Liberal Grace

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jack Johnson - Curious George Soundtrack

I just finished seeing the Curious George, one of the best children's movies I've seen in a long time.

It has a very traditional sensibility, in a very good way. It's one nod to modernity is the soundtrack by Jack Johnson

As a parent, I am always looking for music that my child will enjoy but won't bore me to tears. Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George does a whole lot more than that! It is quality, gentle folk music with a clean modern sound.

So, if you already like Jack Johnson and you're looking for music to share with your kids, this CD hits that perfect sweet-spot.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Death Tax is a pro-rich propoganda term

Excuse me for pointing out the obvious... the dead are not taxed in the supposed "death tax."

The money comes out of the pockets of the living rich.

The dead are not less wealthy because of this tax.

Obviously the term "death tax" is a fine piece of propaganda and shame on the media for using that term instead of the more accurate term, "Estate Tax"


A few years ago I was riding by the high walls of Sheik's compound when a fellow passenger say, "My folks were good friends with this family."

I was impressed. These days, we westerners hardly interact with the Arabs, let alone be friends with them. Especially the ruling family.

But his story was from several decades ago when the oil wealth was kicking in and when westerners were still a novelty in Arab countries.

This wing of the royal family is now second-tier but, according to my friend, they were in the seat of power when his folks knew them. They are still fabulously rich but they are no longer rulers. I asked him how this happened.

The story he told was essentially the plot of Syriana. In his story there was no Matt Damon or George Cloony nor where there any assassinations .. but the western meddling in oil politics was pretty much as portrayed in Syriana.

I can not say if this story was true but it does seem to confirm the basic premise of Syriana.

Bush will tell you that many Muslims hate America because of her freedom. Many Muslims will tell you they hate America because of her foreign policies.

One of those foreign policies is America's (and the west's) meddling in Middle East to keep oil cheap and free-flowing. In some countries they have installed un-Democratic leaders and in others they keep them propped-up.

I recommend Syriana as an easy and entertaining way to get a lesson in oil politics.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Recommended article by JR Norton

If you are as concerned about Guantanamo as I am, then don't miss J.R. Norton's article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Roots of US war prisoners' rights run deep

I agree with everything Norton says in this article but there is a small point I often point out but few people want to hear:

Americans have a creepy sadistic streak about prisoners.

"Americans think
prison rape is funny. "

During the Abu Gharib scandal, it was often said that this sadistic cruelty was antithetical to the compassionate, good-natured spirit of Americans.


I will agree with Norton when he says,
"At its root, the very idea of Guantánamo Bay runs headfirst into what it means to be an American."

...if he is speaking of traditional American values, not our contemporary American values.

Americans are a generally compassionate people but we turn that off when it comes to prisoners.

For example... Americans think prison rape is funny. Prison rape jokes are a sure-fire laught on American TV. It's not just cruel conservative humor... these jokes are common on shows like Friends. Start listening for it.

A more serious example is our hell-hole prisons. We all know that our prisons are rife with rape, stabbings, murders, extotion, gang violence and only-God-knows what else. Even the most compassionate among us remain silent about this cruel status qoe. The worse Americans actually like our prisons cruel and unusual! They think it is a deterrent to crime and, if not, they enjoy seeing our prisoners suffer.

So, when reports abuse at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo came to light, it didn't seem like a freakish anaomaly to me. It seems like the inevtiable outcome of lawless prisons run by a society that has a cruel streak towards prisoners.

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LG Sticky Question - cost of border security: one 10-billion-dollar fence

No one even acknowledged my letters asking how much it will cost to secure the border.

Even though these guys cajole and demand that we "secure the borders," I think they have no idea how much their proposals will cost.

So, they just ignore the question.

Tom Tancredo didn't answer me. John Boehner didn't answer me. James Sensenbrenner didn't answer me.

And these guys are the loudest advocates for securing the borders!

We do have at least one example for just one aspect of securing the border: The San Diego-Tijuana fence.

The San Diego-Tijuana border fence was initially estimated to cost about $1 million/mile, but has thus far cost $42 million, and it's not done yet. The last 3.5 miles to be completed are expected cost an additional $35 million due to the rough terrain that the fence cuts through. Thus the average cost of the San Diego-Tijuana fence for its total 14 mile length is about $5.3 million/mile.
Fencing the Border

OK... we have a hard figure... average 5 million per mile to build a fence.

The border is 1,951 miles, so that's $10,340,300,000

OK (no thanks to border security mob) but we have a number: roughly ten billion dollars to build the fence.

(That covers the land, but not the coasts near the border. Nor does it include Canada.)

The number is admittedly a ball-park estimate but it is based on a real-life scenario and sure beats the total silence from the likes of Tancredo, Boehner and Sensenbrenner.

Remember, this is just the cost for the fence. Not patrolling it. Not maintaining it. Not arresting those who get over it. None of that other stuff. Just building it. And, since we'll have to finance it on credit, you can roughly double that price after interest payments.

Tort Reform = more $$ for insurance companies. Less for you.

Remember how Bush and others demanded tort reform to lower health care costs?

After all, they claim, malpractice insurance premiums were putting doctors and hospitals out of business!

How is that working out? Georgia implemented the kinds of limits Bush proposed. Has it reduced health care costs?

"Limit malpractice awards and the
insurance companies will just buy
that new Gulfstream for the CEO."

