Saturday, December 30, 2006

In case you haven't seen that one-minute video of three men in black ski masks leading Saddam Hussein up to the gallows, about to meet his ignominious end, I'll just tell you, although you don't actually see Saddam swing, it’s still gross.

Of course, on many accounts, the hanging was simply a case of a tyrant getting his just deserts. But there's still something deeply disturbing about watching a man, however nefarious, completely at the will of his enemies, his executioners, being primed for death.

And then there's Bush. He really does know how to besmirch the word "democracy." To call Saddam's execution "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy" is an insult. A real milestone would be something that represented peace.

On September 11, 2,997 people were murdered. Nearly 3,000 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the invasion, while over 200,000 Iraqi civilians, too, have perished.

I just don't understand how more death spells cause for celebration.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mr.___,in the dining room with the Polonium

A friend with whom I’d often debate international politics once said the Russians could have achieved secure superpower status, like the Americans, had they not always managed to fuck things up.

What he meant to say was the Russians had the brains, but their lack of restraint plus certain, shall we say, mercurial aspects inherent in the Russian temperment would forever hinder their achieving the caliber success commensurate with their talent.

On that score, the recent murder of Alexander Litvinenko by way of the ├╝ber-deadly, radioactive element Polonium 213 represents another instance in which the Kremlin may have drastically fucked things up.

If Putin in fact had Litvinenko poisoned, he will have, at the same time, seriously damaged Russia's relationship with the West. And how couldn't he have? In one broad stroke, the Kremlin may have utterly flouted every international law, putting countless innocents in mortal danger.

Litvinenko may have been a thorn in Putin’s side—as Anna Politkovskaya definitely was—but the more the Kremlin opts for KGB-style tactics instead of civilized ways with which to deal with dissenters, the further it will estrange itself from the West. After all, who wants to be friends with a country that disregards international law, and on whose home front hired-guns kill anybody challenging the status quo—261 journalists, alone, have been murdered in Russia since ’91.

BUT, ALAS, no charges have been brought against anyone in the Kremlin. If Scotland yard concludes Putin had nothing to do with the murder, then the least Putin can do is help facilitate catching those responsible. But as the matter stands, with British law enforcement barred from conducting a proper investigation on Russian soil, a conviction seems as far away as Russia’s chances of true prosperity.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

With the Iraq Study Group Reporting its findings last Wednesday, President Bush now more than ever seems on the hot seat. And, on many counts, it's a throne he deserves. (In case you haven't heard, the Study Group said Iraq more or less has descended into anus mundi, essentially ringing the death knell for the president’s hopes of transforming a once-totalitarian stronghold into a Jeffersonian-style Democracy.)

Yes, it’s all bad news. But despite this bad news and despite the scandals that have rocked the GOP in the past year or so, Bush & Co. has one saving grace, which way too often goes overlooked:

The United States has not been attacked by terrorists in the almost six years.

Remember after 9/11 there was all that talk of our being attacked again? Hasn’t happened. And, while I disagree with the duplicitous ways in which the Executive Branch has hitherto operated in hopes of augmenting its power, and while I'm disgusted by the human-rights abuses that may or may not have led to a safer America, I have to step back a moment.

I have to step back a moment and say, my other qualms notwithstanding, President Bush at least deserves some credit for the zero attacks since 9/11.

Making It to the Next Round

Every now and again, between wondering what to eat for dinner or which iTunes songs to download, we stop to ponder the origin of our existence. Some frequent high-vaulted cathedrals for the answers, others meditate in their living rooms. Whatever the case may be, there is no disputing that the existing points of view are myriad. (Bear with me, it's worth it.)

Despite all these ideas, one popular explanation for the origin of humankind goes something like this: An omniscient, omnipotent and ubiquitous God put us on Earth, for better or worse. People who subscribe to this idea may also believe that proof—yes, proof—of this God’s existence is evinced in each of us, in the form of a good, just and wholesome soul.

Furthermore, some people may think that if they act properly, have a strong sense of morality and respect their county's justice system or rule of law, they are doing so because God’s grace resides in them, propelling them toward the “right” path.

Now, while I’m not too much of a God person, I may have even believed something similar at one point. With that in mind, think about how I felt after reading the following quote, from an essay written by E.O. Wilson and Michael Ruse, a biologist and a philosopher, respectively, about ethics, God and society.

"Ethics is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate, and the way our biology enforces its ends is by making us think that there is an objective higher code to which we are all subject."

According to this theory, which is enough to make a true believer keel over in disgust, our genes (like, our DNA) trick us into believing that a higher power, namely God, wants us to abide by society’s ethical codes and fear “The Wrath.” For if we act uprightly, if we constantly believe God is watching all our actions, our decisions will be more constrained—more rational—which will result in our leading safer, and perhaps healthier, lives. That, in turn, will increase our overall chances of propagating.

It takes a while to sink in, I know. And,after all, who know's at all if it's true. But what an interesting way to look at some questions none of us can truly answer.