Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's a Beautiful Wreath, Except for the Trout

A picture is worth a thousand words. And I had my camera with me. But, in this rare instance, I think it's better if you simply use your imagination.

We ate at a wonderful restaurant last night and they had a large wreath decorating the wall of the main dining room. The wreath was filled to overflowing with greenery and pine cones and berries. There was even a bird's nest, as you often see in "natural wreaths."

And then there were three large plastic trout. Not jumping through the wreath as you might imagine, but just included in the greenery around the wreath.

You have to wonder. Who looked at this gorgeous wreath and said, "I know just what this wreath needs!! Three large plastic trout!!!"

How and why did this happen? And exactly how did the restaurant owner decide on this particular wreath.

"Oh honey, let's buy the one with the trout."

Let's face it, a lot of people must have gone into the process that ultimately placed this trout laden wreath in the center of this restaurant.

Perhaps it was a committee decision. A compromise!! That's it.

"You can have a wreath decorating the restaurant, but only if you add a few trout!"

And, speaking of compromises, let's note that the United Nation's established and supported government of Somalia is now, finally, back in control of a sizable portion of that country.

The resurgence of the supposedly legitimate Somalian government wasn't due to any action of effort by the United Nations. Instead it was the neighboring army of Ethiopia that intervened and propelled the hapless U.N. backed government back to power.

The country had been largely controlled by the Council of Islamic Courts, which, frankly, seems to have a lot more popular support. The regions controlled by the Council of Islamic Courts were relatively peaceful. The return of the government seems to also mean a return to lawlessness. The legitimate government cannot control the "clans" or warlords.

There is an excellent audio report on National Public Radio

The Council of Islamic Courts, the umbrella group for the Islamic movement that ruled Mogadishu for six months, wanted to transform Somalia into a strict Islamic state. And they were rumored to have strong ties to al-Qaida and are supposedly harboring several known terrorists.

Secular and largely Christian Ethiopia feared a strict Islamic state on its borders. And Ethiopia has the largest, best trained and best equipped army in Africa.

The United Nations had condemned the Islamic revolutionaries for several reasons, including their use of child soldiers on the front lines of the fighting. Even now there are reports of forced conscription of twelve year old children to fight in the latest battles. Parents are fleeing with their children in hopes of protecting their lives.

But no one expects the 15 year civil war to end easily. From a report by the
Associated Press on MSNBC:

“Even if we are defeated we will start an insurgency,” said Sheik Ahmed Mohamed Islan, the head of the Islamic movement in the Kismayo region. “We will kill every Somali that supports the government and Ethiopians.”

It seems to me that the biggest problem is that the United Nation's established government in Somalia has the same identical problem as the United State's established government in Iraq.

Both are wreaths, well intended gifts to the people of the respective, but occupied countries. And both are seriously infested with trout.

They must have sounded good to the bureaucrats in New York and Washington, D.C., but they look funny and work badly in the countries who must mount them on their walls.




Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Words Have Consequences

Anyone of my liberal, progressive or left leaning readers who think the following is simply "Right Wing Hysteria" or a "Conservative Fiction" or just a mere "Blogosphere Exaggeration" needs to open their eyes and think again.

Ben of Mesopotamia writes in his blog:

After praising Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, Senator John Kerry came to Iraq this weekend.

Before his arrival, rumors were already flowing that every FOB (Forward Operating Base) Commander told General Casey that they already had another "DV" (Distinguished Visitor) to support while Sen. Kerry was in country -- or that they would be in the middle of ongoing operations -- and hence were unable to support his visit. This rumor was either sparked or confirmed by a post by Matt on Blackfive. (Blackfive, for those who don't already read it, is an infinitely more interesting military blog than mine).

Hey, I just came from a meeting where they were trying to get some commander, any commander, in the Green Zone, to host Jawn Carri.

Swear to God, the CG is saying, "You can't tell me you ALL have things going on at that time! Come on!"

So, it appears that JF'nK will be coming to the Palace at the Embassy Annex and sitting around sucking up coffee at the Green Bean while we all try to ignore him.

And ignor him they did. While the soldiers swamped Bill O'Reilly with hundreds lined up for autographs, they avoided Kerry.

Kerry couldn't even get any local or national coverage for a press conference and had to cancel because... well, no one came.


