Friday, July 27, 2007


Cultures are so different and at the same time so similar. The conservative idiots who think that France or Europe is some how politically correct and oh-so watered down compared to the rough, tough, American life style, don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. The above web site is for Junior Radio. This is a kids radio station, sort of like Nick for France. There is a difference though. On this radio station they have kids groups singing lots of songs, just like US kids shows, but here they do covers of Rolling Stones songs like “Satisfaction” complete with the line about “..he can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me…” I doubt that this would fly on the rough tough American kids networks.

If anything those conservative mutants are stunting our kids by not exposing them to the richness of the world. Most European kids speak a little English. Enough to converse with. While the American kids can barely speak their own language.

My country is great but about 20% of its population seems to have their heads permanently stuck up their asses.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Is Religion the Problem?

On Talk of The Nation today a young Muslim, Dr. Eboo Patel, was interviewed about his new organization the “Interfaith Youth Core”. I was delighted to here him speak. I was disheartened by many of the callers who tried to have him explain why Islam seems to be the only religion that has a penchant for terrorism. I would like to answer them.

There is a pervasive assumption that Islam is more violent than Christianity of Judaism. Recent history seems to bare this assumption out. I will not go into the recent anecdotal litany of Islamic radicals causing trouble. This assumption, nevertheless is wrong.

The trio of faiths listed above are none of them, either more or less violent than the other. All their holy books speak of violent militarism and God sticking up for the righteous fighters. All also speak to the necessity of doing good toward your fellow human beings. Helping the poor, not ignoring the widow or the orphan. The holy writings they adhere to in total can either be used to justify good or bad. So it is not the faith itself that causes the Crusader or Terrorist but the individuals application of the religion.

To say religion is evil is like saying science is evil. It is neither evil or good it is a set of ideas. What human beings do with it is either good or evil. Human justice does not exist outside human action. Justice does not exist within any text or book. A hammer can build a home or kill a man. Yet no one would argue whether or not the hammer is inherently evil of good. What it is used for is either evil or good.

Violence and religion have been intertwined throughout the millennia, from Moses and Judas Maccabeus, to Richard Cour d’Lion and his crusaders, to the Catholics and the Protestants slaughtering each other for 30 years in the 17th century down to todays Islamic jihadists. It is the nexus of a multitude of social, religious, political, and economic under currents that create religion-based violence not just religion. Violence is the problem not simply religion.

If you go into any of the violent examples provided above, religion is only a tool to justify violence, but never really the reason behind the violent activity. Political conquest, not conversion, is the real reason behind the violence. Currently Islam is in the nexus of currents that are out of its control. It is being used as convenient justification for what is in essense retaliation against the westernism, not Christianity or Judasim. The failed imperial states of the 19th and 20th century have brought about an environment of impoverished billions and pan continental civil wars. Islam spread quickly in the affected regions partially because of historical connection, and partly as a backlash against the departed imperial powers.

Today Islam is as much the victim of the collapse of the Imperial west as it is a perpetrator of its own collapse. The broad undercurrents of civilization flow regardless of election cycles in the US or the name of the current crop of religious fanatics. These vast undercurrents, like the movements of the ocean currents, are very hard to nail down. Constantly shifting they will bring and end of Islamic radicalism, as the did to the thousand years of Christian warfare. There will always be tools ready to help men justify conquest and killing. Religion is but one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The better angels are flapping their wings

I have lived long enough on this ball to know that all politics is NOW. Not the future, not even tomorrow. Just the course to satisfy the instant. That is what got us into Iraq in the first place. We had the tools, we had the reasons, we had the excuse of 911. So we all jumped off the cliff and are now trying to figure out how not to get splattered. I listened to the eloquent, intelligent debate from both sides on the floor of the Senate. I heard very little imperious flag waving on the part of the Republicans and heard little grand standing on the part of the Democrats. Mainly I heard a bunch of men and women basically saying to each other, “Yeah things pretty messed up…so what should we do?”

