Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

November 1, 2006

The endless joys of context-free quotes

Filed under: mediachumps,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 11:57 am

Brad Schader of BlogCritics lashes out at John Kerry for calling all soldiers stupid.

But later on in his article, Schader says:

I was wrong in my belief.

Dude, why write the article if you’re so wrong about it? Sheesh.

Update:

Many conservative bloggers seem to come to Kerry’s defense. For instance:

I hope all these verbatim quotes from conservative outlets set to rest any controversy on what a context-free quote is, how it was applied to Mr. Kerry, and how snap movements — especially from the conservative blogosphere — will join up and resist such childish perfidy with both thought and grace. Thanks, guys, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

October 31, 2006

Simple question: “Where?”

Filed under: Iraq,mediachumps,News,Politics,rants,war — secretmojo @ 12:17 pm

The BBC reports that the Pentagon is launching a new propaganda — oops, I mean “media war” unit — that will attempt to offset — oops, I mean “correct” — unflattering (I mean “inaccurate”) breaking news reports.

My only question, which is blatantly missing in this article, is, “Where?” Who are the targets of this propa — media war? Which stations, which websites? More importantly, which country?

The BBC won’t say. They mention TV, radio, and weblogs, and grant the Pentagon a fully dictated — oops, I mean “reported” — paragraph to sort-of explain the issue:

The administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US, our correspondent says.

But my question still remains. “Where?”

Where will these bold countermeasures be conducted? On Iraqi TV? Iraqi Radio? Insurgent web sites?

Not mentioned. Which forces me to conclude that most of this media warring will be conducted in America, on American radio, on American TV, on American blogs, toward American station owners and American citizens.

Seriously, where else is that scary 24-hour news cycle that keeps Donald Rumsfeld “up at night” located? Where else can lobbyists and politicians (uh, “surrogates”) gear up and appear on a TV show so quickly? (Hint: Baghdad is 6,211 miles away from Washington. New York is 204.)

I will hazard a guess that Rumsfeld and the top brass don’t receive their daily supply of heebie jeebies from Al-Jazeera pundits. If not, who are they afraid of?

On Monday, US Vice President Dick Cheney also made reference to the use of media, suggesting insurgents had increased their attacks and were checking the internet to keep track of American public opinion. [emphasis added]

Ahhhh! That’s who. Never mind.

October 25, 2006

Another blogger to web-stalk

Filed under: blogging,Feminism,Links,Politics — secretmojo @ 12:17 pm

Dangit. Wish I’d known about Danah Boyd earlier. Now I instantly have a copius backlog of posts I simply must read. Unlike most political/student blogs, this one seems chock-full of information. Raw data, snappy writing, chick heading toward a PhD. If only I had more time…

The Eight Year “Agenda” of Michael J. Fox

Filed under: health,Politics,religion,science — secretmojo @ 3:52 am

Boy, I so wanted to launch into a rant at this.

Instead, I offer these videos of a man thirty times my better — not because of his disease, but because of what he’s done for the past eight years. The entirity of my life won’t add up to what this man has accomplished in such a brief time. He deserves the respect of a man who took a very personal situation (7 years in hiding), owned his destiny, and chose to help the world in response.

There really is no criticism that can be thrown on Fox, because he’s done so much generous work already. But that’s the point, isn’t it? He’s not like the usual easy targets, and that’s soooo unfair!

So criticism is flung at him, of the most noble snickering and catty kind. But if critics were honest, they would remember whilst drawing mustaches on his pictures and cackling: nineteen times out of twenty, Michael J. Fox (“The toughest part about acting is to act like I don’t have parkinsons”) is a better man than you.

October 24, 2006

Congress to do nothing between elections

Filed under: Humor,Politics — secretmojo @ 1:56 am

A new bill passed in the Senate last Friday, the Stabilized Lawmaking Or Temporary Hiatus Act, modifies Congressional rules to restrict Capitol Hill activity to only the seven days after an election.

“The partisan politics were killing us,” said Sen. McCain, cosponsor of the bill. “It seemed like every time a bill came to the floor, somebody disagreed with it. Debate became a litany of pro-this, con-that. It’s almost all you heard on the floor! It was time for a change.”

But debate itself wasn’t so much the issue as the public’s malleable perception of it, said many senators.

