Liberal Grace

Monday, April 30, 2007

The "War on Terror" can't be won with war.

Extremism is a social phenomenon which war exacerbates. Jesus understood this. Conservatives don't.

Here is a truth that few conservatives seem to understand:

1) Hopeless social conditions breed extremism.
2) Extremism breeds terrorism.
3) Wars create hopeless social conditions and, thus, terrorism.

People who understand this are not surprised by the news that terrorism is up by nearly 30% in the last year, alone.
Report says terror attacks up sharply

WASHINGTON - Terrorist attacks worldwide shot up more than 25 percent last year, killing 40 percent more people than in 2005, particularly in
Iraq where extremists used chemical weapons and suicide bombers to target crowds, the State Department said Monday.

In its annual global survey of terrorism, the department said 14,338 attacks took place in 2006, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, 3,185 more than in 2005 representing a 28.5 percent increase.
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Jesus seemed to understand that mercy and kindness is the really "enemy" of evil doers:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
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This radical principle of Jesus is spot-on applicable to the so-called "war on terror." How do you fight an enemy when killing one breeds six more? The answer, of course, is you stop killing them and start obeying Christ's teaching about you enemy.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Are the terrorists just smarter than the Republicans?

The "Fight them over there..." talking point is so profoundly a pre-911 mind set that it makes America vulnerable on every level.

The terrorists understand that they don't even have to attack America in order to deal us a crippling blow. They understand that they can take down our energy sources and do very serious damage to our domestic economy.
The Saudi Arrests: How Big a Plot?

The arrest of 172 Islamist militants by Saudi security forces represents another blow to al-Qaeda, but it also sheds light on the group's determination to use its base inside war-torn Iraq to spread its jihadist campaign to Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world.
The key objectives of these cells, it said, were suicide attacks against Saudi oil installations, public figures and military bases inside and outside the countries
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Are we losing the war on terror because we didn't elect smart enough people to run our country? That GOP slogan ... "Fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." is profoundly stupid.

Apparently the terrorists understand that they don't have to fight us " over here" to inflict serious damage on America over here. They can, instead, attack our energy sources over there.

I also want to point-out that the Saudi's saved our economic butts using law enforcement -- a strategy which this administration openly mocks. external link

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Arrest warrant for Richard Gere kiss.

Foreign investment: Good. Foreigners?: Vulgar criminals who should be locked up.

I would have arrested Gere for "Dr T and his Women" but it was a kiss of Shilpa Shetty that's going to land him in the slammer.

Arrest warrants for Gere and Shilpa over kiss

New Delhi: An Indian court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty yesterday, saying their kiss at a public function "transgressed all limits of vulgarity," media reports said.

Judge Dinesh Gupta issued the warrants in the northwestern city of Jaipur after a local citizen filed a complaint charging that the public display of affection offended local sensibilities, the Press Trust of India reported.

Gupta earlier viewed television footage of the event, which he called "highly sexually erotic," saying the pair violated India's strict public obscenity laws.

Shetty, who is currently on a religious pilgrimage in southern India, was upset by the news, said her spokesman Dale Bhagwagar. "She does hurt, she does feel low."
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It looks like Elizabeth Hurley might also be making chapattis for a few years in an Indian jail.

Hurley's Indian wedding an insult, Hindus tell court

JODHPUR (AFP) - An Indian court will this week hear testimony that British model Elizabeth Hurley and her husband Arun Nayar mocked Hindu traditions with their "showcase" wedding, a laywer said Tuesday.

A decision whether the glamorous couple should be prosecuted in the desert city of Jodhpur -- where they wed a month ago but may now risk jail -- could come as early as next week, said lawyer Hastimal Saraswat.

The pair staged a lavish ceremony at a Rajasthan fort that was exclusively covered by celebrity magazine Hello!, which reportedly paid two million pounds (3.9 million dollars) for the rights.

But after seeing the pictures in the magazine, an angry Jodhpur resident hired Saraswat to take legal action.

"Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar insulted Hindu tradition and I want them to be severely punished," Vishnu Khandelwal, a devout Hindu who runs a printing press, told AFP Tuesday.

The court has already heard from two witnesses, including Khandelwal, and will hear testimony from at least three more, including a Hindu priest, said lawyer Saraswat.

Khandelwal said he was upset when he saw Hurley and Nayar had taken alcohol prior to the religious rites and kissed near the sacred fire that Hindus hold to be the witness to the marriage.

"They sat on a sofa and they were supposed to sit on the floor," Khandelwal added.

