South High is about a mile from my house.
My sons graduated from there, and Middle Guy graduated in 2005.
He wasn't friends with Joseph Anzak, Jr. who was captured two weeks ago and was then killed in Iraq. He played football at South while Middle Guy debated. But Anzak's parents were at PTA meetings with us, went to the same Starbucks, shopped at Ralphs with us.
Please never doubt for a second that I see the the real costs of our policies; I can only ask that people who disagree with our policies be as aware of the costs of the alternatives.
So in case anyone wondered how I spent my weekend...
I had no laptop, so no Memorial Day post on the day itself. Tonight...
Sorry for the lull - work is crazy busy and I went on our annual Memorial Day motorcycle trip on the new bike.
I'm almost done with Nick Cohen's 'What's Left' and loving it - he's talking about Bad Philosophy and Dirty Hands like he's been reading me. I wish it was a little less polemical, but will have a lot to say about the book if I can get a few hours to put something together.
But what prompted me to write and use the Stealers Wheel lyric as a title were two newsblips - Newsweek's trumpeting that Valerie Plame was, in fact 'covert', and the Washington Times stirring the pot on Annie Jacobsen's instabook charges that Northwest Flight 327 was a terrorist dry run.
Boy, I'm just shaking my head over both of these.
First, let's go to the left side of the board.
Glenn Greenwald (writing as himself) trumpets this on Salon: Right-wing noise machine: Plame not covert. Well, great - except that it's prosecutor Fitzgerald's filing that makes the claim. Now there's an obvious joke about leftists, Stalin, and show trials, but personally, I'm unhappy with the thought that Greenwald might grant someone - say, Patterico - the right to make claims like these and suddenly enshrine them as fact. When the legal process concludes that she was covert, I'll happily accept that determination - and even apologize to whichever of Greenwald's personae he deems appropriate.
Now, the right.
In the Washington Times, Audrey Hudson comments on the release of a federal report on how the Flight 327 incident was handled and leaps directly to the Isle of Conclusion:
The inspector general for Homeland Security late Friday released new details of what federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.
Several portions of the report remain redacted. The release stems from a Freedom of Information request by The Washington Times in April 2006. The Times first reported on July 22 that this and other probes and dry runs were occurring on commercial flights since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Let's be clear. Nothing in the report (pdf available here) makes that conclusion. I'll repeat. Nowhere that I could find it in the real report was it so concluded.
Hudson cites current and former air marshals:
"This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door," said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.
Look, I think our air marshall program is inadequate. I know that the agencies running them are bureaucracies full of careerist trolls.
But none of this is remotely dispositive. Patterico thinks that the marshalls onsite - the ones who said "We Don't Freak Out In Situations Like This." - are in CYA mode. C'mon Patrick - that's silly. They made contemporaneous comments to that effect. They controlled the situation. And to bring up what they said at the time:
LOS ANGELES | July 22, 2004 - Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, "overreacted," to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.
The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service. (hat tip Patterico)
I've written a bunch about this, and nothing here (in the current blog posts, news articles, or in the report itself) changes my view of what probably happened or of the relatively useless morass airport security has become.
XLRQ cites the report:
Other Comments TSA noted in comments that it disagreed with our report language that there was a lack of coordinated action between the FAMS and FBI. Our audit identified examples where the Department’s investigators were interviewing individuals and taking other investigative actions without the direction or knowledge of the FBI. Because we also found activities where the FBI and the Department were clearly coordinated, we revised the report language to say the investigations were "sometimes" uncoordinated.
TSA also commented that it believed a referral of the suspicious activity that occurred on Flight 327 did not merit referral to the HSOC. TSA’s comments note, "The decision not to contact the HSOC was decided only after the FAMS and FBI leadership jointly determined that the subjects could be cleared. The reported suspicious activity was determined to be unfounded, and not a terrorist threat and therefore did not merit an HSOC referral." We believe the HSOC clearly signaled a referral was merited by logging the Flight 327 matter into its database on July 26, 2004, following a July 22, 2005 Washington Times article, and an inquiry from the White House Homeland Security Council.
So the air marshals onsite are in CYA mode - but the bureaucrats in Washington aren't?
The sociology of the Arabian peninsula tribes is the key to understanding the Arab character and mentality. In order to trace the historical features of that character and mentality, we must try to imagine the way of life in the inland wastes of the eastern regions of the peninsula over the last twenty centuries. But why the eastern not the western regions? We shall explain why after presenting a panoramic survey of the historical features of the character and mental make-up of the tribes inhabiting the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula, specifically the tribes of the hinterland, not the coastal areas.
For the past twenty centuries, the tribes living in the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula have been leading a pastoral life as opposed to a settled life, roaming in search of pasturage and water. As a result of this lifestyle, the attitude of the Arab tribesman living in those regions to such notions as loyalty, objectivity and neutrality cannot be understood in isolation from the sociology of nomadism, the culture pattern of Bedouin tribes forced by their environment to move constantly in search of sustenance. Their unconditional loyalty is reserved for the sheikh of the tribe; objectivity is an alien concept and neutrality akin to treason.
As the eminent Egyptian critic Galal el-Ashry noted in his treatise on Arab creativity, the only creative area in which the Arabs excelled was poetry. That is the only form of artistic expression they produced for reasons we shall not go into here. They did not produce theatre, novels, epics, music or other creative forms like the Greeks and, before them, the Egyptians and the Sumerians.
The poetry composed by the poets hailing from the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula is a mirror reflecting the value system of the tribes of the region, their mores, concerns, behaviour and thinking. The image reflected by their poetry has remained unchanged for centuries. An ode written in classical Arabic over ten centuries ago by a poet from Najd reflects the same values and world view as one written in the vernacular by a poet living in Najd today. Most of the poetry of the region, old and new, resounds with the cadence of stirring imagery, its main themes pride and the superiority of the Bedouin, who is always victorious, never defeated, who bows to no one and stands high above all others. In fact, the word for ‘lofty’ in Arabic is nouf, from whence the proper names Nayef, Nouf and Nawaf. This then is the message that thousands of odes by poets from Najd, Hasa, al-Qassim and al-Hofouf have tried to convey ever since the Arabic language in its present form came into being and up to the present day. This view of life as reflected by the poetry of the region encapsulates the sociology of its nomadic tribes.
The reason we are focusing on the eastern inland areas of the Arabian peninsula rather than on the eastern coastal areas and the region of Hejaz is that the inland areas were the crucible in which the brand of Islamist thinking known as Wahabism was forged. During the second half of the twentieth century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of billions of dollars to spread this doctrine, which had by then become influenced by three external factors: the ideas of Abul Ala’ el-Mawdoody, Sayed Qutb and the Soroureya school of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Syrian chapter. But these factors did not dilute the essence of the Wahabi understanding of Islam. On the contrary, because of the simplistic thinking of Mohamed ibn Abdul Wahab in comparison with the schools of el-Mawdoody, Qutb and the Soroureya, they helped to reinforce it and swell the ranks of its adherents.
The tribal Arab mindset formed in the inland deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula took over leadership of intellectual life in Arab and Muslim societies after the failure of the stage of liberalism and the blend of socialism and Arab nationalism that had at one time held sway. However, the degree to which Arab and Muslim societies have come to be influenced by the tribal mentality born in the harsh eastern wasteland of the Arabian peninsula differs from one society to another in proportion to each society’s historical and cultural legacy and according to its political and socio-economic conditions. Thus while its influence was most strongly felt in the inland regions of the Arabian peninsula, it was weaker in the coastal cities of the peninsula and weaker still in societies like Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Iraq and India that enjoy a richer legacy of history, civilization and culture than the Arabian peninsula. Still, the Bedouin world view forged in the barren deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula and expressed in the poetry produced by poets from the region is the most important key to understanding the ways of thinking prevailing in many Arab and Muslim societies.
The culture pattern that formed the Bedouin world view is in total contradiction with the concept of statehood. Loyalty to the sheikh of the tribe is personal by its very nature while loyalty to the state is a more abstract notion. In the tribe, obedience to the wishes and instructions of the sheikh is the counterpart to the modern citizen’s adherence to the constitutional and legal rules of the state. According to the sociology of the tribal mindset, the specificity of which has been described in some detail in this article, the Other is perceived as an enemy or, at best, as a potential enemy to be neutralized. In the modern state system, on the other hand, the Other is regarded as a natural expression of the diversity of life, inspiring neither rejection nor enmity. In a tribal environment there can be no discussion of such issues as diversity, acceptance of the Other, engaging in self-criticism and accepting criticism, the universal nature of knowledge or the recognition that it is the collective legacy of humanity as a whole, all fruits of the modern, progressive, civilized state. Indeed the very notion of humanity is alien to the tribal society.
