broadway from the turn of the century through the early (even late) 50s, that's belied by the facts. The producers and directors (Ziegfeld, Irving Berlin, Bob Fosse, etc.) were not gay; the composers, for the most part (Berlin, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, etc.), were not gay; the performers (the Astaires, Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, etc.) were not gay; and the writers (Kaufman) were not always gay either). (And no, I haven't forgotten that some famous talents were indeed gay -- e.g., Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter. ) Of course, some shows were hardhitting for their times, such as Showboat in 1927, which tackled racism. And I'm not saying that Broadway performers and creative talents lived wholesome lives (Kaufman and Ziegfeld were both notorious womanizers). Indeed, I'd hate to examine the private lives of many of the talents I named above. Nevertheless, they lived a life that was at least superficially in synch with middle-America: that is, marriage and children. That, of course, is no longer true for modern Broadway, where much of the talent looks down on the traditional American life of marriage and children. And I rather wonder whether that hostility to "ordinary" life doesn't somehow leak into and taint the modern American musical. Even the most "family-friendly" shows don't really have a family-friendly feel. I have no proof for the above thesis, I just have this vague feeling. Any comments?

Proud Mama Boast

My five year old son, speaking about what he would do as a grown-up to fight bad guys (very blood-thirsty stuff), mentioned a "wife" in passing. I asked, "What would your wife be like?" He replied, "Very beautiful." Well, I had to find out what a five year old's definition of beauty is. His answer? "She'll have golden hair and she'll always smile when she sees me." And if the latter idea isn't beauty and love, I don't know what is.