Liberal Grace

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The press gives Bush another free-pass -- mia culpas will come later.

The press did some way-too-late self examination after they gave Bush a free-pass on the Patriot Act and on the Iraq War. Long after the pig was out of the pen. Now they're doing it again.

Hey press! Do you jobs! Denounce this shameless, un-American power grab by Bush!

Detainee bill lifts Bush's power to new heights
President now has legal authority even courts can't challenge

With the final passage through Congress of the detainee treatment bill, President Bush achieved a signal victory Friday, shoring up with legislation his determined campaign against terrorism in the face of challenges from critics and the courts.

Rather than reining in the formidable presidential powers that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have asserted since Sept. 11, 2001, the law gives some of those powers a solid statutory foundation. In effect it allows the president to identify enemies, imprison them indefinitely and interrogate them -- albeit with a ban on the harshest treatment -- beyond the reach of the full court reviews traditionally afforded criminal defendants and ordinary prisoners.

After 9/11 the press used the excuse that they, too, were swept up in the emotions of the event. But what is their excuse now?

CC Adcock - Lafayette Marquis

Bo Diddley, Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood fell into a swamp... out crawled CC Adcock.

These days I'm listening to CC Adcock's Lafayette Marquis. CC Adcock's been getting a litte buzz lately. I picked up Lafayette Marquis and I'm hooked.

He seems like a guy who's honed his sound in a lot of juke joints and knows how to get a bunch of horny drunks to take notice.

He's old school enough to let out some great guitar breaks but he's modern enough to use drum loops. (But don't think sticky techno or tiresome hip hop ... think earthy and dirty.)

He certainly has his own sound, worthy of BB King or Dr John but he's not a slave to it. His guitar work makes me miss Stevie Ray Vaughn but unlike most good guitarists, Adcock doesn't think every song has to be guitar-driven. Some one-instrument heavy bands start to blur by the end of a CD but not Lafayette Marquis.

I've listened Lafayette Marquis at least a dozen times and I'm sure I'll listen to it many more. Ten years from now I'll probably dig it out and listen again. It's not often I find a CD like that.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Mark Foley -- not just another Republican hypocrite.

Mark Foley's not your typical gay-bashing gay "values" Republican!

Good thing for the GOP that so much is simultaneously going wrong on their watch. Mark Foley cruising for teen boys is one story they want you to forget fast. But this is an absolutely appalling story that you should remember the next time some moralizing GOP blowhard claims he's from the "party of values."

In the House, Foley was one of the foremost opponents of child pornography. He resigned on September 29, 2006 when it was revealed he had sent sexually-themed messages to underaged Congressional pages. Foley had served as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. He introduced a bill in 2002 to outlaw websites featuring sexually suggestive images of preteen children, saying that "these websites are nothing more than a fix for pedophiles." In June 2003 he wrote letters to the governor and attorney general of Florida, asking them to review the legality of a program for teenagers of a Lake Como nudist resort in Land O'Lakes, Florida.

Foley's legislation to change federal sex offender laws was supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, and a number of victims' rights groups. President George W. Bush signed it into law as part of the Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act of 2006.

Foley also succeeded in getting a law passed that allows volunteer youth-serving organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Boys and Girls Clubs to have access to FBI fingerprint background checks to help protect children.

Here's an example of the chat he had with a sixteen year old boy that made Foley resign:

Maf54 [Foley]: do you really do it face down
Teen: ya
Maf54 [Foley]: kneeling
Teen: well i dont use my hand...i use the bed itself
Maf54 [Foley]: where do you unload it
Teen: towel
Maf54 [Foley]: really
Maf54 [Foley]: completely naked?
Teen: well ya
Maf54 [Foley]: very nice
Teen: lol
Maf54 [Foley]: cute butt bouncing in the air

Mark Foley Pornography and sexual offenses

This is incredibly rank behavior from YET ANOTHER CONSERVATIVE who thinks he should make your moral decisions for you!

ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former male pages. In one message, ABC said, Foley wrote to one page: "Do I make you a little horny?"

In another message, Foley wrote, "You in your boxers, too? ... Well, strip down and get relaxed."

Foley, as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect.

"We track library books better than we do sexual predators," Foley has said.

And he once accused the Supreme Court of "siding with pedophiles over children."

Foley was a member of the Republican leadership, serving as a deputy whip. He also was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Foley's aides initially blamed Democratic rival Tim Mahoney and Democrats with attempting to smear the congressman before the election.

Foley resigns from Congress over e-mails

Foley thinks he has the moral authority to decide that gays can't marry. He thinks he has the moral authority decide for women about their child-bearing.

For crying-out-loud, he voted to impeach Bill Clinton over lying about a blow job!

Foley voting record

If you think guys like Mark Foley should make your moral decisions for you, then vote Republican. If you think you are better qualified to make your own moral decisions, vote Democrat.

Blame The Victims

Another similarity between Islam and conservative Christians.