If we borrow from the great philosopher Ibn Khaldoun his theory on the distinction between urban and Bedouin societies, we can say that the contemporary Islamic mindset (not Islam itself) is conditioned by a brand of Islam as understood, presented and propagated over the last half century by the Bedouin tribes living in the inland deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula. Given that most of the Islamic centres and schools established in North America, Europe, Australia and in non-Muslim regions of Asia and Africa were set up at the initiative and with the funding of representatives of this insular tribal mindset it is not hard to understand why the world today sees itself locked in a major confrontation between humanity and Islam. In truth, however, the confrontation is between humanity and a model of Islam presented, financed and propagated by the Bedouin, or Najdi, mindset.
One of the most alarming developments of the last five decades is that the Najdi mindset did not stop at monopolizing Islamic centres and schools throughout the world but expanded its sphere of influence to include the mass media both within and outside Arab and Islamic societies. Its tentacles also spread to venerable Islamic institutions in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Syria, eroding their original features and replacing them with its own. Thus while in the past we knew when listening to the Friday sermon in Egypt that the speaker was either a Shafite or a Hannafite and in Morocco or Tunisia that he was a Maliki, we now hear an altogether different tune, a single Hanbalite note set to the music of ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Abdul Wahab.
Although of all the Islamic jurists ibn-Hanbal was the most zealous proponent of orthodoxy and tradition, allowing little if any room for deductive reasoning [he accepted tens of thousands of the Prophet’s Hadiths as apostolic precept contrary to the great jurist Abu Hanifa, who accepted just over one hundred), he was a natural product of his time. It was a time the Islamic Empire was reeling from the onslaught of the Moguls and the Tatars, and he cannot be blamed for ideas that were appropriate to the age in which he lived. The blame lies with those who, living in a different time and place, base their ideas on those of ibn-Hanbal. Finally, Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab is by no means a jurist but merely a proselytizer seeking converts to the Najdi model of Islam which needs to be understood in the context of its tribal, Bedouin, insular, desert origins. Had it not been for the fact that oil was discovered in these regions, this model would have remained a prisoner of geography, locked behind the sand dunes of Najd which produced no art, music or literature but only poetry devoted to a single theme: the glorification of the tribal values of Najd.
A very important article by Declan McCullagh at Politech about the direction the ACLU is taking:
Does the ACLU still believe in free speech? Maybe not any more
Wendy Kaminer, who co-authors thefreeforall.net with longtime Politech subscriber Harvey Silverglate, has a provocative and well-argued op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. Wendy asks whether the ACLU still broadly supports free speech, and answers the question in the negative.
Wendy points out that the ACLU has been silent on a key free speech case involving anti-homosexual statements that set an important (and awful) precedent before the 9th Circuit and was AWOL on the Muhammad "hate speech" cartoons. The ACLU has supported legislative restrictions on speech of pro-life groups offering abortion counseling. The New York Civil Liberties Union failed to criticize a New York City Council resolution condemning use of the "n-word." And so on.1
He raises some extremely serious issues.
This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Liberals and progressives have long been split between their totalitarian-minded leftist wing that loves to enforce political correctness through "hate speech" laws and campus speech codes -- and those who recognize the social and political dangers inherent in banning speech that someone dislikes, and believe the answer to objectionable speech is more speech.
I've talked about this in the context of speech as discourse vs. speech as a manifestation of power, and cite Stephen Hicks:
What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.
If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don't let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don't let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don't let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality - which is the same goal as affirmative action.
This is the position McCullagh and Kaminer suggest the ACLU is trending toward, and I think it's a bad one if true.
Suggested reading: "Repressive Tolerance" by Marcuse.
So Trent (and others, based on the underwhelming show of support for the current iteration of the immigration bill) are deeply upset over the porous nature of our borders. Not only does it impact the domestic economy as low-wage workers have the bottom cut out from under their wages, but it presents risks as terrorists potentially make use of the easy access across our borders to come here and make their plans, and it impacts domestic politics and culture as communities change to become "Little [Name Your Foreign City Here]".
There's a connection to the motorcycle picture, honest.
I have concerns about immigration policy, but they are broader and far less apocalyptic, and I strongly believe that the concerns above are wrong, overblown, and in some cases dangerous.
Let's go through them.
The biggest impact on wages hasn't been at the bottom of the food chain, but on the high-wage industrial jobs which have been automated, exported, and deskilled. Border and immigration policy hasn't materially changed that. The impact on low-skill low-wage service, agriculture, and distribution jobs has doubtless been real - but when we look at the hollowing out of the middle class in the US, we look more closely at the layoffs from Flint than we do at the wage pressures at Hormel or WalMart.
It's fundamentally dishonest to conflate the real impact of globalization - in which high-wage US workers are now directly competing against lower-wage workers abroad - with the impact of porous borders in driving down US wages.
I refuse to believe that Trent really believes that it would be meaningfully difficult - in any non-Stalinist US regime - for 20 or 30 committed terrorists to get across the US borders. Locking down the borders tightly enough - and requiring a level of internal document control that would crank down illegal immigration to a level where we'd be safe from those 30 committed jihadis means we're all living Winston Smith's life. I'll take a pass, thank you.
Yes, increasing immigration is changing the cultural and political complexion of communities around the country. That can be a good thing - if we embrace and incorporate those communities and make them a part of the US civic religion. We in the US have not had the kinds of closed, insular ethnic communities that we've seen in Europe - and the key element of our immigration policy needs to be ensuring that the cost of living in the US is embracing the civic religion enshrined in our politics, and working hard to dissolve the tribal bonds into individual and family connection to our polity.
In general, I do believe that we need to look at macro-level policies like this and embrace a certain level of mess. That's called 'flexibility.'
People who actually build things in the real word know that things flex and that we need to design systems to flex - in sometimes unpredictable ways.
The picture above is of a Grand Prix motorcycle (a Suzuki, bring ridden by John Hopkins), and one of the keys in designing fast racing motorcycles is designing in the correct amount of flex. If you don't have it, the bike is unridable.
In designing policies around immigration and border security, maintaining awareness of flexibility and mess is critical. And no policy that doesn't acknowledge that those exist isn't a policy proposal and more than an inflexible motorcycle is a race winner. It's a paperweight.
America is ignoring the popular movement against Musharraf to its own disadvantage
PostGlobal's Amar Bakshi is going around the world, lugging a laptop and a camcorder, to get a sense of how people in different countries view America. If he ever makes it to Pakistan, he's likely to find a country where anti-Americanism is rife. Pakistanis have genuine reasons to hold a negative opinion of American foreign policy---though not necessarily for the reasons Americans may be inclined to believe. Right now, they have little reason to nurse good feelings towards America, given Washington's determined refusal to demonstrate the smallest amount of sympathy for democracy and freedom in the ongoing confrontation between the people and the dictator.
It is vital that the United States recognize this as a legitimate and broad-based secular democracy movement in Pakistan — isn’t this what America wants for the Muslim world? ...And Washington would at last be able to expand its friendship, currently restricted to just one Pakistani — Musharraf — to the 160 million other Pakistanis who want to lead a life of dignity in their own country and on the international stage.[CFR/IHT]US policy towards Pakistan is in rigor mortis. Almost six years after 9/11, the substantial failure of the pact with Gen Musharraf is plain for everyone to see. Osama bin Laden remains at large, the Taliban are back in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, the A Q Khan network is believed to be in operation and the one thing the deal was supposed to avoid---severe political instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan---is at hand. Yet, the United States shows no signs of making some deft corrections to its Pakistan policy.
America's handling of the popular movement against Gen Musharraf's dictatorship fits a pattern. If it's not our "son of a bitch" facing a protesting crowds, then you have a "colour revolution", televised for international audiences. Spokesmen from various US government departments express sympathy for the struggle for democracy. But if it's "our son of a bitch", then Washington maintains silence in public, and hopes for a palace coup in private. Better that a dictator is replaced by another, than allow the mob on the streets to cause a new regime to be installed. There is some merit in this approach, especially if it can achieved along with a democratic veneer, but it is also one which America will be unable to take credit for. You won't, for instance, find too many Pakistanis thankful to America for the elections in 1988 that brought Benazir Bhutto to power, would you?