For myself I have had another phase shift in my own thinking on Iraq and where we are in the world. Pulling out of Iraq a year ago or 2 years ago is not the same equation as pulling out now. Staying is bad, pulling out may be worse. Here is one scenario that I view as possible, based on my knowledge of history:

We leave Iraq in the state it is now.


IRAQ: Shiite militants will dominated Iraq, Sadr will be the defacto leader with a puppet government beholden to him. Previous leadership will either be killed or flee. Sunni groups will be viciously repressed with methods that are being used now, just on a larger scale. Kurds will be forced to declare independence. This will cause Turkey to go on high alert.

EU: Extreme trepidation over what the force vacuum in Iraq will mean for stable oil prices and spread of militancy.

UK: Labor government will fall to conservatives

IRAN: Between a rock and a hard place it will be forced to significantly aid Sadr . It will also use this a justification for such aid and become the main military benefactor of Iraq.

CHINA: More liberal with anti-Taiwanese-independence rhetoric. Basically more saber rattling.

Russia: Happy. However also very nervous since so much of their own territory is prone to Islamic militancy.

Broader Mid East: The joy in the streets will last a few weeks and then settle back down into impoverished depression. Fear in the governments of Egypt et al over what the deadly brew in Iraq will do once it spills out. Probably increased arms expenditures by Syria, Egypt and of course Israel. Israel will probably see its own roll as airborne enforcer.

US: We will still have an air presence over Iraq, and have large number of forces in Kuwait. Though Kuwait may be nervous that the problems in Iraq might spill into their own country. Democrats will win White House but then lose it in the 2012 election.

Bin Laden: Busy with his own agenda

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who can we trust on the situation in Iraq?

The President: We cannot trust him because of the series of mistakes, lies, and continued blindness his administration shows towards this mess.

The Congress: Perhaps some can be trusted, but we need to be just as wary of those leaders who are happy to see Bush founder in his war. Not that I see too many doing this. But I do feel a smug sense of “I told you so” wafting up from the depths of the Democratic party. This also makes me not trust them. For people who see Iraq as a wedge issue to destroy Bush fail to see the real problem, the war itself. I would gladly sacrifice Democratic control of Congress for a successful conclusion to Iraq. This being said I feel the Democrats are really the only hope since the Republicans are so ill lead.

The people: I do not trust them either. I do not trust them since I do not think they really understand the nature of the conflict. They simply want the bad movie to be over. As I said in my previous post, I do not think the bad movie will be over if we leave Iraq in a big mess. The law of unintended consequences rules not only the act of staying in Iraq but also leaving.

What I wish we had was a group of people who really understood, in a pragmatic, visceral, non-aligned way, the nature of our dilemma. Only then can a good way forward be planned and achieved. When all sides are simply vying for the prize of the White House, or the Congress, the poor ill-treated soldier is still left sweating in the heat of a no-win situation.

God damn all of us for this madness. While we all fiddle with “Impeach Bush” bumper stickers, or little yellow “support our troops” ribbons, or “W” stickers, or “don’t blame me I voted for Kerry” our soldiers burn. As an American I am infuriated with the lot of us. If we want this war over then force the issue with millions in the streets of Washington, put our lives on hold, sacrifice our summer, and or jobs, and make a giant stink! Or volunteer to go to Iraq too!

Our sin is that we do nothing. We blog, was chat, we shake our heads and ask why. All while letting men and women, who actually put their real lives on the line for us, sweat in a holding pen waiting to get blown up. We are a nation of fat soft hypocrites. If we lose our democracy we will have deserved it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Go Home? Hmmm.....?

The previous entry talked about going Big. Nobody wants to go big or long.

We have gone long, longer the WWII, and spent a god awful amount of money and blood to create a state that is just shy of anarchic. Nobody wants to send more troops. Only a few diehards see staying in the current form, as a solution to anything. We are not making the mideast safer, or less unstable. We have not defeated the enemy that hit us on 9/11. The Iraq War is not indefinitely sustainable. If another crisis hit us our armed forces are thin, over worked, and burned out.