His petition to the court -- which will decide whether or not to prosecute -- also pointed out that Hurley wore leather footwear near the fire, in a land that worships the cow.

"Liz and Nayar had already married in Christian tradition. In spite of this to make a profit they did a showcase marriage in Jodhpur," said Khandelwal.

The couple wed at an English castle prior to heading east for their Indian nuptials.

The bride's own father-in-law is considering testifying against the couple in the case, the lawyer said.

Vinod Nayar told Sunday tabloids in Britain he had severed ties with his son after the younger Nayar ejected him from the marriage proceedings at Hurley's behest.

"He is very upset with Liz," said Saraswat. "He has told us that if you need help in court I will give it."

The petition was filed under section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code, which makes it an offence punishable by three years in jail to "outrage" any group's religion with "deliberate and malicious intention."
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Seriously, this is an excellent example of the limits of Indian globalization. The want to be at the center of the "flat world" but I expect their classism, xenophobia and provincialism are going to put limits on that goal. I doubt that India is ready to accept the world with all its vulgarities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Those who think the world is flat need to break from the guided tour.

When you live overseas -- rather than just visit -- the world doesn't seem so flat.

VIPs visit India and get the grand tour of the best schools and the new high-tech developments but do they ever live in the villages or walk the slums in the big cities as I have done?

I am optimistic for India but, frankly, I cringe at many of the predictions about India that I hear from the "experts." It's amazing what people are saying about India that doesn't get challenged.

Recently I was watching a political talk show with a couple who have spend more than fifty years in south Asia and when one of the pundits said that Indian schools are now better than American. Nobody on the panel challenged him!

I recognized the skepticism on my hosts faces. I asked them about it and we both suspected the same thing: when these VIPs visit India they are shown the best Indian schools which they compare in their minds to the average American of British schools.

I can accept that the best schools of India are better than the average school in the west. But is the average Indian child better educated than the average western child? I've never researched it but it just can't be true.

The average child in India is abused, poorly educated and stuck in poverty. I don't mean the kids in the fancy schools the VIPs tour -- I mean the average kid on the street or in the villages.

Abuse of Indian children 'common'

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused, according to a landmark government study.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the study says 53% of the surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse.

This is the first time the government has done such an exhaustive survey on the controversial issue of child abuse.

Abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, is rarely admitted in India and activists have welcomed the study.
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With this kind of levels of abuse, it's not India-bashing to have doubts about the educational system. As every teacher knows, abused children are not usually good students.

Foreign money: Love it!. Foreigners? No so much.

I often hear VIPs predicting that India is the future of globalization with America turning into a nation of poorly paid Wall Mart workers.

I'm sure Wall mart is working hard to make this happen but I have my doubts.

The South Asia I know is highly traditionalist, resistant to change and more than a little xenophobic. Is this the cultural trait of a "global" nation? Again, I'm not talking about the new modern urban Indians working at the call centers that the VIPs get the grand tour of. I mean the hundreds of millions of Indians filling the big cities and toiling in the villages

Perhaps you notices the stories below, just because they were so odd:

Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere start riots

LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Demonstrators in Delhi have burned effigies of Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere after the Hollywood actor kissed the Bollywood star on the cheek at a charity event.

The 'An Officer and a Gentleman' drew the 'Celebrity Big Brother' winner into an embrace, kissing her hand and cheek several times at an event to promote Aids awareness.

But public displays of affection are largely taboo India and the Gere is thought to have insulted their culture.

Groups of men across northern and central India have been shouting "Down with Richard Gere", burning effigies of him and kicking away the smoking remains.

Some have even burned Shetty's posters, while shouting "Death to Shilpa Shetty."

Elizabeth Hurley Faces Legal Action Over 'Illegal' Indian Wedding

Elizabeth Hurley has been threatened with legal action in India, by a man who claims her wedding to Arun Nayar was illegal. The model/actress wed businessman Nayar in Jodhpur on Friday, but local Vishnu Khandewal is claiming the traditional ceremony broke the law - because Hurley is not Hindu.
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India is a country where a goofy kiss by a foreigner can set off nation-wide riots. It's a society where a modern wedding can get you arrested for violating traditional values. It's also a nation where expressing your faith can get you killed. external link external link external link

Does this sound like a nation ready lead globalization?

A country active in globalization needs to not only except foreign money -- it need to accept foreign ways of doing things and foreigners themselves -- with tolerance of their customs, beliefs and religions. America, the nation of foreigners, is in a far better social position to participate in globalization.