Nope. The opposite happened. Costs went up.

Promises of malpractice premium cuts fall flat as rates go up

ATLANTA - Despite promises that rising medical malpractice insurance rates would be suppressed under new state laws, many of Georgia's insurers have increased their premiums since the sweeping reforms took effect last year, according to an Associated Press analysis of state insurance records.

Georgia malpractice premium cuts haven't panned out

ATLANTA Many of Georgia's medical malpractice insurers have hiked their premiums since sweeping reforms took effect last year -- despite claims that the legislation would reduce rates for doctors.
According to an Associated Press analysis of state insurance records, six of the state's top insurers of doctors and dentists have increased their liability rates. In some cases, the rates have gone up by a third.

It's obvious what went wrong in Georgia. There were no price controls on insurance premiums and medical bills.

If the government limits malpractice awards, the insurance companies are just going to pocket the cash.

So, along with tort reform there must to be price controls to assure that the insurance executives or doctors don't just spend the money on that new jet or boat they've been wanting.

Bush claims that malpractice insurance premiums are driving health care costs out of sight. Can you guess the percentage of total health care costs which goes to malpractice insurance?

A) 75%
B) 50%
C) 25%
D) Less than 1%

You'll find the answer below, in the second-to-the-last paragraph.
It’s a myth that suits drive up health care costs

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Congress no longer worried about port security

Living over here in Dubai, I witnessed how damaging the rhetoric was during the "Dubai ports scandal." The mean-spiritied debate was a big setback in American-Arab relations which is, ultimately, a set back in anti-terrorism.

"One more reason to give this
do-nothing Congress the boot in November"

But I took some consolation in the fact that Congress was finally paying attention to a glaring hole in our security ... that fact that only a small percentage of containers are inspected.

Finally! Something will be done about port security!

I took consolation too soon. Congress no longer worries about port security.

Congress drops financing for increased port security

Nearly $650 million to increase scrutiny of containers shipping into Seattle and every other U.S. port was stripped out of a national security funding package moving through Congress this week in a move critics say makes the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks...

"We are not going to have the money we need for screening machines, customs inspectors, Coast Guard inspectors, radiation monitors, gates, fences and more," [Patty] Murray, [D-Wash] said. "The administration keeps talking a good game, but words do not provide security."

Put this down as one more reason to vote out this no-good, do-nothing congress in November.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Particularly Big Bush Bungle - Iran 2003

During a tenure of non-stop bungling, this massive bungle by the Bush administration will probably go mostly unnoticed.

But this is a biggie... especially if Iran ever gets nukes or -- God forbid -- we go to war with them.

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups...

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative.

Remember back 2003? The neo-Cons were openly talking about the virtues of "benevolent empire" and touting their sophomoric "reverse domino theory" where if Iraq stood up as a democracy, all the other Muslim nations would automatically stand up, too.

Seems to me that the Bush administration has four (main) Achilles' heels, if that's possible.

1) Arrogance
2) Ignorance
3) Cronyism
4) Corruption

I'm guessing that #1 and #2 were mostly at play here. After the speedy invasion they thought they were rulers of the universe. They still believed that nonsense they were saying that Muslims only respond to power and the neo-Cons were the sheriff that had come to town. (And, of course, they knew next-to-nothing about the region.)

I strongly recommend taking a few minutes and reading the whole article
In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran's Offer of Dialogue
before we move on to the next Bush scandal or bungle.

If -- God forbid -- this administration triggers a war with Iran, remember this article because you know the conservatives will blame Clinton and the liberals when it goes wrong... and, of course, it will go horribly bad if the Bush administration does it.

Marriage gangs rip-off Arab youths

(With all the torture and abuse stories, I think I should lighten up a little.)

I found this story about rip-off Muslim marriages an interesting insight into a major cultural difference between Islam and the west.

'Marriage gangs' prey on youths

Riyadh: With the beginning of the summer holidays, a large number of Arabs, especially from the Gulf states, are travelling to tourist destinations in various parts of the world, especially in the Far East, looking to enjoy themselves and relax.

Most of them want to enjoy their holidays in picturesque places, visiting historical monuments and taking in the culture.

Some of them, however, will want to take advantage of the opportunity to try out temporary marriages...

Organised gangs have also grown up who prey on Arab tourists and try to lure them with promises of low-cost marriages and then cheating them....

They were lured by the false promises of the gang members of "marriages to beautiful young women under 18 at cheap rates."

In most cases, their brides abandoned them and ran away within few days of the marriage.

As a tourist, I have been ripped-off in all kinds of creative ways but I just can't imagine ever getting tricked by a marriage mafia!

It is pretty common here for Muslims to point out their relatively low divorce rate to prove that arranged marriages are better than the decadent western "love marriages." I wonder, though, of they include "temporary marriages" in that statistic. Likely not.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Of course America officially sanctions torture

The Bush administration has been adamant and unequivocal that there has been not sanctioned torture on its watch.

In the US military report released this week it sounded pretty horrid. But torture?

This is not the "bad apple" stuff but the officially sanctioned treatment.

The report described special operations troops, at a temporary holding facility in April 2004, keeping detainees in a room on a 3- or 4-foot (0.9-1.2 meter) chain, with a diet chiefly of bread and water, for up to 17 days.

