Friday, December 28, 2007

The Bhutto Assassination

Just an assortment of thoughts on yesterday's news:

1. First, this is a terrible tragedy. I know there were serious issues with Bhutto's policies and allegations of corruption. Nevertheless, it's hard to dispute her courage in returning to her country, exposing herself to extreme physical danger.

2. It's hard to see an encouraging outcome for Pakistan in the near or medium term future. Democracy? Probably off the table.

3. This is another thing that demonstrates the failures of the Bush foreign policy. If we had concentrated on winning in Afghanistan instead of invading Iraq, it's at least possible that we wouldn't have to be relying so heavily on Pakistan six years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Even before this assassination, the Pakistani government wasn't looking like a terribly reliable partner. Now, with chaos in the offing and a leadership vacuum that may potentiate the Islamic fundamentalists, it looks even worse.

4. They can be glad they have nuclear weapons. They have a giant and more powerful country right next door, and without Pakistan's nukes India might be tempted to take advantage of this situation by invading, stirring up more trouble in Kashmir, etc.

5. This demostrates why it is in the interests of Iran to have nuclear weapons. Any neighbors or superpowers with inclinations to take over Iran will think twice if they think Iran has nuclear weapons.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means."

And the word for today is "cowardly".

We heard it again from Bush: "The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy," he said. "Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice."

Here are a couple of straightforward definitions:

American Heritage Dictionary -
adj. Exhibiting the characteristics of a coward, particularly ignoble fear: a cowardly surrender.

cow'ard·li·ness n., cow'ard·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

lacking courage; ignobly timid and faint-hearted; "cowardly dogs, ye will not aid me then"- P.B.Shelley [ant: brave]

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

Now Bill Maher got fired from his job at ABC for making pretty much this same point, so I'm not making a brand new comment here. Still, I think it's worth talking about, because people who debase the language by using words to mean whatever they want them to mean are devaluing our common linguistic currency.

And that's what they're doing now. When the Bushies say "cowardly" they mean some kind of generic quality that we don't like. They used it to describe the September 11 terrorists, and now they're using it to describe Benazir Bhutto's assassins.

The word, though, is clearly inapposite in both circumstances. The September 11 terrorists were gladly facing death to carry out their aims. Similarly, although the facts are a bit unclear, the leading theory seems to be that the person who killed Bhutto got through the crowd and her security, shot her, then detonated himself when her security guys landed on him. Again, this demonstrates the willingness to face death for the sake of his religio-political views.

What's my point? Whatever you want to call these guys, they're not cowards. Words matter, and we should start paying attention to the words we use and what they mean.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

I had a great Christmas with my family yesterday. My two sons and my daughter-in-law were in town and we had a low-key holiday. Thanks to my son Adam we all made an effort at buying local goods, reducing our environmental impact, and toning down the waste and frenzy. That was a great addition to the event, as were the gifts of carbon offsets and contributions to the Heifer Project.

It's a pity that some people feel compelled to insert religion into this solstice observation. It seems to make things a lot worse.

I know that a lot of people like to look at Eastern religions as a source of peace and amity in this violent, discordant world. Take the Hindus, for example:
Hindus Attack Churches on Christmas

Wed Dec 26, 11:52 AM EST
NEW DELHI — Hindu extremists ransacked and burned eight rural churches in eastern India, marring Christmas celebrations in a corner of the country with a history of violence against Christians, officials said Wednesday. One person was killed in the violence.

The sad truth is that religion may not be the cause of all of our problems, but it sure hasn't brought us very close to solving them.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Who's right on cancer?

It's a couple of months ago now, but you probably remember what Giuliani was saying about cancer and socialized medicine:

Yes, the key point was: "I had prostate cancer, five, six years ago. My chances of surviving prostate cancer and thank God I was cured of it, in the United States, 82 percent. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England, only 44 percent under socialized medicine."