The reason is simple and should be ignored only at our own peril. The soldiers are supporting those who support them.

I wrote earlier about FOX's unabashed love fest with the soldiers this Christmas. It wasn't journalism. It was a shower of old fashioned support.

Soldiers were allowed to talk on FOX. Unrestricted.

O'Reilly said one thing over and over and over and over and over again during his trip to Iraq: Thank You!!!

Kerry made a bad joke.
Kerry refused over and often to apologize. And don't think for a minute today's soldiers aren't painfully aware for Kerry's slander against the troops during Viet Nam.

John Kerry is not their friend. And they know it.

And the soldiers are supporting their friends.

You don't have to like it. You can think the soldiers are "brainwashed" or misled.

But we must learn from Bill O'Reilly, Oliver North, FOX News and John Kerry.

Words Have Consequences.




Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas Wish: Tolerance on Earth

Predictable, yet poignant, the Associated Press has a Christmas story about the difficulty the few Iraqi Christians have in celebrating Christmas. Here is a link.

I can't remember a Christmas without such a story (or two, or three). Different countries, different wars, different Christian denominations or sects, different oppressors, and yet the stories themselves are virtually identical.

These stories of oppression always, remarkably enough, mirror the original Christmas Story. One group of people is oppressed, occupied or enslaved by another. They are forced to live in the shadows, to live in fear of violence. At the time of Jesus birth, it was the Jews who were oppressed and their lands occupied (as it has often been throughout history).

Traditionally, the AP gives us these Christmas stories of religious oppression from China where most religious celebrations, and even worship itself, must be hidden from the government. I remember reading these stories as a child. And even today many Christian and other religious leaders are imprisoned for the open demonstration of their faith.

But during the war in Bosnia, such stories came from there. It makes perfect sense the AP would profile the plight of Christians in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Umm Salam draws her curtains across her windows, then settles into an armchair in a living room festooned with colored lights and a portrait of Jesus on the cross. Her Christmas tree glitters in the corner.

One of Iraq's estimated 800,000 Christians, the 56-year-old widow celebrates the holiday quietly with her children and grandchildren, as violence sweeps the country.

"It is very risky to go the church in our neighborhood, so we will have a party at home and some of our relatives will come to celebrate," she said. "They'll have to stay the night at our home due to the security situation and the curfew."

The evening service at the local church was canceled for security reasons.

The spirit of Christmas is still alive in Iraq, but it's tucked away behind the closed doors of Christian families, who represent about three percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Of course the most horrific violence and oppression exists within the Muslim communities. And the worst violence is directed between Sunnis and Shiites. The Christian suffering is just a footnote.

As a Unitarian Universalist they thing I understand least of all is this lack of tolerance. The lack of mutual respect. The absence of inter religious support.

But I'm not sure why I'm surprised. Such lack of understanding and support and tolerance is rampant in this country. Why should the world be any different?

Why, indeed?

For over 50 years I've wished and prayed for Peace on Earth every Christmas. Maybe my wish was just too big. To difficult, even for God.

So this Christmas, I'll tone it down a bit. Let me just wish for a little Tolerance on Earth. I pray for a small amount of compassion. A little mutual respect. I pray everyone who wishes to celebrate Christmas can do so in peace, in safety and with hearts filled with happiness, not fear.

Dear Lord, please do what you can and grant us the wisdom and the courage to do the rest.

Merry Christmas.




Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Personal Note

I'd like to take a moment of your time to say "Hello" to Randi Rhodes, talk show host extraordinaire on the struggling Air America Network.

Randi and I share a wonderful set of friends, David and "LaLa." Randi occasionally mentions them on the air. She is spending the Holidays with them.

I have listened to Randi many times thanks to Internet Radio. Tragically, Air America had no outlet here in the deep interior south. There are (or were) outlets in Memphis and New Orleans.

Often outrageous and often courageous, Randi is a very important part of the political discourse in this country.

Over the last few months I have noted with troubled amusement the many conservative bloggers (including some I deeply respect and quote here) who have rejoiced at the financial woes and impending death of Air America.

It's as if somehow financial mismanagement of one company is a victory for the conservative set of ideas!

Of course nothing could be further from the truth!
Ideas, concepts and philosophies must survive and grow on their own. And liberal and progressive ideas are flourishing now more than any time in the last 30 years.

