Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Question Mr. President

If you saw the president's press conference this morning -- or any portion of it -- you may have been as frustrated as I am.

Even with 2-3 Americans dying in Iraq each day, our press refuses to ask tough, relevant -- and obvious -- questions about this conflict and the rationality of our stated goals.

Given the president's rhetoric, here's the most obvious question:
Mr. President. You say that we need to continue to essentially "stay the course" in Iraq to ensure the Iraqi government can quell or otherwise effectively deal with the insurgency and otherwise keep the government  functioning. You say training, equipping and deploying Iraqi security forces is key to this effort. However, from 2003 until now the Iraqi Army and security services have gone from essentially zero percent readiness to approx 75% ... but during this same time span violence - both sectarian and violence directed at coalition forces -- has only increased. Why is it reasonable to expect that violence will somehow decrease once the final 25% of Iraqi security forces are trained?
The "no spin answer" is -- of course -- that a reasonable person would NOT expect violence to decrease with a modest increase in the number of Iraqi security personnel (esp. since those personell consist of the same sectarians that are committing the violence). The simply fact is that sectarian violence is increasing despite the increasing numbers of trained Iraqis. Of course, it doesn't take a college education to know why: Sunni and Shia have been engaged in a ideological struggle for 100's of years ... and simply putting on a police uniform isn't going to change deeply held religious convictions -- especially when more and more Iraqis know of a close friend or family member who has been killed in the struggle.

The only logical course of action is to give the Iraqi government a deadline: "you WILL take-over all security operations in your country as of next year."

When will someone with a voice say what is obvious: too many Americans have already died for Iraq... and they have died to ensure the existence of a pseudo-theocracy that will undoubtedly have close ties to Iran.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Politics trumping Religion

Most have heard or read about the revelations contained in David Kuo's book: how conservatives in the administration used the religious right to win elections, but essentially only paid lip service to their agenda.

I agree only in the sense echoed in the following excerpt. People like our fearless leader believe... apparently, they simply believe in power more than god.

I am just back from a two-day visit to Regent University, founded by the evangelist Pat Robertson, a key figure in the religious right. "What you need to understand," a Robertson supporter told me, "is that Pat opposed the war in Iraq from the start." I responded that according to the Lancet, some 600,000 [unlikely its that high, but still...] Iraqis have died since the war began. If Robertson had publicly opposed the war, I told them, his influential voice might have spared those lives. "But," one of them answered back, "Pat is a Republican who would not openly oppose the president."

And there, I submit, is why the religious right is in trouble. Since the emergence of a politically active version of conservative Protestantism in the 1980s, it has never been clear whether America's shift to the right took place because deeply religious people became political or because deeply conservative people became religious. I learned at Regent what I have long suspected: For some of the most visible leaders in the religious right, politics trumps religion every time.

Politics trumps religion -- every time.

That's what I see -- and it should make even secular people, like myself, convulse. (Aside from the fact that pseudo-universities like Pat Robertson's are cranking out these driveling idiots and turning them loose on society.)

Politicians have been kissing babies since the profession began, but the bunch that will come to you spouting the dogma of your faith -- and then allow such worldly considerations as getting elected to get in the way of those ideals -- has to be the lowest form of political animal. I guess the ends do justify the means.

The problem is, it worked... The latest revelations not withstanding, religious people STILL want to hear their leaders spew illogic and unsubstantiated drivel as a demonstration that they are worthy of office. Our leaders oblige: listen to the stump speeches of democrats and republicans alike -- many are laden with references to god or faith. Someone has yet to explain to me how belief in 'god' will solve a single government-related issue. If such beliefs inspire a plan of action, just tell me the plan and spare me the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

The country will remain on its insane trajectory until people realize that religious belief isn't a qualification to hold public office: its an impediment to sound decision making.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The path to energy independence

If we had leadership, the US could -- at least -- be on the path to reducing our dependency on oil from the Middle East.

Remember? Seventeen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia: the country that provides a huge portion of our oil imports and is a literal breeding ground for Wahhabi extremism.

Amount of U.S. oil used to run vehicles: 7.3 mbd or 43 percent. (Doubling our vehicle efficiency would therefore reduce our oil consumption by 3.6 mbd -- and we import only 2 mbd from the entire Middle East.)

