Friday, January 21, 2005

The Meaning and Promise of Liberty: Doing the Math

I haven’t been doing much pundit-surfing at all this week, but I imagine a lot of folks have picked up on Bush's mind-blowingly empty rhetoric. Yet Bush told us:

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, it rang as if it meant something.

Well, yesterday Bush seemed to be saying the word “liberty” as if it meant something, but that something seems a bit hard to pin down. All we seem to get is that liberty is something authored by God and spread by America. Be that as it may, we can still have a look at how the word is used in his speech and get some idea, if not of its meaning, of it's function.

In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.
That's great. We're all ears.

I In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.
Assuming that freedom and liberty are synonyms here, liberty is a necessary condition for justice, as well as human rights. What does that mean?
For all you fans of 10th grade math out there, we’ll do it this way:

Let L=Liberty
Let J=Justice
Let HR=Human rights

~ L --> ~ J ^ ~ HR

II Liberty will come to those who love it.
Here Bush might be reasonably taken to mean that love of liberty is a prerequisite for liberty itself. So:
Let LOL=Love of liberty

~LOL--> ~ L
~ L -->~ J ^ ~ HR

~LOL--> ~ J ^ ~ HR

III Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though this time in history […]We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery.
Here, Bush is implying that questioning the global appeal of "liberty" is tantamount to the acceptance of permanent slavery. Not questioning liberty per se, but it's global appeal. Liberty itself is of course undefined as yet, except that it is something spread by America through the will of it's author, the Almighty. Certainly, an acceptance of slavery is not compatible with love of liberty. So:

Let Q= questioning the global appeal of liberty

Q--> ~LOL
~LOL --> ~ L
~ L --> ~ J ^ ~ HR
Q-->~J ^ ~ HR


Friday, January 07, 2005

Vote or Die

Michael Rubin over at the National Review, perhaps another pundit with a close relationship to The Pragmatic Thinker, has identified that certain something that leads to the emergence of a real democracy: “The worsening atmosphere is driving the Iraqi desire to vote.”

Now all the cynical critics of the war can see that 100,000 dead Iraqis, more than 1,000 dead Americans, a depleted military without the resources to intervene in Darfur, and the ire of the rest of the world are not the consequences of deranged and deluded thinking or poor planning. And if they are, so be it: we now have fertile ground for democracy. Iraq has become P. Diddy’s wet dream:

Insurgents and terrorists may kill Iraqis lining up to vote. They may assassinate winning candidates. But only through voting, can Iraqis choose their own government, one that will have the moral authority to undertake remedies forbidden by professional diplomats and intelligence operatives who have had trouble letting go of the old order.

Call me idealistic, but I just can’t get over that misplaced comma after “But only through voting…”

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Pragmatic Thinker

"You could argue, maybe this is God's hand, because some of their brethren struck Christian America. Maybe God speaks the truth but waits. Seeks the truth and waits. I don't know. You could argue: God struck them."
--Michael Savage on the (Muslim) Tsunami victims: 12.31.04

If there is a funny side to this, it's that one of the nutjob formerly known as Michael Weiner's advertisers is called "the pragmatic thinker."

(You can find the others here).


Polonius has suggested that I keep the seat warm for him over the coming months. I’ve had mixed feelings about the whole thing, after my own blog went the way of so many others sometime around the first week in November. You know the story: I got mad, lost focus, drank too much, started wearing a bow tie, and was eventually confronted on live television by Jon Stewart, who begged me to stop. Then Blogger pulled my column, publicly siding with him. What a world.

But Polonius has asked, and I must answer. All you, er, rabbiteers who have come to anticipate the incisive wit and depth of information this site has come to offer can continue logging on to find--at the very least--complete sentences. Think of me as a screen saver, keeping you mildly interested until Polonius re-installs.

But for now, I gotta go. Crossfire's on.

Monday, January 03, 2005

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

So I'm afraid I'll be signing off for a while--at least until May, and maybe even longer. Why? For one of the following reasons:

(a) I am an undercover operative with the U.S. Secret Service, and I'm on the verge of cracking a major drug ring, but to do so I'll need to go undercover like Kiefer Sutherland did during that interminable sequence of 24 episodes where the Mexican girl got shot at the end for no frikkin' reason.

(b) I just can't do the research any more. If I have to read the National Review website one more time, my head is going to pop like a water balloon.

(c) I am going into hiding to avoid agents of Jerry Falwell, who threatened my life after I revealed the existence of Falwell Confidential to a breathless world.

(d) I am actually Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), and I'm tired of the whole facade.

Or possibly it's none of those. Anyway thanks for stopping by; you've been a great crowd.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Predictions for 2005

Okay, I'll play too. Here are a few random guesses:

Rehnquist will resign, and Clarence Thomas will be appointed Chief Justice. During the confirmation process, Democrats will relentlessly be called racist by Republican surrogates; Republican elected officials will for the most part refuse to distance themselves from these attacks. Dick Durbin will give a really good speech on the Senate floor explaining why they're wrong.

To fill Thomas' seat, Bush will nominate a Latino, because that way he can accuse Democrats of being racist again.

Donald Rumsfeld will continue to insist that things are going well in Iraq.

The new Harry Potter book will be somewhat disappointing.

Bush will push his immigration initiative a bit, but his guest-worker proposal will get so many anti-immigrant provisions attached to it that even the guest workers will start opposing it. Nonetheless, right-wingers will oppose anything that even sounds like it might help immigrants. After the proposal tanks (this will actually be sometime in 2006) the media will blithely announce that Bush has helped his standing among Latinos.

Because life is unfair, nothing particularly bad will happen to Bob Novak.

Barack Obama will give some really good speeches on the Senate floor.