America certainly won't and can't remain economically dominant but don't write her off so fast. We desperately need proactive, future-leaning progressive leadership which we haven't seen since the conservatives took over. Hopefully that is changing.

I want to be clear: I'm not India bashing; I love India; I believe India is on the rise and will play an important role in the new global economy. I just don't believe all the hype by the VIPs.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Now the criminal is the reporter

When NBC allowed Cho to report on his own crime, we just went further down a slippery slope to where crime and media will be totally indistinguishable.

The problem I have with airing the Cho video is different than most -- I think it is a horrible precedent that NBC has allowed the criminal to also be a primary reporter on his own crime.

Call me old school, but I think it is important that the media draw a clear line between the criminals and the media who report on them.

Right wing media has blurred this distinction almost from its beginning with G. Gordon Liddy.

I believe in redemption and I can accept that a media personality can have an arrest in his past -- Larry King for instance but passing a bad check, as Larry King did, is one thing. Conservative media criminals like Liddy, Oliver North and Mark Fuhrman used their perjury (or other misdeeds) to launch their media careers.

Making criminals reporters was the slippery slope but Liddy/North/Fuhrman were at least not reporting on their own crimes.

But when NBC aired the Seung-Hui Cho videos,external link they allowed the criminal to be a reporter on his own crime. This is further slide down the slippery slope.

It's not the most obvious line to cross because Cho was a such a horrible reporter. But he was a reporter, nevertheless: he committed (and witnessed!) the crime; he set up his camera and shot the footage about the crime; he submitted it to the media; and they aired it. Seems exactly like a reporter to me.

The next step down this slippery slope is when rational, calculating criminals start submitting their reports to the media which they will air.

Don't think it will happen? Just wait.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Could Dick Cheney really be this evil?

Did Cheney deny help to suffering children in order to score some petty gains against the State Department?

Is there any shred of humanity left in Dick Cheney? Below is an article which claims that Dick Cheney denied humanitarian aid to injured women and children in order to undermine Condoleezza Rice.

Last week's cynical undermining of Nancy Palosi by Ehud Olmert was likely at the request of the White House. By most accounts, Nanci Pelosi correctly delivered Olmert's message to Bashar Assad but the White House instructed Olmert to make it seem like Pelosi bungled it. Fox, of course, hammered on it and the false story was widely reported in the mainstream media as fact.

Does this kind of high-stakes petty politics feel familiar? It should.

Apparently, this is replay of the dirty trick Dick Cheney played on Condoleezza Rice when she was trying to get Israel to back off from bombing Lebanon last summer.

You remember... the whole world was begging Israel to take a break so that the thousands of innocents caught in the crossfire could get to hospital or at least get some food and water. Apparently, Rice had some success in negotiation but...
[The Jewish Telegraphic Agency] external link recalled a similar incident during the war with Hezbollah when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked Olmert into a 48-hour cease fire to allow humanitarian relief, but within hours Israeli planes were bombing again, to Rice's surprise and anger.

It concluded that "Olmert had received a call, apparently from Cheney's office, telling him to ignore Rice".
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If true -- and it has the feel of truth -- it is a stunning indictment on the amorality ... no, immorality -- of Dick Cheney. If he really blocked a humanitarian effort in order to place internal politics with the State Department then he is an evil, evil man.

I recommend reading the whole article. Major event like these are nearly forgotten in America when the truth eventually comes out(and the Whitehouse counts on your bad memory to keep pulling these stunts).

The domineering White House

I cringe whenever Israel misbehaves because most people in this part of the world put equal blame on America. They believe that Israel doesn't act without permission or even direct orders from the US.

This article -- like the many before it -- indicates there is some truth to this belief.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I agree with Bush on work visas -- but for different reasons.

Bush wants work visas to exploit cheap immigrant labor. I want work visas to increase their pay.

Bush is out stumping for immigration reform and he seems to think that he'll do better with an Democratic congress than with his own cranky, xenophobic party.

Bush Renews Push on Immigration Proposal

President Bush boasted of tougher enforcement along the Mexican border Monday as he tried to revive his stalled efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration laws. Many of his fellow Republicans in Congress are opposing him.

Frustrated by his failure to get a bill approved last year when the GOP was in charge, Bush said prospects look brighter in the Democratic Congress. "I think the atmosphere up there is good right now," he said.

His message — particularly to conservative critics from his own party — was that stepped-up border enforcement is working and it's time to adopt a temporary worker program, hold U.S. employers accountable for the workers they hire and resolve the status of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States.
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1) It's reasonable that illegal residents should have to leave before they can apply for a legitimate visa.