Conservatives Christians have more in common with Islam than they might think. Knowing both groups fairly well, I see several fundamental similarities. This includes their shared theology of God's use of catastrophe as punishment for sin.

Religious conservatives claim Katrina was God's omen, punishment for the United States

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, some religious conservatives have speculated that the storm was sent by God as an omen or as a punishment for America's alleged sins.

Natural disasters 'are signs of dissatisfaction by God'

Tsunamis, tornadoes and other natural disasters are strong signs of dissatisfaction by God and a punishment against wrongdoers and defiant people, said a Muslim scholar.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

LG Hero Watch: John Batiste

Why are truth-telling Republicans so rare? Batiste is true patriot.

"Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader," said Batiste, wearing a pinstripe suit, calling himself a "lifelong Republican" and bearing a slight resemblance to Oliver North. "He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq or the human dimension of warfare. . . . Bottom line: His plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today."

Further, Batiste charged, Rumsfeld "reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war" and created an environment where U.S. troops "are doing unconscionable things."

"Our world is much less safe today than it was on September 11," Batiste said, echoing the administration's newly leaked intelligence estimate.

For Democrats, Welcome Words on Rumsfeld -- if Not the War

National Intelligence Estimate: Trends in Global Terrorism

Here's a full copy of the report which Sean Hannity thinks is proof that Bush is doing a great job in Iraq!

In text format for use in most applications:
Trends in Global Terrorism (Text/ASCII)

In simple HTML format, useful for cut-and-pasting from your browser.
Trends in Global Terrorism (HTML)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to apologize to Muslims

It's a confusing dynamic for westerners. Muslims will angrily demand an apology but then reject it when they get one.

In my original post about the pope, I made a guess that an in-person apology to Muslim leaders might seem more sincere than an official read apology. I think I was right.

I suspect this is a cultural clash. In the west, we tend to deliver apologies from behind podiums or, worse, through a spokesperson. I think the better way to apologize to Muslims would be for the pope to personally meet with some respected leaders and deliver the apology personally. Those Muslim leaders then announce that they have accepted the apology and that their followers should also.
An apology from the Pope is the Christian thing to do.

That's what the pope did Benedict spoke diplomats from 21 countries and the Arab League and it seems to have cooled things down a bit Forgive and forget the pope blunder

I think I'm figuring this out.

Official apologies through read-statements (which is how we usually do it in the west) strike many Muslims as disingenuous.

In-person apologies (probably leader-to-leader) seem more sincere. If the Muslim leader accepts the apology then the masses are likely to follow.

Actually, I think I agree with this myself. How many times have we heard some official apology and felt like it was a fraud?

The Achilles Heel of the Religious Right - let's hammer it!

About 23 percent of Americans want to be told what to do. The rest of us resent the moralizing blow-hards like Bill Bennett.

The "Values Voter Summit" last weekend reminded me of the main weakness of the Religious Right -- a weakness that liberals would be wise to exploit.

According to John Dean in his book Conservatives Without Conscience twenty-three percent of Americans have an emotional need for authoritarianism. Surely, this is the appeal of the "Value Voters Summit" and makes up much of the Republican base.

But that leaves seventy-three percent of Americans who want these moralizing, sanctimonious -- often hypocritical -- blow-hards to mind their own damn business! This should be the Democrat base.

We liberals should pound the Religious Right hard on this point. Jerry Falwell, Bill Bennett, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Tom Delay -- the noxious conservative Christians who use the pulpit to bully. Do most Americans want the holier-than-thou gang telling us how to live our personal lives? No way!

This is a point where we can "go negative" in all good conscious. Why? Because we can tell the truth and most Americans will be disgusted.

The slogan we can repeat, again and again: "Do you want [insert annoying right wing blowhard here] telling you how to live your life? If so vote Republican! If not vote Democrat!"

Good personal morality is a winning liberal value. Let's lead with it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Conservative real-time history revisionism in overdrive with Clinton interview

Who do they think they're fooling? We have TVs and radios and we can judge for ourselves.

Watch Bill's Clinton's interview on Fox News. Judge for yourself. Is he ranting and raving? Does he seem hate-filled?

Yes, he's angry. But not consumed with hatred. He's not even all-that angry. Just plain pissed-off.

Don't these real-time revisionists realize we have our own TVs?

Bill Clinton is angry that Fox News is lying about him. And then ambushed him on it.

As he should be! Fox News has been the biggest cheerleader of a spectacularly disastrous, counterproductive anti-terrorism strategy. Yet they dare sit in smug judgment of Bill Clinton who did a good job.

Even more surreal are portrayals of sleepy Al Franken as a "bomb thrower" or deadpan Al Gore as an "unhinged screaming lunatic."