Dr. James Dobson, head nut at Focus on the Family, will choke on something over dinner but fail to wonder whether God is warning him to cut it out.

Alan Alda will not become President on The West Wing--it'll be that other guy, the one Josh likes.

Senate Republicans will fail to pass the "nuclear option," their weird plan to end Democrats' filibusters by having Dick Cheney declare a rules change. They will be pretty angry about this.

Rush Limbaugh will say something racist, and not lose a single advertiser.

There will be negative stories in the national media about Rudy Giuliani, because right-wingers are worried about him running for president and will dig up some of the mountains of dirt on him just to give us all an early taste.

Bush will spend some quality time on vacation.

Thousands of authors trying to get their books published will read The DaVinci Code, and feel their universe stop making sense as Robert Langdon, the stupidest protagonist since The Sound and the Fury, gets everything explained to him five times and still fails to understand the obvious plot twists.

In desperation, some of these aspiring authors will pick up Dan Brown's first book, Angels and Demons. They will be rewarded with koan-like sentences such as "The thought was inconceivable" or the one where Langdon "falls into step with" a character who's in a wheelchair. Most of these would-be authors will give up writing and begin drinking heavily, or vomiting.

More "torture memos" will leak, but people won't get that upset about it.

Michael Moore's new interest in health-care will cause him to be called a communist by Ann Coulter and Michele Malkin.

Hundreds of American soldiers will die in Iraq. Hundreds or even thousands of Iraqis will die, too. American public opinion will continue to swing against the war, but not by more than five or ten percentage points, because it's hard for people to admit the war is wrong when so many people have suffered so much for it.

Meanwhile, in Heaven, Jerry Orbach will make some extremely inappropriate jokes to the recently deceased about the way they died. In spite of themselves, they'll laugh and groan at the same time, and feel a little better about things.

The rest of us will get through somehow.

The Fifth Circuit House of Horrors

Creakings, as of old wood, and groanings, as of souls long tormented, rise quavering through the dim, foggy air. A ghoulish old caretaker gives a yellow-toothed, humorless grin to his nine customers. “Welcome,” he hisses, “to the Fifth Circuit House of Horrors, Frights and Chills.”

Antonin gulps, and turns to Old Bill. “Bill,” he says, “maybe it’s better you wait here. With your health…” A moan echoes from the tottering structure looming before them. “You’re right,” says Bill. “I’m not up to this. I’ll sit here on this bench.”

The eight go on without him. The caretaker takes their tickets, and waves them into two rusty cars. Stephen, Ruth, David and John Paul climb gingerly into the first. Antonin, Clarence, Anthony and Sandra Day settle in to the second. The bars clang down across their laps. “I don’t much like that,” Sandra Day says, her strong voice sounding small and hollow as it echoes out into the gloom. The cars lurch forward with a screech, metal grating on metal.

A recorded voice comes over the speakers, the deep voice of a troubled old man. “Welcome,” it says. “You are entering the Fifth Circuit. Leave your hope at the door.” Doors crash shut behind them, and a cold breeze brushes their cheeks in the darkness. Anthony looks around in alarm, and draws his coat a little closer around him.

“If you listen close,” the spectral voice says, “you can hear the whisperings of the ghost of Charles Pickering.” An eerie murmur arises; a hushed, indistict, worried sound that is not quite human. “They say he has unfinished business here,” the speakers intone, and a series of bright lights and banging sounds startle the company.

The cars screech around a corner. Suddenly the air is very warm. A giant figure with bulging muscles and a costume of black leather straps holds a gargantuan battle-axe over the neck of a whimpering Mexican. Wailing faces become visible in the background, arms reaching out as if trying to grab the axe and stay its fall—the desperate faces of the International Court of Justice.

“What’s that, Mr. Medellin?” the giant booms, sarcastically. “You want to talk to your consulate?” The axe rises up, and Stephen notices that the giant has scrawled the word “consulate” on it, in what look like letters of blood. “Here you go!” The axe falls, and the Mexican’s head drops into the little basket. The faces of the ICJ wail louder.

“Did you see that?” gasps Antonin. “International law!” Antonin’s face is pale, and quickly begins to go green. Clarence throws a reassuring arm around his shoulders. “Don’t worry,” Clarence says. “There’s no such thing as international law.”

Antonin nods quickly, as if trying to convince himself. Clarence repeats himself like a parent singing a lullaby: “There’s no such thing as international law…there’s no such thing as international law…there’s no such thing as international law…”

The cars move on, and creak past a filmy window, opening on a tranquil view of the outside. A river is visible in the distance, and Ruth thinks wistfully of the First Circuit, where the winters are harsh but mental illness is blessedly rare.

Suddenly a fist comes from nowhere and bangs on the window, and a white staring face lurches up behind it—the crazed eyes of Priscilla Owen, mouth open, bellowing “LET ME IN!” The company starts back in horror as more wide-eyed faces appear at the window, fists banging.

Sandra Day notices the word “filibuster” engraved on the window, just below a great crack beginning to snake its way across the glass. “This glass isn’t going to hold!” she shouts. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

She jumps out of the car and runs along the little walkway next to the track. But after three steps, she stops in horror. The track and the walkway dead-end, dropping away into a horrible void.

Clarence and Antonin are at the window now, their face inches away from the glass and the horrible faces outside. Clarence turns to face them, his face strangely unperturbed by the screeching and hammering just inches from his head.

“I’m afraid no one’s going anywhere,” Clarence says, an eerie grin playing across his face. Antonin flips a big switch. There is the distant hum of electricity flickering off. Lights flicker off behind them. The group is lit now only by the moonlight filtering in past the screeching creatures at the window. “Things are going to be a little different from now on,” Clarence says. “You might as well get used to the place. And to calling me Chief.”

The glass shatters. The ghouls swarm in.