Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Best The Worst Has To Offer!

Immigration! What a polarizing issue. But why should it be? We are all familiar with the history of this country made up of criminals, pirates, opportunists and the excommunicated. As an extension we are aware of the tradition and history that immigration plays in defining what this country is. With that in mind is there a way forward? I think so. But it will take two very important things that our government is not good at, enforcement and compromise.

No comprehensive immigration bill can be good enough if it is not enforced. We have laws on the books now that are not vigorously enforced. We have towns and cities all over this country that declare themselves "safe havens" for illegals inviting illegal/criminal aliens to their communities thereby disregarding the law. At this time we can not enforce our borders. Measures to do so meet with tough scrutiny because they are historically unpopular (the wall) and expensive (more border agents). As the Congress presently debates this bill I am pleased to see Members like our own Sen. Lindsey Graham offer amendments that toughen boarder security. I am at best cautiously optimistic that these measures will actually be enforced.

What this immigration bill is changes every day with new amendments. So it is hard to pen down exactly what the final product will be. But so far I have not seen anything that looks like AMNESTY. There are several hurdles that illegal aliens must negotiate before beginning their path to citizenship. Two of which are learning the language and paying a hefty fine. As someone who has studied languages latter in life this is not a simple task and takes sincere dedication. The fine is $5000 and can be garnished out of pay checks. And these are just two hurdles, there are more.

All of this was arrived at by compromise. No one is completely happy with this bill, not least of which is the more "conservative" right. Most pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity and far-far right Savage and Coulter are dead set against this. Well, duh. Since when have pundits been known as champions of compromise! Pundits don't make money being wishy-washy on issues they make it by being far left or far right. Absolutist in their analysis. Luckily, it looks as though in this case Congress is not being absolutist. There is a necessary give and take at work with this immigration bill that may yet yield some much needed results.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My old religious "Manifesto" from a few years back. Good stuff.

Religion: for Liberals, Scholars, and Conflicted Conservatives.

Chapter 1: So where do I get off…?

As a conservative in the belly of the beast I see what appears to be “both” sides of the argument. (I say “both” because there are obviously more than two sides) I write this today as a student under the close scrutiny of two professors who are assisting me with my research on Islamic culture and the psychology of terrorism. In studying Islam, Christianity and Judaism I have come across many ideas about religiosity. Some are stringent, others are lax. I have seen fundamentalism and relativism, experienced hate fueled by ignorance and love fueled by ignorance. I have seen academicians butcher the sacred and stand for faith. I have seen the “lost” enlightened and the “enlightened” lost.

A few words about the title. As far as the terms “conservative” or “liberal” I mean each in a general sense. You can vote for a democrat and be religiously conservative and vice-versa. In terms of religion and the title of conservative or liberal I mean do you believe the writers of the Torah, Qur’an and/or Bible are inerrant, unfaultable in their duties as God’s distributor of his message. Further, do you believe that your interpretation of God’s message as received by you, via experiencing the text yourself or having a religious scholar translate/explain it for you, is the correct interpretation? Generally, Conservatives will believe more of a literal translation and use religious precedent to feel comfortable with their own view of their own faith. Liberals will believe that religion can be more relative, that errors can be made by man even inspired men and this gives them comfort. We have already used two terms that may look interchangeable but are not. Religion and Faith. Faith will be used in this work to mean a personal relationship with your religion or God. Religion will be used to encompass all aspects of your beliefs including: doctrine, sacraments, duties, myths, etc. In my view your faith is often a product of your religion, but eventually your religion should be a product of your faith. When I speak of we/our/us in this work I am speaking of the world. Not just the United States. One last note on definitions, MYTH in modern culture has the connotation of an untruth or a fairy-tale. When speaking of religion it simply means the story of your religion. This is not a discussion on whether Arjuna and Krishna really did have a long conversation in the middle of a battlefield or whether Muhammad had his heart taken out and put back in his chest, or whether water did change to wine. This work is meant to help you be OK with all three stories no matter what your faith or religion.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh refers to our learned class as “pointy-headed.” He tends to view them as arrogant and misguided. Well he is at least half right. If you have been to college you know he is right about the arrogance. But I submit that they are arrogant with good reason, though reason is not reason enough for foolish pride. The intelligentsia of our time has earned a place of honor among us. They have committed themselves to lives of learning and teaching. We owe them our gratitude and respect. What is their perception of us? Are we unenlightened? Ignorant? Incapable of responsible thought? Foolish? Having spent an embarrassing amount of time as the loyal subject of a few professors, I would have to say that is exactly how some of them view us. We are viewed as incapable boobs who do not have the intellectual base to consistently make good working decisions. What is scary is wondering…are they right! They most certainly are not, but I see how they could think that way.

