Thursday, January 30, 2003
If last week was good for the French foreign policy ego -- this week is horrible:
First, as posted below, the letter from the eight European leaders is backlash for French presumption that she speaks for all of Europe on foreign policy.
In a calculated rebuff to France and Germany — denounced by America last week as “old Europe” — the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic have combined to make an unprecedented plea in The Times for unity and cohesion. They say the transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of President Saddam Hussein’s threats to world security.
This has been building for the past few weeks -- the two countries have been making back room deals for the future of the EU
Second, their "peace" plan in the Cote D'Ivoire has been a massive failure. In this summary from the International Herald Tribune
) you can see that French foreign policy "sophistication" is nothing more than idealism that doesn't last for 5 minutes in the real world.
When [foreing minister] de Villepin called on the Ivory Coast parties to respect the French accord, it was pointed out by the RTL interviewer that the government side had declared it nonexistent. Then de Villepin replied, "But they both signed it!"
"But they both signed it!" -- you can imagine this coming from the mouth of an eight year old as he discovers for the first time that the real world can be cruel. By this logic Arafat can't be a terrorist -- he signed Olso didn't he?
Finally, France wants to invite Zimbabwe's Mugabe
to some EU-Africa lovefest.
In a rebuke to France, which has been dragging its feet on tough action, Britain, Spain, The Netherlands and Denmark said it was time to stop bending the EU sanctions to accommodate the Mugabe regime.
All in one week -- imagine how much discontent they can generate in a month...
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Thank You, New Europe
The following letter from 7 European Prime Ministers and one President (José María Aznar, Spain; José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal; Silvio Berlusconi, Italy; Tony Blair, United Kingdom; Václav Havel, Czech Republic; Peter Medgyessy, Hungary; Leszek Miller, Poland; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark) was printed in the Times today:
Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, they are the first victims of Iraq’s current brutal regime. Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world.
The United Nations Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those Resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result.
We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.
Bravo and Thank you!
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.
I also liked the hydrogen power proposal.
Thursday, January 23, 2003
The Axis of Weasel
I know that I said I wasn't going to post any more and I'm no artist, but Scrappleface's Axis of Weasel really inspired me.
PS: It's a crest.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
No time to Blog
This is the first time in many weeks where I have had time to put any thing in writing. In the meanwhile I've decided to take a blogging vacation, at least until the War. Between work and family, I'm just too tired to write anymore. I do intend to write a longer final blog -- which should be up in the next few days.
Monday, January 06, 2003
Occupy Iraq! II
I'd like to think that somebody in the administration reads my blog (in reality I know they don't). The New York Times reports that the Administration is planning an occupation of Iraq similar to the one I proposed in September. It sounds like a good plan to me.
The false issues being raised about North Korea continue to frustrate me. Here is an article from the Washington Post entitled "N. Korea Tests Bush's Policy of Preemption." It's a summary of the ideologically driven complaints about the administration policy. The article is a decent summary, but the author fails to think through the fundamental issue: can something that has already occurred be pre-empted?
You see folks, Merriam Websters online deifens preemption as:
Main Entry: pre·emp·tion
Etymology: Medieval Latin praeemption-, praeemptio previous purchase, from praeemere to buy before, from Latin prae- pre- + emere to buy -- more at REDEEM
1 a : the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land b : the purchase of something under this right
2 : a prior seizure or appropriation : a taking possession before others
Obviously, the usage has expanded somewhat, but the key understanding here is that action takes place before
something occurs. The Administration's policy of preemption is action before a country acquires nuclear weapons. A policy of dealing with a country after it acquired nuclear weapons cannot, by definition, be preemption. It then becomes a policy of confrontation or deterrence -- anything but preemption. It's not just mere semantics -- the two conditions (nukes or no nukes) have vastly different policy solutions. It's pointless (and immoral) to discuss birth control methods after the baby is born, isn't it?
This is just another example of modern journalism -- blindly following political talking points without actually thinking through the issues.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
Self-righteous Blindness at the NYTimes:
The NYTimes has an article about Democratic efforts to compete with conservative cable channels and talk radio. Fair enough (but what about MSNBC?). But NEVER does the article mentions the reason those channels are popular with half the population – the liberal bias of the rest of the media. Not once do we hear in this piece about the “desperate” attempts to reach out to the public about the liberal bias of the major networks (who draw far many more people than Fox) and the major newspapers. No one brings up the dramatic shift to the left that the New York Times has taken under Howell Raines. Not once do we hear about the “conservative” side.