The report cited a case in which detainees were kept at a special operations team's temporary holding facility in small cells -- measuring 20 inches by 4 feet by four feet -- for up to seven days, with at least one detainee kept naked

Let's try put ourselves in the detainees place... seven days in a space that is 27 square feet. Not high enough to stand nor long enough to lay down.

It is certainly not wide enough to roll over. I measured myself and -- yikes! -- I'm 17 inches wide and the small cheap Ikea office chair I'm sitting on is 18 inches wide.

Picture yourself in a Gitmo cell

So what does 20 inches by four feet by four feet (27 cubic feet) compare too?

A Coffin
How about a pine coffin which measures 79 1/2" x 24 1/2" x 14"?

A coffin is considerably roomier by length which is longer by over two and half feet. A coffin is even wider by four and a half inches! Apparently, the dead who never need to roll over are given more space than a Gitmo detainee.

Put Guantanamo gives a whole lot more headroom than a coffin. Enough to sit and stoop.

The Trunk of a Car

My mother used to drive a Lincoln Town Car and I'd look at that space and say, "Wow that is roomy! I could ride in there!" It would be a good car for the mafia since you could get a body in there without too much jamming.

The car trunk is tighter... but not by a lot. The 2006 Town Car is in the same league as the Guantanamo cells -- 21 cubic feet vs. 27 cubic feet.

A Refrigerator
I finally found something with exactly the same space as these Guantanamo cells. This lovely GE PSG27NG-C WW has exactly 27 cubic feet of internal space. But, at 68" would have much more standing room than the Gitmo cells.

But is 27 cubic feet for a week really torture?

If you locked someone in a GE PSG27NG-C WW for a week, do you think the police could charge you with inflicting "discomfort" on someone?

Of course it's torture.

Here is my very crude sketch. The dark male figure is 5'10". Try visualizing yourself -- or maybe a loved one -- in a 20 inch by 4 foot by 4 foot cell for a week: not standing up; no stretching out; not rolling over.

It gave me the creeps just to sketch this box. Every compassionate person should be sickened by this.

That's torture -- American state-sanctioned torture.

It is also a grotesque violation of our American values... not to mention Christian compassion.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Al-Qaeda, Neo-Cons Share Key Goal

It needs to be noted that al-Qaeda and the neo-Cons shared at least one key goal: both groups seem hell-bent on starting a war between the Iran and the USA.

Presumably, for different reasons!

A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday....

"We mean specifically attempting to escalate the tension between America and Iran, and American and the Shiite in Iraq," [the documents were quoted as saying]

Documents: Al-Qaida Sought U.S.-Iran War

"Here's a likely consequence we see coming a mile away.
What is Bush doing to prevent it?"

If the neo-Cons and al-Qaeda get their war, it may be a "win-win" for them but it will be gigantic "lose lose lose" for America.

Even without these documents, it seems like an obvious strategy.

The Bush administration has allied America with the Iran-leaning Shiites in a Shiite-Sunni war. So Zarqawi needs a wedge to break that alliance and believed a conflict between Iran and America would do that.

He's probably right.

So, I have to ask, how does Bush plan to avoid this? If American goes toe-to-toe in a showdown with Iran, how does Bush plan avoid losing our pro-Iran Shiite ally in the Iraq war?

The Bush administration have proved themselves to be the Kings of Unintended Consequences.

Now, here's a likely consequence we see coming a mile away. What is Bush doing to prevent it?

Or has he even thought about it?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Stand up. Stand Down" = "Vietnamization"

Conservatives always huff and puff when to compare Iraq to Vietnam.

I don't care... Iraq is too important to worry about the sensitive conservatives.

Bush's "Stand up. Stand down." doctrine is a whole lot like Nixon's ""Vietnamization" and we all know how that turned out!

America proceeded with Vietnamization on a timeline based in politics but didn't connect with the realities on the ground in Vietnam. So we withdrew US troops whether the Vietnamese were ready or not (usually not).

In effect, Vietnamization was a slow retreat to Saigon which we couldn't hold forever.

"Respect Americans enough to tell us the truth"

I don't mention Vietnamization to rub conservative noses in it. I bring it up so we won't repeat that formula for failure.

Here are my ideas on how to make "Stand Up. Stand Down" unlike Vietnamization.

(Note to conservatives: please quite saying that liberals don't have ideas.)

1) Totally unlink "Stand up. Stand down." from US politics.
Never withdraw troops because it helps the GOP. Only withdraw US troops if it helps Iraq. Increase troops if needed.

2) Be honest with Americans about time and cost.

If this is a three trillion dollar, 15 year commitment, then say so. I'm guessing it is something like that and -- if so, respect Americans enough to tell us the truth.

3) Start funding Iraq like a real war.

Quit putting the war off-budget using endless supplemental funding schemes. And, for the love of America, quit paying for this war with Chinese and Saudi loans! Create an additional revenue stream. I suggest a war-tax on oil companies.

4) Measure progress with concrete index points

I'm sick of slogans: "Stay the course." "March of Freedom" etc. I'm a liberal. I need facts.

We need concrete, measurable points to track our progress so we can know when to "stand down."

