Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Plot Thickens

Apparently some of the US citizens taken hostage in Iran during the revolution think that Ahmadinejad, the new suspiciously-elected president of Iran, was one of their captors. However, not all of them think so, and some of the leaders of the students that were the spearhead in the revolution and hostage taking say he was not involved. It doesn't really matter though, whether he was involved or not he certainly embodies the spirit of the revolution and hostage taking. He is not the kind of man that good people want to see in power anywhere in the world, and the only good thing about his winning is that it might cause a new revolution (led again by students, perhaps ironically).

I think that the similarities between the current Islamic Jihad and the Crusades are remarkable. The most striking thing they have in common is the coercion of militants by religious leaders that do not themselves take part in the fight, and generally benefit politically and/or economically from the 'holy war.' The incentive offered to the fighters by their religious leaders is the same: free passage into heaven. This article has a pretty good summary of what the crusades are all about and you can use it to check the facts I quote -- it's really hard to find succinct and lucid internet sources about the crusades. Anyway, at the time of the crusades (mostly 1000-1250 AD) the system in the Catholic church was much like that in Islam: when you die your good deeds are weighed against your bad and how you measure up determines what happens to you from there. And in both faiths this idea has been exploited to incite warriors to fight. Before the first crusade Pope Urban II declared that all who fought in the crusade would be given a 'crusade indulgence' that forgave all their sins, assuring them direct entry to heaven when they died. Currently in the Muslim world some Ayatollahs and shieks have decided that Jihad, pretty much the same thing as a crusade, is another pillar of Islam. And if you die for a jihad then you not only get to go straight to heaven, but you get the best deal in heaven (42 virgins and some other 'nice' things, I think). So, given that option who wouldn't fight and die? If you believed that fighting, and in the Mulims' case dying (which includes killing yourself), for a holy war would compensate for all your sins, something that you would probably fail at otherwise, would you not join in? I would.

Again like the crusades is the non-religious aspect of both wars. At the time of the first 3 or 4 crusades the Christian Eastern empire was nearly or completely overrun by the Muslim empire (later solidifying under the Ottoman Turks into the Ottoman empire which lasted until World War I). The rulers of the Eastern lands sent desperate pleas for help from the West. Not only did the West want to protect (and possibly regain control of) their Eastern brethren, they knew (as is the idea behind much US involvement in Iraq today) if they did not go to fight the invaders in the East they would keep coming and eventually they would be fighting the invaders from their homes. So, at first it was probably necessary to send an army to fight back the Muslims (which they didn't do a good job of, but they did halt the advance). But in the later crusades especially, there was a very large amount of wealth sent back to the West plundered from the rich Muslim (or Christian, in the case of the 8/9th crusade) cities that were sacked. Today the Muslim leaders similarly have much to gain politically and economically by creating this war. It was the goal of Bin Laden and others to gain control of the entire Middle East (you think gas prices are high now) and probably the entire world, eventually. It is the express desire of Islamic dissidents in Morocco and Spain to retake the Andalusia, seen as the height of Muslim culture, for the Muslim world. And, like the crusades, the clergy who are inciting the war rarely engage in it.

The final similarity I'd like to highlight between the crusades and the current jihad is the severity of the tactics. In the crusades there were horrible atrocities committed by both sides. When you believe you are fighting infidel scum that do not deserve to live, its easy not to show mercy. Especially in the later crusades the crusaders were known for killing innocent civilians, even women and children, when they captured cities. Additionally, they were known for their brutal treatment of the people they fought -- and they rarely took prisoners. Beheading men captured in battle, and sometimes civilians as well, was fairly common. This parallels directly to the jihadists' targeting of civilian targets today, and their use of brutal 'terror tactics.'

It is my assertion that the jihadists today see their war in much the same way that eleventh century Europeans saw the crusades. And that is what so many people in America today do not understand. Many believe that if we leave the Middle East that the jihadists will leave us alone. They do not believe that it is a war on both sides. That is, they think we are fighting a war because we want to, because we started it. Not because our enemies declared war on us first. To them it is a war, and they won't stop until either someone stops them or they achieve their objective, which is to destroy the heathen westerners (especially America and Christians) and their control of world affairs. Also, our Western view of nationality does not translate to them. We see Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, etc as separate, sovereign nations. They do not. To the jihadist the war is partially about restoring the Muslim empire. And in their eyes all 'Islamic countries' are bound together against the West. So you can't really look at one country and say that they are for or against us, because the stance of their government does not determine their standing in the eyes of the jihadists. And that is why this war is unlike any other we've been involved in: we are not fighting against another political country, we are fighting against people scattered throughout many countries who believe they are all part of one empire that currently does not exist as a political entity. And that is why it is so hard, from a Western perspective, to understand where and how to fight this war. Right now its being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. And personally, I'd rather keep fighting it over there than let it come to us again.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Free Love

