Saturday, February 05, 2005

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
In case you were wondering, this is the guy who is winning the election in Iraq.

Is it just me, or does he bear a striking resemblance to another Ayatollah we once knew?

The New York Times is reporting today
that the Shiite clerics are anxious to write the country's new constitution so that they can enshrine Shariah, or Koranic law, as the foundation of the new government.

What will that mean?

"The clerics generally agree that the constitution must ensure that no laws passed by the state contradict a basic understanding of Shariah as laid out in the Koran. Women should not be treated as the equals of men in matters of marriage, divorce and family inheritance, they say. Nor should men be prevented from having multiple wives, they add."

Lovely. And how exactly is this different from the Taliban? It seems that in some parts of Iraq, this kind of fundamentalism is already taking hold.

"In Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, where one of Ayatollah Sistani's closest aides has enormous influence, Shiite religious parties have been transforming the city into an Islamic fief since the toppling of Mr. Hussein. Militias have driven alcohol sellers off the streets. Women are harassed if they walk the streets in anything less than head-to-head black. Conservative judges are invoking Shariah in some courts."

Bush has been going on and on about how we have given the Iraqi people their freedom. But democracy doesn't necessarily guarantee freedom for everyone.

Wouldn't it be ironic if it turns out that we spent $300-plus billion to help establish another Islamic fundamentalist state in the Middle East?

Quick! Time for a pop quiz! Why did the United States under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush support Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran?

Because he was a secular leader whom we considered to be more amenable to our interests.

Now that we've tossed Hussein out finally, it looks like we may be helping to establish another Khomeini-like government. And remember that this is the guy that Bush is counting on to serve as a beacon of freedom that will spread across the rest of the Middle East.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Star Trek Enterprise canceled

The Star Trek franchise has had a really rought time lately.

UPN has just announced that it is canceling 'Enterprise' , the Star Trek prequel series at the end of this season. That means Enterprise will be the second shortest run series of the entire franchise at just four seasons - second only to the original Star Trek series which lasted just three seasons.

Needless to say I am not happy about this decision and will obviously have no more reason to ever watch UPN. I’ll be contacting my cable provider later this year to petition them to drop UPN in favor of the Watching Paint Dry channel.

The last Star Trek movie - Nemesis - did so poorly at the Box Office {43 million} that it probably killed the chances of there being any more Next Generation movies and may have also snuffed any hopes of movies based on the Deep Space or Voyager series as well.

That’s a shame because there isn’t much left to watch on TV these days. I’m down to ER, Lost and Judging Amy as the only shows I still follow on a regular basis.

I imagine the Star Trek series was a big target for cancellation due to its high production costs in an era dominated by low-production reality shows. Also, the country’s rightward shift may had an impact as Star Trek has always had a decidely liberal utopian outlook on the future. How many people who think the United Nations should be shut down would watch a TV series about the formation of the United Federation of Planets?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Favorite TV theme music

What are your favorite TV show theme songs? Which themes immediately come to mind. Don’t just pick out your favorite shows. There have been TV shows that I liked where I can’t recall the theme, and then shows I didn’t like where I can’t get the theme out of my head. If a theme song sticks with you it must have some positive traits.

retroCRUSH: The World's Finest Pop Culture Site has been counting down the Top 100 TV show theme songs of all time. They have posted 100-30 so far with 29 slots left. They are slowly adding to their list at about one or two a week and now I’m curious about which shows are left to fill out the top of their list.

Here is what they have listed so far:

100. Petticoat Junction
99. CBS Special Theme
98. Welcome Back Kotter
97. The Odd Couple
96. Danger Man/Secret Agent
95. Night Court
94. The Six Million Dollar Man
93. Star Blazers
92. Casper the Friendly Ghost
91. Family Feud
90. Underdog
89. Battlestar Galactica
88. The Lone Ranger
87. Hong Kong Phooey
86. Seinfeld
85. The Green Hornet
84. Laverne & Shirley
83. The Price is Right
82. The Sopranos
81. Square Pegs
80. Mr. Belvedere
79. Dark Shadows
78. Dragnet
77. Three’s Company
76. Mister Ed
75. Taxi
74. Sledge Hammer
73. The Rookies
72. Sesame Street
71. Hill Street Blues
70. The Mickey Mouse Club
69. Rawhide
68. The Ren & Stimpy Show
67. The Dick Van Dyke Show
66. Diff’rent Strokes
65. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
64. WKRP in Cincinnati
63. South Park
62. The Simpsons
61. Leave It To Beaver
60. The Love Boat
58. I Dream of Jeannie
57. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
56. The Streets of San Francisco
55. George of the Jungle
54. Lost In Space
53. Kung Fu
52. Happy Days
51. Ultraman
50. The Cosby Show
49. The A-Team
48. The Muppet Show
47. The Match Game
46. Knight Rider
45. Green Acres
44. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
43. The Dukes of Hazzard
42. Cheers
41. SWAT
40. Speed Racer
39. Pee Wee’s Playhouse
38. Peter Gunn
37. The Addams Family
36. MASH
35. Chico and the Man
34. The Benny Hill Show
33. The Banana Splits
32. Barney Miller
31. The X-Files
30. What’s Happening!

