Friday, November 30, 2007

A Teddy Bear Named Muhammad

A British school teacher in the Sudan allowed her class, of mostly Muslim students, to name a stuffed Teddy Bear they were using as part of their school lessons. The students choose the name “Muhammad,” according to one report after a popular boy in the class.

Incredibly, police showed up at the school shortly afterward to arrest the teacher on blasphemy charges for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, charges which carried with them a potential six month prison term and 40 lashes. Severe diplomatic pressure from Britain and others led the religious court to reduce the charges to insulting religion and it sentenced the teacher to 15 days in prison.

This wasn’t good enough for the faithful however who turned out in force demanding the woman’s execution.

Yes, you heard me right, they wanted to execute this lady for allowing her class to name a Teddy Bear Muhammad.

You will excuse me, but who’s insulting the Prophet more, children who want to include him in their education or the whackos asking for the execution of a teacher that allowed them to do so? Here's another example of why religion, any religion, cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed any legal authority.

In the past I’ve made comments to the effect that we’re going to have to share this world with Islam so we might as well figure out how to co-exist peacefully. After this, I’m not sure it’s possible. Maybe the only answer is to kill them all and let Sky Daddy sort them out.

Anyone want to take any bets on how long it will be before someone offers a Teddy Bear on the Internet wearing a “Muhammad” T-shirt? I might buy one of those.

Explain to me again why I'm supposed to "respect" religion? Is it supposed to be out of fear? You will excuse me again but I don't do fear.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Rape in Saudi Arabia

A woman in Saudi Arabia was kidnapped and gang raped by seven men. The men were convicted and sentenced to prison. Unfortunately, at the time the woman was kidnapped she was in a car with a male friend who was not a relative.

That, according to the medieval thinking prevalent in Theocracies, violates Islamic Law and therefore the woman was also convicted and sentenced to six months in jail and 90 lashes. She appealed the verdict and the Saudi General Court increased the sentence to 200 lashes!

That’s a lot of lashes. That could be an effective death sentence depending upon how the lashes are applied and with what.

And these are the “Good Muslims,” the so-called “Moderate Muslims.” Tell me again how Islam is a religion of peace?

There was an international hue and cry over the verdict but the Saudi court defended it by simply saying that the charges were “proven.” That’s not the point you morons! The point is you might want to consider crawling a little closer to the 21st Century!

The reaction from our State Department was, given the attitude of the Bush Administration toward religion and women and the financial ties of the Bush family with Saudi Arabia, muted beyond all acceptability.

Clearly trying so hard to be “respectful” of the Saudi’s religion, the closest the State Department came to criticizing the verdict was a statement by one spokesman that the verdict "causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment."

DUH, ya think? Well, I don’t have to be respectful. This is beyond barbaric. Do you really need any additional evidence that Islam is the religion of barbarism and intolerance? Do you really need any additional indication of the horrors that can occur when religion is given any kind of power whatsoever?

Religion needs to be relegated to the margins of society and not only in this country, but everyplace. If we don’t manage to make this happen, the future is going to be a very unpleasant place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blacklisted by History?

That’s the claim made about Senator Joe McCarthy in a book by M. Stanton Evans. Ann Coulter, who has also defended McCarthy, is all giddy about the book since it provides the "pretense of scholarly throat-clearing and objectivity" that the Los Angeles Times pointed out was missing in her defense of McCarthy.

Coulter is missing the point of the L.A. Times critique. Even if your unjustified assertions and accusations happen to be right, that doesn’t justify the unjustified assertions and accusations. Evans, by producing a scholarly work, doesn’t justify your washer woman approach to history.

As for Evans’ book, it’s hard to say because I haven’t read the book although I am tempted to do so. My hesitation is based upon the book descriptions I’ve read which lead me to suspect that the book primarily says (1) the Communist threat in the late 1940s and early 1950s was really something to be concerned about and (2) McCarthy has been unjustly accused of a lot of things.

Neither of these two positions particularly surprises me. As a matter of fact, I probably could have you told you that would be the case.

Anyone familiar with the history of the period could see that Soviet Communism was a real threat especially with a Western Europe still prostrate after WW II.

