IMAGINE INTELLIGENT OP-ED's

One of the movies we’re watching a lot at our house is ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ (can you tell that we have a teenager, and that my own maturity is probably questionable?). There’s a scene in the movie where our heroes (?) are hitching cross-country and get a ride from a van full of attractive young women (and one unattractive guy) on their way to liberate a bunch of animals.
Stick with me for a moment, there’s actually a point.
The scene in the van is incredibly funny as we watch the explicitly mindless “save the bunnies” discussion (and neato song, as well). Ultimately, we discover an ulterior motive as well as cool latex outfits, and it all makes plot sense. But the satirical take on the thoughtless “hey, Mr. Science Guy, don’t spray that aerosol in my eye” politics was pretty damn funny.
Sadly, that mindless attitude is a lot less funny when you se it on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Thomas Friedman’s ‘A Failure to Imagine’ is a column that can really only hit the right tone when it is read by attractive actresses playing at being truly inane. Now, I thought ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’ was really good, and some of his NYT columns have been sensible, but this one is just absurd.
I know I’m a little late on this, and it’s not one of the things I’ve talked about writing about, but my reaction has been sitting in the back of my mind and it’s just won’t shut up until I write this.

No, I don’t blame President Bush at all for his failure to imagine evil. I blame him for something much worse: his failure to imagine good.
I blame him for squandering all the positive feeling in America after 9/11, particularly among young Americans who wanted to be drafted for a great project that would strengthen America in some lasting way — a Manhattan project for energy independence. Such a project could have enlisted young people in a national movement for greater conservation and enlisted science and industry in a crash effort to produce enough renewable energy, efficiencies and domestic production to wean us gradually off oil imports.
Such a project would not only have made us safer by making us independent of countries who share none of our values. It would also have made us safer by giving the world a much stronger reason to support our war on terrorism. There is no way we can be successful in this war without partners, and there is no way America will have lasting partners, especially in Europe, unless it is perceived as being the best global citizen it can be. And the best way to start conveying that would be by reducing our energy gluttony and ratifying the Kyoto treaty to reduce global warming.

This is a political position that ought to be staked out in a Kevin Smith film, not in a national journal.
Look, if we buy another car soon, we will probably buy a hybrid. I think that Jerry Brown was prescient in his emphasis on conservation (of energy and water, among other things) as an economically and environmentally smart set of policies.
But I don’t support Kyoto, because I believe the issue there really isn’t restraining fossil fuel consumption or greenhouse gasses, but in ultimately transferring wealth from the First World to the Third.
But to suggest that by ending our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we would somehow defang Islamicism or reduce our exposure to terrorism is too stupid to even be believed by Missy, Sissy, or Chrissy (in vapid Students Against Animal Cruelty mode, not in kick-ass bad-girl mode).
We need to both defeat terrorism militarily, and having done so, defeat it politically. We need to be completely focused on this, and secondarily on the various other things we need to do (energy and water conservation are high on that list).
There is a well-known political and bureaucratic impulse, in times of crisis, to pull out one’s pet issue and explain why it is that your policy is critical to solving the crisis. Terrorist attack? This flood control program we’ve been touting for ten years is the answer, of course. By hitching your program to the meme of the moment, you hope to gain some political traction.
I do believe that resource misallocation and mismanagement, combined with insane population pressures are going to create more political instability in the Third World. I think that substituting brainpower for fossil fuel is almost always a good thing.
But, as noted by the Zen master quoted below, when you brush your teeth and piss at the same time, you usually do a bad job of both.

No time to blog today,

No time to blog today, but here’s what I’m working on in the background:

More Gray (SkyBox) Davis;
Finish “Shooting and Mindfulness”;
“Why Being Armed Matters”;
Comments on Winds of Change’s comments on 4th Generation Warfare (which he interprets as information-enahnced warfare, and can also be interpreted as low-intensity, pervasive, urban warfare);
Directions for Effective Liberalism (I almost called this blog “The Effective Liberal”, but in this climate that sounded too much like an oxymoron).

Drop me a note at armedliberal-at-yahoo.com and let me know which I should do first…

CharlesMurtaugh has a great column

CharlesMurtaugh has a great column on his reaction to the New York Time’s great story on the last minutes of the WTC victims.
The story isn’t his tears on reading the article (you’ll cry too); it is his fury at the nonreaction and paralysis that grips both parties in Washington.
He thinks, and I agree, that if they don’t get off their asses there will be a lot of ex-politicians looking for work as lobbyists in the next election cycle.

MO’ SFSU

By now, most people sophisticated enough in the Blogosphere to have found this site will know the base facts about the SFSU flap.
It’s not all that different than the situation on many campuses: on one side, a core population of actively identified Jewish students, and other supporters of Israel’s existence (and, to a greater or lesser extent, defense policies); on the other a population of active Islamicists, as well as those who oppose Israel either in its existence as a Jewish state, or in its defense and foreign policies. But events at SFSU not only effect real people, but provide a good case study for what is going on at the other campuses.
Now, I’m not on the ground in San Francisco, and I’ll defer a little bit to some folks who have first-hand experience of the events there. But there are a few things that are incontrovertible and clear:

The pro-Israel/pro-Jewish side seems to be taking all or a vast majority of the physical damage;
The acknowledged racist comments are all coming from the pro-Palestinian side;
The powers that be are taking a “children, children, you shouldn’t both be fighting” moral equivalence stance. They have turned three students over to the District Attorney’s office for possible prosecution – two pro-Palestinian and one pro-Israel.