A pretty compelling list so far. I don’t agree with all of the picks. Some are obvious, others are surpirses. I was happy to see some of my favorites on there like Speed Racer and The Banana Splits.

Here is my best guess as to some of the show themes that will fill out the top 30:

Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Friends, Danger Mouse, Scooby Doo, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, ER, Spider Man, Miami Vice, Hawaii Five-0, Batman, Bonanza, Baretta, Mission: Impossible, All In the Family, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, The Brady Bunch, The Flintstones, The Monkees...

What am I missing?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Making lemonade out of a bucket of lemons

I am very happy that Iraq was able to hold elections and I hope that this will lead to the formation of a stable government that can restore peace and freedom (and electricity and water and food and medicine) and all those other good things for the Iraqi people.
But does this mean now that it was all worth it? No, it does not.
Even if we were to pull all of our troops out of Iraq tomorrow, which we are not, it would still mean that this little adventure cost the lives of nearly 1,500 U.S. troops and cost taxpayers more than $300 billion. If our nation’s security had been at stake, then there would have been no question of its worth and no price would have been too much. But that was never the case as I have said from the beginning. Even before the start of the war, most of the world agreed that Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent or dire threat even to his own neighbors. Only in the fevered mind of George W. Bush and Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice did Hussein rise above the level of a regional thug.
Now that we know without a doubt that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, no nuclear program, no ties to al-Quaeda and no connection to 9/11, the Bush administration has been left defending the pre-emptive military invasion on strictly humanitarian grounds. We have freed the Iraqi people from a horrible dictator and a murderous regime, they say. Sure, that’s wonderful and all, but at this point we are just making lemonade out of a bucket full of lemons.
What makes the Iraqi people so special anyway? Why are we sacrificing the lives of hundreds of our soldiers and putting our nation into debt for the foreseeable future just for their sake? What about the people of North Korea, or Iran, or Syria, or Yemen, or Libya or the dozens of other nations burdened with totalitarian regimes? Are we willing to turn around now and expend the military resources and tax dollars necessary to free them as well? At least if we had put our resources into freeing the people of North Korea we would have had the added bonus of actually eliminating a real nuclear threat, but apparently the North Korean people’s freedom isn’t deemed as important for some reason as the Iraqi people’s freedom.
Bush claims that Iraq will serve as a shining example of democracy in the Middle East and help transform the entire region. Kind of like the “domino effect” that never came about when we pulled out of Vietnam. But if spreading democracy were really so simple why didn’t we just approach our friends the Saudis and get them to adopt a democratic form of government? Couldn’t they have served as the example for the Middle East and wouldn’t that have been a lot less costly? But we are not even pressing them to change their form of government. Why not?
It is clear that the American people would never have signed off on this deal if they had known the truth from the beginning. Our military has done an incredible job under very trying circumstances over in Iraq, but they should never have been put in that situation in the first place. Our military's role is to protect the United States and its interests, not to serve as a giant aid organization to promote the president's geopolitical vision. Putting Saddam Hussein behind bars was not worth the lives of 1,500 U.S. servicemen and $300 billion. I only hope that those costs don’t escalate further before we can finally bring the rest of our troops home.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Why Rhetoric & Rhythm?

I originally wanted to name this site Rhetoric Inc. but someone else had beat me to it when I was first setting up this blog. As you can see here the person who snagged the simple rhetoric.blogspot domain just put up one post and then abandoned it. I’m sure that was the fate of many of the good names for blogs.
So I settled on & Rhythm because of my love of music and because I thought it was neat pairing two words that both begin with Rh since there are only about a dozen such words to begin with.
But why rhetoric? And what is rhetoric anyway?
I was a speech communications major in college before switching to journalism and one of my favorite classes was Rhetoric. It was there that I learned about the art of speaking and writing that would dominate the rest of my professional career. I already knew how to do both fairly well by that point, but I did not have a full appreciation for its long history and importance in the making of Western civilization.

In recent years the term rhetoric has gotten a raw deal. It is most frequently used as a derogatory term that means the opposite of reality. It is almost cliché for someone to dismiss a politician today as someone who spouts rhetoric, not reality.
But rhetoric, according to Aristotle is how we come to understand reality.
A simple definition of rhetoric is “the art of using words skillfully in speaking or writing.”
Aristotle referred to rhetoric as the counterpart to dialectic, which is the art of logical discussion. Aristotle believed that dialectic was the best way to find the truth – by having a back and forth discussion in a logical manner where one person throws out an idea and another person adds to it or trys to counter it or knock it down.
In some ways, blogging is a kind of rhetoric and the discussions that occur in the comments section are the dialectic. I don’t know if we ever arrive at the truth this way, but I think we come closer than if we had stayed cooped up in our own thoughts without every exposing them for someone else to challenge or learn from.