Randi is more valuable because she is "out there." She is unapologetic. She is a force in the progressive community.

I, for one, am hopeful that she survives, grows and prospers. Perhaps Air America is the wrong venture. But there is ample room for the diversity of ideas Air America represents.

Happy Holidays to David, LaLa and Randi.... and to all of you reading here from around the world. May peace fill your hearts and the new year bring you the happiness you so richly deserve.




Saturday, December 16, 2006

Capt. Jamil Hussein versus Col. Oliver North

The fog of war. Or something more?

I'm going to make a flat out statement with which many of you will disagree. WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAQ.

In spite of the news anchors, talk show hosts, bloggers extraordinaire, news magazines, cable networks and politicians, all of whom CLAIM to know the facts, WE DON'T HAVE A CLUE.

Two weeks ago the
Iraq Study Group painted a very gloomy picture. Many pundits, bloggers and glitterati trumpeted the report as if it were the word of god, handed down from the mountain.

The only question left unanswered was which came first, the gloom or the doom.

But, somewhere in the background that very same week, Col. Oliver North, a conservative zealot to be certain, reporting for right leaning
Fox News, began a series of reports from Iraq's absolutely worst hotzones. North is embedded with the troops, an increasingly rare vantage point. And he's outside of Bagdad, in Ambar Province and later in the city of Ramadi.

And his reports, almost all interviews with U.S. troops from privates to generals, is decidedly upbeat. Progress is being made. Iraqi's are taking control. Police forces are working. Violence is dropping. U.S. troops are taking a step back.

It's old fashioned reporting. Four years ago every network was doing it. Talk to the troops. Let them wish loved ones back home a Merry Christmas. Give them a much deserved pat on the back. All pretty much out of style in 2006.

Other networks turn up their noses. Only FOX and Ollie North are cheerleaders this Christmas.

Objective? No, not really. Fair and balanced? Nope.

Pro Bush? Yep. Pro U.S. troops? Absolutely.

George Stephanopoulos treasures the dead each week, Ollie North treasures the living.

The other networks, newspapers and news magazines don't have the time for old fashioned troop support. There's hard news to report. They've got a civil war to cover. Sectarian violence. Murders. Kidnappings. Torture. Bagdad is burning.

Bagdad is burning. The reporters, safe in their Green Zone Hotels, can smell the smoke.

The violence increases daily. On November 24th, the Associated Press (AP) reported the most horrific violence yet. Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein told the AP that Shia thugs in Baghdad "grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near Iraqi soldiers who did not intervene."

Twelve Mosques were burned. Payback for earlier violence against the Shia's was hell on earth for innocent Sunnis.
Steven R. Hurst, writing for the Associated Press, reports,

BAGHDAD — The attack on the small Mustafa Sunni mosque began as worshippers were finishing Friday midday prayers. About 50 unarmed men, many in black uniforms and some wearing ski masks, walked through the district chanting "We are the Mahdi Army, shield of the Shiites."

Fifteen minutes later, two white pickups, a black BMW and a black Opel drove up to the marchers. The suspected Shiite militiamen took automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from the vehicles. They then blasted open the front of the mosque, dragged six worshippers outside, doused them with kerosene and set them on fire.

This account of one of the most horrific alleged attacks of Iraq's sectarian war emerged Tuesday in separate interviews with residents of a Sunni enclave in the largely Shiite Hurriyah district of Baghdad.

The Associated Press first reported on Friday's incident that evening, based on the account of police Capt. Jamil Hussein and Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, who told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were soaked in kerosene, then set afire, burning before his eyes.

You'll remember this incident because it was so widely covered. It led the news reports. Civil War in Iraq was no longer a concept that could be debated. Civil War was a reality.

But there is one little problem. This might never have actually happened. This widely reported and often repeated story might actually have a whole lot less credibility than Col. Oliver North's cheer leading reports from Ambar.

Almost immediately the U.S. military liaisons questioned the report. They could not confirm it ever happened. The the Iraqi government denied the report. And finally the Iraqi's denied that there was ever anyone named Capt. Jamil Hussein in any branch of the Iraqi government, armed forces or police.

However, the U.S. military said in a letter to the AP late Monday, three days after the incident, that it had checked with the Iraqi Interior Ministry and was told that no one by the name of Jamil Hussein works for the ministry or as a Baghdad police officer. Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, signed the letter, a text of which was published subsequently on several Internet blogs. The letter also reiterated an earlier statement from the U.S. military that it had been unable to confirm the report of immolation...