I haven’t reviewed the videotapes, and I’m not a police officer. But I’ve read the comments on the SFSU website, and on it’s face, this can’t help but leave the impression that the appearance of evenhandedness matters more than the truth.
And that’s just wrong.
Look, there are real arguments to make about what to do about the parts of Palestine that weren’t made part of Israel; there are arguments to make about what to do about the Palestinian Arabs who left Israel and who live with their descendants in the well-financed squalor of refugee camps.
And when pro-Palestinian students actively condemn violence and intimidation, instead of seeing them as “the legitimate political tools of the oppressed”, we can have those discussions.
When the windows of pro-Arab student groups are broken, and when libels against all Arabs are an official part of Jewish student’s political oratory, there will be moral equivalence.
I can’t for a minute imagine African-American or Latino students tolerating this kind of racist nonsense for a minute. They wouldn’t be begging the school administration to enforce the laws, the school administration would be calling out the riot squads to protect themselves and the window-breaking libelers, not to protect those libeled.
(This is a thought experiment meant to show how absurd the current situation is, I’m not suggesting that Jewish thugs are the solution.)
But there is an measurable difference between heated political expression and the politics of violence and intimidation. And it is in the nature of politics in our relatively free nation that it must be free from intimidation and violence; the other side…and there is an other side…sees intimidation and violence as everyday political tools. And, frighteningly, they are extending the kind of politics that we see on the ground in Arafat-controlled Palestine and bringing a lind of “lite” version of it here.
The President of SFSU, Robert Corrigan, has convened a task force. As much as I hate to make Star Wars references…you’ll recall that’s what the Chancellor did when he couldn’t take action on the invasion of Naboo. And you’ll remember where that got him.
At the very least, people who are concerned should make sure he knows the whole world is watching, as we used to say.
More later today, including a discussion of why the “Days of Rage” back in the late 60’s/70’s were different than what we are seeing here (hint: they didn’t identify and actively condemn a minority group).
Winds of Change has an index of other bloggers’ comments on this issue.

MORE MEMORIAL DAY SYNCHRONICITY

Well, Instapundit referred me to this – Victor Davis Hanson on Memorial Day in National Review Online, in which he poignantly reflects on his namesake and relative who died in the Battle for Okinawa.
And it turns out that he was raised in Kingsburg, CA, about 62 miles as the crow flies from Ponderosa, CA, on Route 190, where (I’m pretty sure that was the town…I’m looking at a crumpled map and it’s late) we saw the cemetary. And somehow reading his column, I felt an even stronger sense of connection to the old man selling paper poppies who told me about the chili cookoff and suggested we ride past the town cemetary. I’m glad we did, and sorry we missed the cookoff. I make pretty good chili – I’ve won a few cookoffs myself – but I’d bet I could have learned something.

I FEEL LOVED!!

Chris Bertram just paid off my ad. Wow, that felt good.
978 motorcycle miles this weekend, only about 85 of them on freeways. The edges of the tires are nicely worn, and everyone came home in one piece. Stopped at a small-town cemetary, all decorated in flags, and discovered that we had just missed the chili-cookoff conducted by local veterans, benefiting the local school.
Small-town America may have its own problems, but it produces a bunch of really really good people.

OFF TO THE SIERRA

Well, we’re off to the Sierra to terrorize the locals on the motorcycle for Memorial Day. I had realized that I’ve been writing a lot about being a liberal, and not much about being armed, so here’s the beginning of something (have to go adjust the preload on the rear suspension…) about guns. Back Tuesday with more.
SHOOTING AND MINDFULNESS
I just realized that there have been a bunch of posts about politics and liberalness, and hardly anything gun-related at all. And I have to uphold the blog title, or it’s just posturing, after all.
So I’m trying to teach the SO (Significant Other) how to shoot; in part because it’s something I do and she wants to be able to participate (and doubtless, to quote Uncle Duke, my personal role model, to be able to “return fire”), and also because I’m trying to get my idea of mindfulness across to her.
In her case, it is in part because she is working to become a good motorcyclist, and riding successfully – which to say surviving – riding motorcycles calls for a number of skills, but first of all calm awareness, or what the Eastern meditative religions call mindfulness.

Mindfulness is nonconceptual awareness. Another English term for Sati is ‘bare attention’. It is not thinking. It does not get involved with thought or concepts. It does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories. It just looks. Mindfulness registers experiences, but it does not compare them. It does not label them or categorize them. It just observes everything as if it was occurring for the first time. It is not analysis which is based on reflection and memory. It is, rather, the direct and immediate experiencing of whatever is happening, without the medium of thought. It comes before thought in the perceptual process.
from Mindfulness in Plain English

I call it simply “the art of doing what you’re doing”. Most of us spend all our time thinking about all the stuff our minds consume…what I’ll put into the blog tomorrow, my Visa bill, what I’ll say at the meeting tomorrow, what was said at the meeting yesterday…and while our minds run with all this activity, they are only loosely tethered to what we are doing. While we’re talking on the cell phone, we aren’t doing a very good job of driving. In “The Empty Mirror”, a great book about Zen studies, the abbot accuses the Western student of being loosely tethered, of “brushing his teeth while pissing, which means you do a bad job of brushing your teeth and a bad job of pissing”.
For me at least, I find that shooting – particularly the kind of dynamic shooting involved in tactical or combat shooting – requires that kind of mindfulness.
Guns are heavy in the hand. They should be. Part of this is mechanical, the physical weight of the mechanism needed to contain the explosive power of the cartridges. And a part of it is the psychic weight of knowing this is a real weapon, and that you are suddenly both at risk and responsible.