Clearly Fox and the conservative media have clued-in on some psychological phenomenon. They've learned that a segment of the population can see -- with their own eyes -- someone like Al Gore drone on in perfect rationality. But if TV labels it "unhinged crazy ranting," some people will honestly believe the spin rather than their own eyes and ears.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Never let conservatives fight your wars.

Conservative clinging to the past makes them bungle the present.

I knew we'd lost the war on terror on September 11, 2001.

Newt Gingrich got on Fox and declared, "This is another Pearl Harbor!!!!!"

I turned to my wife and declared, "The conservatives are going to screw this up big-time."

911 wasn't Pearl Harbor. Osama bin Laden isn't Tojo. Saddam wasn't Hitler. Al Qaeda aren't the Nazis. And Islam certainly isn't fascism.

As long as the conservatives confuse counter-terrorism with past wars, they're going to bungle. If they confuse it with WWII, they are going to bungle on a massive scale.

In radical Muslims, we are fighting a very different enemy -- almost nothing like a traditional standing army. The conservatives focus on the fact that they have no uniforms and don't abide by established rules of engagement. But conservatves seem oblivious to the most significant new development in warfare.

A traditional war strategy is to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible to degrade their army's strength. The radicals have turned this on its head.

How do you fight an army where killing one "foot-soldier" creates five more?

And that's exactly what's been happening in Iraq, according to our own government experts (but not Bush, of course). The longer we fight them, the stronger they get. What's the conservative solution? Fight longer!

Hezbollah is a particularly vexing new development in warfare -- an asymmetrical organized army. While we haven't yet figured out how to battle small asymmetrical terrorists cells, they've organized into a formidable army.

As conservatives do, Israel fought Hezbollah like past wars. And as conservatives do, they spectacularly bungled it.

Israel's objective was to significantly degrade Hezbollah by aggressively attacking them deep into their own territory. So, they bombed the crap out of Lebanon.

Clearly their strategy failed. Worse yet, it backfired. In just a few short weeks, Hezbollah has rebounded militarily and seems to be /much stronger/ politically, which is a strength much more valuable than 20,000 Katyusha rockets.

Nasrallah Says No Army can Disarm Hezbollah

Israel came out of this conflict, bruised, looking-weak and hated even more than ever -- if that's possible.

To fight modern asymmetrical warfare, we need leaders who are ahead of the curve, not sixty years behind it.

Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse

Keep a copy of this article for safekeeping because you'll need it when Bush claims that Iraq has been a great success in battling terrorism.

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

Here is a re-posting of the article in text format.

September 24, 2006
Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 -- A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," said one American intelligence official.

I strongly recommend that you keep a copy of this article for yourself because you can bet that the conservatives are going to deny this news report ever happened.

Remember the government report, prior to the Iraq invasion, stating that Iraq was not a imminent threat? The Bush administration acted like that news item never happened, swore Saddam was an imminent threat, and invaded anyway.

I'm going with Musharraf over Armitage.

This sounds exactly like what those bomb-happy conservatives were saying back then.

If you haven't been following this story, Pervaiz Musharaff claimed that Richard Armitage threated Paksitan by saying, 'Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.'

Armatage, of course, is swearing on his mother that he didn't say this.

Armitage Refutes Musharraf's Claim

I'm leaning towards Musharraf's account.

Why? Because this sounds exactly like how those blow-hard neo-cons were talking and acting back then. In their empire-drunk minds, they took 911 as a moral green light to bomb the crap out of anyone who got in their way.

I'm pretty familiar with Musharraf and have heard him speak quite a few times. This doesn't sound him.

I'm no fan, nind you, but I'm pretty sure Musharraf would invent a different lie, if he were to do so.

But this sound exactly like Armitage.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Torture is E Coli for a justice system.

A little torture in a justice system is like a little e eoli in the California spinach industry -- even one-in-a-million spoils the whole thing.

Torture corrupts a judicial system because torture in some cases creates reasonable doubt in all cases.

If you've ever lived in a country with torture, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You can never be confident of any conviction since the "guilty" person may have confessed to avoid torture. This is especially true in high profile cases where there is pressure on law enforcement to catch the bad guys.

Like so many of Bush's precedence-busting initiatives, allowing torture -- or even the possibility of torture -- into our system is extremely short-sighted and very bad for America. We true patriots must reverse this bill, first chance we get.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Why are Muslims so touchy?"

Perplexed westerners are asking this question again. I'll take a stab at the answer.

As you might expect, there is no single reason but a bundle of factors at play. Here's my list, in no particular order:

1) Many Muslims aren't yet desensitized to global media.
Many Muslims grew up in a relatively sheltered culture and they are now hearing and seeing things that shock their sensitivity. This is compared to the west where most of us have become desensitized to outrageous and offensive speech. After things like Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," it takes a whole lot to ruffle our Christian feathers. Many Muslims are not yet so jaded.