Chapter 2: The Mob Rules

So what if the Jew does pray funny or that Christian is an intolerant ass or that Muslim does think your are going to hell. Does it matter what others think of us? Does it matter who the guy next to you is praying to and what he is praying for? You better believe it. In the post 9/11 world we all have to be a bit more vigilant and at the same time tolerant. I need to know if you are praying for my destruction. I need to know if you think of me as a friend but would sell me down the river tomorrow because my soul is already damned. But I don’t need to violate your rights given by the state or by God. It is a precarious position. One that our before mentioned erudite class believes is too complex for the masses. Why would they think such a thing? Well, turn on the TV or read a paper or go online. Because we have cocked it up. We are an intolerant child throwing a tantrum the likes of which the world has never seen. We are killing, maiming and taxing because of fear, because we are offended, because we were told to do it by God, because we are greedy, because of pride. We have demonstrated that we are incapable of any unselfish thought. From Mecca to Salt Lake City we have shown that we are not broadminded. The question at hand is: are we capable of it? Can you pay more for fruit, sneakers and customer assistance? Can you conceive of the pain, hunger and frustration in many parts of the world? Can you do with less so others can do with some? Can you find time to teach so others can do for themselves? Can you give of yourself expecting nothing in return but a better life? Can you do these things? If you can then I have ruined the ending for you for the Torah, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita and basically every other religious text in the world. What I mean is the message is the same. Listen to yourself and read this next sentence aloud. DON’T LOSE THE MESSAGE FOR THE WORDS. You are not capable of understanding God’s words, another universal message from religious texts. But, you are expected to understand and live by his message. “If you worshiped Muhammad he is dead, if you worship God he lives on.”(loose translation)

Chapter 3: So what now?

The word tolerance is thrown around today and I think we need a new definition if not a new word. Tolerance is not agreement. You tolerate your children’s behavior you do not agree with it. You tolerate a rectal exam you do not enjoy it. You tolerate the opposing opinion you are not indifferent to it. Finally, you can criticize another’s religion and not be intolerant!

Unfortunately we are so past the point where mere tolerance would be of any assistance we need to do more. Tolerance alone only works if all parties participate. Now we need understanding. We need what my “pointy headed” friends in our colleges and universities through-out the world have in spades…we need some good ole’ book learnin’. It is impossible to empathize with a Christian in Lebanon if you don’t know what it is like in Lebanon or to be a Christian. You can not understand the need for a redress of grievances in the Middle East if you don’t know what the grievances are and the history behind them. Education builds tolerance. Ultra-Conservatives will say it also is a breeding ground for indoctrination of young minds. Well let me beat them to the punch. Yes that is very true. Suzy may go off to college the apple of your eye and come back a smelly hippy that has not shaved her pits in six months. That is your child. You should have raised her better. Cut off her allowance and money for school. Sit her down and have real conversation with her. But, don’t blame the exchange of information. It is what you do with the information that is the key.

So learning is not enough. You need to be comfortable with the idea that you could be wrong. You need to know that God loves you and everyone else in this world. Do you believe the Catholics across the street? Do they believe the Evangelicals up town? Do the Evangelicals believe the Unitarians? Do the Unitarians believe the Methodist and do the Methodists believe the Jews? All different beliefs all 100% sure that there religion is the correct one. I want you to be comfortable with your faith. I want you to be 100% sure that your faith is what God wants. Talk to God. Pray. Listen to God’s message. Let your religion be your guide. But do not let your religion conflict itself. If God is telling you to kill the infidels know that someone else with a different religion is hearing the same thing and you are the infidel. Who is right? You? Why? Because someone told you? Because God told you? We already established that God told someone else the same thing about you. He believes it to be true as much as you do. You have God on your side? So does he? You’re just right and he is just wrong? Maybe, but you are not God you do not know all things. You are mortal. You are a sinner. These religious concepts are universal. That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is mankind’s aversion to doubt. We fear what we do not understand. Doubt is not fully understanding.

