Saturday, January 02, 2010

Saturday Rock Show

Ah . . .

Oh My (No) God

As someone who has been dealing with these issues for the past two decades, hearing the same, first-year undergraduate arguments about God's existence, about the nefarious social influence of religion, and about the possibility of a secular ethic is really quite tiresome. Yet, at "On Faith", Sally Quinn gives space to Herb Silverman, who founded and is President of something called the Secular Coalition of America. Wow, how counter-cultural.

As to the first, that is God's existence, my response anymore is, "Who cares?" God's existence is no more dependent upon some kind of argument deemed "rational" or "logical" than is the existence of gravity, evolution, or second law of thermodynamics. Whether or not an individual, or a whole planet for that matter, believes in God or not no more renders God non-existent than a refusal to accept the evidence for evolution somehow renders the theory invalid. Most first-year undergraduates who take some kind of survey class in western thought run up against the same arguments Silverman offers here. While they might be exhilarating to an 18-year-old who is hearing them for the first time, their novelty wore off a long time ago.

As to the question of "belief" and its social dimension, I cannot imagine an issue for which I care less than perhaps the previous one. All social phenomena have both good and bad aspects, religion among the rest. Since Silverman has no idea what he's talking about when he speaks of belief, as it operates for Christian believers at any rate; since Silverman seems to think that Christianity is the sum total of religious expression in the United States (odd, considering his surname), his argument is nonsensical from the get-go, because other religions define belief, and the content thereof in completely different ways, and live it out in ways that are alien to the Christian mind-set.

Finally, is it surprising to anyone, after nearly 200 years of doing so, that there are ethical codes that are quite successful that have nothing at all to do with God? It shouldn't be, at least to anyone who has been paying attention. Yet, to judge from the readers comments, as well as Silverman's, one finds the idea somehow fresh and new to some people. Again, it might be a good idea for them to return to undergraduate school and take a survey class in Enlightenment, Romantic, and modernist/post-modernist thought.

Like conservatives who spew out gobbledygook, the best way to treat nonsense like this is not to respond to it, but just point and laugh. When adults are carrying on a conversation, and a child interrupts, we usually stare for a moment then carry on as usual. Best way to treat garbage like this as well.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Kinda Sorta Agreeing With Joe Klein

OK, so not completely. Yet, there is something about his basic critique of some parts of the left-wing on the internet (I hate the non-word "blogosphere") that rings true.

To be fair to my ideological soul-mates, I will offer up part of his critique that I find to be ten pounds of offal in a two-pound bag.
In the snarkier precincts of the left-wing blogosphere, mainstream journalists like me are often called villagers. The reference, so far as I can tell, has to do with isolation: we live in this little village on the Potomac — actually, I don't, but no matter — constantly intermingling over hors d'oeuvres, deciding who is "serious" (a term of derision in the blogosphere) and who is not, regurgitating spin spoon-fed by our sources or conjuring a witless conventional wisdom that has nothing to do with reality as it is lived outside the village.

While not a huge fan of the invocation of "the Village", of the epithet "serious" used ironically, to denote not just a lack of seriousness, but a lack of any insight or moral depth (most of the time, at least when atrios uses it, the reference is to someone like John Bolton, who is as dumb as a canned ham), as Klein describes its use, the short-hand critique of the elitism of some parts of the press corps is spot on. It is insular. It is parochial to the point of self-parody at times. It ignores substantive debate, ideological diversity, and even the pretense of openness to a kind of People magazine etiquette of who's in, who's out, who's up, who's down, and policy is for nerds and Al Gore (who seems to be their natural leader). Klein is the archetype of this kind of thing; ignorant of any serious understanding of policy, even to the point of revealing that a criticism he authored of a bill was done without even having read the bill even as he accused an interlocutor of ignorance, Klein is a bit of a joke (thus the shortened version of his online nom de guerre, "Joke Line").

Yet, there is something correct about the next paragraph (the author shudders):
But there is a great irony here: villagery is a trope more applicable to those making the accusation than to those being snarked upon. The left-wing blogosphere, at its worst, is a claustrophobic hamlet of the well educated, less interested in meaningful debate than the "village" it mocks. (At its best, it is a source of clever and well-informed anti-Establishment commentary.) Indeed, it resembles nothing so much as that other, more populous hamlet, the right-wing Fox News and Limbaugh slum. Hilariously, as we stagger from one awful decade into the next, there has been a coagulation of these extremes — a united front against the turgid ceremonies of legislative democracy, like compromise, and disdain for the politician most responsible for nudging our snarled checks and balances toward action, Barack Obama. The issue that has brought them together is opposition to the Senate's health care–reform bill, which makes some sense on the right, but none at all on the left.

