Liberal Grace

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The #1 agenda for Congress: Keep Bush out of Iran

The Democrats absolutely must keep ahead of Bush on this issue, set the agenda and -- for the love of God -- stop him from attacking Iran.

Is the U.S. Headed To War With Iran?
Analysts don't expect an invasion, but some see Bush's posturing as a prelude to an air attack.

Increasing tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and actions in Iraq have fueled speculation that Bush may be paving the way for military action. With U.S. forces tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one expects a ground invasion, but analysts at both ends of the political spectrum put little stock in Bush's insistence that he's focused only on diplomacy.
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It would be a huge mistake to allow Bush to act and then for the Democrats to react. They must get ahead of Bush on this issue.

First, Congress must make it illegal for Bush to attack Iran -- clear and definitively illegal.

The law should include a clause that pre-approves immediate impeachment hearings as soon as the first missile is launched.

Second, Congress should start a national debate on whether Americans want yet another war.

The Democrats and sane Republicans must mobilize and get on every TV news show and fill our newspapers with op-ed pieces detailing the pure lunacy of Bush's plans.

I am pretty sure this will turn against Bush's insane drive -- as long as we have the debate now. If Congress waits until the Bush disinformation campaign kicks in, the debate could go the other way.

For me, this is a higher priority than even Iraq or any social program. Iran is already a mess and there are no quick fixes. But Bush's insane plans to attack Iran are a mess Congress must absolutely prevent before happening.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I can't help but wonder about Tim Hardaway.

Secure straight guys don't talk that way about gays.

By now, you've surely heard that Tim Hardaway hates gays. external link

I can't help but wonder about Tim Hardaway.

The truth is, most of us straight guys have so little contact with gays or gay sex that we have no passionate opinion about it, one way or the other.

It would be like declaring my hate for Lithuanians. Unless I obsessed on Lithuania or hung out at Lithuanian bars, it's all abstract to me. And who gets worked up about the abstract?

I'm not saying that Tim Hardaway is a Lithuanian on the low-down but I can't help but wonder.

The importance of virginity before marriage.

This high value on a woman's virginity is hard for us liberal westerners to fully fathom.

Men are cleared of threatening women all the time, so this headline didn't seem strange until I read why he was allegedly threatening her:

Man cleared of threatening wife with gun

Dubai: A 27-year-old man has been acquitted of forcing his wife to sign a confession at gunpoint admitting that she was not a virgin before their marriage.

The Dubai Court of First Instance cleared the UAE national of threatening his 22-year-old compatriot wife with a pistol and forcing her to sign the confession due to lack of evidence.

The court also acquitted the employee's 52-year-old Egyptian advocate of aiding and abetting a crime due to insufficient evidence.

The Public Prosecution had charged the 27-year-old with threatening his wife and calling her an indecent woman.

[...]

"The wife wrote her confession willingly and our client did not threaten her. She even admitted in front of a police captain that she lost her virginity after sleeping with her relative four or five years before getting married to our client," said the employee's lawyer Khalifa Al Salman, of Salim Al Sha'ali and Co Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The wife also promised to preserve our client's rights and wrote the confession, said Al Salman. The suspect did not malign his wife "because she admitted losing her virginity," said the lawyer.

In her statement to the public prosecution, the woman claimed that one day her husband called her "an indecent woman."

The next day he brought his legal advisor who dictated her confession, which she was then forced to sign at gunpoint.

The initial verdict is still subject to appeal.
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I can't, for the life of me, imagine why any woman in this culture would voluntarily sign a confession about her lack of virginity! It inconceivable, really, considering the importance placed on virginity in this culture.

This issue is hard for us liberal westerners to get our mind around. Here's another strange article from a couple weeks ago:

Clinics restoring virginity controversial

Dubai: Some private clinics, which are performing illegal surgeries to restore virginity of unmarried girls despite a ban on such operations, have come under fire.

According to women who underwent such a surgery, the operation to restore a ruptured hymen costs about Dh10,000. [US$2,700]
A Ministry of Health official said hymen restoration or reconstruction for unmarried girls is banned.

"In most Muslim and Arab countries and even in some non-Muslim countries, girls are expected to maintain their virginity until they get married, because of cultural, social or religious reasons," he said.

A surgeon who runs a private urology clinic in Dubai and is specialised in treating haemorrhoids is said to conduct the virginity restoration surgeries. He is said to charge Dh10,000 for the 90-minute surgery.

A general practitioner in Sharjah said there are two types of operations; the first is 'permanent' (will last longer) and could be done any time and the second (of lesser durability) is done few days before the wedding. The first type of operation is more expensive, he said.

