Monday, March 27, 2006

You Can't "Humiliate God"

The latest bit of fundamentalist idiocy comes from the enlightened state of Afghanistan, where a fellow is in jeopardy of his life for converting from Islam to Christianity. A number of clerics have called for his beheading or "tearing apart" because the conversion "humiliates God." How could a person of God possibly come to this conclusion?

Is God so powerless that man must come to God's aid? Does the creator of the universe, the One God (Allah) require the help of finite, imperfect humans? Can a person take any action that in any way makes God feel "humiliated". Not.

Any person with even a faint glimmer of intelligence understands that God is more than capable of taking care of God, and sees that God permits and tolerates all sorts of slights by us mere mortals. The Christian scriptures say "God lets the sun shine on both the good and the bad." God seems to be pretty much a "hands-off" creator in this world, reserving judgment for a time when our work is done and we move on to another realm. But God demonstrates power in any number of natural ways, showing us clearly who is in charge.

Has God delegated to us the duty to take revenge on any person who apparently has slighted the omnipotent? Who then are we, to take God's judgment upon ourselves? Do we honor God by assuming God's prerogative? Are we worthy to do this? Or do we take a great risk if we elevate ourselves to exercise God's justice?

Fundamentalists of all religions often seem to get turned around on this point. They get so deep into their version of "religion" that they start believing that they have God's power of attorney. Some would say that this is the greatest of the devil's temptations - to convince a person that he or she can make decisions and take actions on God's part. I think, however, that man's inherent need to be powerful often can be easily satisfied by convincing the ignorant that the power is taken in God's name. "I'm just the instrument!", they cry as the axe falls or the bomb explodes.

The world needs to come down hard on these Afghani religious terrorists. God cannot be humiliated, God does not need their help to manage the universe, and they profane God by professing to kill in God's name.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Uneducated Muslims Pose Major Threat to West

They belong to a religion - Islam. There are over one billion adherents of Islam, and these Muslims outnumber Christians. They dominate from North Africa through the Middle East to south central Asia and east Asia - a vast and heavily populated geography. They live largely under authoritarian political regimes and under the supervision of clerics who have had little extra-theological education or life experience. Their allegiances have been shaped by a long history of tribal and religious sectarian conflict, and they are relate more to sectarian boundaries than to national boundaries.

Many of us know and respect Muslims who live in the West or have exposure to western culture. They are educated and peace-loving, generally speaking. They live side by side with those of other faiths, and they have dialogue where they find many areas of agreement even in areas of faith. Yet these people seem to be a small minority of the one billion Muslims. The remainder, who are influenced primarily by fundamentalist, controlling clerics, represent a major problem for the western world.

The West is responsible exacerbating the hard line beliefs of uneducated Muslims. For hundreds of years western colonial governments and western nations' foreign policies supported authoritarian governments in countries that were largely Muslim. The resulting repression enabled the clerics to become the primary hope, and voice, for the people. When life was hard, a hard religion became the only refuge for the suffering population. The clerics taught a "black and white" version of Islam that mirrored the "black and white" version of Christianity found in western fundamentalist churches. We are now facing a huge population of people who have been fully indoctrinated in hate for western customs, and for western governments who they feel continue to keep them in a state of poverty. Our support for the Shah of Iran is an excellent example of how western-supported repression resulted in the creation of an Islamic theocracy that hates us.

The violence we see in suicide bombings, beheadings, and torture emanates from the harsh history of these poor Muslim regions. Because they lack political, economic, or military power, the most angry of these people resort to terror power that is often approved by the clerics as a legitimate means to obtain their desired political and religous ends. This willingness to use terror, and the trend toward harsh Islamic law in areas where democratic elections are held, is tending to enlarge the gulf that currently separates the western countries from the Islamic nations. Reconciliation will not be easily achieved, but it is the only long term answer to developing a more peaceful world.

A two-part strategy may point the way to reconciliation. First, the West must support democracy in countries dominated by Muslims, and provide visible support to these governments in areas where their programs are positive. At the same time, the West must insist on freedom of the press, religious freedom, and non-religious laws and judges in these countries. Pressure must be put on the fundamentalists when their teachings cross the line, and religiously-dominated governments must be held to account when their actions infringe on basic human rights.

In the meantime, western countries must remain extremely vigilant to ward off the terrorist threat posed by the most anti-western of the Islamists. Their hatred has built up over many years, and it will take many years to overcome. Keeping these people away from us is the only way to minimize the damage they are intent upon doing inside our borders. Whether the Republicans or the Democrats are in power in the U.S., both need to be fully aware of the risks posed by these implacable Muslim enemies, and act accordingly.

Bush: Right on Immigrants, Wrong Everywhere Else

I've got to give our hapless president a pat on the back for his consistent support of a guest worker plan coupled with increased border security. The Mexican cats, over 11 million of them, are completely out of the bag and indispensible to our economy. Criminalizing them, and those who support them, is a silliness that makes sense only to Bill Frist and the other right wing wackos in congress. Thank you, President Bush, for being right. I just wish you had enough clout and credibility to lead your lawmaking Republican friends down the right path...but I'm not optimistic about that.