Now if you've been paying attention you know a crucial fact about this statement: it was a lie.
But now we know something that really is true. If you don't have insurance, your odds of dying of cancer are a lot higher.

ATLANTA — Uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to the first national study of its kind and one that sheds light on troubling health care obstacles.

People without health insurance are less likely to get recommended cancer screening tests, the study also found, confirming earlier research. And when these patients finally do get diagnosed, their cancer is likely to have spread.

If you know that, and you believe it, and you care about how many people die of cancer, it would make sense that you would want everybody to have health care, wouldn't it?

So why are the R's holding out for some bogus plan, like Giuliani's, that won't do that?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Addition to blogroll

If you look over at the links on the right of this page, you'll see a new link at the bottom, and I think it's pretty cool.

It's a site called, and it is as the title suggests, but with a twist. It's a charity site that presents you with a series of vocabulary challenges. Each time you get a word correct the donors contribute twenty grains of rice. As a language person, I love this kind of thing. Some of the words are pretty tough, and I admit to guessing a few times, but I was also able to rack up a bunch of rice contributions pretty fast.

So why don't you hop on over, have some fun, and contribute rice to people who need it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fred Thompson is done with New Hampshire

What's wrong with that headline? Maybe the only problem is that it's three words too long. Fred Thompson has decided to abandon the Granite State, and will campaign in Iowa full-time until the January 3 caucuses.

I don't know if there's any truth to the rumor that he said he was too tired to fly to New Hampshire, but for some reason CNN forgot to include the phrase "plumb tuckered out" in the story.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Do you like baseball?

If you like baseball, you can't like Bowie Kuhn. It's as simple as that.

Go here to see what his successor, Fay Vincent, has to say about Kuhn's election to the Hall of Fame.

If they let a scumbag like Kuhn in, it's hard to see how they justify keeping out Rose or any other POS who really doesn't deserve to be in there.

Bushism Generator

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt Romney Fails to Reassure

Well, today was the day of the long-awaited speech on why people should not be afraid of "Mitt" Romney because he's a Mormon. I didn't watch the haircut myself, although I have read it, which he supposedly wrote all by himself.

If this was supposed to be his Kennedy moment, it failed. If, as seems more likely, he was just trying to reach the religious right, it maybe worked, but maybe not, given that he unilaterally declared discussion of his wackier beliefs off-limits.

But here's the problem I have with him. I think the First Amendment, and the religion clauses in particular, are pretty important. That's because I'm part of a religious minority, so I'm maybe more sensitive to the majority throwing its weight around.

So listen to what Romney says here, and you'll see what I'm talking about:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he really saying that freedom is impossible in the absence of religion? And what is the freedom he wants to protect: the freedom to commune with God.

It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions.

We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

"Differences between churches?" "We?"

And here's the kicker:

Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.

Thanks for the clarification, "Mitt". Now, if I didn't know anything about you before , I know it now: I do not have a friend and ally in "Mitt" Romney. He told me himself. His view of America is so narrow that it excludes those who doubt, deny, and oppose his claims, and the claims of his co-religionists, that their god reigns supreme over the United States.

But he goes on from there to lie about what his enemies, the secularists, people like me, and maybe you, are doing:

They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism.

As I say, no matter how many times they say it, this is just a lie. Nobody is trying to remove religion from the public domain. What we are trying to do is what the Founders said. We are trying to make the government stop putting its power behind religious indoctrination. We aren't winning this fight, but we're trying.

And there is no stretch of the term by which you can call secularism a religion. It's a principle of government, and it's actually a principle that we are supposedly fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe in Iran sometime soon. So is it the religion of the United States? Let's ask "Mitt".

Obviously, he doesn't care about my vote. If he knew who I am he'd know he'll never get it. There just might be some people, atheists like me but not solid Democrats, who might consider voting for him in the general election. I wonder if they know that, as far as "Mitt" is concerned, they're not a part of his America any more than I am.