Saturday, July 26, 2008

So What Really is Happening Iraq? Part I Is the "Surge" a Success?

Recently I have been pretty obsessed with questions concerning the Iraq war and occupation. I read about the Iraq situation regularly. However, I haven't blogged about it much at all for two reasons. The first is I don't post many blog entries anyway, but that I am trying to change that. And the second reason is that the situation is so complex and fluid it is hard for me to read something, digest it, and attempt to intelligently write something about it and make a cogent point.

So my solution right now is to just start posting entries by linking to internet sources of interest. Basically, the point is to raise questions.

So anyway, I have been quite skeptical that this so-called "Surge" is the unquestioned success it is said to be. And there are plenty of indicators that is hasn't been.

Juan Cole, of his Informed Comment blog has an interesting analysis in his July 24th entry entitled "A Social History of the Surge".

"For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005."

Juan Cole then goes on to argue that the drop in violence may have had something to do with the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis who fled Baghdad in front of the guns of Shiite militias. But this hardly can be seen as a process that is finished and a problem resolved.

"The Shiitization of Baghdad was thus a significant cause of falling casualty rates. But it is another war waiting to happen, when the Sunnis come back to find Shiite militiamen in their living rooms."

Cole goes on to discuss several other developments that led to some truces between warring factions and U.S. troops, and some reduced violence.

Cole has much more to say, and I highly recommend him to anybody trying to follow the situation in Iraq.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Consequences of O'Reilly's White Supremacist Fear Baiting? Murder!

What are the consequences of the anti-immigrant rhetoric and race baiting that O'Reilly and other right-wing pundits? View the YouTube video in the previous post for an example.

It creates a climate of hatred against immigrants of Mexican and other Latin American nationalities. This climate of hatred can then result in the murder of someone like Luis Ramirez, a twenty-fiver year old Mexican immigrant. It does not matter what their immigration status was, with green card or not, because the murderous thugs are worried about "the changing complexion of America" (O'Reilly), and probably didn't ask.

Update, July 29th 2008.
Jeffrey Feldman has an excellent analysis of what kind of political and social environment O'Reilly's violent rhetoric creates.

"First, O'Reilly blurs the line separating verbal and physical confrontation during his interviews. Anyone who has seen The Factor has witnessed O'Reilly using this technique, and the video linked above is a perfect example. When we watch O'Reilly, his physical persona creates a particular kind of violent tension. As his voice rises and his body leans into his guests personal space, the threat of an actual physical outburst seems imminent. It is a calculated tension."

And I should give a hat tip to my good cyberspace friend Hume's Ghost at the Daily Doubter, who also connects the the right-wing jabber mouths with the recent shooting at a Unitarian Universalist Church.

"You think O'Reilly might have the decency to address this since he's been writing books about and saying that godless communist homo/immigrant loving Nazi "S-P"s have been trying to destroy "traditional" white America and that people should become "T-Warriors" to fight them and what not."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

O'Reilly's White Supremacist Fears & McCain Agrees

This segment from the O'Reilly Factor is about a year old, but it is worth remembering for what it reveals. Besides, I wanted to learn how to embed a YouTube video into my blog!

It is the ideology and rhetoric of white supremacist racism to stir up fears about the demographic balance of racial groups, and to want to defend the "white-male Christian power structure" through demographic superiority. I guarantee that you will find the exact same kind of rhetoric from explicit white supremacist nationalist groups like the Aryan Nations and the KKK.

I am really surprised that this segment didn't recieve more controversy, say in comparison to O'Reilly's surprise that black folk behave well while out to eat. And to think that O'Reilly can say things like that, and all McCain can do is say "I agree" is incredible.

We should have a democratic power structure shared between all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Its called equality!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Prager on Gay Marriage, Appeal to Tradition and Nothing More

Ok, it is time to start getting this blog back to blogging. And what better way to start than to take aim at Dennis Prager, this time on Gay Marriage?

But first a hat-tip to a great new blog I recently found, Rust Belt Philosophy

It was there that I first wrote a rough draft of this post in response to Larry's critique of Prager's article against equating prohibitions against gay marriage to those against interracial marriage.

Now on to some intellectual stompin of Prager. First, he really is pretty damn sloppy with the terminology.

"First, there is no comparison between sex and race."

Yet there is comparability between sex and race. But doesn't he really mean to say between sexual orientation and race? Of course both biological sex (i.e. male/female) and many of the phenotypic characteristics associated with the social construct of race are biologically determined, and thus comparable. Although the scientific jury may still be deliberating on this question, there is evidence and arguments that at least some homosexuality is biologically influenced. Regardless, it simply is not a given that racial identity and sexual orientation are not comparable. Prager fails to make his case on this point. And Prager can hardly make his case unless he employs some common and agreed upon terminology, or defines his terms.

The heart of Prager's argument against same-sex marriage is that it is contrary to "moral norms". He writes:

The second reason the parallel between opposing same-sex marriage and opposing interracial marriage is invalid is that opposition to marriage between races is a moral aberration while opposition to marrying a person of the same sex is the moral norm.

But wasn't the prohibition of interracial marriage at one time considered a "moral norm" by many, just as Prager and his ilk consider the prohibition of same-sex marriage a "moral norm"? Just because some segment of a population considers something a moral norm does not justify it as moral or immoral.

Prager claims that Judeo-Christian values are the source of "moral norms". The implicit assertion is that these "Judeo-Christian values" are something timeless and consistent. This is a total fiction. So called "Judeo-Christian values" are re-invented for contemporary use, and often different groups of Christians and Jews are at odds over what these values are.

Take slavery for example. Slavery was a"moral norm" in ancient Israel, and condoned in both the Old and New Testaments. Defended by pro-slavery Christians of the ante-bellum South, and fought against by Christian abolitionists in the 1800s. These are just basic facts of history that anybody should know, especially somebody like Prager who pretends to be some kind of authority on the Torah. So will the true "Judeo-Christian" values please stand up?

To be fair, same-sex marriage is probably contrary to so-called Judeo-Christian values if those are to be based on the Bible. This is Prager's only argument, it is fallacious, and that is no basis for a morality based on reason.

Finally, what is most offensive is that Prager attempts to speak for secularism and humanism:

"On the other hand, no religious or secular moral system ever advocated same-sex marriage........They have no problem doing this because they believe they are wiser and finer people than all the greatest Jewish, Christian and humanist thinkers who ever lived."

Talk about hubris! Prager often scorns secularism and humanism, and now he presumes to speak for it? It is apparent he doesn't understand that secular-humanists are not committed to dogmas of the past. It simply does not matter that great humanist thinkers of the past might not have endorsed gay marriage. We base our morality on reason and evidence, not on the authority of some past great thinker.

It also might occur to the less dim-witted that the demand for marriage equality for gay folk is an extension of their movement for greater acceptance in general. Gay rights have made tremendous strides since the late 1960s. They were hardly in a position to make such demands even a short 50 years ago. Thus it was not an issue on the front-burner during those times of the great humanist thinkers of the past. If it had been, who's to say they would not have endorsed same-sex marriage? Certainly Prager is in no position to know!