Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day

Euphemisms rarely live up to the Greek root for "good" out of which the word is fashioned. It is cynical and not quite correct to say all euphemisms are lies. A few enable conversation about a touchy subject in the midst of a general audience. But some are lies and most remove critical features of their subject from explicit reference. They make the problem that prompted their invention seem more distant and abstract. Euphemisms can never be the language of solutions.

On memorial day, we go to the beach, burn hamburgers, endure speeches loaded with shallow patriotic platitudes and drink too much all to honor those who have died fighting their country's wars. We have a euphemism for these departed, used frequently in the headlines of the day: "honoring the fallen". Casualty statistics are transmuted into heroism. In order that these dead should not have died in vain, their sacrifice is used to add sacred weight to whatever war is now afoot. Long after the kin have dried their tears we collectively recall. How dare you question the war when the silent testimony of ranks of headstones can only be interpreted to say It was worth any price! There is nothing you can take away from a man who has given all. The questions are for those who mistook what was given. If we remember the fallen but forget why they fought or polish retrospective reasons and rationales to a heroic luster how have we honored them? The illogic of it staggers my mind.

What if they have not fallen but were instead pushed, tripped or just ridden into the ground?

And what to do about the 1000+ contractors killed so far in Dubya and Dick's excellent adventure? How will they be remembered?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A piece of bad news with many sorry connections.

The information Reuters provides about Senator Kennedy's brain tumor diagnosis only mentions glioma which does not provide enough detail for certainty. But the possibilities include little hope. Glioblastoma Multiforme is the most common of the gliomas and its prognosis with current treatments is a 20% chance of surviving one year. As I said: we don't know that it is that bad. That is simply the worst of a range of unpleasant outcomes.

Eleven years ago, it was known that neural stem cells had an uncanny ability to glide between other cells in the brain to seek out and attach themselves to gliomas. A lot of research funding would be needed to find a way to use these cells as couriers to deliver chemotheraputic substances exactly to target tissue no surgeon would ever be able to safely or completely excise. I happen to know the medical researcher, Dr. A, involved in the study because my son worked in her laboratory briefly in 2001. When the pathetic-mistake-in-chief executed the will of the church to legislate a medieval science policy over the will of the congress to fund stem cell studies, that researcher picked up and moved to California and started over again were federal monies that were drying up could be augmented from other sources. The delay in research means that Dr. A's work in transferring techniques in mice for use in humans is only in the early stages of clinical trials now. Thats too late to do the Senator any good, even though he voted for the measure that was vetoed. Bush would be delighted if he were capable of seeing the connection of his action to this outcome.

By the way, Dr A's parents were both born in Baghdad and fled when the Baathists began hanging Jews in the streets. I have talked with them and they both think Bush is an idiot who won't get the oil he was after and has clumsily destroyed the few things in Iraq for which expatriates might have returned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

a sad and embarrassing confession

Appeals to paranoia and fear of victimization are not just a Siren political song for Christians, Muslims and Republicans:(

I get an email from Israpundit every day or so. I rarely read them. I went to the site today to see whether the emails were typical of the content of that site. Turns out the content, and the ads, are a real embarrassment to peace seekers of either side and any religion. The site is devoid of religious content save as badge or label. Most of the moral teachings that are common to and, according to more enlightened religious people, central to the Abrahamic religions are no where in sight. Fear, justification of attacking in the present by recollection of being attacked in the past, denying the possibility of negotiated settlement...every weakness of the soul is called upon and enshrined as right thinking. I cannot detect any indication that this particular line of pro-Israel vehemence recognizes that the "other side" is in any way human. I admit that I do not follow all the ins and outs of Israel's neighboring Islamic countries. I know their Islam unites them more in western minds than in fact they are united. US support of Israel's existence and aquiescence to it expansion have begotten more unity among those Islamic neighbors than their native habits and undisturbed politics have ever produced..."the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is an Arab proverb.

I am not unaware of the intransigence of some Palestinians in rejecting the establishment of a Jewish sate...but they are not the majority, just the better funded by outsiders. Bush is in Israel today, tarring Obama any way he can for suggesting negotiation with Iran is preferable to bombing it. The attitude taken by fans and writers of Israpundit, like the dimwitted schemes to which Bush has subscribed, positively guarantee a future of war. It was neoconservative war and oil lust that strengthened the hand of Iranians by making a basket case of their former nemesis, Iraq. Iran's new boldness to prop up antagonists of Israel is a further complication of an impasse that already drove dispossessed Palestinians to murder. How many more years of trading corpses before we admit the ways of the past and present are not working?

Bush is harping on "terror" to the Israelis. Responding to acts of terror by becoming polarized and retreating to stereotyped thinking is exactly the result a terrorist hopes for. When do we stop capitulating on that level that a Bush does not even understand? Certainly not at Israpundit.

As I type this, Ms Greensmile is downstairs with a small committee of my fellow congregants who are struggling to come up with a way to start useful dialog within the congregation: The mess of Israeli/Palestinian permanent war is so painful and brings up intra- and interpersonal conflicts so readily that there have been decades of numb silence or fainthearted and carefully hedged lip service on support for Israel in many reform and maybe even some conservative synagogues. It is a touchy and so much more complex a situation than it behooves politicians like Bush to spell out. So Israpundit thinks it is speaking for more of us than is really the case. They embarrass me.