Anyone familiar with human nature knows that once a villain, justly or unjustly, becomes identified, he gets the blame for all kinds of things. I’m surprised McCarthy wasn’t accused of killing Cock Robin as well all the other stuff flung in his direction.

Neither of these two things are the issue. The issue is whether McCarthy, in trying to offset the Communist threat, didn’t become by virtue of the methods he used, a bigger threat to American liberties than the Communists he was so worried about.

Does this sound familiar? Hasn’t the Bush administration been a greater threat to American liberties than all the Islamo-Fascists ever spawned?

If there is a fundamental difference between Liberals and Conservatives, it may well be that Liberals are willing to trade security for liberty while Conservatives are willing to trade liberty for security.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Saying No to Baby Jesus

The Detroit suburb of Berkley has for decades, acording to Michigan papers, displayed a crèche outside of city hall during the Christmas season. Last year, after the ACLU pointed out that the nativity only display probably violated the law, the city council gave the display to the local clergy association which agreed to put up the display at city churches.

Sounds like a reasonable compromise right? Take it off public property but save the tradition by having the display rotate through the churches in the area.

At least it seemed reasonable to everyone but a group of local Christians. You know the kind I mean, the kind that thinks preventing Christians from forcing their religion on everyone else is a violation of their rights and persecution equivalent to being tossed to the lions.

These folks managed to get enough signatures to force a vote on a city charter amendment that would require the city to display, at a minimum, a Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus on city hall property.

More rational heads prevailed however and the measure was defeated 55-45.

And so, another round of the so-called Christmas wars has ended.

I guess I‘m a little confused as to why they didn’t simply expand the holiday display with a Menorah, Santa and his reindeer and a Frosty the Snowman. Adding the secular elements, assuming they were as prominent as the crèche, would have shifted the display into the legal realm. Perhaps it was an issue of cost or space or perhaps they didn't want to sully the local tradition. I can understand that. At my age, tradition is important.

In any event, I can’t imagine anyone dumb enough to try and REQUIRE the town to display a nativity scene. I mean, an amendment saying it was ok might have had a fighting chance.

At least there are some folks in Michigan that appear to understand what is meant by the separation of church and state. This is another indication that Christopher Hitchens’ hypothesis that there are a lot more “nominal Christians” than “real Christians” in this country might have something to it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

To Die in Jerusalem

I watched the HBO Documentary “To Die in Jerusalem” over the weekend. The special is about the efforts of the mother of a seventeen year old Israeli girl, killed in a suicide attack, to arrange a meeting with the mother of the seventeen year old Palestinian girl that carried out the attack.

The attack was a cover story on Newsweek and got coverage on 60 Minutes II when it occurred in 2003. The HBO Documentary follows the attempts of the Israeli girl’s mother to set up a “mother to mother” dialogue.

They finally met, not face to face but via a satellite TV hookup. I wish I could say that the meeting was a success, and that at least the two mothers managed some degree of closure and solidarity, but that wasn’t the case.

The divide there is so deep that even two mothers, both of which had lost teenage daughters, couldn’t find any common ground.

This was a very depressing experience. The two girls were the same age as my youngest daughter. They should have been mall hopping with their friends and giggling about boys, clothes and music, not dying in a Jerusalem supermarket.

If you look at their pictures side by side, they could have been cousins. It sounded as if they had similar personalities and perhaps even similar interests. If they had met under peaceful circumstances they might even have been friends. Perhaps working together they could have helped heal the wounds. Instead they both lie cold and still in the damp earth, their laughter silenced forever, and whatever they may have accomplished lost to the world.

I can see no road leading to a solution in Palestine. In Iraq there is a road, it may be a bloody one, but it’s still a road. In Iraq the U.S. pulls out and the Iraqis fight their civil war. Hopefully it will be short and localized. Once it’s over, the Iraqis can rebuild and, eventually, move on.

In Palestine, I have no idea what you do. How do you solve the problem of two people trying to occupy the same space?

I’m not even sure you could solve the problem by carving out a Palestinian state. I suspect there would be so much disagreement over which parcels of land went to who that it would never be accomplished.

Then there’s the whole religion thing.