Chapter 4: Comfort in the Uncomfortable

So how do we learn to accept that God is the only one who is inerrant? That no one on this Earth is close to knowing the “truth”. Well, through God, all things are possible. This will be as well. Study other religions, other cultures, other races. Approach it like it were the second most important thing in your life. (God being #1 if you wish) Through this learning process we will become more comfortable and tolerant. You can be comfortable with the fact that God will provide. (Another universal religious truth.) You can be comfortable that Governments can outlaw religions and people can wound and mock your religion but your faith is your own and is perfect. What is more God-like than knowing others? Finding comfort in our differences. Feeling unity in a similarity you did not know you had with another country, culture or religion.

Chapter 5: Tell me more about the difference between faith and religion.

More people have died in the name of God than for any other reason. Do you believe this? Do you believe that we are in the middle of a holy war? Were the Crusades to spread Christendom through out the world? I say no to all of these. I say religion plays(ed) a part in all of these events but God did not. There is separation between religion and God, and faith and God. Religion is the interpretation of God’s message by men. Faith is your interpretation of God’s message. Religion is a guide to a relationship with God. Faith is your relationship with God. Faith is solely your responsibility and your creation. Religion is the responsibility of many men and is the creation of many men. (I separate God’s message from religion, meaning sacred texts are part of a religion, God’s message is his own.)

Chapter 6: What about the fact that my friends can’t go to heaven because they are Jewish or Muslim…and who is that Joseph Smith guy…what’s that about?

Here is where it gets sticky. I would like to say you will just have to trust me…but I don’t want you to trust me. I want you to see it yourself. If you can only get to heaven by being a certain way does that mean that millions of people are doomed to hell just because they are a different religion? What if I am the wrong religion? How many people does that Jehovah Witness bus hold again? You need to show personal responsibility and explore other religions. You will find comfort in that. As well, you need to learn about your own. Not from your Pastor or Imam or Priest or Rabbi you get that every Friday or Saturday or Sunday. You need additional sources. You need to study your own religion as much as others. What is it exactly that you say you believe with all of your heart 100%? Do you believe what educated people have said about your religion? Does that reflect your relationship with God? Is what your religion prescribes in God’s message or is it what your religion says is the best way to live so you can be closer to God? Is something that probably started out as a suggestion over 100, 1000, 2000 years ago on how to better your relationship with God now religious doctrine or is it part of God’s message? How many times has what you lived your life by been translated? After all, it is called the “King James Version”. Are you trusting your salvation to the folks at NIV (New International Version of the Bible) or are you trusting it to God. Through God all things are possible even a metaphor.

Chapter 7: I thought you were a conservative when I started reading this now I think you are a relativist.

I am a conservative. Very conservative. I am not a fundamentalist. I am strong in my faith. I live strictly by it with little to no room for interpretation. That sounds pretty conservative to me. What I am very liberal/relative about is how I am told to live by others. They may be right or they may be wrong. I let my faith and intellect decide. I am asking you to do the same.

If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? Rom 8:31

If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? Rom 8:31

Why Religion and Democracy Can Never Share the Same Government.

Benjamin Parrish Cook

Dublin City University

Only secular democracies can be true democracies[1]. There is no such thing as a discriminatory democracy. By rule you must have equal access to the public apparatus in order to meet the most basic definition of democracy. Overly contextual religious “democracies” can never fully protect the rights of those with religions other than that of the state. The act of “othering” a non state religion is discrimination in and of itself.[2] Then there are the practical implications of trying to protect the “other” religion institutionally discriminated against. Inevitably you run into an attempt at “separate but equal”. The concept of separate but equal does not work. It is merely a stop-gap measure at best and a road to back room discrimination at worse. Naming a specific religion as incompatible to democracy, as is often done with Islam, is not necessary because it is not the type of religion that does not fit with democracy it is religion itself.