An Arab girl who is considering this surgery before her wedding, said she is waiting for her salary to undertake the operation. "My fiancee is out of the country and I will do it while he is away," she said.

Another girl said that she had undergone the surgery, which took two hours. "I feel all right now. I am getting ready for my wedding," she said.

The Dh10,000 cost of the operation includes a "two-hour rest at a hotel," Gulf News was told.

The surgery is not banned for married women. It is most popular among unmarried Arab girls of various nationalities who get involved in pre-marital relationships.
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In a sidebar that was in the print edition, it was explained (by a lawyer I believe) that this reason for the hymen restoration ban was because it was illegal to cover up a crime. What's the crime? A woman losing her virginity, I assume.

The best cultural parallel I can draw would be a restaurant dumpster-diving for food and re-selling it as fresh. Who would want that? Especially if you were paying for fresh?

(There's no mention in either article, by the way, of anything regarding male virginity.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Three BINDING resolutions

I never have supported these non-binding resolutions. Here are three I would support.



I'm not exactly against this surge, although I don't have much hope for it. Furthermore, trying to stop a 15% incremental adjustment in strategy may actually impinge on Bush's constitutional role as Commander in Chief.

However, there are things Congress can legally do and should do:


1) No bombing of Iran without a declaration of war.

Congress should state explicitly declare that "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002" does not apply to any other country and Bush may not bomb Iran without a formal declaration of war.

2) Institute a war tax

We must stop paying for this war with hot checks. I recommend the war tax be weighted in exactly the same way as Bush's tax cuts. (The conservatives should have no problem with this formula since they keep telling us it is fair. )

I'd also institute corporate taxes on corporations that have profited off of Iraq and on the oil companies.

The war tax will stay in place until the war is paid for, the acutely wounded have healed and the military infrastructure has been rebuilt.

I suspect that the conservatives hate taxes more than they love war and that the reality of paying for this war might take the edge off of their enthusiasm for it.

3) Establish a funding timeline for the war

Until Congress established a timeline for funding, they have no right to complain that Bush has not established a timeline for troop withdrawal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Boehner's talk doesn't match his walk

According to Boehner, all of America hinges on this war in Iraq. If so, then why the half-hearted war?


John Boehner was a case study in demagoguery in his speech before Congress:

We are engaged in a global war now -- a war for our very way of life.

“Every drop of blood that has been spilt in defense of freedom and liberty – from the American Revolution to this very moment – is for nothing if we are unwilling to stand against this threat.
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How can we Democrats have a reasoned debate about politics with this kind of shameless demagoguery? This is not some wacko Texas talk show host saying this ... but the top Republican in the Congress!

According to Boehner, if we give anything less than total, blind support to George Bush strategy in Iraq, everything American's have bravely fought for from the American Revolution until now is in vain!

“But because they can not defeat Americans on the battlefield, al Qaeda and terrorist-sympathizers worldwide are trying to divide us here at home. Over the next few days, we have an opportunity to show our enemies that we will not take the bait.

“It is fitting that yesterday was President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Not since the dark days of the Civil War has our homeland been a battlefield.

(Never mind that the Vietnam war debate was even more rancorous than today's.)

So, according to Boehner, this debate wasn't cause by Bush's bungling of the Iraq war, it was initiated by Al Qaeda!

Open and honest debate is essential for Democracy and we can't have that as long as guys like Boehner control one side of the debate. Good Republicans needs to rise-up and take control of their side of the debate.

In his speech, Boehner made it clear: America's fate hinges on this war in Iraq:
“This is not a question of fighting for land, for treasure, or for glory – we are fighting to rid the world of a radical and dangerous ideology. We are fighting to defend all that is sacred to our way of life. We are fighting to build a safer and more secure America – one where families can raise their children without the fear of terrorist attacks.
If so, I ask, then why is Bush fighting it so half-heartedly.

Why only 20,000 troops? Why not 200,000? After all, everything America is and stands for hinges on this war! Why not 2,000,000 new troops?

A 15% increase can't even honestly be called a surge -- in reality, it's an incremental adjustment.

I'm not military expert but I'll say the obvious: 15% isn't much. To win this war we'll need a 200% or 300% increase -- enough to seal all the borders, end the sectarian violence and get the infrastructure rebuilt.

If Boehner is serious about his rhetoric -- that all of America, past and future hangs on this war -- then why doesn't he support what needs to be done?

(And for the love of all-that's-good, stop financing it with hot checks. )

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

North Korea deal: set-back for neo-con crazies; win for sanity.