From On Christian Liberty, by Martin Luther:
Behold, from faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one's neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most feely and most willingly spends himself and all that he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward. As his Father does, distributing all things to all men richly and freely, making "his sun rise on the evil and on the good" [Matt. 5:45], so also the son does all things and suffers all things with that freely bestowing joy which is his delight when through Christ he sees it in God, the dispenser of such great benefits.

I think it speaks for itself.

Pack Your Bags

Check out this National Review article about the implications of the new Iranian president (thanks, Threat of the Future). Its pretty serious stuff, and we need to take it that way. If we are as ignorant about Iran as we were about Al Qaida we will not do anything about this threat until it is too late, and this time the cost will be far greater and have far more grave consequences. If Iran goes nuclear and uses a weapon it will mean a change in the face of global politics as we know it, for the worse. I don't think we can really begin to appreciate the effects of nuclear weapons in the hands of people who have no problem blowing themselves up to further a religious war.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Well that's not suspicious

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the hard-line mayor of Tehran has won the Iranian presidential election. Not only did he win, he got over 60% of the vote. Politics are a volatile thing, but that's just ridiculous. It was already suspicious when he came from behind in the initial election to get close enough for a run-off. But now, when there were no other moderate or liberal candidates except his opponent, he somehow gets a landslide victory. It doesn't make any sense. He was the only hard-liner to get a substantial number of votes in the initial election, while large numbers of votes were split between his opponent and another reform candidate. So, logic would say that everyone who was going to vote for this man already had, so he shouldn't get too many more votes than he did the first time. His opponent, on the other hand, should get the votes of everyone who doesn't support the repressive regime which would mean his majority from the first election plus all the votes for the third place man -- putting him far ahead. Even if this victor had won by a small margin it would be suspicious, but winning by a landslide is just shameless on the part of the rulers in Iran who obviously 'influenced' the election to get the man they want in office. Not that it really matters, because the current president is rather liberal and has passed many reforms but they've all been blocked by the Supreme Leader who has the final say in everything. I guess now he is just more justified in repressing the people of Iran and extending his own power. I can only hope that this oppressive move by the government serves to galvanize the revolutionary minds in Iran and they can push for a change from within. I would hope, and I guess I do, for peaceful change, but its absolutely out of the question. Vigilantes already maim and kill demonstrators -- even women -- I don't think they are going to sit idly by while their theocracy is overturned. The revolution will only work if the world supports it, so we need to pressure our government to do whatever it can to let the people of Iran know we don't support their oppressors and we do support their freedom. So far, so good.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Choosing Between Two Evils

Continue to watch the presidential election in Iran. Today's 'run-off' does not offer much hope for Iranians no matter what the outcome. Electing the moderate conservative rather than the hard-liner will show some movement towards liberal reforms, but its not likely that anything substantial will change under either. Furthermore, it may actually hinder the Iranian reform movement if the moderate is elected because his election might satisfy less concerned groups in the country. The election of a hard-liner, which would obviously be rigged, will help unify the people against their repressive regime. So, honestly I don't know which outcome is better. The fact that there is this run-off implies to me that the hard-liner will win, because the circumstances seem to imply that the election was altered the first time to bring him within enough votes to make a run-off necessary. If the rulers were willing to tamper with results to get the run-off I doubt they're going to allow anyone but their man to win. There are more hard times ahead in the Middle East, and there always will be until Iran becomes a true democracy.

The run-off experienced complications and closing time for the polls was extended 3.5 hours from 7:30PM to 11:00PM local time. Iranian officials are already saying the results are skewed as a result of intimidation and fear. No matter who is elected a good portion of the country is going to be unhappy and declare the election invalid -- which it probably is. Many of the people still waiting to vote at closing time were supporters of the hard-line candidate. The country's theocratic ruler and his followers have the last say in everything that happens, so its no surprise that it looks more and more like their man is going to win despite the fact that his opponnent seemed to have victory in hand until the last minute of the initial vote.