Some obvious indexes might be:

a) Attacks on the US military
b) Attacks on civilians
c) Size of the opposition (honestly estimated)
d) Number of operational independent Iraqi military/police
e) General crime statistics
f) Small business activity and overall GDP
g) Number of functioning schools, hospitals, media outlets, etc.
h) Oil production/revenues/exports
i) Tax revenues
j) Surveys of public opinion.

Start with this:

* Bush should assemble a war room full of the best thinkers on war, Iraq, and the Middle East.

This must include generals and civilians; Americans and Iraqis; economists and historians; and representatives from all branches of government both US and Iraqi.

It must absolutely not be partisan "yes men" who agree with Bush. The war-room absolutely must be given totally freedom to disagree with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld without repercussions.

And make them stay on-task until they draft a realistic, concrete plan for winning this war -- with honest time, force-level, cost and casualty estimates.

* Find funds to pay for this. Recruit regular soldiers to fight this war.

* Install a way to measure success.

* And then fire Rumsfeld if he does not follow this plan.

Bottom line: Either start treating this like a real war or get us out

Monday, June 12, 2006

One Question Interview with J.R. Norton

The conservatives have been demagogin this issue for years: they are trying to bring America back to it's roots. It's an almost daily claim on conservative media and recently gained prominence in the appoitments of

But is this true? Or is it just more hot air from the right?

J.R. Norton has done America a great service by addressing this exact issue in his book Saving General Washington. Read more about it in the
Liberal Grace Reading Room.

Mr. Norton has kindly agreed to participate in a Liberal Grace One-Question Interview

Liberal Grace: Can you identify a key political assumption by modern conservatives that sets them apart from America's founding fathers?

J.R. Norton: There are quite a few, but I'd say the key one is the modern conservative assumption that if the president and self-identifies as conservative, there is no amount of power or extra-legal privilege that his branch of government can be granted that is any way a threat to American civil liberities or the Constitutional system of checks and balances. The baseline assumption is: we give the executive branch more power, or we give in to the terrorists. Government will take care of us if only we let it override the laws and protections that once held it back. Constitutional protections only apply during times of peace.

The Founders were viscerally aware of what it was like to live under an authoritarian government that justified its uncheckable power by invoking the idea of public safety during a time of crisis, so they deliberately built a system that denied uncheckable power to any branch of government -- but particularly the executive. They explicitly preferred more freedom to the false sense of security offered by a police state -- probably because they knew the police state, and knew that not only did you sacrifice your liberty, but you also risked wrongful arrest and draconian persecution.

The Founders were wise dudes. I wouldn't say that modern liberals are necessarily as in touch with their legacy as they should be, but I'd argue that modern conservatives have gotten America's founding principles completely ass-backwards.

J.R. Norton is senior producer for the Al Franken Show. From 2002 to 2004 he was Middle East Editor for The Christian Science Monitor
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Muslim opinion matters

Most Americans don't care what Muslims think. At least that's my impression.

This is tragic... because Muslim opinion about America could make-or-break the war on the terror.

"Does it matter that millions of Muslims believe
America is an immoral, murderous regime
hellbent on killing Muslims?"

I expect that most Muslims will believe the Guantanamo Three were murdered and the supposed-suicide is a cover-up.

Right now I'm only hearing this from the radicals but I predict this will become the "conventional wisdom."

We can't accept that they have committed suicide," a purported spokesperson for the Islamist Taliban movement in Afghanistan, Mohammad Hanif, said.

"No Muslim, no mujahid (holy warrior), can commit suicide. It's banned under Islamic Sharia law," said Hanif, who is often in contact with the media from a secret location. Taliban accuses US jailors of 'suicides'

Mohammad Hanif's logic will probably be the most persuasive: that mujahideen this tough, committed and devout would never take their lives and risk paradise.

And, of course, another reason they'll believe it was murder is because, long after American forgets about these three, over here they'll still be talking about the "supposed suicides."

(A note to you Americans who will judge Muslims as ignorant rumor-mongers... this is exactly how many of you kept using the term "Vincent Foster's supposed-suicide" until millions of dittoheads believed that Bill & Hillary had murdered him.)

So, does it matter that millions of Muslims believe America is an immoral, murderous regime with a hatred for Muslims?

You bet your life it does.

That's why it is in America's best interest to request that the Red Cross/Crescent do a thorough independent investigation. And, of course, close Gitmo.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Suicide an act of war?

I'm fascinated by the US spin on the Guantanamo suicides.

Guantanamo inmates commit suicide

Military officials said the suicides were co-ordinated and Harris described them as an act of war. "They have no regard for human life," he said. "Neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us."

An "act of war"? It's a very unusual definition of war, to say the least.

Suicide bombings... of course. But just plain suicide?

I suppose it could be part of a propaganda war, except that I seriously doubt the detainees believe their suicides will be publicized.

Surely, they've been convinced that they are alone and forgotten to the world. If so, it doesn't seem like an act of propaganda.

Most likely this is what it seems like... a mix of protest, depression and desperation.

But an act of war? That's really weird spin.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Christian reviews "Godless" by Ann Coulter

I'm still processing Ann Coulter's book. It seems to be a direct assault on my core beliefs.

I probably won't have a copy over here in the Middle East for some time but, thankfully, large portions are excerpted on the web. All the following quotes are from Chapter One.

Coulter's beef does not seem to be with liberal Christianity. In her fantasy world, liberalism is a religion battling with Christianity. Christianity is indistinct from conservatism.