...The U.S. military said that neither police nor coalition forces had reports of such an incident.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry later said that al-Hashimi, the Sunni elder in Hurriyah, had recanted his account of the attack after being visited by a representative of the defense minister...

The AP has stood by it's story.... sort of. But they've back peddled every day. And they can't seem to produce Capt. Hussein. The story has virtually fallen apart.

Hussein is likely a Sunni plant. For over two years he supplied stories to the AP that depicted horrific violence against Sunni's, but never a single incident of violence against Shiites. And the AP was duped.

The real problem is that the supposedly real reporters are trapped in the Green Zone. They are highly visible targets and their lives are in danger. They rely on Iraqi stringers. Sources can't be checked.

Bloggers who first broke the story are now traveling to Iraq in search of the elusive Capt. Hussein.

But where is the truth in all this? Oliver North claims progress, real progress, is being made. Is it possible he and the U.S. troops he interviews are telling the truth?

Or is Capt. Jamil Hussein just as real as the AP has claimed? Is Iraq in the throws of Civil War? Is the violence he reported (and virtually everyone covered without any question or confirmation) real? Or is it just partisan propaganda? Point and counterpoint to North's cheer leading?

We don't know because in this war truth is not just a victim, it's the sworn enemy of each faction. Every player in this drama has a reason to suppress the truth.

Sunni's plant stories. Shiites plant stories. The Iraqi Government has its message. The U.S. military orchestrates entire docu-dramas.

Politicians carefully paint partisan pictures.

And even the networks, newspapers and newsmagazines have agendas.

Holding reporters in the Green Zone serves everyone's interests.

Don't just wag the dog. Put on an entire dog and pony show. Just don't let any reporters actually look behind the stage.

Any reporters who might like to do their jobs are held captive in the Green Zone auditorium, unable to venture out beyond its walls, unable to trust anyone or anything, least of all what they see on stage.

The Truth is Out There.

Trust No One.

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.


A Tip of the Wizard's Pointy Cap to
Michelle Malkin, whose reporting on this issue was invaluable to me, even though she might disagree with my conclusions. Michelle is now planning to travel to Iraq in further pursuit of this story.

Click for an UPDATE from USA TODAY on the Capt. Hussein and Michelle Malkin portion of this story




Sunday, December 10, 2006

There is No Silver Bullet

The United States Institute of Peace has made The Iraq Study Group Report available for free download or for free reading on-line here.

I was finally able to read the entire report yesterday. It's an easy and relatively quick read. My delay in reading the report was due to outside time constraints and not any problem with the report itself.

But, since I was unable to read the report until yesterday, I was able to absorb the reaction to the report from newspapers, radio talk show hosts, television pundits and bloggers left and right all this past week.

Before I even got to the report I had the following observations based on the wide range of reporting available on the Hamilton/Baker chaired study.

The Left generally loved the report's flaming condemnation of the Bush administration and the multiple failures leading up to and executing the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. There were more bombs being thrown over in
The Huffington Post in one day than than in the entire city of Bagdad in a month.

Let me go ahead and apologize right now for the above analogy. I couldn't resist, but let me make it clear, when Arianna Huffington, Alec Baldwin or Nora Ephron throw bombs, no one dies.

Still, the left was out in force.

The Right saw the report as a pathway to surrender. A few pointed out good ideas but the Right almost universally rejected whole sections of the recommendations, cherry picking just a few points as worthy of consideration.

President Bush himself indicated some recommendations of the report might not be accepted, but generally was more receptive than the commentators, radio talk show hosts and bloggers on the right.

The Left and much of the mainstream media (which does tend to lean a little left) initially demanded that the report be accepted in totality. Vigilante (who always, very correctly, points out he does not speak for the left, or anyone, except himself) cleanly and clearly and
FORCEFULLY made the point here (editing and emphasis are mine):

The ISG Report is not a 'fruit salad' to be cherry-picked....

But you and I could come together if Bush and Cheney would only eat their fruit salad in total.
If they refuse, then they should be made to eat their vanity war before they are excused from the table. Progressives should demand that Bush and Cheney should be excused from the White House by November 2008, or our troops are excused from Iraq by the same date.