I have lived in several countries and this is the standard rule -- not just for illegal residents but for any visa status change.

If you don't have such a rule, it encourages what is often called "visa jumping" i.e. come in on a tourist visa and then get a job.

2) A fairly high penalty is reasonable.

$10,000 does seem too high to me. It needs to be high enough to send a message but low enough that will take the offer.

3) A fee for a work visa is reasonable.

Again, $3,500 seems to high.

I, myself, am on a guest worker visa here in Dubai and it didn't cost anything like that. As I understand it, most of these fees are reciprocal and that same fee will be charged Americans who want to live overseas.

Whatever the fee is, it should be significantly lower than what an illegal immigrant would pay a coyote to get here.

Even a fee of $3,500 is much cheaper than what people are paying now to come from China external link which can be tens of thousands of dollars! But for Mexicans the fee is somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000. external link

So, if the US wants to undercut the "coyotes" then it should be more like $500 to $1,000.

4) It's reasonable to penalize employers for hiring illegals.

Businesses have similar requirements -- not to hire children for instance -- where the burden is on them to do honest work. They aren't allowed to buy stolen products or knock-offs.

But I suspect there is merit in their complaint that it's hard to verify a visa -- that's where a legal quest worker visa makes sense -- so that there's a system to check with.

5) Let the workers unionize with decent wages and benefits

This is where I Bush and probably part ways.

I really resent Bush when he says
... a temporary worker plan that recognizes there are hardworking people here doing jobs Americans won't do.external link
This is an insult to the American workers. I, myself, have picked apples and shoveled crap... when I didn't need a living wage. I've also worked non-union construction before cheap immigrant labor make that a poor paying job.

Yes, most Americans don't want to do the hardest jobs at Mexican wages. But pay Americans a fair wage and they'll do just about anything.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Did a letter from the pope end the hostage crisis? I love that!

The US saber rattled. The British used diplomacy. The pope sent a letter. Seems like the letter did it.

It's highly commendable that the British stuck to diplomacy.

The Americans stuck to their old ways and offered "'aggressive patrols' in Iranian airspace" external link. Whoever thought it was a good idea to resolve incursion dispute with aggressive incursion should be fired.

Fox, of course, was giddy for yet another war.

But maybe all it took was a thoughtful letter.

Like good Christians should, the pope is not bragging about this. But, many people in the west were left scratching their heads by the release -- about both the timing and the gifts. What was the deal with the swag bags?

Perhaps it took a spiritual man to regognize that Ramadan pardons are a respected tradition over here. external link It's considered a mark of benevolence by the authority, rather than capitulation.
Another surprise intervention came from the Vatican. Hours before Wednesday's release, a letter from Pope Benedict was handed to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It said the Pope was confident that men of goodwill could find a solution. He asked the supreme leader to do what he could to ensure that the British sailors and marines were reunited with their families in time for Easter. It would, he said, be a significant religious gesture of goodwill from the Iranian people.

What impact the Pope's message had is impossible to assess. But some of its language was reflected at the press conference at which the release of the 15 Britons was announced. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the decision to "forgive" the sailors and marines had been taken "on the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet [Muhammad] ... and for the occasion of the passing of Christ".
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If we've learned anything about Iran, it's that they despise being pressured and refuse to capitulate. (No wonder America is so often at loggerheads with them -- we're both the same that way.)

Suggesting that releasing the prisoners now as a Ramadan-style pardon was brilliant. It gave the Iranians a way out while retaining their sense of honor. In that context, the gifts make sense as a tangible symbol of Iran's goodwill.

I've said before that Bush should take up Ahmadinejad's offer to debate. external link On TV is probably a bad idea but I'd like to see the two of them have an extended man-to-man talk about spiritual things. I suspect that regarding matters of faith, the two have a fair amount in common -- especially in regards to fundamentalism and personal revelation.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How's the Surge Going? (April 07)

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

John McCain thinks this surge is going very well.
McCain, appearing on NBC’s Today show yesterday from Orlando, Florida, said the war “was badly mismanaged. But there are signs of progress everywhere. I am confident that given the opportunity, we can have success. external link
There may be signs of progress but not "everywhere"... the death and suffering remains horrific.

It's too early to see trends but it seems like the Iraq military is taking the biggest hit in this effort.

Two possibilities come to mine: maybe it's because they are are being forced to fight more; or perhaps the insurgents are killing them to send a lethal message to stay at home.

external link Source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count