This is a criticism I have been leveling for a while now - the left, in the end, wants to set aside democracy in order to be no different than the Republican majority as its hubristic height, steam-rolling opponents, shutting down debate and discussion, refusing to listen or consider alternatives. This last is particularly galling, as there is no appreciation for the reality that opponents might be moved to think and act in different ways not out of evil intent or spite or ignorance, but rather because they are different. One of the things I used to like about liberals was an appreciation for difference, an acceptance of others as inhabiting a different space, yet with rights and privileges we all share. Instead, the left can be as small-minded, bigoted, ignorant, and insistent on its prerogatives as the right. The pretense to being "reality-based" disappears like water in a volcano when one confronts, day after day, some of the truly ignorant, small-minded, thoughtless nonsense on the left.

I hate to begin 2010 with a criticism of the left; yet, it seems to me that this continues to be our biggest weakness. We have no idea the power we yield, should we choose to use it positively. Instead, we gripe and mutter and complain and desire nothing more or less than the rest of the world recognize, instantly, how wise and insightful and even comprehensive is our intelligence, our politics, and even our humor. I guess I always considered humility to be a liberal virtue, yet one sees almost none of that on the left. Rather, it is an almost constant chorus of how much the entire system is in hock to the real power-brokers, the Party rejected in two straight national elections - the Republicans. One tires of such repeated bullshit after a while, to be honest.

And it is just that - bullshit. The biggest thing the Democratic Party has going for it right now is the support of the American people; while it is true that the American people are frustrated, even occasionally angry, we are in the midst of a severe recession/depression (depending on where you live). A bit of ennui is to be expected. The American people, for all they occasionally go off the rails (two terms for George W. Bush was a bit much), have not only smartened up, they have wisened up. For all that there are legitimate criticisms to be leveled at the Obama Administration (and I have made some), one can hardly argue that we are no better off now than we were, say four years ago, politically speaking.

We have the opportunity to make serious, sweeping changes. What we need is patience, wisdom, and a certain canny ruthlessness to bring it about. Rather than bitch that the game is fixed, demanding therefore a change in the rules (which isn't going to happen) - beat 'em at their own game. Man up, grow a pair, play the game the way it's played and by doing so, show the opposition they really don't run the show. Instead it's more of the same, tired nonsense about corporate control and corporate money and the idiocy of the traditional media. Last time I checked, all that corporate money and influence didn't stop a whole bunch of liberals from being elected to Congress and even the White House. All the same, if you don't like corporate access, then deny them access not through changed laws, but through better access for yourself and those like you.

One hopes that 2010 will bring about some serious changes in the American political landscape, not the least of them being a bit more of an adult attitude among those on the left.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward - Advice For Liberals They Won't Read Or Heed

Since no one reads my blog, really, I doubt this will have any impact. As 2009 comes to the curtain call, I thought I would put my not-quite-one-penny's worth of advice for liberals out there.

Stop your damn whining.

I have been reading several long-time liberal bloggers - digby, Glenn Greenwald, Dean Baker - and it is amazing to me how little their mindset has changed since I first started blogging in the summer of 2006. Two straight liberal Democratic Congressional victories, an overwhelming liberal Democratic Presidential victory, and their entire world still centers on how much power the Republicans have, how much of a threat the right wing continues to pose, not just on a day to day basis as obstructionists to the Democratic agenda, but over time as very real danger to the Democratic majorities in Congress. There is the ubiquitous complaint about the media its mindlessness. There is the on-going idea that the religious right will somehow emerge from its flapping and flailing, still leaderless and agenda-less, as a power to be reckoned with.

Power is, for the most, an illusion. While there are very real accouterments that accompany very real power - money and guns, for the most part - they have little to do with the power the Republicans continue to wield over far too many liberals. I fear that even liberals and Democratic bloggers refuse to leave behind the mindset of defeatism, of a minority beset on all sides by forces ready and eager to thwart their search for a better society by evil enemies and purblind, fair-weather fake-friends.