However, quickly the left realized, exactly as the right had already concluded, that the report was no silver bullet and had many, many flaws and loopholes. In fact, a sizable portion of the left quickly moved to generally condemn the report as simply more "stay the course."

The best blog entry (essay, for us old timers) comes from Senator Russ Feingold writing over at The Huffington Post in his entry
A Washington Inside Job (editing and emphasis are all mine):

When the Iraq Study Group's report was unveiled this week, it was like the opening of a blockbuster movie, with reporters counting down the minutes until it was released. But now that all the hoopla has subsided, all we are left with is a Washington inside job: a report written by Washington insiders, for Washington insiders, who share the same mindset that led us into the misguided war in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group essentially sees Iraq the same way that most of official Washington does - as the be-all and end-all of our foreign and national security policy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The report has some good recommendations, including its call for the U.S. to step up diplomatic efforts with countries like Iran and Syria. But many of its recommendations perpetuate the Iraq-centric policies that have failed so miserably. They fail to correct the course that the American people rejected at the polls in November.

Feingold is right. Which, paradoxically means that President Bush and the commentators on the right are also right. The report is not the whole answer, but may contain a few good tactics.

I wish it had been more. I believe James Baker and Lee Hamilton and the group did their level best. But the occupation of Iraq is a quagmire. The solution will not be found in any 98 page report.




Saturday, December 09, 2006

Remembering Darfur on Human Right's Day

It would be virtually impossible for me to improve on the impassioned and heartfelt words of Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi this December 10th, Human Right's Day.

Below is a reprint of her comments from the
Save Darfur Website. However, the various emphasis are mine.

Fifty eight years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, announcing the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which every citizen of the world is entitled, and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, declaring genocide a crime under international law which the civilized world must prevent. This weekend, we mark these anniversaries with heavy hearts, reminded that we are bound to aid those who have been deprived of these very rights and protections.

In the preamble to the Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations and its members pledged to achieve "the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Despite this pledge, we have seen an atrocity unfold before our very eyes in Darfur, yet we have taken little action to protect these sacrosanct rights. The lack of international action has allowed the Sudanese government to continue with what USAID and the United Nations have called an "ethnic cleansing," as the nightmare continues for our brothers and sisters in Darfur.

Although the Declaration promises "the right to life, liberty, and security of person," hundreds of thousands of civilians have been murdered and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced into unprotected camps throughout Sudan or sent to refugee camps in neighboring Chad. The Declaration states that "no one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," yet hundreds of women are raped or sexually assaulted every week, with no force to protect them. The African Union, the only peacekeeping force in Sudan, does not have the manpower or the mandate to prevent these heinous acts from occurring. It is obvious that the Sudanese government has no intention of stopping its indiscriminate massacre of Darfuris. If we do not act, the people of Darfur will continue to suffer, without hope or end in sight.

As we commemorate the 58th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention we must remember that with the crisis in Darfur, now is no time to celebrate. It is time to champion the rights of the Declaration not by words, but through our actions. We cannot stand idly by as the Sudanese government continues its systematic destruction of the people of Darfur. We are compelled by the conscience of the world to put an end to this humanitarian disaster and restore dignity and hope to the Darfuri. If we do not, we betray our commitment as the protector of human rights, and risk compromising the very nature of our own conscience. I join with you on this Weekend of Prayer for Darfur, and pray that our efforts will bring more attention to the worsening crises.

--Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi

Go GREEN This Christmas

As you consider gifts this Holiday, please remember to give a little GREEN to everyone on your gift list. Give the Save Darfur Wirstband.

Wearing your wristband and sharing them with friends will help others become aware of the crisis in Darfur and demonstrate your commitment to ending the suffering there. Wristbands serve as a visible declarations of our desire to bring an end to the violence and atrocities in Darfur.

Moreover, the bands further our awareness and education efforts by stimulating conversation on the crisis.The green wristbands read "Not On My Watch - Save Darfur" and are available in both youth and adult sizes.

The "Not on My Watch" Darfur Wristbands are just $15.00 for a package of 10 bands. Please buy several to give to your friends and relatives. They can be ordered on the




Congratulations, Mary Cheney

A tip of the Wizard's pointy cap to Mary over at Freedom Eden for her really excellent commentary on Mary Cheney's recently announced pregnancy.