America must show greater sympathy and support for the mass movement against Musharraf. But not merely to become popular with the Pakistani people. Rather because, as Rohit Pradhan argues, the stable, moderate Pakistan that is crucial for international security is impossible unless it is also democratic.
The title of this post is intentionally provocative for a reason. It is a "Cultural Cruise Missile" intended to fly below the radar screens of the media and political elite at the speed of the blogosphere to frame the debate on this bill.
The title is also an accurate description of the effect of the bill. The new so-called "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act" that is leaving the Senate is just a tarted up Immigration Amnesty bill. If the Bill’s provisions, as currently written, were implemented, the three Duka brothers of the "Fort Dix Six" would have been granted immigration amnesty had they not been arrested for terrorism first.
Resorting to "Cultural Cruise Missile" tactics are necessary as the moneyed interests in Washington are now colluding to put one over on the American public for their narrow interest$ over the General welfare and Security of the American people in their homes and businesses. These developments are being covered by Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt and Mickey Kaus. So I won't comment farther other than noting that,
1) There is no major political voting block in favor of Amnesty.
2) There is a huge one against it,
3) This voting block does not have money in party primaries while the public employee unions and the corporate open border caucus do. and
4) While this voting block may not be able to affect primary vote via well funded challengers. It will be there for the general election, and the most motivated portions of this block are Republicans wanting to punish "traitors"
A wipe out of sitting Republican senators may be in the offing in 2008.
If your average person or blogger wants to do something really effective about this bill, let's face facts. You only have the power to name this bill and define it to the American people. That takes a "Cultural Cruise Missile" slogan that can be repeated over and over again on the web and talk radio to destroy the credibility of those supporting the bill.
Here is another example of what bloggers can do with the "Cultural Cruise Missile” approach to the "Family unification" provisions of "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act."
Lets suppose that the Ft. Dix plotters had delayed. With this bill enacted, the Duka brothers then brought in more like minded Islamist relatives into the nation to aide them.
This provision makes very real the possibility that we could have suicide vest bombers here in the USA.
Imagine a Palestinian style suicide bomber team set up in an Islamic country that has a forward element in the USA like the Duka brothers. Instead of getting guns and training, this element scouts targets and gathers field expedient explosives for a carefully prepared relative -- say a female relative whose "honor" has been stained and thus is in imminent danger of being murdered -- and fly’s her to the USA for the attack.
Thus the "Family Unification" provisions of for the” Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act" are now "The Suicide Bomber Importation Provision" of the act!
I invite Winds of Change posters and other bloggers to submit their "Cultural Cruise Missile" slogan entries in the following categories:
2) Money versus the American people
3) National Party Politics -- Republican
4) National Party Politics -- Democrat.
Let’s see just how creative you all are...and make sure you share the best entries with your friends!
Sunday is Biggest Guy's graduation at UVA. It's family time this week.
I'll try and pop by, but do me a favor - try not to kill anyone or blow anything up while I'm away.
Go Hoooos!! Or something like that...
"If I were a Copt, I would flood Egypt, and the world, with the facts about the overall atmosphere that is pressuring the Copts in Egypt today.
"If I were a Copt, I would familiarize the world with the injustices caused to many Copts in Egypt since [the Free Officers Revolution in] 1952. They don't get the high-level political posts and executive positions that they deserve, not to mention their sparse [representation] in parliament.
"If I were a Copt, I would create a ruckus in Egypt, and in the world, over the fact that I pay taxes with which the state funds Al-Azhar University, while [Al-Azhar] does not permit Copts to attend any of its institutes.
"If I were a Copt, I would make a huge commotion in the world, because my taxes fund the construction of dozens of mosques, but, since 1952, the Egyptian state has not participated in the building of a single church, except for president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser's participation in funding the construction of the St. Marc Cathedral in Al-'Abasiyya, 40 years ago…
"If I were a Copt, I would publish articles, one after another, about how the [Egyptian] media ignores matters [concerning me] and my religious holidays – as it I and the Copts did not exist in Egypt.
"If I were a Copt, I would tell the entire world [how] the Coptic history of Egypt [is handled] in the Egyptian curriculum, and how the study material for the Arabic language no longer [includes] literary texts, qasidahs, poetry, stories, plays, and legends, but [only] Islamic texts which [belong] with the study material for religion [class] for Muslim pupils.
"If I were a Copt, I would flood the world with complaints about the suffering Copts go through [merely] in order to obtain a license to build a church – with their own funds, not with the public taxes that [they] participate in paying.
"If I were a Copt, I would bring the world to its feet because of the terrible things that some Muslim writers write and disseminate – about how a Copt should not be permitted to be the head of state, on [how a Copt should pay] the jizya [poll tax paid by protected non-Muslims under Islam], and how Copts should not be drafted into the military... [such as] the idiotic statements by Dr. Muhammad 'Imara [from Al-Azhar] – whose budget comes from the taxpayers, including the Copts…(2)
"If I were a Copt, I would conduct a campaign within [Egypt], and outside it, to abolish the 'religion' entry on the Egyptian identity card. Why should someone who conducts a relationship with me on the general and public level want to know what my religion is?...
"If I were a Copt, I would make the world understand that the issue of the Copts in Egypt is one of the symptoms of a [certain] mentality, whose influence has spread through this region of the world, and that all humanity must force [those] with this mentality to reconsider this discriminatory path."
(1) Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 12, 2007.
(2) Dr. Muhammad 'Imara's book, Fitnat Al-Takfir Bayna Al-Shi'a Wal-Wahhabiyya Wal-Sufiyya ("The Civil Strife of Takfir Between Shi'ism, Wahhabism, and Sufism"), published in December 2006 by the Supreme Council for Muslim Affairs of the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments, accused the Christians of heresy and permitted the killing of non-Muslims. Following the subsequent uproar, 'Imara apologized and explained that he had only been quoting ancient sources permitting the killing of non-Muslims. Al-Qahira, (Egypt), February 6, 2007.
Combat and the problem of forgiveness
For someone who professes to follow Jesus Christ, or at least follow his teachings, the subject of forgiveness is probably one of the most vexing. Jesus taught plainly that his followers are obligated to forgive, for example, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:14-15).
If, in combat, an enemy takes the life of your best friend, or blows off your leg, and if you think of yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, are you required to forgive that enemy? Is a Christian soldier required by the commandments of Christ to forgive those who have sought to kill him, or who have killed or wounded his comrades?
More thoughts about this over at www.donaldsensing.com
Update: See also, "Forgiveness, Justice and Hate," by Joe Katzman (August 2003) , who presents some Jewish perspectives.
The Democrats in Congress---and the few Republicans who agree with them---who've been pushing for a troop withdrawal continue to maintain that what they're proposing is not only in the best interests of the American people, but it's in the best interests of the troops themselves.
That would appear to be a no-brainer: surely the best way to protect the troops is to put them out of harm's way, and that means their leaving Iraq and coming back home where they belong.
But what do the troops serving in Iraq think about it all? Sometimes I'm convinced that the aforementioned Congressional members don't really much care about the answer to that question.
Those who are pushing withdrawal and the cutting of funds are concerned with a variety of matters, first and foremost politics. But I would guess that some of them do indeed have a sincere concern for the safety of the troops. Unfortunately, that concern is all too often embedded in a combination of patronizing condescension ("those poor, benighted, undereducated, oppressed troops") and disapproval ("those babykillers, brutes, torturers").
I've searched for polls that might offer some information to answer the question of what the troops themselves think or want, but I've found nothing especially relevant. Petitions, either pro-withdrawal or anti (see this and this) tell us virtually nothing except that there are two thousand active military personnel ready to sign the former, and three thousand ready to sign the latter.
There are some older polls that questioned the military on Iraq-related issues, here, but no data on the current withdrawal or fund-cutting proposals. There's some interesting information available, though; in the most recent poll, which was taken at the end of 2006 among active military personnel (50% of whom had served in Iraq and 12% in Afghanistan). Morale was very high, support for the Iraq War was higher than lack of support, and more people thought success was likely than thought it unlikely.
But to me the most interesting responses were the answers to the following questions: how soon do you think the Iraqi military will be ready to replace large numbers of American troops, and how long do you think the U.S. will need to stay in Iraq to reach its goals?