Evidence of Bias

Hugh Hewitt on the bias in the main stream media:

The Senate Democrats' #2 compares the American military to Nazis, Stalinists, and Pol Pot's killer, and the story never gets near to the cover of the Washington Post. Karl Rove makes a valid assertion about the behavior of liberals, backed by evidence, and the fake outrage of those Senate Democrats makes page 1, but in a story without the pointed reply of George Pataki which happens to pivot on Durbin's slander. At least the New York Times included a portion of the Pataki quote, which has now vanished from the original Newsday article.

But there is no MSM bias, right? My World column looks at the Minneapolis Star Tribune's repulsive editorial on Durbin's speech, but that's just the obvious bias against truth at work. Placement and pitch matter just as much. The contrast between the MSM's smothering of Durbin's slander and his non-apology versus its treatment of the false outrage directed at Rove joins the massive set of examples of MSM bias which, while it will never be corrected, will always be there to explain the collapse of credibility among the elite media.

So... there's his analysis and what he claims is evidence of bias. Seems true to me. But, as always, I'll let you be the judge.
In case you're wondering, here's what Pataki said:
I think it is a little hypocritical of Senator Clinton to call on me to repudiate a political figure's comments when she never asked Senator Durbin to repudiate his comments. Senator Clinton might think about her propensity to allow outrageous statements from the other side that are far beyond political dialogue --insulting every Republican, comparing our soldiers to Nazis or Soviet gulag guards-- and never protesting when she serves with them.

For more on this issue, check out Hugh's blog. He has evidence to support Rove's accusation and more discussion about the whole issue.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Please, Take My House

This Supreme Court ruling seems, to me, absolutely outrageous. According to this ruling a local government can seize people's homes to use the land for economic development. So, as is happening in New London, Connecticut, the city can tell you they're going to destroy your home to build a strip mall. And if you don't like it, too bad. Its best for the majority. Communism, anyone? Not only is it incredibly offensive, unfair, and seemingly immoral, but it will certainly only serve the rich and hurt the poor. As Justice O'Connor states in her dissent, "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random, the beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." Wonderful. I can't wait until the city of Waco decides that my house is a nice spot to build a new grocery store. The article, at least, does not say whether the ruling specifies what kind of, if any, compensation has to be given to the people whose houses are seized. I assume its payment for the house, but somehow I doubt that, with this ruling behind them, many companies are going to pay the same for the houses as the owners could get by selling them on the market. Its one thing to destroy condemned houses for new development, even against the owners' will. But to make such a wide-sweeping ruling that makes no indication, as far as I can tell, about any conditions that must be met except that the city decides its best for the economy and the new development is done privately, is unbelievable. Talk about a whole new avenue for corruption. Now if your building process is blocked by a family unwilling to move from their ancestral residence in the hills of whatevercity, just slip some money to a city official and have him say that its best for the economic development of the city. I don't like this idea of sacrificing the rights -- the right to own property, basically -- of individuals for the supposed economic best of the majority. I don't understand how this ruling can be allowed in any light. The reasoning is, "the local government knows what's best so you should do what they say." Our treatment of prisoners is not on the scale of Nazis' or Soviets', but this ruling sure sounds like something from one of those societies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Christian Bubbles

Hugh Hewitt has a good analysis of the effect of Durbin's, and now Pelosi's, ridculous remarks on the war on terror and the nation in general. Thats all for politics for now.

One of the biggest faults of the modern 'evangelical' Christian church (in America), in my opinion, is its formation of a sub-culture mimicking mainstream America. They've taken the idea of being "in but not of the world" (paraphrased from John 17:15-16) and reversed it. Instead they are now very much of the world, but not in it.

To discuss how the church is of the world is a fairly easy discussion. All the statistics show that there really is very little difference between Christians and non-Christians when morals are in question. In fact, Christians are about as likely as anyone to: get divorced, have sex outside of marriage, have an abortion, use illegal drugs, become addicted to porn or gambling, even cheat on their taxes. Okay, I don't have links to back up all those claims, but if you doubt they're true would any scientific proof really convince you? I think its evident if you know many Christians that most of them are about the same as the rest of the world in most respects.
Now, I don't think that not being of the world should mean that you act socially awkward or shun any activities that non-Christians like. In fact, I don't think that in regular day-to-day actions you might notice much difference between a Christian who is not 'of the world' and someone who is. But its the motivation thats different, and the moral judgements. I, of course, have no power to judge the motivations of anyone else, so we'll have to go with the moral judgements. And, as I said, I think its evident that moral judgements, despite all their cries for of morality in culture, are not much different in Christians than in non-Christians.