2) Agitators effectively use new media
Agitators have shown themselves to be quite savvy in using mobile phone messaging, web sites and emails to whip-up these controversies. In the "cartoon controversy" they seeded-in bogus cartoons that were even more inflammatory than the originals. It's likely that an even more inflammatory "quote" from the pope is being circulated via cell phones and emails.

3) Politicians exploit situation
Typically there are two kinds of political exploitation of these events, both cruel and callous since lives are often lost in the process:
a) In-power leaders who need a populist boost. Jew and America bashing are a sure-fire way to score some points with the masses. Being seen as a protector of the faith is also helpful.
b) Out-of-power wannabe leaders who feel that social unrest weakens those in-power.
These politicians organize rallies and make strong emotional appeals which can then spin out-of-control. (see #8, below)

4) A general sense that Islam is under attack
Many (most?) Muslims are convinced that their faith and culture are under attack and they resent it deeply. This message is a persistent theme in sermons and media. This is very similar to the sentiments among American Christian conservatives. Remember Fox News' "War on Christmas!" campaign last year? It like that but even more so.

5) A strong cultural sense of honor and shame
It is probably safe to generalize that most cultures over here have a strong sense of honor. As you go further east, the "shame-based" culture comes into play. Neither of those cultures casually shrug-off insults.

4a & 5a) Residual negative effects of colonialism.
I have become convinced that one can't overstate the lasting negative effect of colonialism. Westerners -- especially former-colonialists -- rarely understant this. People here still have a very visceral sense of being dominated and dishonored, aggravating #3 and #4 above. This is especially acute when you have a theology which says your religion should rightfully be ruling, not serving.

6) A very different view of free speech
It's widely believed that the government has a responsibility to ban and punish religiously offensive speech. Most Muslims didn't see the cartoon crisis as a free speech issue but one of religious denigration (which is not protected speech). Since the Danish government did not punish the newspaper, it too was liable. This is why a whole-country boycott made sense to those over here. In the west, this was widely seen as unfairly punishing of a whole country for the actions of a few.

7) Personal responsibility to defend the faith
This ventures into Islamic theology of which I'm not qualified to speak. But I think it is safe to say that defending the faith is a religious duty. Clearly, Muslims generally believe in severe punishment for blasphemy and a small (but vocal!) minority of Muslims feel it is their duty to mete out this punishment.

8) A group (aka "mob") mentality.
The cultures I've seen over here are much more likely to "take to the streets" when something bad happens. I don't begin to understand it. When I've broached the subject, people got touchy so I dropped it. In my culture, when a crisis breaks out, we tend to stay glued to our TVs. Here they are more likely to rally and protest. Needless to say, mobs are not known for their rational behavior.

Let me point out: Most Muslims don't mob. But westerners can easily get the wrong impression since mobs make for good TV. For example: after 911, the cable channels repeatedly ran a clip of Arabs dancing in the street. What they didn't show was the vast (vast!) majority of Muslims who were peacefully sitting at home watching in horror and shock, just like you. I was in a 95% Muslim country at the time (a country famous for radicalism) and I saw no dancing or celebrating. I'm sure it happened but it was not widespread, as TV made it seem.

So, there's my explanation. I know it isn't as satisfying as the simplistic conservative explanation, "They hate us for our freedoms" or a blanket indictment of Islam by the Religious Right.

As liberals and as Christians, you know that most Muslims are good, average people deserving of our understanding and respect. They aren't a bunch of irrational people running around in violent mobs like the bigots would have you believe.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bill Clinton's record on counterterrorism

It's a relentless mantra in the chat rooms, "Bill Clinton did absolutely nothing to stop terrorism." Nonsense!

If you read the inside of the newspaper, back then, instead of the front page which was dominated by fake scandals, you know this is just more Fox-slinging. The claim is not just wrong, it's the opposite of the truth.

This was found on

Just for the record, under Richard Clarke's leadership as Czar of Counterterrorism:.

· Bill Clinton developed the nation's first anti-terrorism policy and appointed first national coordinator of anti-terrorist efforts.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold the Al Qaeda millennium hijacking and bombing plots.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to kill the Pope.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up 12 U.S. jetliners simultaneously.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up UN Headquarters.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up FBI Headquarters.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up Boston airport.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in NY.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up the George Washington Bridge.

· Bill Clinton stopped cold a planned attack to blow up the US Embassy in Albania.

· Bill Clinton tried to kill Osama bin Laden and disrupt Al Qaeda through preemptive strikes (efforts denounced by the G.O.P.).

· Bill Clinton brought perpetrators of first World Trade Center bombing and CIA killings to justice.

· Bill Clinton did not blame the Bush I administration for first WTC bombing even though it occurred 38 days after Bush left office. Instead, worked hard, even obsessively -- and successfully -- to stop future terrorist attacks.

· Bill Clinton named the Hart-Rudman commission to report on nature of terrorist threats and major steps to be taken to combat terrorism.

· Bill Clinton sent legislation to Congress to tighten airport security. (Remember, this is before 911) The legislation was defeated by the Republicans because of opposition from the airlines.