Only 2% of the troops thought the answer to the first question would be "less than a year," and only 2% thought the answer to the second would be "1-2 years." The overwhelming bulk of the responses were in the "3 to 5 years" or even "5 to 10 years" categories, with a substantial minority thinking it might even take more than 10 years to accomplish either goal.
Contrast this with the impatience of Congress and much of the American public, who want it done by September or sooner or it will be "pull the plug" time. The members of the military who bear the brunt of it all understand the difficulty of the task, probably because they have studied the history of fighting insurgencies, guerilla wars, and terrorism far more than most of us have.
And yet, morale is high among them. They don't have the benefit of easy optimism, but they don't allow themselves the luxury of easy pessimism, either. I think what they are engaged in is actually realism, and that implies not only an awareness of the length of time this might take, but the extreme importance of the mission.
W. Thomas Smith Jr., a former US Marine infantry leader and now journalist on military matters, has written this piece about Iraq for the National Review. Smith dispenses with some misconceptions the general public, fed on a steady diet of MSM misinformation, have about the Iraqi people themselves. (Also see this article for a list of the accomplishments of the so-called "surge"; they are far from negligible.)
Smith mentions that most of the troops are stunned that anyone takes seriously Reid's contentions that we've already "lost" in Iraq. And he reiterates what so many have said before: premature withdrawal from Iraq (and withdrawal any time soon would, by definition, be premature) would jeopardize the trust our allies (and enemies) have that we will keep our word.
Smith also thinks a premature withdrawal would have a more direct effect on the troops:
Success in Iraq is also about the morale and well-being of the U.S. military. Our forces would suffer in ways most D.C. politicians cannot begin to imagine if we were to retreat from Iraq.
That sort of suffering---the deep frustration of working hard for a vitally important goal and having all possibility of reaching it taken out of your hands just when things are beginning to improve---that sort of suffering is not the concern of those crying that their actions are only to "protect" the troops.
Congress, of course, knows better than those stupid, exploited, brutal (choose your own adjective) troops themselves know about what is good for them.
[This entry is cross-posted at neo-neocon.]
Look, I'm the guy who thinks that we need to get kids thinking about how to react to horribly bad events - including school shooters - and I'd fire the clowns who initiated this:
Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.
The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.
A tactical trainer who did something like that would be justifiably put out of business. May I suggest that other assistant principals who think that training is a good idea - which is the one thing Mr. Bartch ought to get credit for as he faces his well-deserved discipline and firing - go out and talk to people who teach this stuff for a living. IMPACT, and of the major shooting schools, or even local police (although they will by policy have to be very restrained in what they suggest).
Stupid, stupid, stupid. No excuse imaginable.
Kevin picks up on the same AP story I commented on, and his closing line is hard to improve on:
...that leaves us with the biggest provision of all: disclosure of bundling. The American League of Lobbyists is dead set against it, which is no surprise, since this is a prime loophole that allows special interests to funnel vast sums of money to politicians without ever being identified. Apparently, though, it's become so radioactive that Dem leaders are planning to drop it entirely, promising that they'll allow it to come up later as a separate bill. Sure they will.
Come on, folks: show some spine. If Democrats want people to believe that there's really a difference between the two parties, then show them there's a difference. Put the bundling provision back in and give it a vote. It's the right thing to do.
After reading my critiques of the educational and intellectual backgrounds of Muslim men of religion, one of my readers asked me about whom I see worthy of being religious scholars. In my response to the reader's inquiry, I told her that I have tackled this issue in many of my books. However, I will be pleased to give a brief statement about my perspective regarding this point.
During the first five hijrī centuries, Muslims witnessed enormous intellectual breakthroughs across a broad range of subjects in Islamic thinking. These successes included topics such as the fundamentals of jurisprudence, linguistics, interpretation and historiography. These intellectual advances resulted in a revolution of opinions and interpretations that varied from the extreme conservative right, such as the Hanbalī school [in reference to the Ahmad Ibn Hanbal], to the utmost level of reason-based interpretation proposed by the great thinker Ibn Rushd [Averroes], and between those two extremes there were a multitude of other schools of thought. For example, at the time when Abū Hanīfah al-Nuamān accepted less than 100 hadīths [sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad], Ahmad Ibn Hanbal recognized more than 10,000 hadīths.
Nevertheless, Muslims committed a grave mistake against themselves and their religion when they closed the door to ijtihād [interpretation] and stopped searching for new concepts and solutions. They became satisfied with simply taking from what their ancestors had produced, although those concepts and solutions were the outcome of an ancient era and the fruits of the conditions of a past time. Therefore, Muslims are living in a status quo environment where they ruminate on the thoughts of other men who exerted efforts to set concepts that suited their time eight centuries ago. In comparison to ancient Muslim men of religion such as Averroes, who is as important intellectually as Aristotle, current Muslim scholars read only in Arabic, they are not aware of modern sciences, and they find themselves in social environments that do not allow them to be intellectually open to the innovations of humanity in the different fields of social and human sciences.
We are in dire need of a new generation of scholars who can comprehend the sciences, cultures and knowledge of the current age as well as understand the heritage of ancient Muslims. Seventy years ago, the grand imām of the Azhar, Dr. Mustafá Abd al-Rāziq, was a former professor of philosophy in a university. Which university you may ask? Not the University al-Riyadh or the University of Sana'a, but he was a professor at the University of Sorbonne.
I have been engaged in meetings with a number of scholars from the Vatican. I always bemoan and wonder why the Vatican abounds with men of religion with such splendid educational, intellectual and encyclopedic cognitive backgrounds in their various areas of knowledge, while our scholars know nothing about the great fruits of human creativity in many of the different branches of social and human sciences.
At a conference held seven years ago, I saw a scholar who is considered by some as the greatest Muslim jurist and preacher of his time. He was an Egyptian with Qatari nationality who fled from Egypt during the clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamāl Abd al-Nāsir in 1954. At the conference, he used more than one interpreter, and never got involved in discussions about modern streams of thought. On the other hand, the Vatican scholars were using four or five languages in their discussions that covered vast fields of knowledge. I will not hide the fact that I felt ashamed of him that day. He seemed so primitive in his thoughts and approaches. It appeared as if he was a primeval human from the forests of ' Borneo Island.'
We need a generation of Muslim religious scholars who have studied other religions, human history, world literature, philosophy, sociology and psychology and can speak a number of languages; the languages of civilization. Until this happens, our Muslim scholars will remain primitive and stay at their level of naivety, shallowness and isolation from the path of civilization and humanity.
Before I reached 20 years of age Father George Qanawātī, a monk who headed the Dominican Monastery in al-Abbāsīyah, Cairo, had taught me about Greek drama and ancient Greek philosophy. Another monk taught me some simple things that have made many people nowadays think that I am an academic expert in Judaism. However, never in my life have I seen a Muslim man of religion who had encyclopedic knowledge in a number of fields of interest.
In conclusion, just as we are underdeveloped in all of the fields of science, we are in the same respect, underdeveloped in the sciences of our Islamic religion. Our backwardness in Islam is the same as it is in medicine, engineering, information technology and space research. We are nothing but a 'parasite' of humanity. Even the weapons used by the militias of the groups calling themselves jihādīs [related to Islamic jihād] are made by others who work hard at a time when we are insipid.
We need to see the emergence of a generation of this type of men of religion, which I have just described in the article, who combine the zenith of Islamic sciences and modern sciences at the same time. Without them, Muslims' isolation from the progress of humanity will increase. Campaigns of criticism will be escalated against them. I can also imagine that a huge number of them will be driven out of the European communities and from North America. In addition to that, Islam-West clashes, such as the war against the Tālibān in Afghanistan, may reoccur. Muslims (or to be more precise, large sectors of the Muslim population) will become the primary enemy of Western civilization or may become the first enemy of all of humanity.
Despite the need, such long-pursued development within Islamic religious institutions is very unlikely to occur. The biggest Islamic institutions in the modern world, especially in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are expelling any element that calls for the slightest renovations and changes. If so, what should we expect about demands for comprehensive change?
