Sunday, December 18, 2005

A few thoughts on tonight's Presidential Address

  • Extremely perceptive remark right near the start of the address, noting a clear dividing line of thought (a "line" that more closely resembles the Great Wall of China) on the causes of terrorism--provoked, or non-provoked? If we just left these people alone, they wouldn't attack us anymore, right? (Left unsaid by the Ward Churchills of the world is that the only way to leave them alone to their satisfaction would be to obliterate the world's telecommunications networks, dismantle all the international corporations, and plunge the globe back into the 19th century, never again to return.)
  • The Iraqi constitution, as I understand matters, numbers among its major faults the fact that, much like the original American constitution, it doesn't say anything about secession--leaving open the possiblity of the Kurds trying to follow the lead of the Confederate States of America and carve a Kurdistan out of Iraq's territory. President Bush understandably didn't say anything about those (and other) problems, given the optimistic tone he was aiming for, but the Americans in Iraq had better get on them, and fast.
  • When you look at the whole, there was really nothing new in anything Bush said tonight. You don't even have to go to the blogosphere to see the arguments--they've all been hashed out ad nauseum in the mainstream media. No one who had a position before the speech is going to be moved to change their position one whit.
All Bush is doing is spinning his wheels. He played his cards months ago, and is now simply waiting for improvements in the situation in Iraq to bail him out.

That can't make anyone in the GOP the least bit comfortable.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Reductio ad absurdum

A couple days late, but still worth posting anyway:

In Protest, Brazil Mayor Outlaws Death

Whatever you might think of the environmental issues involved, you have to admire the sheer gall of this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh, the irony...

The New York Times weighs in with a predictable editorial on global warming, castigating America for refusing to join an effort that's doomed to fail (thanks to the nonparticipation of, among others, China and India).

Consider this excellent point from the editorial:

"To believe that companies will spend heavily to reduce emissions while their competitors are not doing the same is to believe in the tooth fairy."

Completely, absolutely, 100% true.

So why in the world does the New York Times expect the United States of America to do just that, while our competitors (in this case, China and India) sit on their hands?

Monday, December 12, 2005

*Which* Chronicle of Narnia?

To the surprise of few, the debate has fired up over the new movie release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. How Christian should it be? How Christian should it not be? How Christian did CS Lewis intend it to be?

If you ask me, they're all barking up the wrong tree.

Speaking as a fan of the books (who will hopefully see the movie in a few days) I anticipate no problems with the movie adaptation, or with the adaptations of most of the following books.

It's the prospect that Disney will go all the way and eventually make a movie out of the last book in the series--The Last Battle--that fills me with dread.

You can make a case that the other books were simple fantasy adventures--fantasies with covert Christian themes, to be sure, but fantasies nonetheless.

But if you believe that the end of The Last Battle was anything other than a blatant allegorization between the Narnia series and Christianity, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.

I don't even want to *think* about what Disney might do with that sequence.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cultural Sensitivity vs. Cultural Plagiarism

I'd done my level best to ignore this year's "Keep Christ in Christmas" vs. "Keep Christmas out of Christmas" debate, mainly because I think that both sides have some serious problems in their argument. And I'd probably have gone right on ignoring it if I hadn't run across an editorial in Sunday's New York Times that essentially called the angry Christians hypocrites.

This editorial's rationale:

  • Early American Christians, being mostly Puritans, did not approve of celebrating Christmas.
  • Later American Christians did not approve of the commercial aspects of celebrating Christmas.
  • Non-Christians have (surprise) never approved of celebrating Christmas.
Therefore, Christians have no right to complain when secularists try to force Christmas out of the public celebration altogether.

Now, I've been thinking about this for a couple of days, and it seems to me we have a confusion between two very different aspects of the culture clash here.

Being a Christian, I naturally have no problem with being wished a "Merry Christmas." I also have no problem being wished "Happy Holidays"--or "Happy Hannukah," or "Happy Kwanzaa," or "Happy Winter Solstice" for that matter, because each is an expression of the speaker's own religious beliefs. "Happy Holidays" as a catch-all term only makes sense; in that, I agree.

The problem is when "Holiday" is used, not as an encompassing expression, but--as it often is--as a mere substitute for "Christmas," as for example in "holiday trees" and "holiday ornaments." Co-opting another culture's traditions for one's own is a time-honored practice--heck, that's how the Christmas tree came to be in the first place--but what is it being co-opted for?

Nothing! The "holiday" in question is Christmas; the only point is to get around admitting that--while leaving everything else as-is.

And that, frankly, is a practice I put in the same boat as "scholars" replacing "BC" and "AD" with "BCE" and "CE." Both are examples of trying to use practices and conventions designed by others (the Gregorian calendar, as the name might suggest, was a product of the Roman Catholic Church, and "Year 0" was a rough estimate of when Christ was born) without giving credit where credit is due, or at least altering it enough to make it uniquely one's own.

It is nothing more or less than plagiarism on a cultural scale, and its perpetrators should not be allowed to get away with it.