The Bushies have been pusing Democracy, Democracy, Democracy throughout the world as a remedy for the world's ailments. This is part of the overall script that American conservatives have been pushing for a while now, all in an effort to offer the American public a reason as to why they should be put in office. We defeated the Soviets, now Saddam, now we will make noises against Iran, and we have pushed for democracy in Palestine for time immemorial.
Well, well, well. It seems that the Palestinians finally decided to hold an election and the avowedly "Destroy Israel" Islamic party Hamas won. Now the Bushies are upset. Funny thing this democracy business. It's a great thing, that is until the United States government doesn't get the outcome it wants in some foreign election. Craig Hines, a Houston Chronicle columist who fits right in with the somewhat liberal tint of the modern day Chronicle editorial board, wrote of similar thought to mine. Hines also wrote of the issue that the U.S. government apparently gave $2 million to the Fatah movement (Yassir Arafat's movement) and former government during the middle of the election season, ostensibly for non political purposes. Yeah right.
In our own hemisphere, there is the outcome of elections in Bolivia. There, Bolivians elected a coca grower into office. I am sure that the Bushies and all you pro drug war types out there are just fuming over that outcome. What! How dare those people in all these places end up not electing our guys and not see things from America's point of view!
I am a religious agnostic, and unlike most Americans I don't have any special sentiment towards Israel. I get burned out by the rantings of the Charles' Krauthammers' of the world who go apocolyptic over anything having to do with Israel. Those Palestinians are just waiting to wipe the Jewish state off the map. What has Israel done for America? NOTHING! They have no petroelum or other mineral resources, they have (or had) a semi-socialist economy, and American intervention on Israel's behalf has brought nothing but headaches for all the Wilsonian worldview types.
The word has it that Condi Rice is going to hop on another jet airplane at American taxpayer expense and go talk to the Europeans about cutting off the money to any Hamas led government which doesn't forswear the destruction of the Jewish state. The problem with this idea is that the Palestinians really don't have much money to begin with. The Israeli settlements, which started after the 1967 six day war, has cut the would be Palestinian state into enclaves. I cannot think of any other nation state or country in the world which is composed of an area of land that effectively would look like a slice of cheese with holes in it. It is diffcult to get any economic activity going when you cannot reap peace, stability, or economies of scale.
One could muster a very strong argument that recent events have been brewing for a while. The Fatah movement was widely considered to be corrupt. So, following the good practices of democracy, throw those corrupt bums out and replace them with a new set of corrupt bums. As the Krauthammers of the world endlessly decry, Yassir Arafat and company turned down the Bill Clinton brokered peace agreement where the Palestinians would get large swathes of the West Bank (but maybe they were thinking they could get a better deal, perhaps?). Well, if the Fatah movement didn't get them anywhere after all these decades, then why not vote for Hamas? So put that in your democracy pipe and smoke it. I have gotten rather bored with keeping up with politics in recent years, but I just can't wait to read what the pro Israeli talking heads will have to say now.
Moreover, on a somewhat related but larger topic, I have a warning for the conservatives having to do with their worldwide crusades to stamp out terrorism and bring democracy everywhere. Namely that America has about 30 years left as the world's greatest undisputed power. After that, it's all over. Both India and China will have large enough economies to field armed forces which conceivably could contest American moves in the Eurasian landmass if they were to wish to do so. The Asia Pacific century has begun.
Story links can be read:
One New Hampshire lawmaker had this to say:
State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare resident who is sponsoring two pieces of eminent domain legislation in New Hampshire, said he expects the group's proposal to be defeated overwhelmingly.
"Most people here see this as an act of revenge and an improper attack on the judicial system," Kurk said. "You don't go after a judge personally because you disagree with his judgments."
But I beg to differ. I have come to the conclusion that the only way that political classes everywhere, and that includes judges, lobbyists, and pressure groups everywhere, are ever going to fear the public is to simply shove their versions of public service which they attempt to inflict on us right back down their throats. In other words, what is good for the goose really is good for the gander. If the majority of the SCOTUS Justices forgot to read the Constituion (the document reads that land will be taken for "public use," not for a "public purpose"), then we the people MUST make sure that the Justices personally face the logic of their own decisions.