It is one thing to bring forward specific criticisms of the President, of the Congressional Democrats, of their various strengths and weaknesses and mistakes and occasional correct actions. It is quite another to continue to act as if liberals were not, in fact, in power. Just because a few insiders in Washington continue to pretend that Republicans still run the show; just because the Washington Post only quotes insane Republicans like Peter King and Pete Hoekstra when, for example, some nincompoop tries to set his underwear on fire on a plane in no way means that either King or Hoekstra are movers and shakers. Just because Meet The Press continues to showcase the risibly nonsensical Newt Gingrich in no way means he has any power or authority.

As of right now, the Republicans still have some kind of odd power over far too many, not so much in reality as in the minds of liberal bloggers who believe, despite all sorts of evidence, that the right is poised to take over the Universe, having spoiled any chance liberals might have had of making the world a little better.

Please, for God's sake - stop it. Stop acting like losers. Stop talking like losers. Stop making the impossibly perfect the enemy of the very real not too shabby. Stop making inferred accusations that the Obama Administration is, in reality, no different from the Bush Administration, or even the Clinton Administration.

Just, for God's sake, for just one brief moment, act like winners, not whiners.

Make a resolution for 2010 that you will no longer allow the big scary Newt to have any power through the really stupid things he says on Twitter. Stop worrying that John Boehner is, through some kind of Rovian alchemy, going to emerge as the Speaker of the House in January, 2011, because it isn't going to happen. Finally, look at the actual evidence of the past year and consider how far we have come compared to any time in the previous eight years. So what if Obama's election didn't usher in a new millennium of good will to all? We are, for all there have been all kinds of frustrations (including with the President and members of the Congressional Democratic caucus), far better off than at any time since the Big Dog left office in January, 2001.

Most of all, get over yourselves. Move on. The times have changed, yet you all write as if it were still 2004 or 2005. The best way to keep another from having power over you is to refuse to grant them that power. Point and laugh at the occasional brashness and boldness of someone acting as if they have power, to be sure. Continuing to cower in the corners, or complain of Republican hypocrisy, or whine because Newt Gingrich gets more TV face time than some liberals grants these folks far too much power.

It also betrays a mindset, implying that all these folks really want is their own space on the Sunday morning blabfests, rather than fostering their own, alternative sources of public discourse.

I close with the words with which I opened. I know few will read this, and those who do will find all sorts of reasons to disagree with pretty much everything I have written. So what? Finding someone like digby and Glenn Greenwald back in the summer of 2006 was really quite wonderful; reading them today, however, when they seem to do no more than recycle the same points they made then makes me wonder if they understand how big a victory liberals have won. What they haven't done is capitalize on that victory. I guess it really is more fun to be a persecuted minority. . .

The Terror Of Isolation

Facebook friend, author, reviewer, essayist, and Husker Du fan Scott McLemee linked to this essay by Tony Judt in the latest New York Review of Books. It is the first in what promises to be an on-going series of reflections on Judt's life with ALS. This particular essay concerns Judt's reflections on what it is like, for him, as he is, to go to bed. Here is just a bit:
I leave bedtime until the last possible moment compatible with my nurse's need for sleep. Once I have been "prepared" for bed I am rolled into the bedroom in the wheelchair where I have spent the past eighteen hours. With some difficulty (despite my reduced height, mass, and bulk I am still a substantial dead weight for even a strong man to shift) I am maneuvered onto my cot. I am sat upright at an angle of some 110° and wedged into place with folded towels and pillows, my left leg in particular turned out ballet-like to compensate for its propensity to collapse inward. This process requires considerable concentration. If I allow a stray limb to be mis-placed, or fail to insist on having my midriff carefully aligned with legs and head, I shall suffer the agonies of the damned later in the night.

I am then covered, my hands placed outside the blanket to afford me the illusion of mobility but wrapped nonetheless since—like the rest of me—they now suffer from a permanent sensation of cold. I am offered a final scratch on any of a dozen itchy spots from hairline to toe; the Bi-Pap breathing device in my nose is adjusted to a necessarily uncomfortable level of tightness to ensure that it does not slip in the night; my glasses are removed...and there I lie: trussed, myopic, and motionless like a modern-day mummy, alone in my corporeal prison, accompanied for the rest of the night only by my thoughts.

