"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Saturday, March 05, 2005
  The Samurai - Soldiers of Altruism
They despised all material enterprise and gain, and refused to lend, borrow or count money; they seldom broke a promise, and they risked their lives readily for anyone who appealed to them for just aid. They made a principle of hard and frugal living; they limited themselves to one meal a day, and accustomed themselves to eat any food that came to hand, and to hold it. They bore all suffering silently, and suppressed every display of emotion; their women were taught to rejoice when informed that their husbands had been killed on the battlefield. They recognized no obligation except that of loyalty to their superiors; this was, in their code, a higher law than parental or filial love. It was a common thing for a Samurai to disembowel himself on the death of his lord, in order to serve and protect him in the other world. When the Shogun Iyemitsu was dying in 1651 he reminded his prime minister, Hotto, of this duty of junshi, or "following in death"; Hotto killed himself without a word, and several subordinates imitated him. When the Emperor Mutsuhito went to his ancestors in 1912 General Nogi and his wife committed suicide in loyalty to him. Not even the traditions of Rome's finest soldiers bred greater courage, asceticism and self-control than were demanded by the code of the Samurai.

The final law of Bushido was hara-kiri - suicide by disembowelment. The occasions when this would be expected of a Samurai were almost beyond count, and the practice of it so frequent that little notice was taken of it. If a man of rank had been condemned to death he was allowed, as an expression of the emperor's esteem, to cut through his abdomen from left to right and then down to the pelvis with the small sword which he always carried for this purpose. If he had been defeated in battle, or had been compelled to surrender, he was as like as not to rip open his belly. (Hara-kiri means belly-cutting; it is a vulgar word seldom used by the Japanese, who prefer to call it seppuku.) When, in 1895, Japan yielded to European pressure and abandoned Liaotung, forty military men committed hara-kiri in protest. During the war of 1905 many officers and men in the Japanese navy killed themselves rather than be captured by the Russians. If his superior did something offensive to him, the good Samurai might gash himself to death at his master's gate. The art of seppuku - the precise ritual of ripping - was one of the first items in the education of Samurai youth; and the last tribute of affection that could be paid to a friend was to stand by him and cut off his head as soon as he had carved his paunch. Out of this training, and the traditions bound up with it, has come some part of the Japanese soldier's comparative fearlessness of death.

- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 847-848
Thursday, March 03, 2005
  The Left is Paving the Road to Theocracy
Gus Van Horn has a very insightful post at his blog: Dems Get Religion.

I agree with many of the points Gus makes there, and his overall fear of the current "transformation" of the political and cultural landscape. The Democrats do believe that they have to suck up to the religious now - Gus points out several instances that may seem small, but are in fact very disturbing. One instance which I have found especially troubling is the new arguments coming out in the debate over abortion.

The religious right has subtlely made some major changes in the nature of the debate. As I've pointed out before, they have without challenge stipulated that the fetus is a human being, which I have yet to hear challenged by anyone. How defenders of a woman's right to abortion plan to defend the murder of a human being (which is what abortion amounts to on this religious view) is anyone's guess (pragmatically, of course).

The conservatives have taken advantage of the latest shift, the Democrats recent moral "rebirth" (in light of the revelation of "moral values"). Sen. Hillary Clinton led the way, with her attempt to make "peace" with the pro-life movement. "We can all agree that abortion is the last resort, and that reducing the number of abortions is a good thing". Conservatives, being shrewd enough to avoid looking the gift horse in the mouth, have already started taking over this mantra. Taking their leave from Bush's "Faith-Based Iniatives", they are already talking about ways the government can help reduce the number of abortions.

Gus ends his post with great prescience, so great in my estimation that it bears repeating:
The Democrats are going to make all kinds of promises to the religious right, while also taking advantage of the fact that their socialist economic agenda is in fact the more "moral" (read: altruistic) alternative. The Dems can push harder one way or the other, depending. When the Republicans start seeing this, they're going to probably say something like, "Oh yeah! But we're serious." The Democrats, if they have any sense at all, will try to nullify national security as an issue in the next election by stifling their anti-war impulses (and supporters). If they do this, the next election is going to be all about sucking up to the religionists.

If the Dems come to power, they have a choice: (a) live up to their promises to the religionists, alienating their nihilistic base as well as the genuine secularists, or (b) betray the religious right, permanently alienating them and destroying themselves as a viable political party. If not, the Dems are finished unless they do some actual soul-searching the next time around. In any case, it seems that the next big issue in American politics will be whether we make the state the handmaiden of religion or abolish this kind of serfdom altogether. Count me in as an abolitionist.
Count me in as well.

Unfortunately, I fear we are seeing the only "soul-searching" the Democrats are likely to do. The marginalization of secularism and atheism as bizarre, fringe movements (helped by dubious "representatives", who are legion) continues unabated. The ideology of the left is dead - and the Democrats are now helping to unplug the theocratic dike the founders bequeathed to us.
  Cox and Forkum - Pain and Suffering
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
  George Reisman - Kill the Prescription Drug Benefit
George Reisman's newest op-ed, Kill the Prescription Drug Benefit, is up at the Mises Institute.
The most fundamental and obvious reason that the prescription drug benefit needs to be aborted is that if there is ever to be any hope of reining in the size and intrusiveness of government in the United States, an essential first step is to stop adding new government programs. Just as the first injunction to a physician is “Do no harm,” the first injunction to anyone who values economic freedom must be, “Do not add new government programs.”
  Thomas Bowden on Judicial Review
Thomas Bowden has a good op-ed on the upcoming Supreme Court case on displaying the ten commandments on government property. He has a good understanding of the validity of judicial review, and demolishes the conservatives' typical cry of judicial activism.

My favorite part from the op-ed:
In case after case, the Supreme Court has courageously exercised judicial review. Faced with mandatory prayer sessions in public classrooms, the Court responded with Engel v. Vitale in 1962, holding that such prayers violate the First Amendment. Faced with state laws forbidding abortions, the Court responded with Roe v. Wade in 1973, holding that such bans violate a woman’s right to privacy. And faced with state laws imprisoning homosexuals for pursuing sexual pleasure, the Court responded with Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, holding that such laws violate an individual’s right to liberty.

Conservatives decry such decisions because no rights to prayer-free public education, or abortion, or homosexuality, are expressly listed in the Constitution. But the Constitution cannot be interpreted biblically, as an exhaustive catalog of rules revealed by a superior authority, like a secular Book of Leviticus.
Monday, February 28, 2005
  The Oscars
I watched the Oscars last night, and I have to say I was pleased overall with the results. I wanted Million Dollar Baby to win big, and it did - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). It was no surprise when Jamie Foxx won for best actor - this was a given.

Eastwood is one of my favorite directors. I loved Unforgiven, and was impressed with Mystic River.

And now for the surprise confession - I also really liked the Passion of the Christ! I went into it as a sort of duty, to see what all the hype was about. But instead I was deeply moved by this picture, and impressed (as I have been in the past) by Mel Gibson's excellent direction. And while I'm embroiled in controversy, I'll also confess to absolutely loving Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2! These two films are testaments to Tarantino's skill as a director - I truly have admiration for this man after watching these movies.
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