The North Korea deals brings us back, full-circle, to sane "Clinton-style" diplomacy.



Let's take a moment and notice that the North Korea agreement we just struck is a return to sane, tried-and-true, diplomacy. (So, of course, John Bolton is throwing a hissy fit. external link)

This is not to say that it's a good deal. Good deals are impossible with rogue countries. However, I suspect this was the only deal possible and some deal is better than no deal.

It's a qualified somewhat complicated victory. Which, of course, means that black-and-white conservatives can't comprehend it and thus will mock it.

I remember well how much the conservatives mocked, chided and arrogantly denounced Clinton's efforts at diplomacy with North Korea. external link

So, after years of their failed big-stick, swaggering foreign policy (leaving the world a more dangerous place) we've come full circle with the very kind of deal that the Clinton Administration -- or any reasonable government -- would have struck.

Let's take a moment and savor that.

It will also be interesting to note which conservatives -- despite their previous discredited and disastrous advice -- will still criticize this deal.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Proxy wars: The moral difference between Afghanistan 1987 vs Iran 2007

Before we bomb Iran, I'd like to hear Bush coherently explain the legal or moral difference between Afghanistan 1987 and Iran 2007.



Many people say that history circles but others say it spirals. I vote for spiral:

* Two decades ago the US was supplying weapons to insurgents external linkexternal link to kill Russian occupiers in Afghanistan; today, the US is accusing Iran of supplying weapons to kill American occupiers in Iraq.

* Back then, American-leader Reagan was vocally critical of the occupiers; today, Russian leader Putin is vocally critical of the occupiers.

* Back then, America was arming the religiously-motivated insurgents; today we're fighting them.

* Back then we hated Iran; today we hate Iran... some things don't change!

One thing has totally changed -- how America feels about proxy wars.

Today, many Americans think we have the legal and moral right to bomb Iran because they're supply weapons to kill American soldiers. Back then, I don't remember any Americans saying that Russia had the legal and moral right to bomb America because we were supplying weapons to kill Soviet soldiers.

It should also be note that the Soviets were willing to negotiate with America at the very time we were supplying arms to kill their soldiers by the thousands. external link

Like Jesus himself, I think the penultimate moral guide from scripture is "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Did we Americans want the Soviets to bomb us for arming the militants? If not, no Christian should advocate for the bombing of Iran for doing just like we did not very long ago.

Conservative Christians have a lot in common with most Muslims

It's isn't just fighting words -- the two religious movements have more in common than they may want to admit.


I often say that Muslims -- who are predominately conservative -- have a lot in common with the American Christian "Religious Right."

This, of course, sounds like fighting words to my conservative friends who can't accept that they have a natural kinship with people thy think are all going to hell.

But here's an example of what I'm talking about. Read this article and imagine the same thing being said by James Dobson or even GW Bush:

Emphasis must be on abstinence in sex education

By Nina Muslim, Staff Reporter

Dubai: Sex education in the Middle East, while important, should not address ways to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases, says a Gulf sexual medicine specialist, putting a damper on HIV/Aids awareness efforts in the region.

Dr Amr Jad, consultant urologist at the Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital in Saudi Arabia, said he and a group of doctors were preparing a how-to guide that would focus on abstinence and monogamy, and answer sexual questions.

However, methods to prevent infection by a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), or safe sex, are not included in the guide, which he hoped would be the blueprint for regional community sex education programmes.

[...]

"Teaching people about something that they are not allowed to do will increase chances of them doing it," he added.

He also rejected a two-pronged approach to the issue of sex education, including preventive measures as well as religious prohibitions, saying it was incompatible with religious values.

[...]

"Abstinence is a 100 per cent effective method to prevent STDs and teenage pregnancies, but we still have to teach that if you must have sex, then it is better to practise safe sex.." he added.
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Without commenting on the merits of this position, I just want to point out that it is almost identical to what is being preached in conservative churches in America.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Never forget -- Bush lies to start wars

We're going to hear a lot of claims about Iran that we can't evaluate ourselves. Just remember -- Bush lies about this stuff.


OK, so it's deja-view-all-over-again but with Iran instead of Iraq.

You hear this stuff and hope-to-hell that the administration would never play politics with something as serious as war.

U.S. officials offer evidence of Iran's hand in Iraqi unrest
By Tina Susman, Times Staff Writer
February 11, 2007

Baghdad -- U.S. defense and intelligence officials today rolled out what they said was solid evidence that Iran was providing bombs to target U.S. and Iraqi troops and accused Iran's supreme leader of orchestrating the smuggling of such devices over the Iran-Iraq border.