Now the bad news. G.W. Bush has made an historic miscalculation in Iraq, blown the budget, not fixed Medicare, Social Security, or the Tax Code, has stonewalled on global warming, has failed to address our fatal addiction to oil, and has favored blind religion over science. No telling what he's capable of during the next three years, but he sure could use some help.

Time for a wholesale turnover of GWB's cabinet and time to get on the right side of all the big issues! Screw the political hacks of the ultra-right! They're as much to blame as GWB for much of the mess we're in. There are plenty of bright Republicans out there who would join up if asked, and a Democrat congress will probably work with him and some smart people to fix the big problems. You got to have hope during a dark and stormy night!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

This Is Why We Hunt

Welcome to Pittsford, a suburb just south of Rochester, New York. I live on a little less than an acre, in an area with many pockets of woods interspersed between the single family homes and subdivisions. Deer are everywhere, and after an easy winter they are very healthy. This doe is an old friend who had two fawns last spring in the small patch of woods behind our back yard. We've seen them often during the past ten months, and when they visited us this morning I took this picture after walking to about 35 feet of her. Her two fawns were close by.

Unfortunately, many deer are killed by cars each year in Pittsford, causing human injuries and major financial losses. Also, it's impossible to have a nice flower garden because the deer eat most annuals as soon as they grow just a few inches tall. In other words, these cute deer are a real nuisance...a few are nice, but a lot are a big problem.

About four years ago I decided to hunt again after a break of at least ten years. The deer population was out of control, and many deer were starving when we had hard winters. The hungry deer ate every bush they could find - even hollies and evergreens are regarded as "dinner" by starving deer. It was sad to see them trying to traverse through deep, crusty snow. I decided that hunting them was the only way to thin the herd to a reasonable level.

Since that time I've killed about seven deer in a pretty quick and humane manner. Several of the carcasses went to a local food cupboard and provided venision burgers for the homeless. Others went to land owners where I hunted, and the remainer went into my freezer where they became spagetti sauce and venison stew. Despite my predations the deer population is more than robust here. We need more hunters! Sadly, the hunter population is decreasing rapidly because new hunters are not replacing those who are now too old to hunt.

It's hard to believe that a human activity like "hunting for food" can decline so quickly after hundreds of thousands of years when it was a normal part of many people's lives. The modern era, with its mass-produced food, has removed the average person from contact with nature and the ways man has interacted with it throughout our history. I, for one, hope that it once again becomes appropriate for people to harvest plentiful animals for food and for the experience of stalking them in their native environment. Quite a statement for an anti-Bush liberal to make, but - everyone's got the right to create their own blend of what is right and wrong! Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 24, 2006

Dems Lost in a Fog

It's amazing, but true. Bush's polls are at 35% but the Democrats got no message. They're hopping on him for his multitude of mistakes, but they've got no platform of their own. It seems to me that they've got no sense and no guts...they just make a lot of noise. They need to do better in order to be credible.

Suggestions for the "dense" Democrats:
- Say you can't live with radical Islam and will do everything necessary to stamp it out.
- Say you will stop illegal immigration by whatever it takes, but you will have a guest worker program that allows legal guest workers to go through a naturalization process with teeth.
- Say that underachieving Americans (read "inner city blacks" and "poor rural whites") need to start taking advantage of their educational opportunities or face Federal requirements which force compliance.
- Say that we will leave Iraq by a date certain if they gain control of congress.
- Fuggetabout trying to save $67/hour unskilled union jobs...they're history!

Or, say other stuff! Whatever! Just put it out there and stick by it. Bush may be stupid, but he's consistent. You may be smart, but so was Kerry. Get it together, you wacky libs! Until you do, you're lost in the fog.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Domestic Policy Adviser Models Theft Paradyme

Well, the latest in the Bush administration's unbelievable series of mishaps - the one immediately following the Dubai Ports debacle - has the recently resigned domestic policy adviser running a fraudulent returns scheme at Target while employed at the White House. It appears the man had a rather unusual vision of "free enterprise"...returning items that you did not purchase makes them "free"! This story appeared and disappeared in a day or two, which seems to indicate that affirmative action was somehow involved in its rapid demise.

This story had a wonderful twist to it, one that you would think would give it legs. Apparently the not-too-bright thief had been previously nominated by President Bush to be a federal judge. To be fair then, we might consider that he, facing the end of the administration in 2009, was again dreaming of a judgeship reward for his service - and getting "inside the criminal mind" as preparation for this appointment. Makes sense, doesn't it? About as much sense as Bush's explanations for everything else he's goofed up.

This has got to be one of the saddest funny stories of the year. You have to laugh at the bungling, but you have to cry about the White House employing such a pathetic figure. Maybe the high cost of living in Washington tapped out his paltry government salary and forced him to a life of crime. If so, it's not his fault. Certainly there are mitigating circumstances that will soon surface! On the other hand, maybe what will surface are new facts more complementary with the character flaws we already know about. It's a mystery sure to unfold if the media does its job.

As my favorite old boss once said, "The most important decisions you make are about the people you hire." Wish he had spent some time counseling the President...