This essay deals only with the most basic definition of democracy; rule by the people, and as a subset, equal access to the public apparatus.[3] There are many other “democracies” out there. Most are one-off efforts at naming a system of governance that is in fact not yet a democracy but is either on its way to being so or is close enough to warrant the hasty label. Many of these one-off efforts include facets of Liberal Democracy but do not include the most basic piece, that of equal access.[4]

Religion has traditionally played an important and upfront roll in government and politics. In the US it is still a hot button issue. The removal of public school prayer, “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” from currency are still debated in the courts and streets of what can be considered the first substantive republican democracy if not the current bench mark for Liberal Democracy.[5] There is no perfect democracy but in order to be considered one you must meet certain minimal standards. Some standards only require loose adherence and others require strict. The one thing that must be protected and promoted above all else is the rule of the people, and that translated is equal access to the public apparatus. By this I mean no institutional discrimination that limits any person from voting or interacting with the government, be it applying for government aid or running for public office. In so far as religion operates to include people in the public apparatus it may work for a time.[6] But as religion becomes divisive, as it always does between believers and non believers, it will work to separate.

Equal Access

One does not need to look far to find stories of equal access granted by religious historical figures.[7] Nor does one have to look far to see the contemporary absence of that access today. Religious leaders through out the Arab world call for boycotts of elections and from government participation hoping to spoil the legitimacy of fledgling democracies if religious majorities are not assured. As stated before in the short term religion and democracy can co-occupy the same governmental space. However, eventually dominance will need to be established. An appropriate and current example is Indonesia. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world yet its governance is not dominated by any one religion.[8] A look at Indonesia’s constitution shows belief in one God codified. This codification has been a source of pluralistic pride and a source of political violence between nationalists and Islamists. On the one hand the compromise of having a generic term other than “Allah” used to signify monotheism is a pluralistic success.[9] On the other, through out the past 30 years Indonesia has struggled to find a democratic foot hold because of the instability of these issues as well as for economic reasons. This struggle has resulted in a dangerously strong military involvement in politics.[10] However, access to the public apparatus while dominated by the military is still open to all. In the Indonesian Representative Council 2004 elections 50% of the seats are held by 3 parties (none of which are blatantly religious) and the remaining seats by 21 other parties. The presidential election saw the top three candidates/parties get 33%, 26% and 22% of votes. As well, the Representative Council majority is not the same party as the president.[11] Still there are issues with religion. “Sub national law” in the provinces is often Sharia Law.[12] The influence of this sub national law is often felt on a national level as religious groups work to “other” non believers.[13]

The Damage of “Othering”

Othering is placing people in the position of “out-group”,[14] increasing “social distance” that can lead to a plethora of problems not least of which is political violence.[15] By highlighting differences hierarchical structures and stereotypical thinking can flourish. This social distance between in-group and out-group is easily exploited by what often become the power elite versus everyone else.[16] When these power elite are also the “mind guard” of religiosity the ripeness for exploitation is immense.[17] This exploitation will eventually take the form of denying access to the “others” in an attempt to remain in power thereby robbing the people of power.

Separate but equal

If we look at the move towards democracy as a continuum power elite exploitation would be on one end and liberal democracy on the other. In the middle would be an attempt at “separate but equal”. On the move to democracy once we pass elitism we find ourselves trying to have at least the appearance of equality. Most work on separate but equal division is based on race. I see no obvious reason why a generalization to all forms of discrimination would not work. In the US as in South Africa attempts were made to equalize race relations by statute.[18] Laws were enacted that codified the appearance of equality. However, the mere codification of separate but equal is an act of othering. Once again increasing the social distance between culture, race or religion. Classic examples in the US would be segregated busses and schools that were supposed to provide equal access but actually only served to exacerbate relations between black and white America. The doctrine of separate but equal highlighted the differences and did nothing to fix stereotypes or level hierarchies.[19] These stereotypical hierarchical structures be it second class citizenry, casts, kafir or dhimmitude at first blush may seem to protect minority rights by providing or protecting some sort of access,[20] in the end however history has shown that the access is anything but equal. Arab Israelis suffer institutional discrimination at varying levels.[21] And while the debate is often characterized as “ethnic” rather than “religious” the acts of othering and attempts at separate but equal are very clear.

