The Everlasting Phelps

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

MEMRI: Cartoons

December 31st, 2002

MEMRI: Cartoons

This is something that everyone needs to take a look at. If you need a little perspective, compare them to these Nazi cartoons. Of course, you might want to keep a little history of Arabs and Nazism in mind.

Increased suicides worry Marines

December 30th, 2002

HoustonChronicle.com – Increased suicides worry Marines

Warning! Cognative dissonance! Take a look at these two paragraphs:

The Christmas and New Year’s period and the weeks following can be fraught with isolation and emotional distress for both civilians and service personnel alike. In an advisory sent to Marine commanders last year, service mental health officials warned that the post-holiday period especially can be most “tumultuous” for people contemplating suicide. “January can bring serious financial burden and feelings of isolation and therefore requires our closest attention,” the memo warned.

People kill themselves because they are isolated from those they care about and because they can’t get the things they want to do done. Gotcha.

Gaskin said there was no special cause for the recent increase in suicides and that the additional deployments and transfers linked to increased anti-terrorist operations weren’t a factor. Instead, he said, the causes are “the same old stuff everybody else faces,” including relationship problems, legal problems, financial problems, alcohol and drug abuse.

Okay, so… erugh? Increased deployments have nothing to do with it? Stupid! You so stupid! People have relationship problems because long distance doesn’t work, and Afghanistan and Turkey is sure as hell long distance. Legal problems acrue because you aren’t at home to handle them, and rest assured, the majority of these legal problems are divorces. The average person is only involved in two kinds of legal problems — divorces and traffic accidents. Financial problems? Try keeping up with your bills from 5000 miles away. Alcohol and drug abuse? Extended deployment. Nothing to do, no one that you care for around, nothing to spend your money on, nothing to do but try to escape the only way you can — in your own head.

We are deploying our fighting men and women too much, for too little. Clinton started it, with his policy of using the Armed Services as political distractions and brushfire firemen, and Bush has continued this by refusing to stop these little stopgap measures, and instead instituting the War on Freedom — I mean, War on Terrorism.

Rangel calls for mandatory military service – Dec. 30, 2002

December 30th, 2002

CNN.com – Rangel calls for mandatory military service – Dec. 30, 2002

This is the stupidest idea since “Rock Against Drugs”. Someone needs to get a stick, and hit him and say “Noooooo.” Then they need to rub his face in the carpet of the House Chamber, like rubbing a dog’s nose in shit. “No NO no no NOOOO NO!” How many different ways do you have to say “Slavery is wrong, m’kay?”

Sharon gives army free hand to kill

December 30th, 2002

ArabNews: Sharon gives army free hand to kill

I don’t mind eating crow as long as it is prepared well. This time, Arab News actually has better coverage of the fighting than Haaretz. The Haaretz account gives a matter of fact view of the killings, (which, to be fair, is in line with thier matter of fact reporting of Palestinian killings of Israelis, both Hebrew and Arab) while Arab News gives a good account of the killings by both sides (the eating crow part, since they usually white-wash or completely ignore the Arab killings.)

The only issue that I have with the Arab News account is that it misleadingly juxtaposes an alleged plan to increase the pace of assasinations of terrorists to the accidental killings of the children in Israel over the last few days. I wasn’t able to discern from either account the disposition of the protesters. Being an American, I tend to think of a protest as something involving picket signs and a coffee station set up on the side. My intellect has to remind me when I read “protest” in this context, it usually involves mobs, weapons, stone throwing and lynchings. (Before you read stone-throwing the wrong way, remember that this is how David slew Goliath and Cain slew Abel.)

The Haaretz account says that there was stone throwing involved in the protest, but that is as far as it goes.

I was surprised to see a much more in depth account of the actions of the Arab terrorists in Israel in the Arab News account. I was surpised that the story of the RPG attack wasn’t covered more in the Israeli press that I see, but I’m not shocked, given the American policy of covering up terrorist attacks if at all possible. Perhaps the Israelis are taking a page from our playbook.

Christmas Thoughts

December 24th, 2002

Originally posted to INTJ-Open

I was listening to the radio this morning, and it made me appreciate working around litigators, because as I have said before, there isn’t room for a lot of bullshitting in the personalities of litigators. The subject on the radio was the gradual banning of any mention of “Christmas” in public schools in America. It has gone far enough in some places that they have even put a prohibition on “Holiday” as it is derived from “Holy Day” and they are down to “Season’s Greetings”.

I work across from a Buhddist. There are several Jews on my floor. (No Muslims on my floor. We have some in the firm, but I rarely pass them in the hall. Sorry, Mexi.) Several atheists. All of them, at some point or another this month, have wished me a Merry Christmas. This doesn’t seem to have damaged their psyche or faith. I’ll say “Happy Haunakah” to a Jew. (If I can remember when it starts.) I’ll say “Happy Ramadan” to a Muslim. Not for a whole month; you guys need to think of some shorter holidays, but I’ll catch the start and stop. You aren’t validating any beliefs when you say something like that; you are just wishing someone well in an activity that is important to them.