And by the way. When are President Bush's daughters (and the children of members of Congress) going to be conscripted into military service so that they can be sent off to Iraq?
Also see this link.
This week on January 10, the news came that Texas State District Judge Tad Halbach issued a summary judgment that our Proposition 2 revenue cap was compatible with the City of Houston sponsored Proposition 1. We have won a victory at last!
It does not surprise me from being a plaintiff in the original Rev Cap lawsuit from 2001 that the City would appeal the decision. After all, we are getting right to the heart of the matter of what government is really all about - legalized, coercive theft. Thou shalt not steal unless by majority vote. So when the political classes (nee the State itself), lobbyists, and those who favor state power to reshape the future are threatened, I have come to realize that Leviathan will fight to the bitter end to defend itself. Trust me folks, this issue has dragged on for more than 4 years. I have discoverd the hard way that taking on Leviathan isn't very easy. Hats off to Jeff Daily, Bruce Hotze, and Bob Lemer who have done most of the heavy lifting. As for me, I will be giving some money to the ongoing legal fight which continues next month. It no longer surprises me that my tax dollars are being used against my own wishes in this sphere.
People like Charles Kuffner are on record as saying that Prop 2 is bad public policy.Hmm Mr. Kuffner, so was former Mayor Lee Brown's promising vast improvements in the pensions of our municipal public servants in the form of the so called "DROP" plans. Do you want proof? Well how about reading this and this.To boot, I would not be surprised if Mr. Kuffner voted for Mr. Brown during his tenure. It was to constrain local public looting that Prop 2 was written up fought for. Prop 2 will really force the political classes, and that includes the municipal bureaucracies such as the police and fire departments, to priortize what is really important. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
More on this later. I have other things I want to do.
I may have mentioned previously that I am a member of a Houston area Inklings meeting group, which of course focuses on the writings of J.R.R.Tolkien, Clive Lewis (C.S. Lewis), and other Inklings writers. Amongst our regulars are published Tolkien authors Professor Jane Chance and Michael Martinez. Tonight's meeting was supposed to follow the agenda of discussing the film "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe", but as things often are at shindings like this, we wandered all over the place and only talked briefly about the recent film. We will probably circle back around next month and talk about Lewis.
Tonight, Michael Martinez brought up a previous train of conversation which was that "Tolkien Fandom" big guns Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have come out with a book (sorry, as of this writing, I am not sure what the name of the book is. I am not that up to snuff on Tolkien) where Martinez said that Hammond and Scull have come out on two tired old questions that have plagued Tolkien religion worshippers (oops - fans) for ages: 1) Do Balrogs and Wings and 2) Did the One Ring speak to Gollum when Sam, Frodo, and Gollum were near Mount Doom on the final stages of the quest to destroy Sauron's Ring? Martinez went on to say that Hammond and Scull apparently (I cannot remember precisely what was said and I don't have the book) have come out against Balrogs having wings and that the Ring did not speak - the voice being either Frodo's, or even Sauron's or Galdalf's! Of course this conversation went on for a bit with arguing either way in which I did contribute to the "Ring speaking" debate, but to be honest I was bored with this. So, decided to pose another much more fundamental question.
So what, pray tell, did I ask my fellow Inklings enthusiasts? I started off by stating that the "Balrogs / Wings" question was not the most interesting issue to me when it came to thinking about Balrogs. To me, the most interesting thing about Balrogs was something far more fundamental and important - namely, why was it that Balrogs decided to follow or pay allegiance to Morgoth? In fact, I will go ahead and state that this question is THE fundamental issue surrounding the existence of Balrogs. Everything else that Balrogs do, and everything which happens to Balrogs (including the slaughter of most Balrogs at the end of the First Age), ultimately stem from their initial decision to pledge their allegiance to Morgoth. Balrogs are creatures which play role of some significance in Tolkien's myths and it absolutely blows my mind that as of the writing of this weblog essay on this website, nobody has ever bothered to ask a question of such fundamental importance in Tolkien fandom! I have probably 20 or so Tolkien related books besides The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and The Silmarillion and to my recollection, I have never once come across any published author who has asked this question. To the contrary, if one punches in the words "Balrogs" and "wings" into the Goolge search engine, one comes up with 12,400 webpages dedicated to the issue. These facts speak volumes of the world of Tolkien fandom and I would venture to say that such a state of affairs goes further to the wider world of science fiction and fantasy writing in general.