Let’s not get into a discussion of whether the media is left or right – it’s all a matter of perspective. There is no such thing as objective reporting – it’s a myth. If you are a Lefty – you naturally think that the networks and the NYTimes are moderate, Fox is super extreme right and there are not Left voices. If you are slightly more than half the population that votes Republican then you think that Fox is moderate and that the Times and the networks are on the Left. An article like this, that consciously or unconsciously, ignored the perspective of more than half of Americans cannot fail to reinforce the notion of a Leftist press.
Definition of Chutzpah:
Blaming the present administration for the problems that you got us into. Leon Fuerth criticizes the Bush administration for the Korean situation. He says that it’s dangerous to do nothing. That this man who was apart of an administration that not only did nothing about the same situation in 1994, but paid North Korea to stay quiet. It takes a lot of chutzpah for anyone associated with the Clinton administration to criticize Bush on North Korea.
Good article by George Will.
A New Year’s Mystery
Eight years ago I spent New Year’s in Israel where I was visiting my childhood best friend. Up to that point I had not seen him or spoken to him for 16 years. One day, watching the Russian cable channel, my friend’s father turned to me and said, out of the blue, “Did you know that New Years is a celebration of Jesus’ circumcision?” Sure enough, I thought, if Jesus was born on December 25th then the proper day for his bris would be January 1st (the eighth day, counting the birthday as one).
At the time, I shrugged the question off – I was an atheist (though, not anti-religious) and it did not interest me much. Mostly I thought that if it was true then wouldn’t the Christians celebrate the holiday as such? But it was the first time I had heard this proposition. I never thought too much about the statement until my son’s bris this year. The event also coincided with my rising religiousness that began after September 11th (there are no atheists in foxholes!).
I started considering the concept that New Year’s is the celebration of the bris of Jesus. Certainly he had one – there is nothing in the Gospels to argue that he had anything but a traditional Jewish childhood. A bris is a mitzvah – it is a celebration of a boy’s continuing the covenant with God (not that religious to hyphenate) which began with Abraham and continues to this day. It is a celebration – the entire family gets together and alcohol is ingested (primarily by the parents and the baby).
So, I began to think, what are the chances that the New Year begins exactly on the eighth day after the birth of Jesus and has nothing to do with his bris? The New Year could begin on any other day of the year – why this one? I don’t have a conspiratorial nature, so it’s certainly possible that this is a pure coincidence, but the odds are against the two anniversaries occurring on the same day.
I began to research the topic. I found nothing directly supporting the proposition, but I did gather much circumstantial evidence. The contemporary story of Christmas is that it is a pagan holiday repackaged for a Christian audience. The following is a common story, best summarized on History Channel:
Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day of the year.
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention a date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.
I’ve always found this explanation entirely unsatisfactory. It’s too pat – it seems perfectly tailored to an anti-religious message. Say you were arbitrarily picking a birthday for your savior – whose birth is supposed to signify a new age – why would you pick the dead of winter? Surely, there were other feasts and festivals at other times of the year. The birthday of Mithra is often given as the predecessor to Christmas – but that explanation has some inconsistencies as well. The worship of Mithra was a “mystery”, that is the only people who knew the exact nature of the worhip were the initiates. Mystery religions do no lend themselves to mass appeal and it seems that the cult of Mithra was popular only with the Roman soldiers and some traders. If the Church was after popular appeal then the cult of Mithras would not be the perfect candidate. Finally, it does not offer a good explanation for the eight-day coincidence.
It’s also not likely that the bris was the direct explanation for the marking of the holiday, either. After all, Christians stopped practicing circumcision pursuant to the teachings of Paul, circa 30 AD. So my research has led to nowhere – none of the explanations fit, but I still don’t believe that the eight day stretch is a coincidence. My best explanation is that God works in mysterious ways. Can anyone suggest a better explanation for the time between holidays?
Regardless of the explanation, if Jesus was born on December 25th, then his bris would be celebrated on January 1st. According to Jewish tradition, no invitation is required for a bris – the occasion is so significant that anyone can come and celebrate with the parents. So, whatever your religion, have a Happy New Year!