· Bill Clinton sent legislation to Congress to allow for better tracking of terrorist funding. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate because of opposition from banking interests.

· Bill Clinton sent legislation to Congress to add tagents to explosives, to allow for better tracking of explosives used by terrorists. It was defeated by the Republicans because of opposition from the NRA.

· Bill Clinton increased the military budget by an average of 14 per cent, reversing the trend under Bush I.

· Bill Clinton tripled the budget of the FBI for counterterrorism and doubled overall funding for counterterrorism.

· Bill Clinton detected and destroyed cells of Al Qaeda in over 20 countries.

· Bill Clinton created national stockpile of drugs and vaccines including 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine.

· Of Clinton's efforts says Robert Oakley, Reagan Ambassador for Counterterrorism: "Overall, I give them very high marks" and "The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama".

· Paul Bremer, current Civilian Administrator of Iraq disagrees slightly with Robert Oakley as he believed the Bill Clinton Administration had "correctly focused on bin Laden.

· Barton Gellman in the Washington Post put it best, "By any measure available, Bill Clinton left office having given greater priority to terrorism than any president before him" and was the "first administration to undertake a systematic anti-terrorist effort".

Clarence Swinney,
Political Historian

Remember when we had a president that was ahead of the curve, and not constantly six-months behind the rest of us?

Surely these conservatives are aware that they're violating the ninth commandment, "You must not bear false witness."

Or are the Ten Commandments null-and-void in conservative politics?

Zogby gets it right, again.

I wish I'd thought of the "remove the beam from your own eye" bible verse!

After writing my own analysis, I came across James Zogby's column. I always find it reassuring when an expert comes to the same conclusions as me.

James Zogby: Using or Abusing Religion

"I don't know why Pope Benedict XVI sought to quote what could only be described as an anti-Muslim diatribe to open his speech on the unacceptability of using religion to justify violence. [Note: This is all especially troubling to me because I am Catholic and have PhD in Islamic Studies.]

It would have been more appropriate for him to choose a quote closer to home. After all the 14th Century source he cited was no angel, and the period in which he ruled, sandwiched, as it was, between the bloody Crusades and the equally bloody Inquisition could have provided Benedict with enough material to make his point--without resorting to a sweeping mischaracterization of Islam.

Of course, the topic needed to be addressed, but in our troubled period, heeding Jesus' injunction to "remove the beam from your own eye" first, before trying to "remove the splinter from your neighbor's eye" and leading by example, would have been the wiser course."

By the way, I suggest that you read James Zogby regarding Arab and Muslim issues. I don't know anyone who gets it right as often as he does.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My analysis of the pope's speech.

He makes some good points but should have kept the focus on his own church.

First of all, I want to commend the pope in dealing with this crisis. He seems to have effectively steered this away from being another "cartoon crisis." My sense is that he understands the human element of crisis, unlike the many editors who kept re-printing the cartoons out of principle.

I have now given the pope's speech a good read and I no longer think he was being disingenuous -- culture-bound, maybe, but probably sincere.

The part of the speech that focuses on Christianity is pretty good stuff. He argues that Hellenistic (the fancy-pants word for Greek) logic and reason began to creep into the Jewish faith and then, as Christianity came to Europe, the two strains melded into what became Christianity.

(If I was an Eastern Orthodox, Mar Thoma Indian or Coptic Christian, I'd be a little irritated that he assumes European Christianity is the defining form of our faith.)

He argues that if you remove Hellenistic reason/logic from Christianity then "all kinds of bad crap follows" [my paraphrase].

This is where he ventures into dangerous territory regarding Muslims and Islam. He sets the stage by claiming that Islam's Allah is beyond/above reason and can therefore be illogical and capricious.

But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. ... [The Muslim] God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

(I am severely editing here, please read the original if you think I'm distorting the pope's position.)

Therefore (following the pope's logic), since Allah is detached from human reason, nothing is unreasonable either... including conversion by the sword.

Especially conversion by the sword. The pope doesn't explicitly say this but it is a strong insinuation. Follow his logic:

"The [Christian] emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. [snip] Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."

So here's the insinuation: when your faith is unreasonable, then conversion by the sword has it's own unreasonable logic.

This reminds me of Ann Coulter who famously says, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Ann of Arc

Who logically thinks Ann Coulter's plan will create sincere Christians? It strikes me as totally absurd.

I've previously wondered if this view of illogical conversion wasn't behind the forced conversion of the Fox News hostages but I certainly don't pretend to understand what went on in the minds of those hostage-takers.

So, I concede that the pope makes a point concerning the dangers of illogical faith.

Where he went alarmingly wrong is to venture outside of his own faith tradition. This almost aways backfires! Couldn't he have found plenty of examples within his own church? He makes one vague and passing reference to the crusades when he says

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit.

It seems to me that the crusades and the Inquisition would have been the best -- and safest -- example of the danger of separating logic and faith.