Miss naming the problem

In this global information age there is a new metric, perhaps borderline gimmick, that I see both the media and academia increasingly utilizing –the pitting of two terms against each other in the arena of Google. The search term “Islam and Democracy” returned approximately 250,000 hits. The search term “Religion and Democracy” returned about a 100,000 less at 156,000.[22] How could one religion out number religion in general? The point is that the suitability of Islam to democracy is not as constructive a debate if religion in general is omitted. Yet Islam dominates discussions and current academic review. Religious governance is a non starter in terms of democracy. Arguments about popular sovereignty versus God’s sovereignty are moot if you can not get beyond equal representation. Sure there is academic value in almost any debate but practically speaking the Islam vs. Democracy debate misses the first and most important point, that of equal access.

It can be a Christian democracy or an Islamic democracy neither can meet the equality requirement of democratic governance. Poised to illustrate this point is Nigeria. In the Pew Research Center’s poll of Nigerian voters both Christians and Muslims ranked religion as “most important” above their country, ethnicity or continent (Muslims 91%, Christians 76%). Taken without context that polling seems innocuous enough but, in Nigeria’s 2006 census religion was such a “sensitive” issue that questions about it were not included.[23] The poll also shows a sharp divide on world views down traditional religious lines. Nigeria is set to move from a Christian controlled government to a Muslim controlled government. The world is watching cautiously.


Disenfranchisement and barriers to public office need not be as overt as barring voters from polls or harassing opposition candidates. Social exclusion that promotes an external locus of control and low self worth are just as effective a means.[24] Highlighting cultural, sectarian and religious differences leads to ethnocentrism which is in itself a false appraisal that confirms a bias against the “other” or out-group members. When this othering manifests itself in a power elite discrimination inevitably becomes institutionalized.

Failure to provide equal access to whatever the chosen “democratic” system is: electoral, liberal, illiberal, fledgling or established means that the governance at work is something other than a democracy. Upon first observation a system of governance may have all the trappings of a functioning democracy including elections, parties and tacit tolerance of opposition parties but if a religion is codified into the governance system there is no level playing field and discrimination, and by extension disenfranchisement, are rife. Religion removes a necessary but not sufficient piece of democracy that of equal access.

Finally, a few words on why. There can be many explanations as to why a theocracy or codified state religion is preferred and perhaps may work better than a democracy at least for a time. In the Arab region a lack of nationalism as a rallying point leaves the door open to religious cohesion.[25] The establishment of the US or the nebulas “West” as a common enemy often is a substitute for constructive nationalist sentiment. Further the common language of religion frames the issue. So, rather than coming together for Syria or Egypt the populace comes together for God and the defeat of a common enemy. This ingenious and all too common slight-of-hand that governments, or even religious political parties looking to reframe the debate in popular context, are a function of dissatisfaction with the current regime. The rhetoric of this deflection is crafted in a way that promotes both the missing nationalist feeling and that of the common language of religion. I ask again, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Arguments for a contextual democracy based on religion tread on a slippery slope. On one hand democracy has a better chance of working if it is recognizable. On the other democracy that is more “context” than democracy is no democracy at all. It does the academic community no good to continue the discussion of democracy in the context of religion and not consider the issue of institutional discrimination that is inevitable in a theocracy or state religion. It is certainly understood that tempers are high and the stakes real when you deal with religion and particularly Islam and the possibility of offense should be considered. The real offense, however, is not that of the sensibilities of a religion and its adherents but rather that of a lack of academic veracity about the compatibility of religion and democracy.

[1] This is not to say that all secular governance claiming to be democratic is in fact true democracy. Secular governance is a necessary but insufficient piece of democracy liberal, electoral or otherwise. Furthermore, any discrimination, religious or otherwise, by the government is erosive to access to the public apparatus.

