Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Change We Can Believe In?

Posted in Middle East, Uncategorized, War and Peace with tags , on December 10, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Is Obama really a change from the past?  Even the Bush years?  Well, yes and no.

There are certainly things that we are seeing in this administration that we would have never seen when Bush was in office.  Simply having healthcare on the agenda, letting the EPA allow California go above and beyond the national air quality standards, having targets for reducing greenhouse gases in Copenhagen.  These are just some of the ways that the Obama administration is different from Bush’s.  But believe it or not, there are some striking similarities.  Unfortunately, they are not small issues either.

For instance, here is a long article by David DeGraw that lays out a lot of facts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and explains how Obama is worse than Bush.  Some of the comments (beneath the article) were critical of DeGraw’s numbers and sources, so do your own fact-checking, but I think that a strong case could be made that Obama is no better (or perhaps worse) than Bush when it comes to war.

Of course, if you believe Fareed Zakaria, then Obama is doing exactly what needs to be done.  And Zakaria is not exactly a neo-con.

Also from Newsweek is a piece by Howard Fineman that argues that Obama sounded like Bush when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. I don’t know if I would go that far.  Obama is a great speaker and he has excellent speech writers.  So it is hard to argue that Obama sounds like Bush.  But at the same time, Obama seems to say all the right things while he does what he feels needs to be done.  And his words don’t always match his actions.  Unfortunately, it seems that Obama is great at convincing people that he is doing the right thing as he continues down the wrong path.  (An excellent example would be Afghanistan.)

The list of things that Bush and Obama have in common is unfortunately too long.  I could talk about his approval of rendition and indefinite detention.  Or his take on executive privilege and state secrets.  Or stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gay marriage.  Things that were second nature to the Bush Administration.  The funny thing is that when I look at issue after issue, the real difference I see is that while the Bush Administration would do things and not hide it very well (if at all), the Obama Administration is good at talking the talk without walking the walk.

So while it is better to have a Democrat in the White House, it would be much better if we had someone that was as liberal as the Right would have us believe him to be.

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some changes…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Here in the US, we pay very little attention to other parts of the world.  I am going to do my small part to change that.

Because my focus has nearly always been on foreign affairs, I will begin a new schedule starting today.  I will highlight and discuss an article from a particular part of the world each day of the week.

Here is the schedule that I have come up with (and hopefully I can keep it up):

Monday – Africa

Tuesday – Europe

Wednesday – Latin America (Central and South America, and Mexico)

Thursday – Middle East

Friday – Asia

Saturday and Sunday is either a free for all or perhaps just a period for me to rest.  We’ll see…

Of course, I will likely throw in other stories from the US and elsewhere as they come up, but I wanted to try to come up with some kind of schedule so that there was more of a worldly focus.

The Fourth of July – A Different Perspective

Posted in Uncategorized on July 4, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

In 1852 Frederick Douglass gave a speech to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. He gave an eloquent speech on the Fourth of July and its meaning to slaves.  I think of this speech every July.

Below is an excerpt and a link to the whole speech.

What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been tom from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.

from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

A Battlefield in Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by Mort the Sport

What shivers in the night

is not the soldier in fatigues; it is the tree line.

Though her rifle has never failed her,

scores of men might

laugh her off the side of the mountain. She stands

on watch; her thoughts are pieces of ice

that cannot thaw. Back home

the night does not blacken this much.

The trees dissolve and everything takes on a dream-sheen.

She feels her father’s stiff finger poking her shoulder,

clutches her rifle to her chest. Her heartbeat bursts

in her ears, drowning out all other sounds.

Something has left a bad taste

in her mouth. Her eyes fill with tears, but she will not

let a single drop escape. A scream is stifled. She takes aim,

fires.

The round sings far into the night, hitting nothing,

not even the trees. The mountain path winds around a bend

she cannot see past. Her pink shift dress,

the summers she went to her Grandma’s farm,

laughter and hay bales. This is what swims into her mind

just before she realizes

she is lying in a shallow ditch on the side of the road.

Her next thought is that she doesn’t

want to be part of the body count. In the movies, the hero never dies.

She’s got to live to see her brother in Barstow,

hear his smoke-battered voice,

feel his rough carpenter’s hands, see his pained smile.

Thoughts of her mother’s recipe book, its dingy pages

pasted together by confectioner’s sugar.

What is that taste in her mouth?

Why is it so sweet?

Suddenly

a pain is searing. The mountain gnashes its teeth, cutting

them baby-like on her trembling body.

What is that ringing in her ears?

The stars trail across the sky

like maggots at the bottom of a trashcan.

What is that taste in her mouth? Ash?

Inside her an emptiness opens like a bombed out village.

She imagines herself in purdah,

her face trembling behind a burkah. She would put on a veil

if she had to, but there’d be nothing behind it for the poppy farmers

to dream about. Instead she wears this uniform.

Why can’t she move her legs?

She finally remembers the explosion. That’s why this is all wrong:

There’s no sound, not even wind tracing the canyon walls

or mortar fire in the distance. She burns

in the dead of night, the ash filtering down through the sky

like slow motion snow.