One of the Islamic universities has dismissed Dr. Ahmad Subhī Mansūr when all he has done is rejected the recognition of prophetic hadīths as a source of jurisprudential principles. The university should have discussed the differences in viewpoints using a scientific method that would be performed within the framework of a dialogue, and organized arguments where the differing scholars can exchange opinions. Strangely enough, Abū Hanīfah al-Nuamān, one of the great-four Muslim jurists, was in the same situation as Dr. Ahmad Subhī Mansūr when he decided to recognize only a few of the hadīths at a time when other jurists accepted all prophetic hadīths. To be more precise, if Abū Hanīfah had seen a book like 'Sahīh al-Bukhārī' [al-Bukhārī's Authentic], he would have rejected more than 90% of its contents. In this situation some modern Islamic university would have deemed Abū Hanīfah kāfir [apostate] although he was the first of the great four Islamic jurists and was entitled 'The Great Imām.'
As a matter of fact, conditions in today's Islamic religious institutions do not allow those institutions to produce men of the quality of Abū Hanīfah and Averroes. They are more and more isolated and occupied with 'yellow' religious references. For centuries, their role in the interpretation of Islam has been restricted to the texts of books and not their contexts. It became rare to find one scholar at these institutions who read even one book in a language other than Arabic.
Therefore, the long-sought for change among the Islamic establishment is now contingent upon a political leadership that is willing to lean toward a rational interpretation of history and a vision for the future. Unfortunately, these qualifications are not easily found within Islamic communities. Nevertheless, we need to demand a political leadership that works towards achieving radical procedural change within the structure of the Islamic scholarly community and that is willing to herd this community into harmony with the age of science and the progress of humanity. Without this driving force, Muslims will be heading for a massive confrontation with humanity which will be as disastrous as a collision between two celestial bodies.
Alicublog linked over to my Iraq post and commented:
So if I stand here (jumps left) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow, and if I stand here (jumps right) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow. So where do I have to stand to avoid making harder choices tomorrow? Nowhere, my friend; nowhere. (laughs, smokes a cigar like Michael Dunn at the end of Ship of Fools.)
All things being equal, I think we should get the hell out of Iraq.
Well, yeah - if all things were equal, I'd say let's get out of Iraq this afternoon...but might I suggest an argument as to why the hard choices tomorrow will be just as hard if we stay as if we go? My side has made a lot of them about why they will be harder...but Roy, like all the Netroots Pioneers of the Left...seems to think that argument is beneath him.
Reading is apparently as well, because in the same post, he slags Redstate for 'declaring war' on the GOP leadership. If he'd bothered to read the whole post at Redstate (I had it tagged to do a post about it...) he'd have seen that the conservative site is pissed off at the GOP leadership for appointing a corrupt (Republican!) Representative to a leadership position.
I would fell swoon to think that my fellow Democratic bloggers would be as bold. But I must have missed the Netroots Pioneer outrage over the walkback from fighting the "Culture of Corruption". After all - that sweet lobbyist money can be spent on Democratic Internet coordinators, and left blogads. so it will help support the Netroots!! And how can anything be bad that makes sure Matt Stoller has a fast pipe and a comfy chair??
It's the anniversary of the 1857 uprising after all
Altaf Hussain's Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) party rules the streets of Karachi. It also runs the provincial government of Sindh province for Gen Musharraf. Its hold over Karachi is such that it does not really need to throw in its lot with Gen Musharraf as he fights his own citizens. That it has done so---and in such a brazen manner---suggests that it has hopes or promises of being part of the ruling establishment beyond the scheduled elections later this year.
For the time being though, it appears that it has badly miscalculated. Last week it forced cable operators off the air in order to prevent them from broadcasting live scenes of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry's rally in Lahore. Yesterday, it ensured that key roads and thoroughfares of Karachi were blocked, using trucks and vehicles to prevent the flow of traffic. Unknown gunmen shot at the residence of a leading lawyer representing the Chief Justice in his legal battle against the Musharraf regime. The official authorities, who too take orders from the MQM, did what they could to ensure that pro-Chief Justice activists and ordinary people were intimidated, while the MQM went about holding its own rally.
And today, MQM marksmen shot at the crowds.
Fifteen people have died and scores injured over the last several hours. And Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has not even made it out of the airport yet---thanks to the thug-police joint blockade of the streets.Musharraf---who has used the official government apparatus to bus in rent-a-crowds to Islamabad to hold a rally of his own---has called an emergency meeting. Unless the Chief Justice backs down---and changes his plans of addressing a rally in Karachi---this situation will soon develop into what the general needs to impose martial law.
Since justifying an emergency on account of the real crises is not feasible, the Musharraf regime will need engineered ones...The public rallies in support of the Chief Justice could be made to turn violent, providing the government a pretext to ban them in the interest of public order. [Emergency case/The Acorn]There's a battle on in Karachi. The Chief Justice is unlikely to stand down. The thugs have been given a free rein. The army is likely to be called in to restore order. Gen Musharraf knows that if he loses this battle, he is quite likely to lose the war. Indians may be the ones marking the anniversary popular uprising of 1857. Pakistanis are enacting it.
Related Link: Cable TV networks started going off the air. But Karachi bloggers are using Twitter to provide live updates of events. Metroblogging Karachi is another site with several first person accounts of the battle.
WASHINGTON (AP) House Democrats are suddenly balking at the tough lobbying reforms they touted to voters last fall as a reason for putting them in charge of Congress.
Now that they are running things, many Democrats want to keep the big campaign donations and lavish parties that lobbyists put together for them. They're also having second thoughts about having to wait an extra year before they can become high-paid lobbyists themselves should they retire or be defeated at the polls.
The growing resistance to several proposed reforms now threatens passage of a bill that once seemed on track to fulfill Democrats' campaign promise of cleaner fundraising and lobbying practices.OK, I lied. I have to comment.
"The longer we wait, the weaker the bill seems to get," said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, which has pushed for the changes. "The sense of urgency is fading," he said, in part because scandals such as those involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., have given way to other news.
The situation concerns some Democrats, who note their party campaigned against a "culture of corruption" in 2006, when voters ended a long run of Republican control of Congress. Several high-profile issues remained in doubt Friday, five days before the House Judiciary Committee is to take up the legislation.
There is a genuine opportunity for the Democratic Party to kick ass on the issue of reform. I've long pointed out that this generation of Democratic leaders - with the full complicity of the would-be reformist Netroots - is unlikely to seize that opportunity.
Mohammed Fadhil, Iraq the Model blogger and my friend, writes a crie de coeur about the impact of abandoning Iraq:
And so, my friends, I will call for fighting this war just as powerfully as the bad guys do - because I must show them that I'm stronger than they are. The people of America need to understand this: the enemies of a stable Iraq are America's enemies, and they simply do not understand the language of civilization and reason.
They understand only power. It is wileth power they took over their countries and held their peoples hostage. Everything they accomplished was through absolute control over the assets of their nations through murder, torture, repression and intimidation.
Go read the whole thing.
One reason why I initially supported and still support the war is simply because I believe that we are fighting for the decent people like Mohammed and his family. Dentists and doctors, people who simply want to make their country one where their children can grow up with hope and an unblighted future.
It's because of what Geraldine Brooks wrote in Salon in 1998:
Until the Gulf War, I had always been on the pacifist side of the argument in all the conflicts of my lifetime. Vietnam, Panama, the Falklands -- I protested them all. And then in 1988, on a searing summer day, I stepped off a plane in Baghdad and began my acquaintance with a regime of such unfathomable cruelty that it changed my views on the use of force.
I learned from Iraqi dissidents about mothers, under interrogation, tortured by the cries of their own starving infants whom they weren't allowed to breast-feed; about thalium, the slow-acting rat poison Saddam Hussein used on his enemies; about Iraqi government employees whose official job description was "violator of women's honor" -- i.e., prison rapist.
One bright spring day during the Kurdish uprising, I followed Kurds into the security prison they'd just liberated in northern Iraq. It was dim in the underground cells, so my face was only inches from the wall before I was sure what I was looking at. Long, rusty nails had been driven into the plaster. Around them curled small pieces of human flesh. One withered curve of cartilage looked like part of an ear.
I'm home now in my own liberal, pacifist country, Australia. Within a couple of hours of the news of the latest Baghdad bombings, people in Sydney were in the streets, demonstrating against them. Friends were on the phone, upset: "Terrible, isn't it? And at this time of the year! Whatever happened to peace on earth, goodwill to men?" Local pundits argued on the television, decrying American bully-boy tactics against a small and defanged Arab country. I agreed with almost everything they said: Yes, the slaughter and injury of Iraqi civilians is tragic. And yes, the timing of the bombing is the worst kind of political cynicism. And yes, it is questionable what effect this new onslaught will have on Iraq's weapons capability. And yet I disagreed with their conclusion: that this bombing is therefore wrong.