Liberals love to boast that they are not "religious," which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, ...

Her premise is just plain false.

Lots of liberals are religious. I'm surprised she didn't notice that since the conservative Christians I know are acutely aware of the liberal church.

There are whole liberal denominations and there are large liberal wings of mainstream denominations. There is even a liberal wing of the evangelical movement -- roughly 25%.

There are millions of liberal Christians not to mention the millions of liberals who are religious/pious/spiritual in some other-than-Christian way.

With the founding premise of her book being clearly wrong, it makes it hard to analyze her arguments point-by-point.

But here goes:

Liberals hate science and react badly to it. They will literally run from the room, lightheaded and nauseated, when told of data that might suggest that the sexes have different abilities in math and science.

Does this square with what all of us have followed in the news? The teaching of evolution? The science of global warming? The age of the earth? Stem cell research? The funding of scientific research?

Environmentalists want mass infanticide, zero population growth, reduced standards of living, and vegetarianism. The core of environmentalism is that they hate mankind.

Again, does this square with your observation of environmentalists? Does it square with you? Probably you want clean air and water. Probably you want nature to thrive and the oceans to be full of life. Do you also want mass infanticide? Do you hate mankind? Of course not. Coulter's claim is really stupid.

Liberals want us to live like Swedes, with their genial, mediocre lives, ratcheting back our expectations, practicing fuel austerity, and sitting by the fire in a cardigan sweater like Jimmy Carter.

There may be some truth to this. I would compare this to the conservatives who want us to live like Pakistanis... hundreds of millions of minimum wage workers and a few hundred billionaires.

They believe in the coarse physical appropriation of women by men--hookups, trophy wives, strip clubs. Through movies, magazines, and TV, liberals promote a cult of idealized beauty that is so extreme as to be unimaginable.

This comes from a woman who wears a micro-mini dress to the morning talk shows!

Sex must be dissociated from the idea of raising children, liberated from the transmission of humanity. It’s a natural function that should carry no more moral consequence than drinking a glass of water,

I guess she assumes this because liberals usually believe in sex education, treatment of venereal disease and availability of birth control. Many conservatives consider these things an invitation to promiscuity.

It is fair to say that most liberals believe sex is more than making babies. It is about intimacy and bonding... ideally in marriage. Ideally but not always.

We accept that sex often happens outside of marriage. I'll go out on a limb here... I'm guessing that even Ann Coulter has sex outside of marriage. If she does, I hope she uses a condom. Does that make me condone her promiscuity? I don't think so. Certainly Ann's sexual behavior has consequences.

Instead of seeking wisdom, liberals desire to be seen as clever by being counterintuitive, crazy, and outré.

Doesn't this better describe Coulter herself? She does loves shocking people with her crazy, counterintuitive zingers. (I have no idea what "outré" means but Coulter sure must be clever for using it.)

They have an irreducible fascination with barbarism and will defend anything hateful... If Hitler hadn’t turned against their beloved Stalin, liberals would have stuck by him, too.

This is the kind of statement that qualifies as "crazy" (and maybe "outré.") Do you know a single liberal who loves Stalin? -- perhaps in some weird fringy wing of liberalism just like you can find neo-Nazis in weird fringy wings of conservatism.

But liberals have the entire taxpayer-funded "education" apparatus to support them. Public schools are what columnist Joe Sobran calls "liberalism’s reproductive system."

Yes, most liberals deeply value education don't also conservatives? It should be pointed out that, well into adulthood, Coulter chose to go to a taxpayer-funded university.'

Public schools are forbidden from mentioning religion not because of the Constitution, but because public schools are the Left’s madrassas.

More of that crazy, counter-intuitive, outré talk! Liberals have no problem with neutral education about religion. It's using the public schools to propagate or favor one religion we object to. It's just crazy (and perhaps outré) to liken this to a madrassa which teaches Islam and only Islam.

Liberals used to tell us they were teaching fisting to fourth-graders because "kids are going to have sex anyway!" (Yes, "fisting" is exactly what it sounds like; have a nice day!) Now they’ve dispensed with that and openly concede that they believe virtue is just one of many equally valid points of view that must be counterbalanced with the argument for promiscuity, group sex, fisting, and other lifestyle choices.

I have one comment about this: Ewwww!

I held my nose and Googled "fisting fourth-graders teach" which gave me a circular reference back to Ann Coulter. (and probably set off an alarm at the FBI)

Ann! This is just creepy!

And I'm worn out. I feel dirty just reading her book. If I get the energy, I'll review more, later.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm NOT happy Zarqawi is dead (I'm not sad either)

As a pacifist, a liberal and a Christian, I always feel emotional ambiguity when a terrible person like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is killed.

Do I hate evil? I do. Do I believe that God loves everyone... even this terrible person? I do. Am I happy that he no longer can hurt others? I am.

Am I happy he was killed? No.

I feel this every time someone goes to the death chamber and the TV news shows pictures of the party out in front the prison... people holding up toast and blowing on party horns.

I'm never too sad when a mass killer like Zarqawi is killed. But I'm not too happy, either. His actions represent a huge triumph of sin. But killing him is not then good... it is necessary evil, at best.

It's also true that, almost always, collateral happens damage when justice is done through violence.