Let me join the very, very few who seem to be congratulating Mary and her life partner Heather Poe on the upcoming birth of their child. It is a most joyous occasion.




Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Universal Rights?

I'd like you to ponder once again the question of which basic human rights (if any) are universal and should be the rights of every human being on earth.

It's a tricky question, especially since the U.S. led coalition invaded and now occupies Iraq.

One of my closest "liberal" friends who once strongly supported efforts to extend women's rights to oppressed countries like Iran, now is afraid to champion such causes. She is rightfully concerned that President Bush (or some future president) will take such public sentiment as a license to invade another country and engage in nation building.

Still, I ask you to consider if certain rights must be given to all people regardless of where they live. Regardless of country. Regardless of the religion practiced by the majority of the populace.

On the right of the main Wizard page I've paraphrased and republish a comment found on many web pages of those involved in the effort to secure protection and rights for the people of Darfur:

It's so simple really.....

Every human being on this earth deserves to wake up every day and know they have a roof over their head, enough food to sustain them, and no fear of displacement, torture, rape or death.

We need to aid the people of Sudan people in gaining principal ship of their own lives. We must advocate for these people until they can advocate for themselves.

We must do it swiftly or they will not get a chance.

Almost everyone agrees with this. Yet we have done a pitiful job in helping or protecting the people of Sudan. The cruelty continues unabated.

So, it does beg the second question. What should we do to insure these basic rights? At what point do we say that we must intervene?

What caused this line of thought this morning was the news of the latest restriction of rights in Iran. The government is preventing its citizens from accessing or viewing the popular video sharing site

Of course there are probably some reading here today who might say this is a blessing for the people of Iran.

From the
Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has blocked access to the popular video-sharing Web site, and a media rights group warned Tuesday that Internet censorship in the Islamic state is on the rise.

Internet users who tried to call up the YouTube site Tuesday were met with the message, "On the basis of the Islamic Republic of Iran laws, access to this Web site is not authorized" which appears on numerous opposition and pornographic Web sites the government blocks.

It was not known how long the site had been on Iran's Web blacklist. The Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said YouTube had been blocked for the past five days.

Iran's Shiite cleric-run government regularly blocks opposition Web sites, including blogs, and the number of sites that bring up the "unauthorized" message has been increasing over the past year. Western news sites, however, are generally available.

Videos from the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and other Iranian opposition groups have been posted on, along with videos posted by individual Iranians critical of the regime. The site also has Iranian pop music videos, which are frowned upon by the religious leadership.

In its statement Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders warned that "censorship is now the rule rather than the exception" in Iran.

Certainly invasion of Iran because of YouTube censorship would be a dramatic over reaction.

But do the people of Iran have the right to freedom of Information?

Are there Universal Human Rights?

If so, are there Universal Human Obligations to provide those rights?




Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Do They Know It's Christmas?

Don Babwin over at the Associated Press reports from Chicago:

A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.

"The last time I checked, the first six letters of Christmas still spell out Christ," said Paul Braoudakis, spokesman for the Barrington, Ill.-based Willow Creek Association, a group of more than 11,000 churches of various denominations.
"It's tantamount to celebrating Lincoln's birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln."

The city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another, said Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would ... be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts," Jim Law, executive director of the office, said in a statement.

It seems to me that there is something about Christmas which brings out the absolute worst in "politically correct" officials around the country. Can you imagine any mayor or government representative suggesting we purposely block mention of Islam and the meaning of fasting during the month of Ramadan?

Or how about a city official demanding that we prohibit discussing that Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year?

How about prohibiting all mention of Mexico and the heritage of Hispanic American's during Cinco de Mayo. After all, if we even mention the story Mexican Independence, it might somehow offend anglos who are just there to "enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts."

The city of Chicago has certainly offended me.




Sunday, November 26, 2006

Darwin the Terrorist

Talk about intelligent design! The plot of this story isn't just intelligent, it's simply brilliant. It's clean, logical and easily understood.

The authors have created a villain so evil, so cunning, so underhanded that everyone understands the need for his defeat. Good must triumph over evil!

And the heroes are common, ordinary, good folks. They are your friends and they are your neighbors. And they are fighting to save all mankind. Plus, God is on their side. They cannot, they must not, lose.

Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

Well, maybe not. In this story, the villain is not the creation of Hollywood, but the creation of the military leaders in ISTANBUL! Yep, Istanbul, Turkey.

