Thursday, May 24, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
Why Religion and Democracy Can Never Share the Same Government.
Benjamin Parrish Cook
Only secular democracies can be true democracies. 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. 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. 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.
Religion has traditionally played an important and upfront roll in government and politics. In the
One does not need to look far to find stories of equal access granted by religious historical figures. 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
The Damage of “Othering”
Othering is placing people in the position of “out-group”, increasing “social distance” that can lead to a plethora of problems not least of which is political violence. 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. When these power elite are also the “mind guard” of religiosity the ripeness for exploitation is immense. 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
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. 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
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. 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. The establishment of the
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.
 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.
 http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~ulrich/rww03/othering.htm Retrieved
 International Information Programs http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm Retrieved
 Merriam Webster http://m-w.com/dictionary/democracy
 The concept is no doubt debatable and an essay in and of itself.
 The role of religion in “getting out the vote” or facilitating democracy is often very useful but still easily exploited.
 Specifically the Constitution of Medina and Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar Padashah Ghazi come to mind. Ahmed, N. http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_251_300/democracy3.htm Retrieved
 “Allah” does appear in the constitution as part of the oath of office of the president.
 http://www.kpu.go.id/english/ Retrieved
 Otterman, S. Council on Foreign Relations (2005) http://www.cfr.org/publication/8034/ Retrieved
 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. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5012330.stm
 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. http://www.ul.ie/sociology/pubs/wp2004-03.pdf Retrieved
 Post, J.M. (2005)Club deMadrid Addressing the Causes of Terrorism
 “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.
 Perhaps eventually
 Just as the
 Yeor, B. (2003) National Review Online http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-batyeor091803.asp Retrieved
 Peled, Y. (1992) The American Political Science Review, Vol. 86, No. 2. (Jun., 1992), pp. 432-443.
 Neill, J. (2006) http://wilderdom.com/psychology/loc/LocusOfControlWhatIs.html Retrieved
 Early attempts at Pan Arabism also point to this possibility.
Friday, May 4, 2007
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 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.
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
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
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...
Read the rest here.