I am reminded of that anti-war classic Johnny Got His Gun, about a young man severely wounded in battle, unable to communicate with the outside world save through nodding his head in Morse Code. Judt's reflections on his condition made me think of that, as well as the terror of the kind of isolation of which he writes. Deprived not just any ability to move, he is deprived of something far more basic - the ability to get that most basic necessity, simple contact and communication with another human being. While all the physical constraints of the disorder surely frustrate and even lead him to depression, what comes through even more for me is the terror of isolation, and Judt's courage in the face of that isolation.

Of all the torments visited upon human beings, the forced isolation from any kind of communication with our fellow human beings may be the most terrifying. Given that Judt seems to understand the gulf between himself and others will only widen with time, he sends these dispatches from behind the darkening curtain of his body to let the world know that he still lives, he still thinks. He still is. Such a cry from the depths is the stuff of true heroism, of true humanity, and I applaud him and look forward to more of these essays. I also want him to know that, while night seems to settle like a wall between him and his fellows, this article has reached one small island, and being someone who is up most nights anyway, will be with him in spirit, wishing and hoping his fear and terror may recede just a bit. More than anything, I want him to know that his essay has rendered him no longer alone.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Morally Uncentered Reading

Serious reading, as in the kind that renders reviews, is usually something I leave to others. I have definite views of the role of fiction, and very definite views on my own idiosyncratic tastes and ways of reading. Stumbling upon this kind of discussion, then, frustrates the bejesus out of me. Comparing Shakespeare to Bunyan is difficult at the best of times; they were very different authors, pursuing very different agendas, with very different styles of writing. One can, to be sure, prefer one to the other for any number of reasons; on matters moral, however, I cannot imagine preferring one over the other. Especially, as George Scialabba clarifies in a comment, in the arena of moral imagination, and the way their deployment of language reflects a sense of heroism and grandeur.

First of all, those notions would be foreign to both Bunyan and Shakespeare. Bunyan's Pilgrim was no hero, but a type. That Bunyan saw his pilgrim moving through a Manichaean universe with a sword of justice and a shield of righteousness at his side does not make him heroic, just a baroque Puritan knight-errant. That Shakespeare's characters recognize the moral ambiguities of the dramatic worlds they inhabit is not a lack of moral imagination, but a recognition that these are characters that have to act, and react, to specific plot points. Shakespeare was a playwright before he was a poet. His writing was nothing if not functional; banal, perhaps, but even the best writers are not above banality if it can illumine both character and action.

Finally, to rest upon moral imagination as the final arbiter of what makes one author, poet, or playwright better than another is a fool's game. Especially as we enter the modern, post-Enlightenment and Romantic eras, writers are nothing if not the purveyors of a certain moral sensibility; the best writers, while first and foremost interested in telling a story, are also telling a story about people we have to recognize, including as moral agents. Whether it is the cut-and-dry morality of Bunyan, or the far more ambivalent sense of good and evil one encounters in Shakespeare, we must find something recognizably human about those we encounter, or we as readers or viewers are lost. While I will not gainsay George's preference for Bunyan, I will most definitely insist that Shakespeare's moral imagination, while certainly "pedestrian", is preferable for all that. One makes ethical decisions with what is at hand, even at the best of times. The best characters in Shakespeare have as simple a moral universe as Pilgrim, which is why they far too often are supporting characters rather than leads. While Hamlet wrestles with "what to do", Horatio looks on and listens far more than offers advice. Yet, at the end of the play, with the bodies lying around in heaps, it becomes clear that Horatio has a far better, and more clear, moral sense that Hamlet, his uncle, or mother, ever did. Yet, precisely for that reason, Horatio as a lead character in a play would be dull indeed. Dramatic conflict doesn't come from moral clarity (except perhaps when it is coupled with poor judgment) but from moral ambiguity. With that in mind, I prefer neither one to the other, but read them both for what they are.

The Musical Decade

With all the year-end and decade-end reviews - most of them quite depressing, to fit the times, one supposes - I thought I would do something entirely different. The past ten years has been for me one of extreme pleasure as I discovered and rediscovered all sorts of music out there, got back in to seeing bands live, and generally celebrated my own particular obsession.