I'm absolutely convinced that the best way to "teach" the other religions is by speaking honestly and frankly about our own religious experience and let them work out their own faith.

We evangelical Christians use the word "witnessing" a when, in reality, we are "arguing." I think we'd be more effective evangelists if we witnessed about the works of God among us and said a whole lot less about others. If the pope had stuck to that, this crisis would not have happened.

Here is the full text of the pope's speech.

It's pretty dense stuff but I think Melanie McDonagh's analysis is right.

Three Stages in the Programme of De-Hellenisation

I've re-posted the speech as a plain text file suitable for most applications: Benedict XVI Sept 12 speech in English

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Was the Pope Trying to Say?

I understand better but I'm still not buying it.

As these scandals take a life of their own, original context tends to be lost but here is a good analysis of the pope's speech by Melanie McDonagh of The Telegraph.

The gist [of the speech], to spare you the trouble of looking it up, is that belief in God is entirely consistent with human reason and the Greek spirit of philosophical inquiry. By using the reason God gave us, we become, in a way, more like him.
If you're looking for a real critique of Islam in the speech, there is one tucked away in the text, but hardly anyone noticed. The Pope suggests that the Islamic idea of God is so transcendent that he cannot be seen in terms of human reason. He cites one medieval Islamic scholar, Ibn Hazn, who says that God is entirely remote from our rational categories.
A question of faith and religion

I'm still not buying his premise. First of all, Christianity is not rooted only in Greek logic, it also has deep Hebrew (thus Middle Eastern) roots. I've heard more than a few sermons about the mystery of God who transcends logic... as recently as last Friday (church day, here.)

If Muslims are more irrational than Christians, it isn't too obvious. Widespread lack of logical reasoning surely comes from a failure in the educational system more than anything else.

Be sure to compare apples with apples. Don't compare Pakistanis to the Norwegians (for example) who have very different levels of education. Are Muslims with PhDs as logical as Christians with similar PhDs? Are Muslim tribals as illogical as a Christian from a similar tribe? I have never seen a study but my fairly extensive personal observation would say "no".

Like I said yesterday, the pope's premise doesn't hold up on a macro scale either. Do a body count from wars by Christian countries versus wars by Muslim countries. We Christians have the Muslims beat by a large margin!

Nor am I convinced that logic is much of a deterrent to war. The Germans are famous for their hard-edged logic. I don't see how that helped them much in the '30s. Furthermore, the less-logical mystical wings of both our religions tend to be more peaceful, not less.

PS: I doubt many Muslims read my blog but to any that do: I'd encourage you to use this offense as an opportunity to prove the West wrong about that Muslims-are-violence-prone accusation.

An apology from the Pope is the Christian thing to do.

I'm not just saying this because my own church might be bombed.

Here we go again... the Pope must act quickly if there is any hope to avoid another "cartoon crisis."

The Pope Tackles Faith and Terrorism

The quote that has everybody riled up is from the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

Here is an extended excerpt from the speech: Pope's Islam comments condemned

I expect this to be another hurtful, damaging round of Muslims accusing Christianity of being against them and the west accusing Muslims of being irrational and violent.

I expect people to die over this.

Now would be a really good time for the pope to step in and calm the situation.

In the past, many Muslims have rejected the apology they demanded. Still, one should never withhold an apology just because it might not be well received.

I suspect this is a cultural clash. In the west, we tend to deliver apologies from behind podiums or, worse, through a spokesperson. I think the better way to apologize to Muslims would be for the pope to personally meet with some respected leaders and deliver the apology personally. Those Muslim leaders then announce that they have accepted the apology and that their followers should also.

Apologies are a very Christian because they recognize our own personal sinfulness/fallibility and acknowledge that we have hurt others with it.

Pope Benetict's apology should have real sincerity and gravitas -- not one of those irritating "I'm sorry you misinterpreted what I said" non-apologies.

His premise seems disingenuous.

It isn't just the quote he should apologize for. I think he should apologize for the premise of his speech.

As I understood his lecture, he was trying to make the point that Islam and Christianity are very different in regard to violence.

His discourse Tuesday sought to delineate what he sees as a fundamental difference between Christianity's view that God is intrinsically linked to reason (the Greek concept of logos) and Islam´s view that "God is absolutely transcendent."

Benedict said that Islam teaches that God's "will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." The risk he sees implicit in this concept of the divine is that the irrationality of violence can potentially be justified if someone believes it is God's will. "As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?"
The Pope Tackles Faith and Terrorism

How can anyone sincerely claim this in light of crusades?

And not just the crusades -- it's all the wars in the Christian west that make him seem hypocritical to Muslims.

Muslims generally view WWII in Europe as a inter-Christian conflict in the same way that we view the Iran-Iraq war as an inter-Muslim conflict. In vivid memory it was the Christian Serbs slaughtering their Muslim neighbors.