[3] International Information Programs Retrieved April 5th 2007

[4] Merriam Webster

[5] The concept is no doubt debatable and an essay in and of itself.

[6] The role of religion in “getting out the vote” or facilitating democracy is often very useful but still easily exploited.

[7] Specifically the Constitution of Medina and Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar Padashah Ghazi come to mind. Ahmed, N. Retrieved April 5th, 2007

[8] CIA World Fact Book

[9] “Allah” does appear in the constitution as part of the oath of office of the president.

[10] ASEM Interfaith Dialog (2005) Jakarta Post Retrieved April, 5th 2007

[11] Retrieved April, 10th 2007

[12] Otterman, S. Council on Foreign Relations (2005) Retrieved April 10th 2007

[13] The 2005 battle over pornography between women’s groups and Islamic political parties is one example. The women’s groups feared it was a move towards establishing Sharia law as the national standard of law.

[14] The dangers of “othering” are succinctly described by Hayes, A., Devereux, E., Breen, M. (2004) A Cosy Consensus on Deviant Discourse: How the refugee and asylum seeker meta-narrative has endorsed an interpretive crisis in relation to the transnational politics of the world’s displaced persons a working paper on the dangers of social and cultural interpretation of asylum seekers. Retrieved April 14th 2007

[15] Post, J.M. (2005)Club deMadrid Addressing the Causes of Terrorism

[16] “Elite” is from the Latin “eligere” meaning: to elect. Ironically this is the crux of the discussion. The “election” of individuals to govern. So is not an “elite” what democracy is all about? Sure, if the elite are elected by the people and not by some other entity such as God or other elites that use a cycle of cronyism to concentrate power. Modern democracies still struggle with cronyism. Legislative bodies that are “common” rather than “noble” are the traditional attempt at countering too much power being vested in the traditional elites.

[17] Cook, K. Retrieved April 12th 2007

[18] Perhaps eventually Israel and the occupied territories.

[19] Just as the US courts in Plessy vs. Ferguson upheld views that there were natural differences between whites and blacks so too have Islamic courts upheld views that God’s word validates discrimination of non Muslims and women. The out come is the same, further social distance. Roche, J.P. (1951) The Future of “Separate but Equal” Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 12, No. 3. (3rd Qtr., 1951), pp. 219-226; Sharia Law discrimination in the Maldives UN MONITORING COMMITTEE FOR WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION Retrieved April 14th 2007

[20] Yeor, B. (2003) National Review Online Retrieved April 10th 2007

[21] Peled, Y. (1992) The American Political Science Review, Vol. 86, No. 2. (Jun., 1992), pp. 432-443.

[22] Retrieved April 16th 2007

[23] Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2007) Retrieved April 4th 2007

[24] Neill, J. (2006) Retrieved March 20th, 2007

[25] Early attempts at Pan Arabism also point to this possibility.

Friday, May 4, 2007

US makes demands of Israel... Not a small thing...

The US has made several demands of Israel and of Palestine. A security document makes demands like the removal of some checkpoints, road blocks, and the re arming of Palestinian Authority Security Forces. Also, it calls on Palestinians to have a "plan" to stop Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza.

The timing is interesting though I doubt incredibly meaningful. Olmert is under intense pressure to resign. I doubt he will. It will be interesting to see the rhetoric and action/inaction that takes place in the coming months.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Tao of Al

The Tao of Gore

I am actually all for going "Green". There is no harm in it and it opens up new markets. But be warned. There are some "Greenys" that worship at the alter of Gore! Once Green becomes a "religion," as it is want to do, it will establish mind guards and doctrine that are unassailable even by science.

Watching the environment movement embrace, yea invest, in an apocalyptic version of climate change is frightening. Former VP Al Gore has whipped the populace into quite a frenzy. He is just about to start handing out the Kool-aid.

It must be stated that am a believer in climate change at the hands of humans. Where I draw the line is the “end of days” scenarios that warn us of impending death to the planet. The human race with all of its might could do no more than bruise this planet. We are merely an after thought to mother earth that has been around for 4.5 billion years. Folks have only been around to see about 200,000 thousand of those years. Let’s spell this out.

