Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Big Things

One of the defenses of Bush that's often heard is that he gets the 'big things'. There are lots of problems that you can lay at his feet (bungling incompetence, tin-eared leadership, basic verbal inability) but on the fundamental questions he's ok. There hasn't been much proof of that during his second term but here's some evidence that it exists:
President Bush is quietly providing back-channel advice to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to modulate her rhetoric so she can effectively prosecute the war in Iraq if elected president.
“It’s different being a candidate and being the president,” Bush said in an Oval Office interview. “No matter who the president is, no matter what party, when they sit here in the Oval Office and seriously consider the effect of a vacuum being created in the Middle East, particularly one trying to be created by al Qaeda, they will then begin to understand the need to continue to support the young democracy.”
This must be a bipartisan effort and if it's going to last generations then it will be led by both parties at some point or another. If it's Hillary (which is how I'd bet right now) then she needs to be ready when she takes office.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Facsinating article

from John Derbyshire regarding 'Islamophobia'. I'm sympathetic to some of his points although I'd have to think long and hard before kicking out Muslims. Doubt I'd ever agree to that. The part that caught my attention though:
As to the cultural aridity of Islamic civilizations: well, yes. This is not an exceptionalism belonging to Islam, though. The exceptionalism belongs to us, to the West. We are dynamic and creative; we are fired by curiosity to inquire into the natural order; we are driven by imagination to set off and explore remote places; our culture progresses through developmental stages, each building on the last: Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical... Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment... Romanesque, Gothic, Perpendicular... Classical, Romantic, Modern... City-state, empire, feudalism, monarchy, constitutionalism...

We are the exception: civilization-wise, stasis and aridity are the rule, not just in Islam, but everywhere. Halfway through his monumental History of China (1882), Demetrius Boulger broke off from the long catalog of border wars and palace plots to offer this illuminating apology to his readers:

It might be more instructive to trace the growth of thought among the masses, or to indicate the progress of civil and political freedom; yet not only do the materials not exist for such a task, but those we possess all tend to show that there has been no growth to describe, no progress to be indicated during these comparatively recent centuries. It is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of Chinese history that the people and their institutions have remained practically unchanged ... from a very early period. Even the introduction of a foreign element has not tended to disturb the established order of things. The supreme ruler preserves the same attributes and discharges the same functions; the governing classes are chosen in the same manner; the people are bound in the same state of servitude, and enjoy the same practical liberty; all is now as it was. Neither under the Tangs nor the Sungs, undeer the Yuans or the Mings [i.e. from the seventh to the seventeenth centuries — these are the names of Chinese dynasties] was there any change in national character or in political institutions to be noted or chronicled. ... This condition of things may be disappointing to those who pride themselves in tracing the origin of constitutions and the growth of civil rights, and who would have a history of China the history of the Chinese people ... the fact is undoubted that there is no history of the Chinese people, apart from that of their country, to be recorded. The national institutions and character were formed, and had attained in all essentials to their present state, more than 2,000 years ago.

We are very used to the idea of continuing progress but it's a fallacy. Civilizations can also go backwords or go through long periods of time (dark ages) when there is no movement at all. Imagine a China that never had European visitors. Where would they be today?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Banned books

Just ran across this post about banned books over at Andrew Sullivan's digs, bewailing the 'banning and challenging' of books. It points us over to this release here with the ten most challenged books of 2006:

The "10 Most Challenged Books of 2006" reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

  • "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

  • "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

  • "Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

Now, what do these books have in common? They are almost all being challenged as 'unsuited to age group'. In common English I think that means that parents are asking schools to keep them away from kids because they're not age appropriate. They simply don't want their kids to read about homosexuality and drug use (etc.) until they're older.
I'm probably more open minded about when kids can handle mature themes than most so I'd probably disagree with the parents here but I can understand where they're coming from. The desire to have some control over when your children must understand advanced themes is normal and rational.
Two things come to mind here. The first is that the poster is being hysterical (I know, big surprise from that site). He opens the post with a quote:
Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings -- Heinrich Heine (1821)

Keep in mind that any adult can read any of these books without the slightest problem. I could order this whole set on Amazon and no one would care at all. We might be a ways away from burning people.
The second thing that I wonder about is where all of the people that were up in arms over Joe Camel are? Shouldn't they be defending parents in these situations? If a cartoon character playing pool will take over a child's life, won't a full length book have an even more profound effect? Or vice versa, where are the book banning handwringers when it comes to blocking ads on children's shows because they show food that's too sweet?
'Where they have burned sweetened cereal, they will end up in burning farmers'...or something like that.