The West's great crimes in Iraq are not the latest bombings, but the years of inaction: ignoring the use of poison gas in the theaters of the Iran-Iraq war; ignoring it again in Halabja and other rebellious Iraqi cities; ignoring the vast human and environmental devastation since the Gulf War in the mostly Shiite regions of southern Iraq, where the ancient wetlands of Mesopotamia and the unique culture of the marsh Arabs have been wiped out by a series of dams and diversions designed to starve a minority into submission.
Opponents of the bombing say that dealing with Iraq should be left with the United Nations and its gentle leader, Kofi Annan. But Annan is a peacemaker, and a peacemaker isn't necessarily what's required in Iraq, any more than it was in Bosnia. Sarajevans will tell you of the agonies caused by the U.N.'s "evenhanded diplomacy" -- the pressures to accept any kind of unjust peace the Serbs happened to offer. The history of the United Nations has shown that the organization is most useful in keeping peace between belligerents who have decided they no longer wish to fight. But recent experience has shown that the organization is both inept at, and degraded by, its insertion into conflicts where one or both parties have no wish for peace.
After I left the Middle East, I spent some time covering the United Nations at its headquarters in New York and in the field in Bosnia and Somalia. During that time, I learned that people who go to work for the United Nations often do so because they believe that war is the greatest evil and that force is never justified. In Somalia, one U.N. staffer broke into sobs in front of me because instead of keeping peace, her job had become the administration of a war.
It is impossible to imagine the bureaucrats of the United Nations accepting the kind of harsh conclusion that may be necessary in the case of Saddam Hussein: that the bombs should continue to fall until he does. Iraqis will die. But they are dying now, by the scores and the hundreds, in horrible pain, in the dark security prisons with the blood on the walls and the excrement on the floor.
I wish I still believed, as I used to, that the United Nations was always the world's best chance to avert bloodshed. I wish I could join, as I once would have, the placard-waving peace protesters outside the U.S. Consulate here in Sydney.
I wish I'd never seen the piece of ear nailed to the wall.
I have watched as the conventional wisdom has shifted - driven by a relentless cycle of media and pundit pronouncements that the war is immoral and unwinnable - unwinnable most recently of all we are told because we don't have the determination to win - because our pundit class has been busy telling us for five years that the was immoral and unwinnable, watched as politicians have moved to cover their asses with cynical proposals they know won't work but they know they can propose because they will never be implemented if the politicians proposing them are elected.
The problems surrounding the war in Iraq - or the war in which Iraq is the leading battlefield - are truly wicked problems. They are not susceptible to computer models, or policy white papers, or answers arrived at in clever debate. Words, models, ideas matter - as tools, as weapons - but they will not solve this.
So I'm lost - like so many others, I make my way with words and numbers and ideas. I don't have any in my bag of tricks today that will reverse the course our affairs must take.
Sometimes, when I can't decide on an issue, I make my decision by looking at who stands where, and who I'd like to stand beside.
There's no issue here. I can only stand beside Mohammed. I can only stand beside the troops who are in Iraq and believe more in the mission they are doing than we who have sent them.
There will be a time for policy and clever ideas and arguments and numbers. We'll need them. But given a choice about where to stand on the big issue, I really have no choice.
We must keep fighting those criminals and tyrants until they realize that the freedom-loving peoples of the region are not alone. Freedom and living in dignity are the aspirations of all mankind and that's what unites us; not death and suicide. When freedom-lovers in other countries reach out for us they are working for the future of everyone tyrants and murderers like Ahmedinejad, Nesrallah, Assad and Qaddafi must realize that we are not their possessions to pass on to their sons or henchmen. We belong to the human civilization and that was the day we gave what we gave to our land and other civilizations. They can't take out our humanity with their ugly crimes and they can't force us to back off. The world should ask them to leave our land before asking the soldiers of freedom to do so.
Those who choose to stand elsewhere today will find that they will have harder choices to make tomorrow. Sadly, I think that all of us will.
I'm setting up the new site for Victory PAC and need some small graphics help. Anyone Photoshop or Illustrator-savvy and with a better eye than mine willing to donate some time? Email me....
I have written before that I consider Starbucks coffee a rather poor brew. I buy a cup from an SB joint only in extremis, maybe twice per year. The Publix grocery near us sells Starbucks bagged coffee and very occasionally I buy whole-bean Sumatran coffee when I'm not able to roast my own beans for some reason. Like now - both my roasters are broken. One started spewing sparks as I was roasting last night and I dropped the glass roasting chamber of the other a couple of days ago and broke it. The replacement hasn't arrived.Starbucks has apparently started a new business venture: ticking off its customers not merely with its crummy coffee, but with the cup the crummy coffee comes in. The Tennessean reports in, "I'll have some atheism in my coffee," in its "community views" section:
If you have not heard by now, a woman in Ohio recently purchased a cup of coffee from Starbuck’s that had this statement on its cup “Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.” Funny but I do not remember seeing any bible verses on any of its cups over the past few years. Now I can’t say that I ever look at those statements but rest assured if there had been a bible verse we would have heard about it from the ACLU. It seems as if the name of God is welcome as long as it is taken in vain or is of a deragatory nature. Starbucks claims that its “the way I see it campagin” is not necessarily its views. However, as a business your promotions and actions as a company are your views, otherwise you would not publish them. ...Exactly. So even though I have no way at present to roast my own coffee, mayhaps I won't buy Starbucks any more. There's no way that this international megacorporation will miss my patronage, which at best accounts for 0.00000000001% of its revenue. But doggone it, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Lipton, anyone? However, it seems that Starbucks is an equal-opportunity insulter. There is a page on the company's web site where you can leave a comment about their comments. One cup series featured this (scroll down page):
The Way I See It #92
"You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny."-- Dr. Rick Warren
Author of The Purpose-Driven Life.
Although I know that these writings are not necessarily the viewpoints of your company, I'm disappointed to see this one on your cup.
Don't get me wrong. I fully believe that it's an inspirational and thought-provoking comment, but I am not a Christian, and I don't appreciate having God's Plan preached to me via my coffee cup. It's one thing to read about someone's point of view, but it's quite another to read a blatantly religious statement informing me that my purpose is to serve God.Please know that I am a die-hard Starbucks fan, and I enjoy your products several times a week, and have for over 15 years. This misstep will not change that. I just ask that you consider your "The Way I See It" contributions a little more carefully. ...
Well, fine, now Starbucks is just ticking everyone off! Is that good for business? But let's consider Ms. Paxton's objection: She's "not a Christian" but nonetheless finds the Warren quote "inspirational and thought-provoking," but she "doesn't appreciate" it being "preached" to her. Huh? I missed something. Let me admit I found the "atheist" quote thought-provoking (obviously, since I'm blogging about it) but not at all inspirational. In fact, it was self-contradictory: "After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.” Oh, yeah, we're managing real well, aren't we? It seems historically provable that the catastrophes humankind has caused (think of the last 100 years) have led mostly to other catastrophes. Just consider, say, the connection between 1918 and 1939. Anyway, back to Ms. Paxton. She seems to appreciate the Warren quote in itself, but wishes she had not encountered it on her coffee cup. I am reminded of a woman named Alexandra Roth, profiled in a religion article in The Washington Post, June 4, 1995:
When her 3-year old son Graham came to her recently and asked, “Where is God?” Alexandra Roth took a deep breath.
Like many Americans, Roth has never found a home in any church or faith. . . . She considers herself an atheist, but she wants her son to have a sense of reverence and gratitude “and the idea of God is one pathway to that,” she says.
So she told Graham that God is everywhere, but that only piqued his curiosity. “Is God in my body?” he asked. “Is God mixed with my lunch?”“They’re hard questions to answer,” Roth said later, “especially if you don’t have a catechism to refer to.”
If Roth considers herself an atheist, it is unclear what she wants her son to have a sense of reverence for, or for what she wants him to be grateful, and why. Such an “idea of God” seems no more than an amalgam of generally desirable personal characteristics. I suspect that this is the sort of bland "inspiration" and thought provocation that Ms. Dexter has in mind.
Anyway, have you encountered a Starbucks comment cup? From their web site, it seems that all their comments raise someone's ire. What do you think about this business practice? Will it help raise or lower revenues?HT: Nashville Is Talking.