Usually it isn't this obvious:

Al-Zarqawi died inside the house, said U.S. officials, along with at least five other people, including Rahman, a woman and a child of unspecified age.Source

(Typically it is a grieving mother who is convinced her baby isn't a monster. )

No, I'm not grieving for Zarqawi but I'm not partying either. But the whole thing makes me sad.

"An amazing figure to rise out of this is Michael Berg."

An amazing figure to rise out of this is Michael Berg. It's clear that the conservative media don't know what to do with him. On Fox, they did a little drive-by swiftboating of him but I think they were mostly flummoxed.

As for me: I'm terribly sorry is his son, Nick, was horribly beheaded in an act of evil. But I don't want vengeance on Nick's life to continue the spiral of violence.

Normally I don't expect the parents of victims to share this sentiment. I'm not sure I would be so peaceable if my own child was killed. But Michael Berg is preaching peace. It's amazing.

Many have offered to pray for Nick and my family. I appreciate their thoughts, but I ask them to include in their prayers a prayer for peace. And I ask them to do more than pray. I ask them to demand peace now.

I strongly recommend that you read the whole text by Michael Berg: George Bush never looked into Nick's eyes

I don't know about Michael Berg's faith but when it comes to living up the words of Jesus,

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matt 5

Michael Berg gets from Liberal Grace!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

One Question Interview with Husain Haqqani

Husain Haqqani is the Director Center for International Relations and Associate Professor at Boston University

Many North Americans are frightened and dismayed at the Toronto arrests and some will surely use the example of these alleged terrorist-wannabes to argue that all of Islam is a violent religion. I would encourage all my readers to use the emotions of this event to inspire you to better understand our Muslim cousins.

I want to point out that Mr. Haqqani is one of the most qualified people in the world to answer this question!

Liberal Grace: Many Americans know little about Islam but they hear bin Laden claim he is the best kind of Muslim. Less loudly, perhaps, they hear moderate Muslims claim that bin Laden and the violent terrorists are not Muslim at all.

How can an average American know who are the real Muslims, honoring the true teachings of Islam?

Husain Haqqani
The question is based on the incorrect premise that there can ever be one simple way for people uninformed about another to understand their faith and history.

The very fact that people like Osama bin Laden are estimated to have no more than a few thousand followers amidst a global Muslim population of 1.4 billion is sufficient to confirm that groups like Al-Qaeda are far removed from the mainstream of Islam. The advantage of extremists is that their acts of violence are front-page news while the day-to-day religious practices of hundreds of millions --believing in one God, praying 5 times a day, giving part of your income to charity, fasting from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan and once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca -- are not.

In some ways, extremist groups like Al-Qaeda are to Islam what Branch Dravidians were to the faithful in America. The only difference is that Muslim extremists have a political message that has significance in international relations and their actions are global and, therefore, of concern to the international community.

Islam, like all other major religions, has considerable variation among its followers. Indeed, the understanding of faith of 1.4 billion people simply cannot be limited to one interpretation.

The United States has many Christian denominations, some of whom consider others as mere cults. Sectarian warfare among Christians in Europe led to many wars and, for some, still did not settle the issue of who are the best Christians truly following the teachings of Christ. As a Muslim growing up in Pakistan, how was I to know "who are the real Christians, honoring the true teachings of Christianity?" I simply recognized the diversity and pluralism of the Christian community and understood the distinction between the teachings of a religion and the actions of its various followers.

It is unfortunate that extremists in the Muslim world perpetuate violence in the name of Islam. Muslims need to confront them, isolate them and hopefully eliminate them. Terrorism poses a threat to American, and indeed global, security and moderate Muslims are America's allies in combating it. Until moderate Muslims prevail within the Muslim world, it is important that Americans do not identify all of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims with the actions of extremists.

In my opinion, one of his most compelling points is the numerical argument. Let's do the math: Al Qaeda has a few thousand followers. There probably are no exact numbers for membership but here's what Wikipedia says:

While an estimated 100,000 Islamist militants are said to have received instruction in al-Qaeda camps since its inception, the group is believed to retain only a small number of militants under direct orders. Estimates seldom peg its manpower higher than 20,000 world wide.
To emphasize the point, I'll use the larger estimates of al Qaeda members 100,000 and the smaller estimates of the size of Islam: 900,000,000,000.

100,000 al Qaeda members trainees / 900,000,000,000 Muslims = 0.00000011

It is argument enough to say that a .00001% faction, by definition, does not represent the other 99.99999%

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stop saying we hate George Bush!

I heard it again for the thousandth time on Fox News: "Liberals just hate George Bush."

I know I'm speaking for a whole lot of liberals: We don't hate George Bush!

I think Bush has been a horrible president. I think he's bungled nearly every issue that matters to me, personally. I think he's proven himself to be disingenuous and divisive. I think he doesn't share our core American values.

But hate him? I don't hate him! Not personally, whatsoever. Not even politically. I don't want to destroy him and his neo-cons... I just want to defeat them, fair-and-square in the traditional American way: national debate, rigorous-but-civil campaigning and honest elections.

I think one reason we hear this "hate" accusation from conservatives is because they genuinely hated Clinton.

They didn't so much hate his policies or his competency because they, too, enjoyed the peace, prosperity and balanced budgets during his leadership.