Citing the enormous influence that voting records, floor speeches, policy mistakes, and committee conclusions have on elections, senators passed the SLOTH act quickly and nearly unanimously to “allow voters to vote their conscience, without us politicians getting in their way,” said McCain.

The bill does allow for calling emergency sessions during the “hiatus” period of nearly two years, provided that no objections are voiced questioning the timing, result, issue, or source of the session. But because the debate of any bill has the chance of creating dissent and influencing voters, it’s expected that emergency sessions will be a rarity.

“We have removed the corrosive influence of governance on our nation’s elections,” said Sen. Feingold in a press conference at 2 a.m. on Sunday. “The American people can now vote in confidence, knowing that there will be absolutely no valid reason to vote for or against their candidate.”

Other senators could not be reached for comment, as they said they were now “off-duty.”

The act also raises Congressmen’s salary by $20,000.

August 21, 2006

One part of the Middle East puzzle almost completed

Filed under: Iraq,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 10:56 am

From a commenter at Right Wing Nuthouse:

TD Said:

Great post but I still think we are in transition in the Middle East and Iraq is just one part of the puzzle. Therefore, yes we in [sic] the middle of a violent, dangerous time in Iraq but the endgame has not played out.

* * *

Year Four Progress Report

Gettin there

puzzle made at flash-gear.com.

August 18, 2006

Morality precedes religion? Salman Rushdie on Faith & Reason

Filed under: Atheism,books,Fiction,Literature,Politics,Reading,religion,television,writing — secretmojo @ 11:55 pm

Wooohooo! All the author interviews at Bill Moyers’ Faith & Reason are up. I’m saving Margaret Atwood, with her darling little “happy witch” pose, for my own personal finale.

For a week, I denied myself free speech hero Salman Rushdie’s interview (click on “watch the interview online”) because I wanted to savor the anticipation while I enjoyed the others. I finally broke down, though, and clicked the link.

Rushdie, as the President of the PEN American Center, helped initiate the Faith and Reason event; his interview is longer and addresses far more topics in the political, religious, philosophical, and imaginative realms than the others.

The man is brilliant.

But he’s so smooth about it, humble and precise, that the complexity of his mind goes unnoticed. He talked about everything. Far more than I could encapsulate in one post. The Danish cartoons, the transformative power of the artist’s imagination, 9/11 as a hinge moment, how cultures are becoming increasingly incomprehensible to one another, his new-found joy of ordinary life, and much more.

Most interesting was his idea that human morality precedes religion. Religion, he posits, grows from an attempt to codify the moral instinct already built into our DNA. He points out that all art began as sacred art, and from this, implies that art and religion go hand in hand, and that the need for religion may be like language: a natural inclination of the human species, which gets fouled up, revised, politicized, and abused over time.

He also complained that there’s not much secular lingo to describe transcendent experience, and implies that this may contribute to atheists gaining the stigma as men with no moral guidance.

I found the part about morality as antecedent to religion so fascinating, I had to pause the video and mull it over.

It’s hard to argue with Rushdie, but let me try: I agree that religion is the language of morality we’ve developed. It’s rough and simplistic, but one must learn to grunt first, then write in iambic pentameter. One only needs to inspect all the religions out there to realize that, despite what any believer might believe inside his own faith, all religions are at their base, secular. Or at least humanistic. Only the biases of the mind entice one religion to claim absolute arbitration of morality, truth, and behavior.

That is essentially what Rushdie says, but I add this tidbit: we need only recognize that religion is an adopted moral language and lifestyle to get over all our hang-ups about it. Einstein used the word “God” differently than anyone else; he recognized that it was an unfortunate part of the vernacular needed to describe unprovable, yet still worthy, concepts.

And this is where I think many atheists and believers alike fail. The former asserts that fantasy is not real, therefore precariously dangerous; while the latter contends that truth is divine, and must never be challenged.

But I say that religion is a chosen, not given, symbolic language of morality that, in response to uncertainty, fills the gaps where we aren’t bright enough to devise ways of acting ethically.

“Chosen” changes everything. Not only does it implicitly recognize the sheer power (and worth) of imagination, it puts the responsibility square upon the believer to answer for his behavior. He cannot claim “God said so” to win an argument because, in the end, it is he who bought into the belief for one reason or the other, so it is he who must justify it. Therefore, a believer’s ideas of restricting or oppressing other people can be criticized as ideas embraced firstly by him and only subsequently strengthened by his religion.