4,500,000,000,000 Earth

200,000 Folks

In this time the earth has been ravaged by much worse than the internal combustion engine and the nuclear bomb. What we can not understand is that there is something larger than ourselves at work here. And that modern science can only struggle to make a best guess as to what is going on. We can’t predict tornados or hurricanes and barely have a grasp on when it rains. What self-important academic dares say with absolute certainty that we are the culprits in the “current” climate swing? What brazen arrogance. Instead what should be said is that we are affecting the current climate and to what degree is debatable.

Here is what is certain. The American people and the modern West fund both sides of the War on Terror every time we fill up our cars with petroleum. Therefore alternatives, conservation and stewardship are necessities. Not because the ocean will swallow Manhattan or Myrtle Beach. I have a prediction of my own. That before this debate is over everyone reading this will be dead and their grandchildren will be dead and their grand children’s grand children as well. Not from rising oceans or a man made ice age either, but rather the same things that have called us home to our just rewards over the past 200,000 years.

The Tao of Gore.

I am actually all for going "Green". There is no harm in it and it opens up new markets. But be warned. There are some "Greenys" that worship at the alter of Gore! Once Green becomes a "religion," as it is want to do, it will establish mind guards and doctrine that is unassailable even by science...

"Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming..."

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Iraq War In Perspective... with help from Victor Davis Hanson

There are many of us that can on occasion be honest with ourselves. We can put aside biases that we are so heavily invested in that we often refuse the truth. I ask you to put those biases aside and look at the Iraq war from a bit more utilitarian aspect. I ask you to consider the alternatives, not now, but 20 years from now.


March 5, 2007
Memory and Conflict in Iraq
by Victor Davis Hanson
Tribune Media Services

Given all of this country's past wars involving intelligence failures, tactical and strategic blunders, congressional fights and popular anger at the president, Iraq and the rising furor over it are hardly unusual.

Imagine if the House of Representatives had debated a resolution to authorize the president's use of force in Iraq only after the bombs were already falling. And what if after the debate, in the middle of the war, with our troops already in combat, Congress had suddenly denied such approval?

That is precisely what happened to President Clinton during the Serbian war of 1999. Neither the Senate nor the House agreed to sanction the administration's ongoing preemptive bombing campaign against Serbia. That congressional rebuke prompted liberal commentator Mark Shields to scoff on "PBS Newshour" that American troops were "putting their life on the line, and (the Congress) are saying, we're not with you."

Or consider the national mood in 1968 when the United States suffered over 16,000 American dead in Vietnam (at that rate, we lost more troops in three months than we have during the entire four-year Iraqi war). In response, riots racked the country. Protestors stormed the Democratic Convention in Chicago. And a polarized country saw both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. gunned down.

Nothing in Iraq comes close to the furor over Korea, either. Again, suppose the following: President Bush conducts an ongoing public fight with the new commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who in turn serially whines to the press that he is being backstabbed by an unsupportive administration. Bush then fires Petraeus. The general returns to the United States to tickertape parades, while the president becomes even more detested as thousands more Americans are killed.

That scenario sums up the Truman-MacArthur row over the stalemate in Korea. During that conflict, President Truman fired Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson; fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his senior military commander in the theater; and faced calls for impeachment from U.S. senators, including the venerable Robert Taft. By February 1952, Truman's approval ratings had hit 22 percent — the lowest-known polls of any sitting U.S. president, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon included.

During World War II, more than 1,000 marines were killed in 72 hours on the tiny Pacific island of Tarawa, storming head on a Japanese stronghold that was considered at best an optional objective. The Time magazine photos of American corpses in the surf caused national outrage and calls for the resignation of widely respected Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Pacific veteran Gen. Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith said the senseless American slaughter was analogous to Pickett's costly and futile charge at Gettysburg.

Optional conflicts like the Mexican War, the Philippines Insurrection, Korea and Vietnam all cost more lives than Iraq. Even our most successful wars witnessed far more lethal stupidity than anything seen in Baghdad. Thousands of American dead resulted from lapses like the Confederate surprise at Shiloh, Japanese surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, and the German surprise attacks in the Ardennes...

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