The villain? None other than Charles Darwin!

When the right wing military coup took place in Turkey in 1980, the new leadership needed to redirect the left leaning population's attention away from the lure of communism. They needed an enemy for the average citizen to blame for their woes. And they found one right in the bookstores. He looked a lot like Karl Marx. He could almost be Marx's twin.

On the bookstore shelves was
Darwin's Origin of Species.

On the surface it was tough for the military junta to blame Marx for anything. Ahhh, but Darwin. That was another matter. Darwin's teaching were a direct affront to the teachings of the Qur'an (Koran).

The early verses of the Qur'an are nearly identical to the Bible. Allah created the world in just six days. God created Adam from the dust of the earth. The teachings of the Qur'an must not be denied or insulted. And Darwin looked like Marx. It was a plot made in Heaven. Literally.

"It looked like Marx and Darwin were together, two long-bearded guys spreading ideas that make people lose their faith," said Istanbul journalist Mustafa Akyol.

But like a lot of well laid plans, this plot took on a life of it's own.

All the military leaders did was to insert a paragraph on creationism as an alternative to evolution was added to high school science textbooks. Oh, and they had a conservative Christian book "Scientific Creationism" translated into Turkish.

But you cannot unring a bell. The plot worked too well. The Muslims were quick to condemn Darwin. And fundamentalist Christians, seeing a new ally in their war on Evolution, quickly streamed to Turkey to assist in the fight against their old (well, long dead) enemy.

By the early 1990s, leading U.S. creationists traveled to Turkey to speak at several anti-evolution conferences in Turkey.

But things were bound to get ugly. And they have. A home-grown strain of anti-Darwinist books has developed with a clearly political message.

"Atlas of Creation" offers over 500 pages of splendid images comparing fossils with present-day animals to argue that Allah created all life as it is and evolution never took place.

Then comes a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the "survival of the fittest," has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism.

"The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism," it says.

Today we have Islamic creationism, a movement with deep financial pockets with its roots in the Muslim population of Turkey.

Creationism is so widely accepted in Turkey that, in a recent 34 country survey concerning the acceptance of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Turkey placed dead last! Of course, the United States was next to last.

"Darwinism is dead," said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement.

Sadly, Celal Sengor, a geology professor at Istanbul Technical University has said it all. "Science is hardly an issue in Turkey."

Creation Versus Darwin

AN ASIDE FROM THE WIZARD: Isn't it curious that the hit NBC television series HEROES, referred to above by their now very famous advertising tag line "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World," has, as its plot line, the next steps in man's EVOLUTION. My guess is that this series won't make it on Turkey's television stations.




Islam, Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives

Appearing right above this essay later today (if time permits) or tomorrow will be a rather classic liberal look at one aspect of Islam, both Islamic religious teachings and the effect those teachings have on certain aspects of middle eastern societies.

That soon to be written essay will be critical and will apply the same perspectives I have already applied to nearly identical Christian teachings frequently here in this blog over the last ten years.

Of course, if you are reading these words on Monday, you've already read the essay, since it appears directly above this one. So reading down here is a lot like time travel. You've traveled back in time, before the above essay was ever written. But I digress.

As a long time, traditional liberal who fought for human rights in Afghanistan long before anyone outside of Texas heard or cared about George W. Bush, I find the silence of the left on issues of Islamic teachings and practices very disturbing.

The Huffington Post rails mightily every day about women's rights, racism, the rights of hispanic immigrants, gay marriage, the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transexuals, daily outbreaks of Christian hypocrisy, prayer in school, global warming and evolution versus creationism. But you'll virtually never find a single blog about the failings of Islam or the Islamic world on these very same topics.

To be certain it's easier and more fun to attack Kansas than Teheran, However, the left wing hypocrisy is glaring and, to my mind, maddening.

Years ago I fought against the evils of the Taliban along side these same Hollywood liberals as we pleaded for the UN to intercede on behalf of women in Afghanistan. Now the silence from the left is deafening.

Meanwhile the right is on a unified campaign to point out nearly every Islamic evil. If a day goes by without a good enough (errr.... bad enough) example, the right dreams one up or relives some past evils.

Right wing bloggers like
Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs are on a crusade against Islam.... and, absolutely, the pun was intended.