Average miles per gallon of all U.S. cars in 1973: 13. Average mpg of all U.S. cars in 1985: 20. Average mpg of the most efficient cars currently on the market: over 40. Average mpg of the Toyota prototype AXV: 98.

Obvious solutions to our problems are out there -- but our government (both Repubs and Dems) don't want to rock the boat and put us on a course to energy independence... This is criminal. They'd rather see us dealing with Middle Eastern governments to buy oil for Hummer's than mandate strict fuel economy standards...

Vote them ALL out of office this Nov.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How your money is being spent

Approx 50% of the federal government's discretionary spending is spent on military projects. Millions in contracts area let each day.

Take a look:

If we're really the beacon of liberty in the world, why do we have to spend soooo much on defense. I realize "freedom isn't free" -- but if we didn't piss off 75% of the world's population, we might save a little dough.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A little Christian forgiveness

It would seem that the Amish could teach America's "main-line" Christians a lesson or two about Christianity (as in followers of Jesus Christ):

GEORGETOWN, Pennsylvania: Dozens of Amish neighbors came out to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a maniacal rampage.

About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish.

"It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed," Mr. Porter said.

Apparently, the Amish have even started a collection for the widow (and children) of the killer...

Sounds like there are some Christians that have taken the teachings of Jesus to heart: the idea that it is not our place to judge, but to forgive.

I may not agree with , but the soap-box-Christians that are running our country could learn something from these folks.


Friday, October 06, 2006

An unreasoned world

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers - New York Times: "At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be "“Bible-believing Christians"” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation."
I can honestly think of no better "future for faith" than the above... Unless you consider the possibility of zero percent of our society growing up to be "bible-believe'n Christians".

Faith entails believing things about reality (e.g. - the origin of the earth and mankind, what happens to you after you die and -- more importantly -- what you need to do with your life to be "worthy" of god and his rewards) and the vast majority of these beliefs are simply rubbish.

Moreover, such beliefs are harmful to civil society. To understand this we have to look no further than Islam -- which pollutes the minds of its adherents with an otherwise unimaginable amount of non-sense. We see the results of this irrationality each day in the newspaper.

Christianity is almost as ridiculous as it fosters an outright contempt for science and honest inquiry. Question the beliefs of a christian to see what I mean: ask him how he really knows that Jesus was "raised from the dead"... Ask how this "belief" squares with anything else the person knows about the universe we live in.... and how the written account of such and event can be used as conclusive proof of it's 'truth'.

Anytime a group that bases it world-view on something other than reasoned, demostrable conclusions is a group that is ready to be corrupted. E.g.- if you can believe that Adam and Eve inhabited the garden of Eden some 6000 years ago simply because some middle eastern tribesmen wrote it down -- and said "god told them to" you are part of a group that is regressing intellectually.

The world needs more "reasonableness" -- not less.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Marriage, Religion and AZ

Most of you know that I am not a christian -- or religious for that matter.

Well, AZ is joining the rest of the nation in taking up that critical issue of our time: two boys kissing. Forget terrorism and the debate about our civil rights in an era of proliferate WMD... each state better ensure that we don't "sanction" gay relationships or we'll be heralding the end days.

The Treasurer of the AZ Green party got it right in his response to the proposed constitutional amendment (here in AZ) defining marriage. His argument appeals to the religious amongst us -- but it is worth quoting:

We want to protect religious freedom. Either marriage is a sacred act, defined by people's religious beliefs, or it is only a government-created legal contract, and not sacred. Which do you believe?
Churches, temples and mosques have married people for thousands of years. They've done just fine, and will continue to do fine, without government defining marriage for them. Isn't it up to each faith to decide who, among them, marries, and whose marriage to bless? We've no more business voting, on who can be married, than we do in voting about who can be baptized.
And, if you don't like how your church defines either, then go to another church, or no church at all. That's religious freedom!
Legal rights, not religion, are the voters' business. When two people ask government to protect their promises to each other, it's a contract. Government should welcome such commitments, because it provides for stability and predictability. Government should be happy when people commit to take responsibility for each other, because it means fewer people needing state help. Government should welcome families forming, all kinds of families. Families are good. When we stop butting into religious concepts, like marriage, we can see that.

"And, if you don't like how your church defines either, then go to another church, or no church at all." -- isn't that the core of religious freedom?

Why the theocrats who try to define every aspect of our life cannot see this obvious truth scares me.