Clearly we Christians need to talk about violence in the most humble terms.

A far more productive speech, regarding religion and violence, would be for the pope to tell us what lessons his church has learned from the Crusades, Italian fascism, Liberation Theology, Just War theory and Irish Catholic terrorism.

Sharing one's own lessons is always more effective than pointing fingers at others.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wow! The conservatives hated Ann Richards

Check out these "values" conservatives!

Ann Richards just died and I decided to see how people were memorializing her. So I went to Yahoo Groups.

Here is a quick sampling of the conservative posts:

ilikeglobalwarming >> she was born with a silver dildo up her azz.
perduethechickenman >> ANOTHER LIBTARD DONE DROP DEAD Big deal.
michio_kaku >> F*CK THE BITCH.
maroon_muldoon >> Another snide dem-femme gasbag, bites the Texas dust - adios heifer
re_impeach_slick_willy >> LOUD MOUTHED OLD BITCH!!!

An you just gotta like this guy's outrage against hatred!

stgeorgeschapel >> A nasty hypocrite, two-faced, pathetically stupid, and full of hatred.

Yahoo discussion on Ann Richard's death

Can anyone take these conservatives seriously when they speak of themselves as the party of values?

Boehner is a divider, not a uniter

What a jerk!

“I listen to my Democrats friends, and I wonder if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people,” Boehner told reporters yesterday."Republicans, Dems trade jabs on war

Bush just recently called for all Americans to unite in the war on terror.

If Bush is sincere, he needs to take John Boehner aside and give him a good dope slap.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, what was the clear threat?

Somebody needs to put a restraining order on Bush from using 911 to justify Iraq.

In Bush's September 11 speech, this jumped out at me:

Bush in his speech said,

"I am often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat."
Speech Transcript

What was the clear threat?

WMD's? No. Even the Whitehouse admits that, if you twist their arms hard enough.
Threat of invasion? No. Saddam's vaunted Republican Guard folded like a KMart lawnchair under Rush Limbaugh.
Terrorist threat? No. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee report that Dick Cheney hasn't bothered to read.
ICBM's? No.
Standing Navy off our shore? No.
Missiles on our border? No.

So what's the clear threat Bush is talking about?

A threat so imminent that we had to rush-off hell-bent on war without proper equipment or planning?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

GOP blocks up or down vote! I thought they were fans!

What happened? Conservatives used to be huge fans of the "up or down vote"!

WASHINGTON - A move by opposition Senate Democrats to force a vote on whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should stay on the job is likely to fizzle Wednesday. Republicans promise to block a vote on the measure, which they called a political stunt.

Republicans set to block up or down ’no confidence’ vote on Rumsfeld

From the memory bank:

Here is a 2005 National Review op-piece very enthusiastic about "up or down votes" called "Up or Down."

I wonder of the National Review is going to do an op-ed criticizing the GOP leadership from blocking this "up or down vote" of no confidence on Rumsfeld?

No nation. No armies. No territory. But they are just like Hitler!

More proof that "Islamic Fascism" is a bogus con term, coined by Karl Roves polling data.

In Bush's speech, yesterday, he described the terrorists like this:

The terrorists who declared war on America represent no nation. They defend no territory. And they wear no uniform. They do not mass armies on borders or flotillas of warships on the high seas.
Bush Sept 6 speech

Now, does this sound like the Nazis to you? Or any movement you normally associate with fascism?

Of course one, because like I said in an earlier post, the term "Islamic Fascism" is a bogus con term.

No doubt, it was carefully focus-grouped by Karl Rove to maximum fear and rally the Bush base.

Bush's speech makes me think the staff in the Whitehouse don't even believe it.

I'm tired of my president being behind the curve.

Why does the Bush administration always seem to be about six months behind the rest of us in their understanding of current events?

One of the worst bungles of the Bush administration is not finishing the job in Afghanistan, allowing Al Qaeda to escape and morph into a much more dangerous global decentralized organization.

Isn't this obvious to you? It's obvious to me. It's obvious to most people.

It's not obvious to Bush!

He's claiming this week that America has "significantly degraded" Al Qaeda.

A new counterterrorism strategy released yesterday by the White House describes al-Qaeda as a significantly degraded organization,
Individuals, Small Groups Cited as Terrorist Threats

"significantly degraded"!?!?!

Who actually believes this?

It be nice, just for once, if Bush was actually ahead of the curve, instead of embarrisingly obvlivious to the obvious.

Here is a copy of the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism

(I haven't read it yet, but scanning it makes me wonder of Bush has even read it. His speeches this week seem a bit out-of-step with the report.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Answering Rumsfeld's infernal questions

OK, I'll take a whack at Rumsfeld's questions

Rumsfeld is famous for letting off a string of questions as a substitute for answers. Usually he has firm control of the microphone so nobody can reply.

He did it again in his recent editorial but this gives us bloggers a chance to answer.

