Thursday, May 29, 2014

From Masturbation to Murder

Last week another self-absorbed but ignored young person took out his rage on innocent people. Elliot Rodger killed six people before killing himself. Before his heinous crimes, he left a You Tube video warning of his vile intentions and explaining why. (Posting the video also allowed him the vicarious (and pre-mortem) enjoyment of getting the attention that he craved and no doubt thought he deserved.

Elliot Rodgers "Retribution."

Unlike Dr. Phil, I cannot really claim the pretense that I can analyze and offer meaningful solutions to some one's problems after only a brief indirect encounter via telecommunications. From the video, however, Rodger appears frustrated over the fact that he has not been able to establish an emotionally satisfying relationship that, of course, includes sexual intercourse. (A fact, because he admits as much). And he appears embittered by the fantasy that everyone else does enjoy emotionally intimate relationships that include lots of sex. (A fantasy--because everyone else doesn't). So he sits around seething in anger while fantasizing about everyone else's sex life and the one he wishes to be his own.

There. That's my Dr. Phil moment.

A couple of additional observations.

First, Rodger appears confused over the difference between love and lust. Love--even erotic love--rests upon the idea of the well-being of the other person. In contrast, lust rests upon acquiring and possessing someone or something to fulfill one's own desires. Or to borrow a point from the philosopher Kant in another context, one involves treating a person as an end; the other involves treating a person as a means.

As Rodger keeps returning to sex--sex--sex in his retribution video, he gives the impression that sex preoccupied his mind rather than relationships. And maybe that's why he experienced failure in establishing relationships with women. They saw right though him that he possessed no sincere interest in them as persons, only as objects of his lust.

Second, he entertains a some strange notions of justice. The ancient and best definition of justice is "giving each person his due"--what is owed him. In Rodger's confused mind, what is owed him is sexual access to every woman's body. And what is owed others who deny Rodger his justice? Well, death of course.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The President and Memorial Day

President Barack Obama devote his Weekly Address to Memorial Day:

This paragraph below captures the essence of his thoughtful message:

"Every single one of us owes our fallen heroes a profound debt of gratitude.  Because every time we cast our votes or speak our minds without fear, it’s because they fought for our right to do that.  Every chance we get to make a better life for ourselves and our families is possible because generations of patriots fought to keep America a land of opportunity, where anyone – of any race, any religion, from any background – can make it if they try.  Our country was born out of a desire to be free, and every day since, it’s been protected by our men and women in uniform – people who believed so deeply in America, they were willing to give their lives for it."

Not so thoughtful, in light of the scandals within the Department of Veterans Affairs, was this passage: 

"As Commander in Chief, I believe that taking care of our veterans and their families is a sacred obligation.  It’s been one of the causes of my presidency.  And now that we’ve ended the war in Iraq, and as our war in Afghanistan ends as well, we have to work even harder as a nation to make sure all our veterans get the benefits and opportunities they’ve earned.  They’ve done their duty, and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours – now and for decades to come."

A report by CNN says otherwise.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The President Discovers Jobs

This week the President discussed bringing jobs back to America:

Five years into his presidency, Obama finally decides that jobs for Americans actually are important.

Citizens who have paid any attention at all to the Obama presidency remember that despite the economic crisis left him by George Bush which contributed more than anything else to his election, the President's first priority was enacting the PPACA. Progressive pundits later celebrated that this would allow people to quit their current employment so they could pursue their dreams.

He opens his address noting that many businesses plan to return jobs to America from overseas. He wants to encourage it. That's a good thing.

At a time when our businesses have created 9.2 million new jobs in just over four years, and more companies are considering bringing jobs back from overseas, we have a choice to make.  We can make it easier for businesses to invest in America – or we can make it harder. 

And of course, no Presidential address would be complete without the threat of unilateral action--in this "Year of Action."

He cites three things he is doing.

First, the President  is helping to bring jobs to America through foreign investment. He cites companies from Canada and Belgium that plan to invest in America and create new jobs.. He does not exactly explain what he is doing. He alludes to SelectUSA, a program affiliated with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its website provides information on--what else---financial incentives the federal government offers foreign capital. Based upon the record of the first years of the Obama administration, it will not doub be very selective about what kinds of businesses it will encourage.