And what do those volumes say, one may ask? Well, one might ask whether there are plenty of questions that need to be asked, questions that obviously nobody in Tolkien fandom has ever bothered to have asked before. It seems that there is a tunnel vision that afflicts Tolkien readers (and sci - fi / fantasy readers in general?) that focuses on arguing over the text and doesn't stop to ask questions of Tolkien's stories which are of great significance. Yikes, sounds like we are talking about believers of Monotheism arguing over the Torah, the Koran, or the Bible, and we might as well should be.
So I posed the question. And what was the immediate response of this enthusiastic, rabid, and opinionated group? Well gentle readers, the silence was deafening.After some moments, Mr. Martinez spoke up and asked whether Balrogs were "followers" of Morgoth? I don't know, but if you ask me, reading about creatures which fight wars (and die) on behalf of a leader figure should pretty much be counted as followers. A woman named Pego ventured that Morgoth wanted fiery figures around him. Yet another, named Tom Lytle, mentioned something to the effect that Balrogs might have felt an attraction to Morgoth as something of a "kindred" spirit. Of course, there is always the oldest reply in the book: Balrogs followed Morgoth because Tolkien said so! So there you idiotic schmuck! Next question please...
Tolkien writes in the Valaquenta that:
"But he (Morgoth) was not alone. For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts. Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror."
In the immediate aftermath of my first question, I asked a follow up question - what was it that Morgoth offered them (meaning Balrogs)? After all, surely if someone, even if that someone is a deity, wants you to follow them, then surely they must offer you something - right? Again, Mr. Martinez replied "maybe he (Morgoth) offered them nothing". Well maybe Morgoth offered Maiar and Balrogs nothing other than simply allowing them to bask in his splendor, but at the risk of assigning human like qualities to the Valar and Maiar, such an idea also goes against what is quid quo pro natural. Would Morgoth's aura of magnificence really be enough to convince an angelic being to go to war for such a deity? If not, then wiser Maiar might ask of Morgoth the question of "if I follow you, then what's in it all for me? What will you offer me in return?" Even the Christian faith asks that believers simply believe that Christ is the Savior of mankind and your reward will be in Heaven in the afterlife.
Tolkien often asks an awful lot of his readers and rarely does Tolkien ask more of his readers then when he tells them that Morgoth attracted angelic spirits to his service via lies and treacherous gifts. If Morgoth did so, then what were those treacherous gifts? One Ring type plot gifts? Grants of miraculous powers which then turned on their users? Like so much else, Tolkien doesn't tell us. But one has to remember that this is writing of both theological and cosmological scale. As for the lies Morgoth might have told lesser Maiar in order to attract them to his service, then one has to start asking questions regarding the powers of judgment which various Maiar possess. For example, would a Maiar fall to a lie that if that Maiar were to follow Morgoth, then when Morgoth subdued Arda (or whatever Morgoth's future plans would be), then that Maiar would be given perhaps a realm to rule as reward for his / her / its service to him? Would they really believe such words? Such musings are not idle ones. They go straight to the heart of issues such as the plot by the Valar to send the Wizards to Middle Earth in the Third Age, bound in the form of Men, to counter the will of Sauron. The fact that the Valar decided to do this in the light of knowing the historical record of Maiar behavior boils down to a breathtaking gamble on the part of the Valar.
Then there is the matter that the powerful are steadily leaving Tolkien's worlds, which in turn leaves us with the dreary, mundane, and unsupernatural world that we live in today. In this Tolkien parallels the stories of many religions which follow similar themes.