At a briefing held under unusually secretive conditions here, the U.S. officials, who refused to be identified by name and did not allow cameras or recording devices inside a conference room, offered up tables laden with hardware and a slide show of documentation that they said bolstered the U.S. contentions of Iranian involvement in Iraqi unrest.
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But they would play politics with war. And they did.

I'm taking this "smoking gun" evidence with high skepticism. We also know that the press will simply repeat what the administration tells them without checking it out for themselves -- or even asking hard questions.

I demand that congress do it's own independent investigation before they authorize any more wars. We just can't trust the Bush administration to tell us the truth.

Furthermore, congress should pass a resolution right now, unequivocally denying the president the right to launch effort outside of Iraq without a full vote of congress. Declaring war is the constitutional right.external link and duty of congress and they should exclusively reserve it for themselves

Another president might be trustworthy enough to start a military initiative on their own and get approval later. But not Bush. He's proven otherwise.

Jesus loved Anna Nicole Smith

There is only one Christian response to Anna Nicole Smith -- compassion.



Fox News is now the all-Anna, all the time channel and you can sense their relief to have some news that doesn't reveal Bush and the GOP as corrupt bunglers.

I had to groan when I heard the Fox teaser, "Should we feel sorry for Anna Nicole Smith? Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera debate... coming up!!"

I turned the channel so I don't know who debated which side.

Since Bill O'Reilly is a self-appointed protector of Christian values, I hope that he debated vigorously for compassion towards Smith, just like Jesus had for the prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners of his day.

But, I'll guess that O'Reilly argued the Pharisitical position -- and thought he was doing so as a Christian, rather than as an opponent of Christ.

All Christians -- liberal, conservative or nonaligned -- should be full of compassion for people like Smith. (Of course, this is not the same as condoning what they do.)

Although I'm not overly familiar all of Smith's sins, it seems like she gets the most condemnation for marrying an old rich guy.

It should be pointed out that a woman marrying for wealth, power and status is a far more "traditional marriage" than are the love-motivated marriages of today.

The "love marriage" is a modern invention. For most of history -- including biblical history -- women married for financial and class reasons.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Without self-criticism, a culture can't progress

A Muslim writer discusses "the blame culture" that seems prevalent over here.

It's often said by regular folks and "Foxperts" that Muslims are silent about terrorism, 911, radicalism, sectarian killing, etc.

If these people wouldn't make these statements with such unqualified, sweeping, generalizations, I might concede a point.

When my conservative friends asks me why most Muslims don't apologize or march in the streets after 911, I ask them, "Did you apologize or march in the street after bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma? Why not? After all, he was a conservative Christian... he was one of you."

Every time, the idea of an apology had never occurred to them. Why? Because people don't apologize for things they didn't do. My conservative Christian friends don't feel guilty for the Oklahoma City bombing and my Muslim friends don't feel guilty for 911.

Furthermore, when we liberals talk about collective guilt, we're usually mocked by conservatives. But some of these same conservatives feel that all Muslims are collectively guilty for 911 or even all terrorism.

So, I don't agree with conservatives when they demand that all Muslims should apologize or take to the streets in protesting terrorism.

However, many people (not just anti-Muslim Foxperts) have commented on the cultural tendency of avoiding responsibility over here. While it is often packed in religious language, I think it has more to do with post-colonialism than religion.

As former colonialist, myself it's not a subject I'm very free to bring up, however, I've seen a few Muslims address this issue.

In his excellent article Blaming West won't solve Muslims' woes, Husain Haqqani discusses this issue.
The colonial experience, in particular, has had a deep-rooted impact on Muslim psyche. There is a rush to condemn the foreigners and the colonisers, coupled with a general unwillingness within the Muslim world to look inward and to identify where we may be going wrong ourselves. There is still little effort to recognise the real reasons for Muslim humiliation and backwardness.

[...]

The Muslim world needs a broad movement to review the material and moral issues confronting the Umma (the community of believers). But so far calls for removing the vestiges of colonialism and setting right historic injustices have prevailed over a more realistic effort to combine condemnation of wrongs committed by others within introspection of Muslims' own collective mistakes.

Muslims must rise and peacefully mobilise against sectarianism and the violence and destruction in, say, Iraq. But before that can happen, Muslim discourse would have to shift away from the focus on Muslim victimhood and towards taking responsibility, as a community, for our own situation.

I suggest you read the article -- but not if you are going to beat Muslims over the head with it, like they do on Fox whenever they get their mitts on a self-critical piece by a Muslim.



As an aside: I have long said that the best way to propagate moderate, pro-western viewpoints is to give room in our media for Western and American Muslim voices.

