30.4.09

On American Exceptionalism

Dan Larison has a terrific post concerning the suggestion that somehow Obama is not an American exceptionalist, and he rebuts the suggestion with ease.

But he goes on to make the case against exceptionalism - something rare to see among conservative authors, and he ends the piece with a terrific quote from Canadian journalist Dan Gardner on why the preaching of US exceptionalism is so 'infantile';

"Now, I don’t want to answer dogma with dogma. Strategic and national interests played major roles in the decisions of all combatants in the First and Second World Wars. They do in every war. It’s a messy world and the motives of nations are seldom simple and pure.

The sort of Americans who cheer for Fred Thompson would agree with that statement — as it applies to other countries. What they cannot seem to accept is that it applies to their country, too. For them, Americans are unique. The United States is unique. And what sets America and Americans apart is purity of heart.

“We are proud of that heritage,” Thompson said in Iowa after citing the mythology of America-the-liberator. “I don’t think we have anything to apologize for.”

Nothing to apologize for. Never did anything wrong in 231 years of history. Nothing.

This is infantile. And dangerous. A superpower that believes it is pure of heart and the light of the world will inevitably rush in where angels fear to tread. And then it will find itself wondering why the foreigners it so selflessly helps hate it so."

28.4.09

Quote of the Day

"It's important for people to understand that in a democracy, there will be a full investigation. In other words, we want to know the truth. In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse ... there will be a full investigation, and justice will be delivered. ... It's very important for people and your listeners to understand that in our country, when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act. And we act in a way in which leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. ... In other words, people want to know the truth. That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn't be answering questions about this. A dictator wouldn't be saying that the system will be investigated and the world will see the results of the investigation."

- George W Bush in the immediate aftermath of the Abu Ghraib photos.

So even George thinks an investigation is appropriate.

23.4.09

Andrew Potter on Ralston Saul

Andrew Potter's review of John Ralston Saul's thinking on Canadian identity contained this excellent passage;

"The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein liked to say that the trick to philosophy was knowing when to stop asking the questions that lead you astray. Similarly, the trick to being a Canadian is knowing when to stop obsessing over the question of our national identity. By reimagining Canada as a M├ętis country, John Ralston Saul has almost certainly brought English Canada’s ongoing search for an identity to an end. He has also, inadvertently, revealed how inherently futile the whole exercise has been."

Rush on Torture

"I just slapped myself. I'm torturing myself right now. That's torture according to these people." —Rush Limbaugh

"If somebody can go through water-boarding for 183 times, 6 times a day .... it means you’re not afraid of it, it means it’s not torture. If you’ve found a way to withstand it, it can’t possibly be torture." —Rush Limbaugh

"The idea that torture doesn't work — that's been put out from John McCain on down — You know, for the longest time McCain said torture doesn't work then he admitted in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last summer that he was broken by North Vietnamese. So what are we to think here?" —Rush Limbaugh

Seems pretty self-refuting to me. It's A: Not torture. B. Even if it is torture, it isn't because the guy withstood 183 waterboardings in a single month, and C. It is torture, but torture works!

Rush Limbaugh is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty and rank partisanship. How anybody can take him seriously about anything is beyond me.

As for the US, Obama has a lot of work to do to rehabilitate the country in the eyes of the world. Yes, the US tortured people, No, there was no ticking bomb, and Yes, they did so specifically because they wanted to find/create a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda where there wasn't one.

Its about as disgusting as it gets, and I believe clearly meets the level of war crimes - crimes committed by the highest ranking members of the Bush administration.

How ironic then that the GOP, the very people who pilloried Clinton for lying about a blow-job in the Oval office and screamed about 'the rule of law' would subsequently engage in criminal acts orders of magnitude worse and claim legal cover for doing so.

I smell a truth commission coming - and I suspect that the worst of the abuses have yet to be revealed.

22.4.09

Quote of the Day

"It is human to revel in brutality--race is irrelevant to this fact. It is human to revel in beauty---race is irrelevant to this fact."

- Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the power of poetry.

20.4.09

Mindblowing pictures from Cassini


Click on picture to enlarge

The Boston Globe has more incredible shots

JG Ballard 1930-2009


Most famous for his memoir/novel turned movie 'Empire of the Sun', Ballard was a prolific writer who penned dozens of science fiction novels and short stories over his storied career.

Among my personal favourites were his short stories; The Drowned Giant (a haunting story where a giants body washes up on an English beach and gradually decays), The Garden of Time, War Fever and Dream Cargoes.

Among his novels that I enjoyed the most were; Cocaine Nights, High Rise, Running Wild, Super Cannes, and of course Crash.

His works were often the inspiration for musicians - in particular for me 'Atrocity Exhibition' by Joy Division remains one of the earliest allusions to him that I am aware of.

To have my favourite director David Cronenberg tackle one of his most important novels 'Crash' and bring it to the screen with such impact is a collision of my interests that remains nearly impossible to top.

Without a doubt he will be missed.

19.4.09

16.4.09

13.4.09

Quote of the Day

" You don't have to endorse American Cuban policy, to understand that no one can makes you become a despot. No one makes you lock up artists and intellectuals. No one makes you spend 50 years as the head of a totalitarian state. America didn't make Castro a dictator, anymore than Castro made America embark on a failed embargo policy. Two people arguing can both be wrong."

- Ta-Nehisi Coates

This strikes me as exactly right. The Castro regime is an ugly, vile dictatorship, with its hands soaked in the blood of innocents, and supporting it is wrong - but at the same time, the embargo is a failed policy that does nothing to dislodge the regime and perversely empowers it. Engaging in diplomacy and trade with a nation is not equivalent to endorsement or appeasement, indeed they are often the best (and only) methods for encouraging existing dissent to create the internal sea-change that leads to a better way forward.

6.4.09

Video of the Day

Old School Freight Train's cover of the Blondie classic 'Heart of Glass'

Quote of the Day

"War doesn’t educate little girls; it kills them."

- Ian Garroch Mason at 'Sans Everything'