From a legal standpoint, I’m not sure that this assault on Christmas is the wrong thing legally or morally in public schools. This issue is one of the very reasons that I support the separation of school and state. No one who doesn’t celebrate Christmas should have to pay for it’s celebration. On the other hand, no Christian or Muslim or Jewish child should have to think that his religion is something that he has to hide, like it is dirty. This wasn’t a problem until the last 100 years, when we decided it was the job of the state to educate the children. Give that job back to the church, whatever church that might be.

I’m at work today, and as I was driving in early (and I’m not a morning person) I was trying to figure out why I decided to do so. I realized that it is because I actually enjoy coming to work. I have a lot of relatives coming in to visit my parents over the holidays, and while I love my kin, I can’t take them in large doses. They are all Kentucky hillbillies, and they are possibly some of the loudest people in creation. And that is by Texas standards. (Matt, think Northern gits only not as sophisticated.)

I spent too much money this year, and I didn’t buy gifts for enough different people. They will just have to get over it. I bought for the people who matter to me. I actually considered buying a fruit-cake and cutting it up and mailing to different people on the list, but I figured that there are several nuts on this list that I wouldn’t give my address to, so I’m not going to ask you for yours. I’ll eat the fruit-cake myself. (Bought two Colin Street Bakery fruitcakes from Corsicana. They are the only real fruitcakes in the world. Sent one to kin in Oklahoma, and I’m eating the other myself.

I know that I’m in the Christmas spirit, because I had a chance to run down a pigeon in the parking lot half an hour ago, and I actually tapped the brake to let him live. Merry fucking Christmas. I think I’m going to sneak some whiskey into that den of Baptists tonight and tomorrow as a gift to myself.

Looking at Islam with blinkers of ignorance and prejudice

December 23rd, 2002

ArabNews: Looking at Islam with blinkers of ignorance and prejudice

Well, I read it, and all I can say is, “Huh?” This article does a good job of making a portrait of the Western view of Arabia, but it does absolutely nothing to try to refute any of it.

In fairness, I think that his intended audience is Muslim Arabs, and he may be assuming that what he is showing is patently false, but as a non-Arab reader, it looks to me like he is pulling the old “refute the argument by ridiculing it rather than addressing it” routine.

As Edward Said has said, it is impossible for any researcher or for the Western media to write of Arabs or Islam or even to imagine them outside the preconceived limits set by Western ideas of Arabs. This also represents the new conservatives’ central frame of thinking in the United States — and provides the moral dimension of America’s hegemony and an introduction into the American political decision-making related to this region. These decisions are not made in a vacuum but are instead based on inaccurate decisions on the state of the region, its traditions, habits and culture. The American political mind tends to deal with Arab reality on the basis of inaccurate assumptions — unfortunately however, to too many of the American political decision-makers, these assumptions appear to be facts.

So? Yes, we treat our assumptions as facts. That is the point of an assumption. That doesn’t mean that the assumption isn’t true.

Arab-Islamic culture is one that is incapable of change and innovation. One of the most prominent Orientalists in the US, Gustav von Gronbaum, finds no difficulty in portraying Islam as anti-humanity and unable to change or gain self-knowledge or objectivity. He says, “It is essential to realize that Islamic civilization as an entity does not share our principal aspirations. It is unconcerned with studying the cultures of others as an end in itself or as a means to an improved understanding of their natures and history. If this were true of modern Islam, one might link it to Islam’s turbulence which does not allow it to look further than itself unless forced to do so; this, however, goes back to the past and one may link it to the anti-human tendency of this civilization.”

This sort of fundamentalist and racist thinking, based on the myth of the existence of an outright contradiction between two opposites that have no common denominator, has affected ideas on Arab and Islamic societies. Therefore, many modern Western researchers are comfortable recycling this train of thought with the aim of proving the imaginary and politicized contradiction between what they think is fundamental in their personal identity and what is fundamental in Arab-Islamic culture.

First, this isn’t racist. Racist is a scare word that is again being used improperly. At best, it is ethnic bigotry, but our author does nothing to refute this assumption. Exactly how has the Arab world tried to enter the twentieth century (never mind the twenty-first) other than supporting Nazis, drilling oil, and driving Benz’s?

P.J. Valikiotis does not hesitate to presume that the contradictions between Western and Arab civilization are sharp and eternal. Judith Miller does not hesitate to assume that Islam is incompatible with human rights. Daniel Pipes uses the term “fundamentalist Islam” and “Islam” interchangeably. He also makes a comparison between “fundamentalist Islam” on the one hand and communism and fascism on the other. He says: “While fundamentalist Islam differs in its details from the utopian ideology, it is very similar in both scope and aims. Like communism and fascism, it portrays a pioneering ideology and a comprehensive program for human betterment and for building a new society and dominating it completely and setting up cadres ready and eager for bloodshed.”

Pipes is wrong how?

Unconsciously people become prisoners because the trap they fall into is an ideological one rather than a physical one. They believe that they are thinking and acting and writing on the basis of the objective realities of Arab and Islamic societies when in fact they are thinking, acting and writing based on their view or understanding or imagination of those societies.

Sometimes, on the other hand, people consciously try to use moral relativism that they would never dream of applying to Arab society on the relationship between Arabia and the West. Moral relativism is deplorable, and most deplorable when coming from a society that practices the absolute moralism of Islam. I have no problem with absolute morality; hipocracy disgusts me.

The Everlasting Phelps

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.