In many counties over here, the population is highly propagandized and the Bush administration's bumbling efforts at planting propaganda in the Iraq media is guaranteed to be outed and have negative blowback on America.

On the other hand, the small band of American Muslim (or Arab) writers tend to get voluntarily printed over here. The article above, for example. It isn't only Muslims who benefit from reading thoughtful guys like Husain Haqqani, it would greatly benefit most Americans.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Republicans block debate, hurt democracy

Iraq is the most important issue of our time and the GOPs won't even allow a debate!



Republicans block Senate debate on Iraq

WASHINGTON - Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed they still would find a way to force President Bush to change course in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.
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The GOPs who used to be enthusiastic fans of the up or down vote are suddenly not so keen on it!

But even worse than their flip-flop on "up or down" votes is their shameless opposition to the a fundamental aspect of democracy: political debate.

The Iraq war is the central political issue of our time and the Senate GOPs have blocked it.

No wonder they have so much hostility to the word "Democratic."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How's the Surge Going? (Feb 07)


Let's check in monthly to see how Bush's surge is going.


Military deaths were down in January while civilian deaths were up -- bringing the over-all number back up to November levels.

I heard on the radio that about 3,000 of the 21,000 troops were in place but couldn't find that confirmed anywhere



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Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count

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Zogby on ignorant anti-Muslim commentary

James Zogby -- once again -- hits it right on the head.



Glenn Beck: A Cause for Concern

The result of this trend is evident on a number of levels. There has been a coarsening and dumbing down of our political discourse on several issues of national importance. When Beck refers to President Carter as a "fathead" or speaks of Saudi leaders as "nut-jobs," serious discussion is displaced by crude and demeaning jabs.

There is the additional problem that instead of educating the public, this new breed of television pundits reduces issues to their lowest common denominator, thereby reinforcing preexisting, uninformed biases. Never shy to share an unenlightened view, Beck, for example, will note "I'm not an expert, but..." and then proceed to make his case using a mishmash of clichés that reflect the prejudices of conventional wisdom.

And it is this that concerns me. We are, in fact, engaged in a troubling conflict against extremism fueled by religious fervor, both ours and theirs. What this period and this conflict require is intelligent discussion, not inflammatory rhetoric.


By the way, if you aren't reading Zogby, you're missing the best commentary on Arab issues.

Here is a collection of his articles at Huffington Post.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Conservatives' big mouths emboldens the enemy.

When Fox News and other conservatives Muslim bash, it's an effective recruiting tool for the enemy.



You've heard it a said a hundred times by conservatives: if you criticize Bush or his war, you embolden the enemy.

Well, liberals aren't the only ones emboldening the enemy: the conservatives racist, Islamo-phobic mud slinging gets noticed over here in the Muslim world and you can bet the radicals are using conservative insults as an effective recruiting tool.

In sort, the conservatives' big mouths are emboldening the enemy.

As an example, let's take the smear of Barack Obama: 1) the smear that he might have been raised a Muslim; and 2) that his middle name is Hussein.

Muslims have noticed that being Muslim is a smear in America. It takes no explanation to see how this confirms their belief that America hates Muslims and that the war on terror is really a crusade against Islam.

They also notice that Fox News and other conservatives use the name "Hussein" as an indictment. Hussein bin Ali was the grandson of Muhammad, the Shi'ites' third Imam and is a highly respected figure. Muslims notice that Fox News says it with a sneer.

Here's an article by a Muslim who's noticed:

How to besmirch the name of a presidential candidate
Why are several political groups, mostly from the conservative and religious right, mounting a sleaze campaign against this man, levelling aspersions on his multicultural background, his name and his ethnicity?

In short, these bigots are "accusing" him - and hold on to your hat - of being a Muslim and of having attended, while as a child living in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather, a Muslim school...

Moreover, they have taken to constantly inserting Obama's middle name, Hussain, in their publications, talk shows and public discourse. Hussain, of course, evokes images of the man who went down with a noose around his neck, get it?

Hussain is the Other. Hussain is the bogey man. Hussain is a Muslim and who, horror of horrors, would want a Muslim in the White House? Hussain, however, happens to be in this case the middle name of Obama's father, that the senator does not use.
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Is it expecting too much of conservatives to shut up for the love of America?

Conservatives are not dumb and they must know that the anti-Muslim rhetoric they spew in America emboldens the enemy.

PS: I'm not insinuating that Fawaz Turki, the author of the article, is a radical. I'm sure he's not. I'm just pointing out that when American conservatives bash Muslims, it gets noticed over in this part of the world.