The conservatives allowed themselves to get emotionally duped by the dirty politics of Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Haley Barbour and Rush Limbaugh and were whipped-up into a deep visceral hated for both Bill and Hillary.

So, they assume that we liberals, likewise, hate Bush now that the tables are turned. But we don't!

It's not the same for me and nearly every liberal I know: we don't hate George and Laura Bush the way conservatives hated Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Happy 666!

On an international flight, a Chinese man came rolling down the aisle with his carry-on covered in 666s. Scores of them: silk screened on the fabric; woven into the straps; embossed on patches; etc.

I told my wife, "I gotta get one of those! Think of the horrified looks we'd get rolling into the homes of our [conservative] church friends." She didn't see the humor in this.

Since then, I've read that 666 is a lucky number in China. Those superstitious Chinese! (Unlike we Christians who think 666 is evil and unlucky.)

I was raised with the 666 superstition and still sometimes feel it when I encounter the number - especially randomly in slightly dangerous situations, like on the odometer in my car or on an airplane ticket. I rationalize it away but it always creeps back and catches me off-guard.

"Superstitions, like 666,
are not compatible with
faith in a loving, powerful God. "

I have worked hard to purge 666 and all superstition from my belief system because it's antithetical to faith in an omnipotent, loving God. If God is on your side, 666 can't touch you.

Yes, I know, 666 is in Revelation but that doesn't make it unlucky any more than Satan appearing as snake in Genesis makes all snakes evil.

So happy 6/6/06 everybody!

Something very bad might happen to you today.

Or maybe something really terrific. In any case, 666 has nothing to do with it.

So. Does this settle the issue?

Lion kills man who climbed into enclosure

A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lion in a Kiev, Ukraine, zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said Monday.

""The man shouted,
'God will save me, if he exists,' "

"The man shouted, 'God will save me, if he exists,' lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions," the official said. "A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery."

The attack happened Sunday when the zoo had many visitors.

Jesus said, "It is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Matt 4:7

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pentagon officially abandons Geneva

This should be huge bold front page headlines instead of buried in the back of your newspaper (or omitted entirely if you read a conservative rag).

U.S. to drop Geneva rule, officials say

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Conventions that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

For decades, it had been the official policy of the U.S. military to follow the minimum standards for treating all detainees as laid out in the Geneva Conventions. But in 2002 President Bush suspended portions of the Geneva Conventions for captured al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Bush's order superseded military policy at the time, touching off a wide debate over U.S. obligations under the Geneva accord, a debate that intensified after reports of detainee abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
As an expatriate American, living overseas, it matters a whole lot to me that my country be the gold standard for ethical treatment of prisoners. If I'm ever in a Arab jail, I don't want my jailers believing that Americans would be torturing them, if the tables were reversed.

(Too late for that.)

But, instead of debating this, the Senate has decided that banning gay marriage is more important than abandoning the Geneva Convention, something which has protected our soldiers for decades.

American Hero Watch (update): John Batiste

Go! General, Go!

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in northern Iraq in 2004-2005, on Sunday also called for "a secretary of defense whose instinct and judgment we all trust."

Batiste told CNN's "Late Edition" he sees "a direct link between Haditha, the national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib, going on four years now of uncontrollable chaos in Iraq, with the bad judgment, poor decisions of our secretary of defense back in late 2003 and 2004."

"We went in under-resourced, overcommitted. And the strain on the force is unbelievable," Batiste said. CNN article
Batiste probably has a chest full of metals but he deserves another really big one for telling the truth, despite the Swiftboating he gets by the shameless conservatives who dwell in the dark shadows (to borrow a Bushism).

"Batiste a deserves metal for telling the truth.
Instead, he'll be Swiftboated."

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free John 8:32

If you watch Fox, than you know the spin on Haditha is that libs are using this to blame and smear the troops.

Read the above quote again. Is there any bashing of the troops in that quote?

It's the conservatives who are making this a troops issue. Liberals are, quite consistency and quite correctly, making this a policy and leadership issue.

Uh Oh, Gays are threatening our marriages again

An election must be coming up... gays are threatening our marriages again!

It's a sure way to mobilize the Religious Right -- so much that the GOP would be crazy to actually settle the issue.

Like many liberal Christian, I feel conflicted about this.

From my reading, the bible clearly calls homosexual sex as sin. Not Jesus but Paul and the Old Testament. It's not a huge issue... only four verses. Homosexuality rates some where worse than gluttony be less than greed.

But this is not the only issue. The other issue is how much a secular society should implement biblical commandments.

While the bible informs my political views, I accept that a secular state will not follow every point the bible.

This is also the position generally held by the Religious Right.

For example, the bible (and Jesus!) clearly prohibits divorced people from remarrying except for infidelity.
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32
But the Religious Right is not drafting an amendment to prohibit second marriages.

Why not? Because even the Religious Right understands the state is not the church.

As for me, I think prohibiting second marriages would probably do more to "protect" marriage than banning gays. But I think it would be absurd to put that in the Constitution.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Reasonable points in the emotional immigration debate

Since I have failed at getting any lawmakers to give me a reasonable estimate of what "securing the borders" will cost, I thought I'd discuss what suggestions in this debate I find reasonable.

(With every reform there is a caution.)

1) An ID card:
Reasonable: A forgery resistant ID card is reasonable. Right now our social security number serves as our national ID. It was never meant for this purpose and that causes endless problems.
Caution: Powerful privacy safeguards must be built in. Obviously, this is not a big priority for our current administration.