I don’t think religion is the root cause, land is the root cause and the Palestinians claim that they are the victims of an occupation by a foreign power. They don’t view the suicide attacks as terrorism, they view it as resistance. Allow me to suggest that the Palestinians consider the idea that men should be fighting their battles against other men and not children against children, and they also consider directing their “resistance” at the Israeli military and political structure rather than at a 17 year old running an errand at the supermarket.

When you attack an Israeli Humvee and armed soldiers, you can call it “resistance” and “courageous;” when you attack a supermarket and an unarmed teenage girl, I call it “terrorism” and “cowardly.” When you use a teenage girl to perform the supermarket attack, I call it “contemptible.”

If Allah exists, how do you think he would view a contemptible and cowardly act of terrorism against a child? I know that Saladin would weep for both girls.

This is not to say that all the blame rests at the doorstep of the Palestinians, far from it. They are victims, victims of the world not getting off its collective butt and helping to work out a solution for this problem.

Just because I don’t see a solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There are lots of people in this world a lot smarter than I am. I blame the international community; I blame the United Nations; I blame the so-called superpowers for not having helped to solve this problem twenty years ago.

It all comes home to roost. If the world had solved the Palestinian problem, there would be no Al-Qaeda, the World Trade Center would still stand, there would be no war in Iraq and perhaps Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be more clearly focused on peaceful usages.

In other words, I suspect that when all is said and done, history will identify the troubles in Palestine as the great failure of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Hopefully that failure won’t lead to catastrophe, but after watching this show, I’m not all that optimistic.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

If you weren’t paying attention, you missed it. It was actually held between October 22 and October 26 at 114 College and University campuses. According to its sponsors it was “the largest, most successful campus demonstrations by students not associated with the anti-American left in the history of campus protest.”

Think about that statement for a second; two Young Republicans standing on the Quad and saying in unison “I hate Hillary” could qualify for that title as well. Given the gnashing of teeth there appears to be among conservative commentators, and the total silence about the event in the mainstream media, I suspect my mythical Young Republicans would have had a bigger impact.

So what was the point supposed to be? Well, apparently the objective was “to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.”

Uh-huh, and beyond that it was “a national effort to oppose these lies and to rally American students to defend their country.”

One has to wonder what these folks have in mind when they say they want “students to defend their country?”

Are they supposed to throw textbooks at the jihadists or what?

Let’s talk about the claims that George Bush created the war on terror or that Global Warming is a greater threat to Americans than terrorism.

George Bush didn’t create the war on terror nor does the political left, of which I am an upstanding member, say that. Oh, ok, some dummies may, but nobody is taking that seriously; this is a conservative straw man. What we are saying is that Bush doesn’t understand WHY we have a war on our hands, because he doesn’t understand why, he doesn’t understand how the war needs to be fought and because he doesn’t understand how the war needs to be fought, the war may take longer than necessary and lives will be lost that could have been saved.

His “they hate us because of our freedom” position is naïve to the point of being criminal. Clearly there is an element in the Islamic World that is going to hate our guts as long as we reject Fundamentalist Islam. The question is would this element have any real power if it weren’t for other factors?

Would a radical organization like HAMAS be in power if Palestinians weren’t faced with extreme poverty and a belief that they have been disenfranchised? I doubt it. While they may not hate us for “our freedom” they are understandably envious of our wealth and our lifestyle. A lifestyle that radical leaders tell them is built upon their poverty. People with a comfortable life style don’t usually strap bombs on and splatter themselves all over restaurant walls.

This is literally a war of cultures and lifestyles, our western affluence versus their eastern poverty. You don’t win this kind of war with bullets and bombs. You win it by giving the other guy hope that they can drag their lifestyle up to a tolerable level. We didn’t win the cold war with bullets or ballots; we won it with blue jeans and rock and roll.

That brings us to Global Warming. In the short term terrorism, and especially nuclear terrorism, is clearly the greater danger. However, read my lips, we are going to win the war on terror. The issue is not if, it’s when and at what cost. In the long term however, Global Warming has the potential of wrecking havoc on all of civilization. Granted, it’s a little hard to worry about quicksand when you’re fighting off alligators, but we can’t afford not to figure out how to do both. It’s quite possible there is a Red Line associated with Global Warming that once passed, will make it impossible to head off catastrophe.