However, Christians have managed not to be 'in the world' in a very realy sense. They've created two categories to put everything in: sacred, and secular. Something is either one or the other. If its secular, they say, Christians should have nothing to do with it. And so for every 'secular' thing out there, modern Christian society has tried to make a 'Jesus-centric' copy to fit in their sterile 'sacred' world. The fact that most of these mock-ups are of poor quality and obviously inferior to the original should be a source of shame in itself. But the greatest misfortune is that this practice has led to cultural isolation of Christians.
Christians who follow this practice of secluding themselves in a world untainted by The World have essentially cut themselves off from mainstream society. They have nothing in common with their neighbors. They have no friends outside this world, unless they're "trying to reach them for God." They have essentially marginalized themselves in the view of the rest of humanity. Making the Church appear to be nothing more than a cage of sub-par products that some crazy people lock themselves up in. As stated before, they don't even get the morality thing going for them anymore. They do talk about being moral a lot though, so people might mistakenly think that it is a cage of sub-par products along with a restrictive moral code that condemns people. Wonderful.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Christians should immerse themselves in a non-Christian lifestyle. I'm suggesting that Christians come out of their holes and start living a Christian life. The Church isn't doing any better than the world when it comes to morality, so what harm can there be in relaxing the walls? Its not like the immoral world is going to corrupt the Christians because they are already corrupt on their own. Instead they might find a world of beauty, people with whom they can form life-giving relationships, and new ways to see God's glory that didn't fit into their 'sacred' box (like art or literature that is not focused on being churchy). And in doing so they might be able to more fully achieve the Christian ideal of loving everyone and condemning no one. And the Church might once again become something attractive to people by filling needs and soothing pain. And then we'd all be a lot happier, I bet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Trial by Popularity

Why does it take less than a month (I think only about a week) of trial and only a few hours of deliberation to find a man guilty of 3 murders that took place over forty years ago, but it takes months of trial and over a week of deliberation to find Michael Jackson innocent of 10 molestation-related crimes? Jackson's alleged crimes were indeed heinous and very serious. But this man was on trial for murder, which is generally seen as a greater crime. And the evidence was all over forty years old. Even if they had found Killen innocent, it still seems ridiculous how long celebrity trials take compared to those for the rest of us. And I think its dumb. That's all.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Iran Loses Election

The presidential election in Iran is not going well. The New Zealand Herald reports that the mayor of Tehran's last minute come-back may have been rigged (big surprise). The Standard is running a similar story about a recount going on before the run-off to try to find those rigged votes. Neither candidate is likely to have won his votes legally or freely in a country whose politics are really all decided by one Grand Ayatollah. Even if the 'reformist' candidate, Rafsanjani, wins, there will probably be limited or no changes in Iran. The Supreme Leader -- that aforementioned Ayatollah -- has final say on everything that happens politically or religiously. So, as long as that system is in place is not very likely that any pro-democracy reforms will take place. The Ayatollah, as far as I know, has no French blood in his veins and therefore will probably not vote to take away his own power("In 1802 Napoleon became Consul for life by popular vote, and in 1804 he became emperor by another popular vote"). A notable fact is that Rafsanjani was already president of Iran from 1989-1997, at which time he was not considered a liberal or reformist. He claims that times have changed and "the time is right to open a new chapter in the Iran-United States relationship and indicating he will increase social and political freedoms" - the Standard. I am dubious as to whether his next term in office, assuming he wins, will be much different than the last. Never the less, a win for a candidate seen as a 'liberal' and a 'reformer' is a step in the right direction for Iran. But the world needs to continue to put pressure on this repressive regime to reform and give basic democratic rights to its citizens. If it does, many similar regimes will do the same.

Another development in the Durbin torture issue: FoggyRuminations alleges that Durbin may have embellished some of the report read into the record on the floor of the senate (thanks, Hugh Hewitt). Foggy may be going a bit extreme partisan, but if the allegations are true then Dick Durbin is that much more of a slime bag, especially for not apologizing. However, after reading the original documents it doesn't appear to me that he made anything up, although he did play up one sentence quite a bit. It doesn't seem to me that he actually claimed anything happened that didn't, although he may have implied such.