What's really interesting is that the right is generally using the exact same arguments traditionally used by the old school left: women's rights, racism, the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transexuals, daily outbreaks of Islamic hypocrisy, prayer in school, global warming and evolution versus creationism.

Read Michelle Malkin today and you could be reading Susan Sarandon ten years ago. Now that is a disturbing thought.

Why is this happening? I have three observations.

First, the left today has two rather diverse movements, liberals on one hand and so-called progressives on the other. Progressives are not liberals. In fact many hold very traditional conservative goals. They tend to be isolationist, against free trade, and against open borders. This crowd includes many who fight against big corporations, fear international institutions and want a stronger, bigger U.S. government with socialist overtones.

Talk about a big tent. This crowd includes everyone from
Keith Olbermann to Pat Buchanan to Alex Jones.

Progressives unite in one critical area: they hate George Bush and they hate the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They want the troops home now and they want Bush humiliated and controlled, if not impeached and imprisoned. Nothing can be accomplished until Bush is removed from effective power. No time to criticize Islam until the greatest evil in history is removed from the world stage.

Once Bush is gone (and their campaign can only last two more years, at most), this coalition can turn to other issues. A few might become objectively critical of Islam. Others will not. Many will continue to strictly confine their observations to things within the sphere of US influence. They will never be critical of anything but the United States, it's policies and practices.

Second, we liberals do often suffer from terminal, if highly selective, political correctness. We are rightfully sensitive to the feelings of millions of Muslims worldwide, and especially those living in the West. We want to draw a line between valid criticism and an attack on an entire religion.

With the right labeling Islam the "religion of perpetual intolerance," or "the religion of perpetual outrage," we liberals are careful to actually protect the religion and people being so unfairly attacked. We delay or curb our criticism of Islam for fear of being accused of "piling on."

Worse yet, if we attack any aspect of Muslim life, we might get lumped into a basket with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

We can safely attack the foilbles of Christianity because Hannity, Coulter and Limbaugh will defend the Christians. We are prevented from similar criticism of Islam because it puts us on the wrong side of the "liberal versus conservative" dichotomy.

I know that is stupid, but you know I'm right.

Finally (third), I'm embarrassed to tell you the left is withholding criticism of Islam out of fear. How many liberal free speech advocates openly defended the Danish cartoonists? How many reprinted the cartoons? Damn few. Once again, liberals had to look toward leaders like Michelle Malkin to carry the water for them. Sarcasm fully intended.

Around the world written criticism or even minor insults to Islam lead directly to beatings, torture, imprisonment and death. And it is scary. Here is a
short capsule of recent brutality (courtesy once again of the great liberal leader, Michelle Malkin).

Conservatives are fearless and stupid. Just ask George "Bring it on" Bush. Malkin, Coulter and others are actually baiting Muslims. "Go ahead, make my day!"

Liberals need a little more courage. And so I begin the essay that will appear above this one later today or tomorrow.




Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Free Speech? Only if it's not controversial

******* UPDATE BELOW *******

Adam Brodsky writes in the New York Post:


November 19, 2006 --
MUSLIMS are often accused of not speaking out sufficiently against terrorism. Nonie Darwish knows one reason why: Their fellow Muslims won't let them.

Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.

But the event was just called off.

Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community.

Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.

In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

"Speaking out for human rights, women's rights, equality or even peace with Israel is a taboo that can have serious consequences" in the Arab world, Darwish says.

Isn't it a wonderful thing that our finest centers of liberal education no longer allow controversy! It's so annoying. And it almost always interferes with indoctrination.

UPDATE (11/22/2006): Talk Show Host Michael Graham has announced that Brown University itself has re-invited Nonie Darwish to speak on campus. I don't have a date or time as yet.

Graham believes this is a victory for talk shows and the blogosphere. I hardly think so. First of all, Graham himself tried unsuccessfully to get former Iraninan leader Mohammed Khatemi banned from speaking at Harvard. He is no friend of free speech, but simply hides his personal bias and prejudices behind his radio host "aura" of free speech.

No, I believe it is simply Brown University doing it's job and realizing a great wrong had been done here. When it comes to protecting free speech, I trust Brown Universtiy a whole lot more than I trust Michael Graham.

See also:

  • There Can Be No Compromise. Period.
  • It's 1, 2, 3, What Are We Fighting For?