Second, the President plans to promote tourism, another source of foreign spending. In 2012, foreign travelers spent over $128 billion in the United States.  This amounts to a trade surplus for the United States, because Americans spent only $84 billion overseas.  This creates both jobs and adds tax revenue. Not sure what the President can do. The rest of world knows we're here. Travel to the United States probably depends more upon the financial circumstances of foreign countries rather than on promotional materials generated by the United States government.

Finally, he calls for investment in our transportation infrastructure. According to the President, "We know that investing in first-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs." Do we know this? What does this mean? Infrastructure will create jobs not only for engineers, but also for men with shovels--those infamous "shovel ready" jobs touted by the President a few years back. Some are first class; others not so much.  In addition, he claims that "We know business owners don’t seek out crumbling roads and bridges and backed-up supply chains." That is true but irrelevant. State and local taxes and regulations play a much larger role than potholes in the calculations of most businessmen. 

Our transportation infrastructure needs attention. And Republicans should "adopt a highway." After all, it is part of the Republican heritage. In the 19th century Republicans provided political support for tying the nation together through a national network of railways. In the 20th century Republicans provided the same support of the national highway system. The President will pay for it by "closing wasteful tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas." If such tax loopholes exist, why have they not been closed during the first five years of the Obama presidency simply in the name of justice . . . and jobs?

He wraps up his message with one more snipe at the Republican Congress: they cut taxes (yeah, those same taxes that drive some businesses overseas.)

The President's final point is one around which all Americans can unite: "Thanks, and have a great weekend."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MIchelle Obama on Nigeria

In the most recent Weekly Address, Michelle Obama wished American's a happy mothers's day and used it as a segue to speak about the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria. 

The White House finally recognized a genuine war on women. 

What was not said, however, is as important as what was. 

First, she never acknowledged the opportunities women enjoy here in America. 

Second, she never acknowledged the motivation of the Boko Harem kidnappers.

The First Lady noted that a terrorist group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and the threat to sell them into sexual slavery. She never mentioned, however, the name of the religion that inspires them: Islam.

"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."

Casting the terrorists as "grown men" who seek to destroy the aspirations of young girls, she makes them sound like some extremist "men's rights" group trying to elevate themselves at the expense of young women. Boko Haram does not seek male domination as an end in itself. They seek it as the social expression of their Islamic religion.

Of course, someone will say that the practice of raping female captives does not constitute part of Islam. 

Quran 4:24 says:

Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you. All others are lawful, provided you seek them from your property, desiring chastity, not fornication. So with those among them whom you have enjoyed, give them their required due, but if you agree mutually after the requirement (has been determined), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise.

The phrase "those who your right hands possess" refers to slaves captured in war

A commentary on this verse in the Quran interprets it in the following way:

Abu Said al-Khudri said: "The apostle of Allah sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the apostle of Allah were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Quranic verse, "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess". That is to say, they are lawful for them when they complete their waiting period." 

The Arabs who originated Islam probably pinched this practice from their fellow Semitic psychopaths--the ancient Hebrews. Readers less familiar with the Quran might remember this lecture given by Moses after the Hebrews returned from a successful raid on the Midianites:

"And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.  And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?  Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.  Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Numbers 31:14-18 (KJV) 

Rape always has been a nasty complement of warfare. The ancient Hebrews and Muslims remain the most well known examples of people who actually gave it the sanction of religion.

And she reminds us that "what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident…it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions."  The horrible plight that women and girls face in Third World countries--especially Islamic countries--is something that should be remembered when progressives start with their Republican "war on women" mantra. Of course, the apocalyptic language of some progressives suggests that they feel that an unwanted pregnancy is almost as bad as kidnapping and sexual slavery if it interferes with a girl's education or career. We'll see if this address turns into "dog whistle" for progressives to link Republican objections to abortion on demand to Boko Harem. The Obamas would never tarnish her address with that suggestion. But their supporters at MSNBC would.

And citing the Obama Administrations meme theme of the year,  she hoped that "the courage and hope" of girls all over the world will "serve as a call to action."

What kind of action?  Well, "so  today, let us all pray for their safe return... let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright."

Prayer . . .  remembering . . .  courage . . .  not exactly a "call to action" that will make much of a practical difference in the lives of women (especially if the Supreme Being is named Allah.) But that is not really the point of her address, is it? It was delivered to express the emotions of the Obamas--and to connect with the emotions of listeners. And that is part of what makes a skillful politician.

But this commentary really wasn't about the First Ladies speech either, now was it?