When the decade began, I was still not much in a musical frame of mind. Busy beginning a family, still settling in to life in the Midwest rather than the south, and only tentatively getting back in touch with the wider world, I had a hangover from my own belief that the second half of the '90's was a period when popular music really and truly, yea verily, sucked. Two events, however, were pivotal for getting my mind back in musical mode. First was Ken Burns' Jazz, which not only managed to tick off the right people, but present American's signature musical form as something beautiful and, most of all, accessible. The second thing that happened was, in 2001, I started DJing as a part-time job. The extra cash spurred a musical buying spree that focused my attention on what I'd been missing in my exile in the southland.

Jazz, as a piece of history, isn't without its flaws; it isn't without those moments that make one want to groan. While I appreciate the depth of understanding of the music that someone like Gary Giddins brings to the table, that Wynton Marsalis can offer, one would have liked other perspectives as well. I suppose an early review I read in The Nation is correct. At the time he began to assemble the documentary Burns was relatively ignorant of the style. He turned to a few sources to construct his narrative. In the same way that he managed to rely far too heavily on George Will (!!!) for his Baseball documentary which skewed the general narrative, so, too, the reliance on just a few secondary narrative sources created problems for Jazz. For example, the idea that Miles Davis decided to try his hand at using electric and even later electronic instruments in his ensembles solely because he liked Sly & The Family Stone, the money they made, and the women who threw themselves as Sly is not only small-minded, it neglects the possibility that Miles saw musical possibilities in what became known as fusion that needed exploring. His own initial experiments would blaze a trail followed by Weather Report, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and even Pat Metheny in later years.

The summer of 2001 was a marvelous time for me. My younger daughter was born in June, always a way to mark a moment in one's life. I had just begun training as a mobile DJ, and with the extra cash I was earning, decided to celebrate by buying some new music. I rediscovered Dream Theater after nearly a decade of ignoring them and their development as a band; one of the offshoots, Transatlantic, was another. When Miriam came home from the hospital, I remember sitting in the living room and listening to their first release, SMPTe on the headphones with the newborn asleep in the crook of my left arm and four-year-old Moriah asleep in my right.

I also discovered, belatedly (of course, but better late than never) the Grateful Dead. The archive releases known as "Dick's Picks", originally two-track masters made from the front-house mixing board that the band listened to after each show, were relatively inexpensive, and while their quality wasn't marvelous, they were and are good enough to sit and enjoy. I was working third shift as night auditor at a small resort hotel and would pop a CD in to the computer, the volume turned down so it wouldn't interfere with me hearing a guest at the front desk or answering the phone, and enjoy from just after midnight until around five a.m.

I have been a member of the Musical Heritage Society since 2000, and have enjoyed many fruits and benefits - the entirety of Franz Schubert's sacred compositions, Mozart's Requiem, even a Ravi Shankar CD and the complete recording of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, including some numbers previously unavailable. I found an excellent remaster of Bach's masterpiece, the B-minor mass, with liner notes that told the story of how Bach had assembled the piece from bits here and there composed through the years. Then, of course, there is Henry Purcell. If you haven't heard this British Baroque composer, you need to give him a listen.

I have ventured out past the barely-acceptable in to musical extremes both exciting and nerve-wracking. The Mars Volta and Ozric Tentacles, in particular, offer something new even when listening to something heard many times before. German prog-band Sieges Even has a unique sound, quite apart from all the Dream Theater and Euro-metal clones out there. Porcupine Tree is a band unto themselves, and as my concert experience this past fall proved, quite adept at blowing the mind of an audience.

Then there's Grizzly Bear. I am reminded of, by turns, the Cowboy Junkies and early Genesis, truly an odd mash-up.

Yet, as my forays in to the Dead show, I am not above appreciating something old. I rediscovered, by turns, Robin Trower, Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush, Pete Townsend and The Who (and without doubt ny favorite song-writer continues to be Townsend), and Tom Waits (a little piece of heaven come to earth). While the rest of the world seems to be gaga over Lady Gaga, I am quite happy in my own little corner of the musical universe.

For all that popular music is dominated by producers layering in far too much sound, especially bass, over simple rhythms and highly-sexualized lyrics, there are options out there. Indeed, even as the music industry continues to decline as it stubbornly clings to a business model that has been irrelevant for well over a decade, there has rarely been a time when musical options were more exciting, offering pretty much anything and everything for the discriminating listener. Musically, this past decade has been one of excitement, innovation, and opportunity. Unlike the previous decade, the past ten years have been among the best, musically speaking, I can remember since the first half of the 1970's.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Repeating Stupid Mistakes

In 1956, a rebellion against imposed communism in Hungary broke out. For one brief, shining second, a crack in the relatively new Iron Curtain appeared. In the heady couple days when it seemed possible the Soviets wouldn't intervene - they were as confounded by events as everyone - then-Pres. Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, made it clear that the United States "stood with" the people of Hungary. Even Eisenhower made vague references of support that sounded, to some, more than rhetorical.