An Israeli archaeologist on Tuesday said he has found the tomb of King Herod, the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Land - a potentially major discovery that capped a 35-year quest for the researcher.
This is a major find indeed if it is confirmed. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod and the gospel also says that Herod ordered the slaughter of every boy aged two years or less in an attempt to snuff out Jesus' life. By then, however, Jesus and his parents had moved to Egypt.
Herod is a very significant figure in the history of the Jews and the Jewish nation. Herod ruled the Roman province of Judea, corresponding roughly to the old Jewish kingdom of Judah. The Romans did not rule Judea directly until after Herod's death. Herod was a very brutal king, not hesitating to have executed even some of his own sons when he thought they were plotting to dethrone him. Caesar Augustus then remarked that it was better to be Herod's pigs than his sons. Herod ordered several major building projects in Jerusalem and Judah, many of which survive today.
The Herod whose tomb is claimed found is not the same man who refused to judge the grown Jesus and sent him back to Pontius Pilate. That was Herod Antipas, son of the Herod referenced in the find.
So Littlest Guy is going to take a class with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth this summer. They just sent us a list of the other kids in his session, to facilitate carpooling. It's fascinating reading.
The kids are from Hsin Chu, Taiwan and Wichita Falls, Kansas and Bell Gardens (a relatively poor - median income $36K to Los Angeles County's $51K - 90% Hispanic community here is Los Angeles).
The names are a true rainbow - Patel, Hsu, Flores, Apolaya, Ivanova, Mecom, Klein, Kawananakoa, Yu, Suh, Chipman.
Unsurprisingly, most of the kids (44%) have Asian surnames. But equally unsurprisingly, in the face of the wide perception that the schools serving Latino neighborhoods here in Los Angeles are substandard, 18% of the kids have Hispanic surnames.
I think LG is going to have to work his a** off to keep up. I kind of like that idea...
...gonna be fun. We've shelved 'Tammany' as a name, and are going with 'Montecore.' One hopes it will serve as a reminder that it has fangs and claws, and that I treat it with appropriate care.
Ali Eteraz, a Muslim commentator who is close to the epicenter of where Islamic thought in the West ought to be, and who is consistently interesting, is interesting again today.
I always considered myself a humanist and do still. It just cannot be the case that only one 'side' of a political divide have a monopoly on humanism. I know for a fact that Isaiah Berlin would not exactly be welcome in some parts of the left; nor Solzhenitsyn. [I also know that Burke would be ridiculed in some parts of the right]. I cannot in clean conscience engage against religious supremacism and exclusion if I engage in ideological supremacism and exclusion.
I believe in human solidarity. In the elimination of cruelty and humiliation. I believe in living beyond labels and identity markers.
Welcome to the muddle in the middle, Ali. Come pull up a comfortable chair and I'll pour the drinks.
Unfortunately, the Democratic frontrunners did little to dispel this notion during the first presidential candidates' debate. Obama chose to talk about the Hurricane Katrina response when asked the first thing he would do after a terrorist attack on U.S. soil And, when Brian Williams served up the Giuliani quotes on a silver platter to Clinton, she did not discuss how to defeat al Qaeda or combat the spread of the global jihadist movement, but instead expounded on the virtues of greater port and subway security.
This isn't going to cut it in a general election. Because of the still lingering security gap Democrats face, progressives cannot wait until the general election to start speaking convincingly about the threats the nation faces and how to deal with them. Promising to end the Iraq war (as if that could actually be accomplished), will not necessarily be enough to defeat a Republican opponent who is not Bush and will most certainly have his own plan to wind down the war.
Now is the time to get our game day faces on for the national security debate. And we will have to do better than our congressional leaders and presidential candidates have done in this regard since the election. In my posts over the next three weeks, I'll be discussing some ideas about what I think progressives ought to be saying to prevail in this debate.
I'll be checking back there and reading his posts with interest. Of course, he's tagged as a 'concern troll' in the second paragraph. That alone may be reason to support him. I'm looking forward to his posts, and to engaging him in what I hope will be a useful and interesting discussion.
Up too damn early this morning (I keep CA time when I take short trips East) and into a cab from Alexandria to Dulles. But my day got off to a great start in talking to the cabdriver, an Ethiopian immigrant who's been here for 16 years and brought his five kids over.
They're quite a burden on our economy - four have graduated college, one will graduate from Rutgers next year, three of them own their own businesses and all of them seem well launched in the world. He's incredibly proud of hem - as he ought to be - they don't smoke, don't dance, drink only a little, and work very damn hard - as he put it. He's homesick for Ethiopia, but admits that he's "an American now." And welcome...
That was kind of the tone of the whole trip for me. Meeting and talking to all kinds of really smart and interesting people.
On a meta level, the issue of the milblogs as a tool for exposing more of the story about the war than is seen in the MSM continues to grow. It's apparent that the military is locked in an internal struggle between those who see the milblogs as a valuable voice in the information war, and those who are afraid of losing message control because of them.
I deal with the exact same issue pretty much every day in my job, and one of the things I drill home is that you - the corporate, government, military you - has lost control of your message. It is being remixed, commented, critiqued, and flamed out in the Internets, and if those critiques, comments, or flames have any merit - they will get picked up an amplified.
So the answer is (to quote Von Riper again) to be "in command but out of control" - to influence and shape the dialog by participating in it, and realizing that while you may have the largest megaphone but not the only one. At some point the military leadership will get a clue...from talking to Blackfive, it sounds like it's happening sooner rather than later. The fact that President Bush recorded a message which opened the conference may be a clue as well.
But an amazing crew, and a few takeaways...
Soldiers Angels, Soldiers Angels, Soldiers Angels. Sign up, give money, do something. If you support the war or hate it, this incredible group of people is doing amazing work in supporting the troops in the most direct way possible.
Lots of good feedback on Victory PAC - we ought to be official, and have a bank account next week and everything. Let's see what comes of it, and have some fun. If I can get Blackfive, John from Castle Arrgh and Noah Shachtman of Wired to think it's a good idea - it's probably a good idea.
Oh, and I picked up the Tiger...(very big grin!)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that disasters such as worldwide famine and an obesity epidemic could destroy the U.S. health care system unless politicians begin to look ahead and cooperate.Doesn't famine pretty much rule out an "obesity epidemic?" And doesn't an obesity epidemic indicate that famine is not exactly a problem? And don't get me started on the possibility of politicans beggining "to look ahead and cooperate."
In addition, Sony estimated that SM3 grossed approximately $104 million worldwide yesterday, the highest single day gross in global box office history. The film delivered $45 million Friday in overseas ticket sales. This opening weekend, SM3 will definitely make more than SM1 ($114.8 mil) or SM2 ($88.1 mil) at U.S. theaters.Well, I did my part to help SM3 set the record. We caught a 4:45 p.m. showing yesterday. The theater was about three-quarters full.
It seems obvious that SM3 is intended to be the last of the series. All the loose ends of its predecessors' are tied up and there is really nowhere else to go for the romance between Peter Parker/Spiderman and Mary Jane.
And therein lies the movie's glaring flaw: too much being done in one flick. One of the antagonists is the Sandman. After his first encounter with the villain, Spiderman swings to a building top and asks, "Where are all these guys coming from?" Trust me, you'll ask the same question long before the movie is over. Sandman is only one of three - count 'em, three - villains with super powers in SM3.
The screenplay tries but fails to keep the movie coherent. Somehow, all three villians, Mary Jane and Spiderman have to meet in a gotterdammerung at the end of the movie. But tying up the three main threads of conflict, plus Spidey's troubled relationship with MJ, just overwhelms the abilities of both screenwriters and director (who was one of the writers). The ends do finally get tied up, but the final battle is so over the top as to become a parody of itself.
Even so, the movie does entertain and keeps one's attention. All the credit goes to Tobey Maguire, whose mutlivalent talent for portraying Dark Side Spiderman is very effective and tuned just right. What would a superhero do if unrestrained by honor or duty? SM3 provides an answer. But it is not only Spiderman who does over to the Dark Side (literally, since Spidey's Dark Side suit is solid black), so does Peter. Example: after Peter makes a nuisance of himself in a jazz bar, the very large bouncer tries to show him to the door. Bad idea.