The really bad news is we don’t have a clue where that line might be, so we’d better figure out how to win the war on terror and reverse, or at least halt, Global Warming at the same time. The last time I looked, dead is dead and it doesn’t make any difference how you got that way.

This brings me to Ann Coulter. It was reading her column that got me to talk about Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Clearly she’s a great supporter of the event and she is entitled to her opinion.

However, allow me to quote from her column on this topic.

“College liberals are in a fit of pique because various speakers are coming to their campuses this week as part of David Horowitz's Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week… Apparently liberals support Islamo-fascism.”

Is that why people are upset? Or are they upset because Horowitz is tending to group into this Islamo-Fascist bucket all Muslims. Hey, I’m suspicious of Islam too, just like I’m suspicious of Christianity. I’d like one big happy secular alliance but I’m smart enough to realize that’s probably not going to happen any time soon. Since practically speaking I’m going to have to share this planet with Islam, I think we’d better figure out how to get along.

“Liberals believe in burning the American flag, urinating on crucifixes, and passing out birth control pills to 11-year-olds without telling their parents.”

I used to really hate Ann Coulter, but statements like this have gotten her a warm spot in my heart. I think it was Isaac Asimov that said the Bible was the best evidence against theism he ever saw. Well, Coulter is the best evidence against right wing conservatives I’ve ever seen. I simply do not believe that any individual with an ounce of decency would want to belong to any club which would have her as a member.

“College campuses across the nation are installing foot baths to accommodate Muslims' daily bathing ritual, while surgically removing the Ten Commandments from every public space in America. Maybe the Ten Commandments could be printed on towels and kept next to the foot baths.”

I see, so it’s college campuses that are removing the Ten Commandments from public space and not the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court, a direction driven by the desire to adhere to the intent of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. People who claim to be patriots but have disdain for the rule of law upon which this country is founded have always baffled me.

As for college campuses accommodating Muslim religious practices, isn’t that proper in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country? Of yeah, that’s right, I forgot, Coulter thinks everyone should be converted to Christianity at the point of a gun. Luckily for the rest of us, that pesky 1st Amendment gets in the way again.

If you want my definition of un-American, its people that want to discard principles, such as freedom of religion and religious tolerance, which Americans have been dying to protect for over 200 years.

It’s beyond me what the two 1st Amendment issues have to do with using the Ten Commandments as foot wipes.

“Liberals claim to be terrified that the Religious Right is going to take over the culture in a country where more than a million babies are exterminated every year, kindergarteners can be expelled from school for mentioning God, and Islamic fascists are welcomed on college campuses while speakers opposed to Islamic fascism are met with angry protests.”

I will give her credit for one thing, she can create more straw men is a paragraph than most people can in a year of columns. I will concede that Abortion Access is a complex issue which, I at least, am not going to attempt to address in a single phrase. To do so would be to trivialize the very babies she claims to be concerned about.

As for kindergarteners being expelled for mentioning God, dear old Ann is letting her imagination run away again and once again provides evidence that right wing conservatives have a club that no decent person would want to be a member of.

As for the so-called angry protests, that was simply people that disagreed with the position espoused by Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, and especially disagreed with the notion that all Muslims should be lumped into a single bucket because the whole concept of Islam is rotten to the core, exercising their 1st Amendment right to tell you that they think you have your head up your ass. What’s wrong with that?

I’ll defend your right to have and to express your opinion, but that doesn’t mean I give up my right to tell you that I think your opinion sucks.

I assume when she talks about the welcoming of Islamic fascists to college campuses, she is referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk at Columbia. Now here’s a funny thing, I hold Americans to a higher standard than those who aren’t weaned on the Constitution and the rule of secular law. We’re all the creations of our environment. How do you understand someone from a different environment if you don’t start a dialogue?

On the other hand, why shouldn’t I hold in total contempt so-called Americans who are betraying the very principles this country is based upon and who are comfortable engaging in absurdly exaggerated rhetoric? How do I know right wing conservatives do this? I know because I have Ann Coulter as an example.