In other news, the EU may have finally gotten too big for its own politics. The history of the Western world has been defined by conflict between European countries. To think they could be so tightly united so easily was a foolish conception to begin with. More trouble ahead.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Torture is Evil

Torture is evil. Thats why the Geneva convention's restrictions are in place. Every morally sound person believes that torture is evil. What the US is doing to its prisoners is not torture. If you don't agree with me, The Jawa Report gives some graphical evidence of what real torture looks like. It is VERY GRAPHIC graphical evidence, so if you understand the difference between torture and discomfort, between forcing someone to stand for hours without sleep and dripping acid on them, spare yourself the images. However, if you think that Senator Durbin is right, or less than ludicrous, for saying that what happens at Gitmo is tantamount to Nazi or Soviet torture, then go to the link. See what real torture is. US interrogation techniques are not something I would want to go through, but they are not evil or torture -- at least in general. There may be some infractions that cross the line, and these should be investigated and punished harshly. But the general, accepted means of interrogation by the US are not evil, or anywhere on the scale with real torture. I think Scott McClellan had it right, Dick Durbin's comments are simply reprehensible.

In other news, everyone should have their eye on the election in Iran. Its essential that anyone in favor of real democracy in Iran scrutinize, or support the scrutiny of, their elections. Without such investigation it will not be possible for Iran to be indicted for its lack of true democracy. Making the world aware of the injustice in Iran is the first step in making its internal collapse possible. Why is it so important that Iran, of all the countries with fake elections, be held responsible? Because it is one of the most prominent and vocal countries of its kind. And its collapse will prompt the collapse of many such regiemes. Furthermore, there is enough of a movement for freedom in Iran that it is possible for it to be changed from within. China should hold real elections too, but right now trying to push them is not going to do any good -- except maybe spark World War III. Iran is ready for a change, but the people need to know they have international support. And calling Iran's leaders on their fake elections is a great way to show support.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Politician's Way

CNN reports that now some Republican's are joining the Democrats in trying to plan an exit date from Iraq. What I read from this is that Democrats are winning at the "I'm unwilling to budge" game. The Republicans have some sort of control over every branch of the government, yet Democratic strategy is garnering them some slow gains. Rather than grudgingly allow the majority to rule, as it did during some of the Clinton administration, Democrats today have decided to polarize the party issue to colossal proportions. They have blocked and objected, almost to a one, everything the Republicans have championed. If its not a Democrat's bill or nominee, its probably going to have a hard time getting acceptance from even one of them right now. And by now its getting tiresome to the public. The public doesn't want such polarized politics -- they cause conflict and generally make the public feel that the politicians are wasting our time and money. Thats not a good way to get elected. And the public is feeling that about both sides. But the Republicans have a majority. If they would stick to their guns and stay united they could pass the public on the idea that they are being reasonable and the Democrats are being obstructionist. Its my personal opinion that most of the time neither side is all that reasonable, but I think that right now Democrats are really pushing the party thing to the limit. But instead, weak Republicans, the kind that have to pull publicity stunts like demanding the renaming of French Fries (while public support is behind the sentiment), are scrambling to maintain their image. They are afraid that if they don't do something they will be seen as worthless by the public and they will lose their office. And so they side with the Democrats to try to seem like they are being 'bipartisan' and reasonable. In doing so they endanger the advantage of having a majority -- a majority is worthless if you can't get the people in your party to vote with you. So some weak Republicans who are more concerned about keeping their jobs than getting things done are making sure that the Democrats can keep preventing the Republicans from achieving anything they want to. And it's short-sighted and stupid on their part. If they would just stick with the party then they could go to their constituency and tell them about how Deomcrats are blocking their attempts to make progress. Instead they are letting the Democrats win and making the rest of the Republicans look bad rather than the Democrats. My analysis is this will lead to even less being accomplished by the gov because now nobody has a majority and the policy of politics over progress is maintained. Long live bureaucracy and career politicians!

A New Hope

This may or may not be a new start to my blogging life. Due to loud calls from my public to start blogging again (quiet down, public!) I've decided to give it another go.
Okay, so I don't have a pubilc. And there haven't been any loud cries associated with my blogging life... I can't even think of a funny thing that people might be crying about my blog. So anyway, here's my first post, with catchy Star Wars title and all...