2) More guest worker visas:
Reasonable: Illegal immigrants are clearly meeting a labor demand, so let's allow them to do this legally, like we do in other sectors of the economy like high tech.
Caution: Guest workers visas should be linked to FIRM laws requiring a living wage, retirement and medical benefits. It must not be a way to legally exploit desperate people.

3) Citizenship option for guest workers:

Reasonable: If guest workers make homes in our country, pay taxes and contribute to society, citizenship should be an option for them. These are the kind of immigrants who make American strong.
Caution: I agree with he conservatives on this one: it shouldn't be a simple amnesty.

4) Illegals should go home:
Reasonable: Every country I've ever lived in requires people to leave the country before changing visa status. This is a reasonable measure to make sure student and tourists visas mean something.
Caution: Forced mass deportations of millions of men, women and children would un-American. Instead, just let them go home, on their own, to apply for their guest worker visa at the embassy/consulate there.

5) Paying back taxes:
Reasonable: If someone has dodged taxes, they should pay it just as citizens do.
Caution: We should also credit illegal workers for the taxes they've paid. Fair is fair. Tax payback plans should be in reasonable installment plans.

6) Fairness with other nations:
Reasonable: Guest worker visas should be fairly distributed between all countries, not just Mexico.
Caution: We should recognize that our relationship with Mexico and Latin America is special and give them some special benefit.

7) Severe penalties for employers:
Reasonable: Businesses who hire illegals should be slapped and slapped hard. Hiring illegals is a calculated flaunting of the laws to maximize profits. They are the the main single driving force behind this whole problem.
Caution: The public demands dirt-cheap everything and we should adjust our trade policies so that American business can pay living wages and be competitive.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Are we entering the berserker phase?

As I understand it, the berserker phase is often triggered when the enemy is essentially defeated but doesn't know it yet.

Berserker behavior usually happens more towards the middle or end of a conflict... when the more powerful of the two combatants feels like they are losing when they should be winning.

Most recently we saw it in Vietnam. We out-killed them, out-gunned them, out-bombed them but North Vietnamese still wouldn't give up!

Many felt, we just weren't dropping enough bombs! To this day, some people will claim that we lost the Vietnam war because we just didn't kill enough of the enemy. Instead of killing a few million North Vietnamese, America should have killed much more than that. We Americans were just not ruthless enough, the reasoning goes.

Mai Lai was an up-close version of berserker and went to trial but Nixon's Christmas bombings was even more berserker.

Unless we recognize that we are drifting towards this phase of the war, we certainly can expect more Hadithas.

Which, if not dealt with transparently and stopped, could lead to our defeat.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

LP American Hero Watch: John Murtha

How does John Murtha get it so exactly right, so often?

The talking heads at Fox are going to excuse and obscure for hours about what happened at Haditha but Murtha hits it right on the head in two short sentences:
This is what worries me. We're fighting a war about America's ideals and democracy's ideas and something like this happens, they try to cover it up," Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha told CNN television.
US lawmaker again charges cover up in Haditha, Iraq
Maybe the real question is: How come more liberal leaders aren't like Murtha? In tough times, you can never guess who's going to step up and be a real patriot.

Jack Murtha is a true American hero and, of course, he's going to be viciously swiftboated by the likes of Sean Hannity.

2046 - America is burning!

"Bastards! They're all bastards!" My taxi driver shouted. But not at the other drivers -- he was cursing the Arabs who had given him a guest worker visa.

"All they do is eat, and shop, and f**k, and exploit the workers!"

Mohammed was a Pakistani Pathan, driving taxi in the Gulf on a guest worker visa for thirteen years. His hosts paid him just enough money to keep him but not enough to leave. He couldn't afford to keep his family in the Gulf, so he saw his children one month per-year, missing nearly every important event in their lives.

"I'm leaving this g*d d*mn country and these g*d d*mn people and I'm going back to Pakistan. I will tell everyone I meet that Arabs are f**king, g*d d*mn, blood-sucking bastards!"

Welcome to guest worker world.

Between invectives, Mohammed explained that many days, even after a double shift, his salary didn't cover his expenses. After thirteen years of slaving in a fatigued stupor and scrimping every extra dirham, he'd finally saved up enough to start a small grocery shop in Peshawar.

"Without good wages and a citizenship
option, guest worker visas are a
slow-cooking recipe for social disaster."

I've seen the abuses of guest-worker visas but I still support them for America -- but ONLY with a mandated living wage and citizenship option.

Without those two key provisions, guest worker visas are a slow-cooking recipe for social disaster. Paris is experiencing that now.

Without decent wages and a fair shot at citizenship, guest workers become an embittered second-class, like Mohammed, who see and smell the privileged life but never get to taste it.

Instead of cursing Arabs, millions of guest workers will go home cursing Americans (or stay and torch our streets).

Nearing our destination, Mohammed said to me, "Pray for me, my friend, and I'll pray for you."

"I'll pray that your shop will be a big success and you'll find peace about your time here," I promised.

As I counted out the fare (with a tip!) an Arab family stuck their head in the window and asked for a neighborhood in Arabic.

Mohammed replied in English, "I don't know where that is," and pulled the taxi forward half a block to get away from them.