Peter finally sheds the dark suit because of MJ. Fortunately the movie then moves quickly to finale because Maguire's portrayal of Dark Side Spidey/Peter is the only real draw. Oh, yeah, Harry Osborn (James Franco), friend of both MJ and Peter, figures prominently, too. We learned at the conclusion of SM2 that he would adopt his dead dad's Green Goblin identity. He does with a true vengeance. Filled with wrath, his fights with Spiderman are knock-down, drag-out epics. Yet when Harry/Goblin meets Dark Side Peter/Spiderman, it becomes a fight to the finish as Peter is unrestrained by prior bonds of friendship and loyalty. They are both out to kill.
Let us now consider the hapless May Jane Watson, apple of the eyes of both Peter Parker and Harry Osborn. Portrayed again by Kirsten Dunst, actress MJ appears at the beginning of the film in a Broadway musical, singing the opening number. But the critics savage her and she's fired after one performance, winding up later as a waitress-singer in the jazz bar Peter visits. Sorry, Kirsten, but MJ fares no better in her faux-threatrical career than you do in this installment. Kirsten, you shone so brightly in SM2 and almost as much in SM1, but here you just showed up on the set and recited lines. Remember, you're an actress, so why so little acting?
Let me admit, though, that SM3 follows the thoroughly superior SM2, a tough act to follow. With the bar so high, SM3 was almost bound to fail to top it. There are many moments in SM3 that show a glimpse of grandeur. The problem is that they are peripheral to the main line(s) of action. I don't wish I had waited to see SM3 on DVD, though, so the movie is good enough for me to recommend you pay your hard-earned cash to see it in the theater.
I give Spiderman 3 6.5 webs out of 10.
I'm in Alexandria VA, at the 2007 Milblogs conference chatting with folks about Victory PAC and our information war. I'm really looking forward to meeting all these folks, and some other folks in DC. I'll try and do some kind of report on the way home.
I mentioned on May 1 that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would be driven from office because of his government's mismanagement of last summer's Lebanon war, a prediction I first made on Aug. 11. In the August post I also predicted former PM Benjamin Netanyahu would re-assume the office, which in the months since then has seemed like a real long shot.But maybe not any longer. Israeli reporter Shmuel Rosner, writing in Slate, asks what comes next for the embattled Olmert government and Israel's future in the wake of the Winograd report, which harshly criticized Olmert et. al. for their bungling on the war.
Three possible outcomes can be imagined, since the demand—from both the public and from fellow politicians—that Olmert should resign is getting hard to ignore:Still not the most likely outcome, but one that can't be held as unlikely any more.
1. Olmert is forced out, the ruling coalition dismantles, and a date for new elections—probably this fall—is set. In the meantime, an interim government, headed by another coalition member—perhaps the tireless Shimon Peres or Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni—is established.
2. Olmert is replaced by someone else from his coalition, without a date for new elections. No one believes such a coalition could survive for very long.
3. Olmert survives as the coalition partners eventually reach the conclusion that they will lose power if new elections are called.New elections would give Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu a chance to become prime minister again, since he is leading in all polls. ...
In the most serious confrontation, French troops were said by sources in Paris to have been "just two seconds" from launching an anti- aircraft missile at two Israeli F-15 fighters carrying out mock low-level attack runs over one outpost. As this was happening, a pair of Israeli reconnaissance aircraft circled over the headquarters of the French battalion in the Jabal Maroun area, possibly taking aerial photographs there.However, the French general in charge of UN forces in southern Lebanon will be replaced next month by an Italian. The Israelis are happy about that.
I wrote last month about an incident of the IAF intercepting a Continental Airlines flight and coming close to shooting it down.
In other news, the sentiment against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is mounting rapidly. One hundred thousand people demonstrated against Olmert in Tel Aviv today.
I finally broke down and subscribed to DailyINK, the King Features comics service...it'll be great.
Update: Apologies to the commenters - I deleted the wrong extra copy of the post, and it took your comments with it. I'll see if I can recover them.
Van Riper is the author of one of my favorite phrases - "in command and out of control" - which defines the kind of management style that community-based enterprises require.
Obama's campaign tripped pretty hard this week when they forcibly evicted a volunteer who had - over two+ years and on his own dime - built the unofficial Obama MySpace page into one with 160,000 friends.
The story is pretty well told over at Micah Sifry's blog.
There's an astounding amount of vituperation aimed at the volunteer - a L.A. paralegal named Joe Anthony - in the comments and on the blogs.
There's also a strong thread of anger at Obama's campaign.
From my POV it would have been an easy problem to solve - assign a junior staffer to work with Anthony and assist with the workload (he's got a day job, and running a site that popular starts burning hours), give him invites to some high-roller events here and a chance to have coffee with the Senator...et la, problem solved.
Instead, the campaign has bout itself far more than $44,000 worth of negative publicity, which was amateurish and stupid.
And we learn that in spite of the communitarian face on modern campaigns, they are still probably too centrally run. The problem, of course, is how to combine the 'do your own thing' ethos of Campaign 2.0 with the media microscope. A two-pipe problem, but one that could have been easily avoided here.
I've complimented Obama in the past, but no points to his team for this one, I'm afraid...
Just now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on TV, in response to the veto of the Iraq spending bill by President Bush, "The Democrats are committed to ending this war." Immediately afterward, Senate majority leader Harry Reid reemphasized that the Democrats' goal is "to end the war."
Note that they are not committed to winning the war, just "ending" it. Reid is still speaking as I write and his mantra seems to be "ending the war," which he's said several times. Wait, Pelosi again, "we have to end the war."
This is just stunning. Neither of these tiny lights of American politics (nor their colleagues) seem to recognize that just as it takes two sides to wage war, it takes two sides to end it. The Democrats think they can end the war simply by packing the troops up and bringing them home.
Is it possible for two such prominent politicians to be that stupid?
1. The war will not end in Iraq just because US troops evacuate. The insurgencies will continue more intensely. The power vacuum created by American departure will have to be filled by someone. Iran is already operating inside Iraq; we can expect their presence there to climb dramatically if the US packs up and leaves. Many knowledgeable observers say there is a real risk that Saudi Arabia will send troops into Iraq to protect Iraqi Sunnis from the Shias and their Iranian sponsors. This is a recipe for a regional war that no one wants, even Iran.
2. The enemy of the United States in Iraq is not really either Shia or Sunni militias. It is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will not agree that the war is "ended" just because Pelosi and Reid say so. They will absolutely see the Democrat-envisioned withdrawal of US troops as a stunning victory on their part. But, in al Qaeda's mind, it will not be a fin de la guerre victory. It will be a victory that will embolden them to intensify their offensive operations against the West.
The Democrats' plan to "end the war" is really a plan to prolong it, increase its violence and bloodshed and raise the probability that the war will be brought to our shores in ways and lethality we cannot yet foresee.
Last summer, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in response to Hezbollah's cross-border kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and the murder of others. I did a lot of posting about the war as it progressed. "Progress" is an inapt word to use, though, since the IDF contended not only with its Hezbollah enemy, but a ham-handed and militarily inexperienced political leadership in the persons of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.On Aug. 11, I wrote,
Ehud Olmert's days are numbered as prime minister. The slapdash, haphazard and wholly indecisive way he has handled the Hezbollah war has doomed his chances of remaining in office past the end of this year, probably before then and maybe very soon.Well, obviously, PM Olmert is still in office, so I mis-predicted (I've just invented a Bushism!) Olmert's demise. But maybe only as a matter of time rather than fact.
JERUSALEM (AP) - A government commission that probed Israel's summer war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday of "severe failure," saying he hastily led the country into the conflict without a comprehensive plan.Stay tuned.
A copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press cited a "severe failure in the lack of judgment, responsibility and caution." ...
According to TV reports confirmed by Israeli officials, the commission appointed by Olmert and chaired by a retired judge, Eliyahu Winograd, aims withering criticism at Olmert and Peretz over their decision- making, inexperience and failure to question plans presented by the military. ...
The Winograd panel does not have the authority to fire officials, but the scathing report could ignite public protests and demonstrations, coupled with political infighting, that could force the resignation of Olmert and Peretz. Noisy public demonstrations were expected to back demands that they step down.
Already Sunday, a demand their for resignations came from Labor Party lawmaker Ofir Pines-Paz, who is challenging Peretz for party leadership in a May primary election.
"They should follow the example of Halutz, who did not wait for the Winograd commission to show him the door," he said.Opposition lawmakers from the dovish Meretz as well as the hard-line National Religious Party also called for the government to step down.
Update: Reuters: "Israeli media predicts Olmert resignation."