Moreover, Morgoth might have been quite a splendorous being, but for lesser figures to follow him, they surely must have been mulling over the consequences of what they were getting into by swearing their allegiance to him. How long was it before the Balrog of Moria burst forth after the wars that ended the First Age and which brought down Morgoth? One wonders at the fear and rage the Balrog of Moria might have felt after what transpired at the end of the First Age. Saruon felt much the same, as we are told of this in text. It also might explain why it was that the Moria Balrog never bothered to bow to Saruon (as far as we know?) or visit his horrors on Middle Earth until discovered two full millennia into the Third Age.
But to go on to the second question of this weblog entry, it is clear that few are asking these questions. That is why I decided to pose the question in the first place, as I have come to believe that if the full vision of Tolkien's fantastic myths are to reach their full fruition, then we must become more imaginative as fans and that would mean asking more of ourselves than simply rehasing tired old arguments such as whether Balrogs had wings or not. More musing on other seldom thought of matters will follow.
Ciao for now
One of the boiler plate topics in both Washington and Houston surrounds the high jinks of our own Sugar Land area Congressman Tom Delay. Congressman Delay has been indicted for something or another (it is hard for me to believe that I once breathlessly followed such things) and there is some high powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff (I do not know if this is his correct name and I could really care less) who is supposedly guilty of breaking some lobbying rules - yawn.
What is of a bit more interest to this political commentator who is slowly losing interest in political commentary is that there were think tank "fellows" who took payoffs from Abramoff, most notably The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow. Since I link to Cato on my website and still on occasion read their pages, it was of some interest to me as to the fact that Bandow took payoffs to write favorably about Abramoff's Indian casinos (or whatever it was that Abramoff wanted Bandow to write about). Since I plead guilty to not having read Cato's website in a while, I apparently missed that Cato came out against drug reimportation, ergo selling out their free trade dogmas.
With all of this in mind, I will link to Lew Rockwell's column on the entire affair.I particularly liked his links to Cato's 10 biggest donors.This should be another website I should link to. I also like this paragraph on so called "Progressive" journalism and "good government". I think the Houston Chronicle's journalists should take note:
"Something of the same Progressive-style na´vetÚ exists with the longing for pure, unadulterated journalism, journalism that is not influenced by lobbyists or peddlers but is directed solely toward the good of all. That is a ridiculous notion. I prefer the old 19th-century style journalism in which party hacks made their attachments explicit. But of course the political parties would much prefer it if the same case for their looting could be made without the motives being disclosed."
Every time I read the Chronicle breathlessly write about the misfortunes of Tom Delay and his cronies, I think of the writing above. There is no "Progressivism", only Progressive Enslavement. Instead of looting for Delay, his suburbanites, and for freeways, the Chron wants to loot for the Greater Houston Partnership and Metro. But the least I can say for Delay is that most people want to live in the suburbs and drive their cars around to get to places. Ergo, I throw my lot in with Delay and his looting crowd.
Note to self: I will never write a check out to Cato - or for any other Washington area think tank, political party, or interest group. They all have enough money for whatever it is that they want to do. I need to remember to stay local, as some of my friends don't have a dime to their name.
Good riddance to 2005. It has been a tough year for Houston and the Gulf Coast in general. We took our own near miss with Hurricane Rita and we had to deal with well over 100,000 evacuees from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Although there has been a spate of crime recently, we here in Houston can clearly reply to the old saw, "Houston, you have a problem" with a resounding, "Yes, and we handled the problem with aplomb!"
In reading the usual blah, blah, blah over the previous year, I can wholeheartedly link to the website of the yearly list of annoying and banished words and phrases. So, if you are a person of interest, You can freely hunker down and visit this surreal list of words which I have to admit I have used a few of. Another site of interest was a story on Yahoo the popularity of hookah bars. Oh my goodness, people are discovering that they like smoking! Why, don't we have laws in place to BAN such activities? Why such despicable activities need to be stomped out once and for all!
Enough for this epistle. More later. It reminds me that you should never try to control such things as consensual adult behavior. Sigh...
Ciao for now - TMW