Then the tanks rolled in and people started dying and disappearing in to prisons.

It was the quite sane and sound refusal of the Eisenhower Administration to intervene, and begin a new war in Europe, that soured many on the right to him. When Joseph Welch, the founder the John Birch Society, called Eisenhower an agent of the communist conspiracy, it was this event, among others, that made many think him, at the very least, a dupe.

To be fair to the conspiracy-mongers, the over-the-top rhetoric of support for Hungarian freedom raised hopes far too high in Budapest as much as it did in the hearts and minds of right-wingers in America. American refusal to do anything to stop Soviet tanks and the ensuing turmoil was not just dispiriting; it was reminiscent of the British refusal to honor its commitments to the Czechs before the Second World War; betrayal of a weak semi-ally in the face of tyranny creates deep scars and long memories. Which is not to say that Eisenhower was wrong to stand by while Hungarians died in the streets or were hustled off to prison; they should have been more circumspect in their rhetoric beforehand.

Fast forward to today's headline from Reuters, and it's deja vu all over again.
Obama says U.S. stands with protesters in Iran

It may sound cynical and small-minded, but it's easy enough for Obama to say he "stands with" the Iranian protesters, even as he stands at his Hawaiian home. Words from this Administration are cheap, and these words in particular are as vacuous as a speech from Newt Gingrich or an entire book by Jonah Goldberg. Since there is absolutely nothing the US can, or should, do, silence would be far better in this instance than the meaningless declaration of some abstract solidarity. Since we aren't going to invade Iran - and I doubt such an act would be welcome by those we claim to support - and short of that we really can't do much of anything, we should simply lodge the usual diplomatic protests and shut up.

Notable Quotable Krugman

Of all the columns, blog posts, television appearances, and books Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman has left us, today's column is a masterful summary of our current economic and political malaise.
What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.

Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.

Then there are the politicians. Even now, it’s hard to get Democrats, President Obama included, to deliver a full-throated critique of the practices that got us into the mess we’re in. And as for the Republicans: now that their policies of tax cuts and deregulation have led us into an economic quagmire, their prescription for recovery is — tax cuts and deregulation.

At some point, someone in a position of authority needs to heed these words.

And the first person who carries on about over-regulation and a too-heavy tax burden needs a dose of reality.

Music For Your Monday

Tuesday, April 20, Park West Chicago.

These are all sections of one, seventy-minute piece of music. Should be a long show.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Evidence That Having A Doctorate Doesn't Mean You're Not An Idiot

This piece from classicist Victor Davis Hanson is all the evidence I need that avoiding his "writing" is good for my health. There isn't a factual claim that's accurate; there isn't a theoretical claim that isn't arguable; there isn't a sentence that makes sense.

He is certainly entitled to his opinions. He is also entitled to be ignored for being a dork.

War And Western Christian Thought

There's actually a really good, subtle debate at "On Faith" concerning the general question of "Just War" theory and the specific citation of it by Pres. Obama in his Nobel acceptance speech. I would invite anyone interested in these topics - is "just war" theory still viable? does it apply in Afghanistan? did it apply in Iraq? - to read through the entire panel discussion.

While it is impossible to cite all the panelists, or even highlights from a few, the one comment that jumped out at me was from Susan Jacoby. The following pretty much reflects my own thinking on this matter:
I think that Thomas Aquinas's "just war" theory, with its links to classical philosophy, has about as much relevance to whether a modern nation should commit itself to war as thirteenth-century understanding of the human body does to modern medicine.

Physicists don't study Aristotle; astronomers don't use words like "epicycles"; any chemist who talked of phlogiston would be laughed at; doctors have Galen on their shelves if they're also antiquarian book collectors. Why is it people think it's OK to cite philosophers whose intellectual universe included the thoughts of these and others as well?

While such a comment might reflect a desire to set aside this entire discussion, I do not wish to do so. Read and ruminate, and come to your own conclusions.

Virtual Tin Cup

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