With religious diversity in mind, Rushdie also warned against moral relativism, faintly echoing Sam Harris’ contempt of religious moderates.

In a nutshell, moral relativism is “live and let live” applied to morality. “They believe in cannibalism, and hey, that’s their religious prerogative.” But Rushdie admits that there is a paucity of language to describe absolute morality within the secular world. We’re just not experienced at it. One must always bring God into it. “Atheists are obsessed with God,” he laughed.

I agree with him here. Relativism is a dangerously slippery slope of self-justified apathy, and I believe people are not philosophical enough nor bright enough to discover the bullshit and oppression hidden within the ideology of “don’t rock the boat.” There needs to be a new lingo to describe what is right and what is wrong without bringing religion into it; too many religions on earth, and certainly too many political abuses of them, make the current religiously tainted moral vernacular (“Infinite Justice”) unacceptable.

Rushie suggested that Democracy was one of the ways to manifest our innate moral sense. With Democracy we can, unlike archaic religions dependent on absolute verity, adjust and improve our morality as we go along — without destroying the idea of Democracy. Slavery might have been wonderful 150 years ago, but is appalling now. We argued about it, killed each other over it, changed it, yet still retain our democracy.

Religions change, too, of course. Rushdie mentioned this, but didn’t give it the time I expected. Christians don’t stone women for adultery today, for example, nor do they beat their wives with a stick no thicker than the thumb.

In my view, these subconscious revisions of religion’s authority are done on the sly, and dysfunctionally ignore their own divine text. Such “adjustments” are entirely subtextual, never become explicit law, as in a Democracy — in other words, there’s no chance to say “Whoops. Sorry.” and move to a higher level. Eventually, divine books will internally contradict, show their age, and yet are kept that way — believers would never countenance an edit by anyone other than God himself.

I’m convinced that today we are on a threshold here, where many minds, like Rushdie’s, have advanced to a state able to articulate and obey a moral code without adopting the entirety of a religious system.

But many minds haven’t. Most people recognize the golden rule as the best piece of moral advice ever given. But with all the evidence of others getting ahead through shrewdness, a person tends to reconsider the value of such an ideal. Some folk still need supernatural help to become less selfish; and I’m okay with that.

But: I say religion as authority figure will fade. Must fade. Because if it grows, it may kill us all.

Like political parties, where a person can both believe in conservation and remain a Republican, religions may adopt a welcoming flexibility. They’ll evolve more explicitly. They won’t lose social influence, just their absolute authority. That’s what my brochure says, anyways.

I doubt this could happen in my lifetime, of course. I need only look at Lebanon — or hell, most of the Middle East — to see how far we have yet to go.

The whole interview is worth a gander. Beats the hell out of American Idol, for sure.


I have two other posts on this series, if you’re interested: The Burden of Belief, and Bill Moyers Delivers again: “Faith & Reason”.

August 16, 2006

Billmon says “trash,” I say “treasure”

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 10:10 pm

Billmon wrote:

Strictly from a humanitarian point of view, it’s both grotesque and repulsive to have to listen to Ehud Olmert, Sheikh Nasrallah and the Boy King all proclaiming victory in their nasty little war — even as the bodies are still literally being pulled out of the rubble.

He has not considered my humanitarian point of view, which is when all sides claim victory, it binds them inexorably to the truce. What “victorious” organization would dare attack again, and prove false their rhetoric on victory while confirming their own brutality?

This is a difference between me and Billmon — aside from his brain dwarfing the jumbled marble bag of mine. I know that some of it is more theater than policy, and must be regarded that way. Lebanon asked for the Shebba farms back, knowing it wouldn’t get them. Israel inserted “defensive operations” in the agreement to keep the scare on. But as we see now, everyone shouts “victory!” through their losses as if destruction were self-validating. Absurd, but a good sign.

I realize Billmon’s post was half rant, but still. Good things can happen despite the embarassing gibberish of those in power. Yes, I’d prefer that everyone compete to see who was more “grown up,” more “human,” more “compassionate” and “reasonable,” but that can happen only in my Utopia, where dead bodies in fact devalue winning. Fact of the zeitgeist is, winning — self-centered, ego-fellating winning — trumps sensibility every time.