Don't appease terrorists by Donald H. Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld: In speaking to our veterans, I suggested several questions to guide us during this struggle against violent extremists:
- With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that vicious extremists can somehow be appeased?

Liberal Grace: Who's saying "vicious extremists" can be appeased? Mr. Rumsfeld, you're arguing against a position hardly anybody holds.

We liberals are more concerned about winning the hearts of the average Muslim. Want them appeased? Bring justice to Palestine. End the war in Iraq.

Rumsfeld: Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists

Liberal Grace: Who thinks that? I don't! Mr. Rumsfeld, you arguing with a straw-man. We liberals believe that free countries can negotiate with other countries to cooperate in counter terrorism.

Rumsfeld: - Can we truly afford to pretend that the threats today are simply "law enforcement" problems rather than fundamentally different threats requiring fundamentally different approaches?

Liberal Grace: Law enforcement has been the most effective tool in counter-terrorism. This is in contrast to your wars which have been a tremendous boost for terrorist recruitment.

Why? Because war zones are breeding grounds for radicalism. Radicals are more likely to use terrorism.

Rumsfeld: Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America not the enemy is the real source of the world's troubles?

Liberal Grace: Return? This view of America has had a massive UPSURGE since you and Bush took office. One reason is because you use war, instead of law enforcement, to fight terrorism!

Fighting terrorists with war is like throwing garbage at cockroaches. You may kill a few at first but the mess you creates breeds a whole lot more.

Wide approval of honor killings -- even in Britain

I welcome immigrants ... but not this!

LONDON -- One in 10 British Asians believe that so-called honour killings -- of someone who brings shame on their family -- are justifiable, according to a poll yesterday.

A tenth of 500 Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims surveyed by the BBC’s Asian Network radio said they would condone the murder of someone who disrespected their family’s honour.

Typically, that might involve a woman who has a relationship with someone of another religion. About 13 people a year in Britain are thought to die in honour killings, the survey’s authors said.

"Most of the Asians who are in Britain today come from very tribal communities," said Navid Akhtar, a journalist who has been examining the issue.

"Honour is a big deal, it’s kind of caught up with your property, it’s caught up with your women and if anybody comes close to threatening you, you have to avenge your honour."

The government should "send out a clear message, an unambiguous message that such violence against women will not be tolerated," Aisha Gill, a lecturer in criminology at Roehampton University in south London, told the BBC.
One in 10 British Asians backs honour killings

I've lived in countries with high rates of honor killings and, believe me, this is one cultural problem we don't want imported to the west. It's unspeakably horrible and often misdirected. For instance, if a man rapes a woman, the woman gets killed by her brother and the man just runs off to the big city. (The woman does not have that option.)

The one fishy part of this poll is that there are only 13 such deaths a year, despite the large approval rate. Are the deaths underreported? Possibly Briton has highly effective deterrence but I doubt that, considering this is a crime of passion.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Watch Southern Iraq for sign of split

If Iraqi army stands down and the Al Mehdi militia rules, then the tide has turned in the civil war.

Since we can't trust the Bush administration to give us an honest assessment of how the war's going, I am going to use southern Iraq as my barometer.

Baghdad: The southern governorates of Thi-Qar and Misan, where majority of the population are Shiites, are preparing for complete security handover from British forces in the coming few days, Iraqi officials said.
Muwafak Al Rubaei, the National Security Advisor, revealed in press statements that US-British withdrawal plan from nine southern Iraqi governorates is ready for implementation. He also said that the complete security portfolio is going to be handed over to the Iraqi forces soon
The Iraqi army has been unable to confront Shiite armed militias. In the event of the US-British army withdrawal, a void would be created, opening the doors to Iran to extend its influence in Iraqi governorates of the south, the reports noted.
A high-level political debate is going on inside the Supreme Islamic Revolutionary Council on the US-British withdrawal from southern Iraq. The feeling is that the nine governorates will make up the southern-middle province.
Fears of Iran role in southern Iraq after US-British pullout

I don't pretend to be a military or Iraq expert but it seems pretty obvious that withdrawal of US-British troops from the south will be a pretty telling event for the future of Iraq.

If the Iraqi army takes genuine control (seems unlikely) then there may be hope for unified, centralized government. If the Mehdi army takes control (seems likely), then it's probably only a matter of time before the country gets carved up.

Bush still won't answer the question straight.

Bush is every bit as slippery as Clinton these days.

Carefully read this interchange with NBC's Brian Williams which you probably heard on the radio.

WILLIAMS: Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought a wrong war? Or that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists.

"nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack,"!!!

THAT WASN'T THE QUESTION! The qustion is, "did you fight the wrong war"?

Bush's answer is right out of the "Slick Willy" handbook. You're asked one question and you answer another!

Here's the bottom line folks: Iraq is a very deadly, very expensive diversion from the "war on terror." Bush has made things worse, not better.