She finally hears what her brother hears:

nothing.

The weight of the air is too much. She will finally see

her father on the other side.

Open your arms, she thinks.

I could have been a wife, a mother, but this war has removed everything

I could have been and replaced it

with stillness.

Fact Claims and Conspiracy Theories

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 20, 2009 by Mort the Sport

After a discussion with Black Pumpkin and the Pope of Walnut, I’d like to make a few points that I had trouble articulating at the time. First, I agree that there are still questions surrounding the 9/11 attacks. I’ll also be the first to admit that I have not done too much research on the discrepancies between the official version of events and other counter-claims about what happened. The point I was trying to make (which is arguably a very limited one) is that I don’t find certain claims about those attacks convincing, namely that bombs were planted in the World Trade Center, that there were unmanned aircraft involved, and that a missile was fired at the Pentagon. Does that mean that I buy the Bush administration’s version of events down to the last detail? No. Do I believe that it’s possible for the Bush administration to have been somewhat complicit in the events of 9/11? Yes, I believe it’s possible. I don’t know how much proof there is out there to support this claim, but I do think it’s possible.

That said, I want to point out that it’s easy to claim that the final version of what happened on 9/11 is in doubt, and then offer no counter-narrative. This is essentially what the Pope has done. I’m really not arguing that the official version of events is sacrosanct. All I’m saying is that many conspiracy theories (and here I’m acknowledging that there are more than one kind) often rely on claims of fact that are not supported by verifiable evidence. When someone claims that the Pentagon was hit by a missile, my response is where is the proof? For that matter, if Dick Cheney was responsible for 9/11, where is the proof?

In the heat of the debate, I claimed that what I believe about 9/11 is based on what I saw: a plane crashed into a building. Then the Pope cleverly used this claim to suggest that there was more to the event than what we saw. He made the very valid point that one cannot possibly be convinced solely by what one witnesses alone when it comes to an event as complex as 9/11. Fine. However, there’s more to it than that. Since reputable media outlets reported that a plane crashed into the Pentagon, I’m going to accept that as a truthful statement until it is proved otherwise. I have to have some faith that the most basic elements of a media story are truthfully reported. If I don’t believe this aspect of reporting, then I’ll have question every detail of every story that I read or hear. This becomes tiresome and there is a law of diminishing returns that kicks in.

In sum, my main problem with many 9/11 conspiracy theories is the lack of credible evidence. I would be willing to examine claims about the 9/11 attacks that are supported by factual evidence (such as Crossing the Rubicon, etc.). I’m not interested in wild speculation. I’m interested in concrete evidence. I wouldn’t mind reading an article or two that demonstrates some clear links between government officials and wrongdoing. I don’t, for a minute, think that the Bush administration had our best interests in mind when it came to the 9/11 attacks, but as I said before, I haven’t researched this issue that thoroughly.

Philosophical Mini-Rant (in True Blog Fashion)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 11, 2009 by Mort the Sport

Earlier today (here’s where the blogginess sets in–see, I’m recounting something that actually happened to me), I overheard a woman at a health food store that I frequent tell the checker that Obama had declared the US a Muslim nation. I’m not one to be confrontational, so I didn’t say a word to this woman. She was obviously a nut job, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk any sense into her anyway. However (and here’s where the rants sets in), I assume she got this juicy little nugget of wisdom from AM talk radio. Where else but on the Mike Savage show or some other equally insane program would someone actually make such a patently absurd claim. Afterwards, I wanted to ask this woman where she got her information. I should have, but I didn’t. All this reminded me of the claim posted just recently on this blog that Obama is not really a citizen–a patently false claim, one that can be proven false very easily.

(Here’s where the philosophy sets in.) People make claims all the time. It’s the nature of communication. Sometimes people make claims knowing full well that the claim is false. This is called fraud. This is not what I’m talking about, however. This woman’s idiotic claim angers me, not because it is so absurd, but because there is no factual basis whatsoever to her claim. Let me take a moment to distinguish between two important concepts: truth and fact. Truth is elusive, it is contingent, and it often relies on context. Truth encompasses a wide range of experiences for which fact cannot account, especially purely subjective experiences. Fact can also be elusive (especially if the fact is obscure enough), but it can never be purely subjective. Fact must always be substantiated by the observation of a credible source. If people want to make claims about the truth of their own personal experiences (say, an out-of-body experience or a near death experience), there is not much someone can argue about the validity of that experience (unless one wants to enter science into this conversation, but I don’t, at least not now). I generally don’t have a problem with people accepting separate “truths” in this sense. However, when people start making fact-based claims without a shred of evidence, this puckers my stinkhole.

For anyone who wanders onto this blog wanting to debate, please be ready to substantiate your claims with verifiable facts. We here at BNG appreciate opposing viewpoints (we don’t mind a good argument), but arguments cannot move forward without credible sources, and most of all facts.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Welcome to Butter, Not Guns.  We are a collective of individuals who believe that a better world is possible.  In these pages, we will discuss that world as well as our own.  We need to understand what is going on out there if we are to figure out how to change it.

If you have ideas about how to make the changes that are necessary, please join the conversation.