Maybe that’s where Billmon finds his frustrated rage. He may see, in these victory cries, the opening sequence to The Last Boy Scout, where a running back needs that touchdown so bad he whips out a nine and blows away two defenders on his rush to the end zone. If only we could be more like the running back, who, instead of psychopathically raising his arms in triumph, comes to terms with his sin, removes his helmet, kneels, and squeezes fire through his own brain.

I don’t see it that way. One has to admit that stopping is something, even if leaders overcome shame with unabashed triumphalism. True, a person can’t beat the living shit out of someone then congratulate his “moral character” for curbing his desire to gouge an eye. Equally disgusting would be to dance in celebration over a writhing victim.

But these guys are politicians, abstract storytellers struggling to fashion a throughline for something that is, at is base, surreal. They can only work within their strength: delivering a more salable form of the truth, one where they aren’t revealed as thoroughly depraved nutjobs.

Therefore, I regard these silly victory shouts as a Cuckoo’s Nest form of agreeing it’s over, and can be thankful — beyond all the absurd proclamations — that we, as the caretakers of ourselves, recently received a backhanded gift, in the form of birds singing again in southern Lebanon.

August 15, 2006

Victory, spelled with a ‘P’

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,terrorism,war — secretmojo @ 12:30 am

Ceasefire is great news. And a humiliating slap in the face for all the warmongers who cheered this conflict as the chance of a lifetime.

It may or may not last. I’ve always thought a good judge of the strength of a truce is whether all sides come from the agreement claiming victory. It may be this way for Hezbollah, somewhat for Lebanon, but not for Israel. The two captured soldiers, the “reason” for the devastation in the first place, remain captured.

One more observation, and I’ll let everyone get on with their own Israel/Lebanon news saturation. After reading a bit on local reactions (here and here), a peculiar phenomenon struck me: while displaced Israelis are afraid to return to the north, Lebanese refugees are jamming up the roads heading back to their homes.

This is fascinating to me, because southern Lebanon and Beirut are decimated. Buildings turned into gravel dumps with twisted rebar poking out of them. If any Lebanese wanted to be afraid, they need only look up.

Israel hasn’t seen this kind of overbearing damage. Yet, the fear to return seems greater. Now, I don’t want this to turn into a debate about who’s the greater victim here, because the way I see it, everyone proved their humanity by honoring the ceasefire, and are victorious over the innate evil of War. Score one for sensibility and compassion.

But it is interesting how uncertainty is one of the main ingredients of fear. And how, after a certain predictability is achieved — even if that prediction is one of death and destruction — fear dissolves.

August 8, 2006

Ceasefire: the whole world minus one

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 7:44 pm

There were three, but now there’s one.

It’s a pretty crappy deal for Lebanon, who will now have to face two occupiers instead of one. They’ll be tending to both Hezbollah and Israel. And, if you’ve ever positioned yourself between two brawling guys in a bar, trust me, it’s neither fun nor easy.

Furthermore, I call it a “soft surrender” because it asks nothing of Israel but demands plenty of Lebanon. What do you expect when enemies craft peace agreements?

But I hope Lebanon takes the deal. The future may or may not work itself out, and war may explode again, but Lebanon’s getting UN forces—although Bush would like these forces to do more his bidding than Lebanon’s. And yes, I know, Bush says annoying throwaway words like “As these Lebanese and international forces deploy, the Israeli defense forces will withdraw.” These lying words are clearly not in writing, as they should be if you’re to speak them in the first place. Plus, they sound frighteningly like his highly successful “stand up/stand down” Iraq verbiage that have yet to see reality.

But I hope they take the deal anyways. Negotiate, get a couple of concessions perhaps, but take the deal. Otherwise, it gets worse for everyone, but mostly for Lebanon, who’s enduring a 6:1 kill ratio right now.

I realize the current proposal is “We’ll stop shooting if you do what we say,” but when you’ve got both a ceasefire and international troops to enforce it (sort of), take it. Otherwise, be prepared to defend the existence of your country, because this is an offer you honestly can’t refuse. And the crazies are on the verge of conflating the whole of Lebanon into a terrorist encampment, an idea oddly successful with Iraq. And everybody knows how great that’s going.

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