A democratic republic can decide to end a war whenever it wants. We wish to end this one now.


The war will not end when we leave Iraq. It will continue there and millions will suffer because of our hubris, imperial stupidity, and lack of forsight. When we leave Iraq and it is not stable, or democratic, or free of terrorism, there will have to be a royal comeuppance for the people that lead us into this farce.


There will be no comeuppance. They will go and write there books, and become pundits on Fox News, and either retire as millionaires, or work for fortune 500’s an retire as billionaires. The soldiers will come home, and there will be no parade. They will not be spat on or ridiculed. But they will, in their hearts, be fuming over the waste. Some will agree that the war was a farce, the height of vain glory, but others will see this as a sign of American weakness. They will not put down the sword but keep it at the ready.

Losing a war like this is what dictatorships of the future are made of. We tend to forget that we are a nation too. And that the rules apply to us aswell as Iraq. Two nations will suffer the consequences of pulling out of Iraq and leaving it a disaster.

This is not 1975 and Iraq is not Vietnam. Nor is this 1918 and Iraq is not Alsace Loraine. But the consequences for both nations will be real when we leave. When a nation puts for such an effort and then fails there is blowback. If the President pulls us out that would be a good thing and we could survive that. But if he is forced to pull them out then the fight will not be over and in that case I really fear for the future of America.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home

After 4 years the options are few.

“Go big, go long, or go home.” These were our options.

Go Big:
Well neither the Bush Administration nor the Congress nor the public seem to want to go big. Going big would mean a massive infusion of troops, not the poultry 30,000 we have put in now.

Go Long: Four years is a long time when no progress is being made either in infrastructure reconstruction, governmental institution building, the rebuilding of the Iraqi army, or the quelling of sectarian violence.

Go Home: This is a bitter pill, not beneficial to the US, Iraq, or world security.

We are stuck in Iraq. From my own point of view we only have one option left. It is not an option that the US public wants but the only one left to try. The only one that has not been tried. And that is to go Big. Going home would be morally reprehensible, to leave a nation shattered and dysfunctional would be a black mark on America far greater than Vietnam.

We are responsible for the mess in Iraq. Because of our early ineptitude, and hubris we allowed Iraq to devolve into chaos, while giving our true enemy a recruiting poster for their cause. Leaving will only exacerbate the problem. I see no way that leaving Iraq will in the long run benefit the US or the region. Things will not calm down. People who say for us to go are as shortsighted as the pathetic idiots that thought we would have a cake walk. I would love to have us get out of Iraq. I pray for us to get out of that dung heap. But we cannot simply walk away, nor can we rely on the UN or kindness of strangers. We are going to have to work the problem.

After reading much on the subject there is really no option that will bring stability to the region and security. War, once began, must be brought to a successful conclusion by the instigator or the instigator is made the weaker for it. That is why war must always be the very last option. This was a stupid war to start, but now we must finish it or the problems we will face in the future will be graver still. This is harsh but I see no other way.

Clearly Bush is a dead man walking (in the political sense) he lacks the leadership ability, the skill, and the political capital to bring the people together to solve this stinking problem. He will be gone long before this problem is solved. So the Congress, and the Pentagon need to really have a reality check and and begin to guide the President, not wait for the lame President to misguide them.

At this point it matters very little if the failure is upon the head of Bush. This is not a political game it is a war. I think some people in DC understand this. Many do not. The US is being pulled in two directions that are both wrong. The Surge is a big goose egg, as we all knew it would be, but to leave would be just as big a goose egg. Political suicide lays at the end of either road. Going big is really the only course left.

By going big I mean BIG. There needs to be 700,000 troops in Iraq, the population needs to be disarmed, and the population cowed. We do not need a provisional authority. We need the military administration of Iraq with civilian government on the lowest level first reporting to American generals not sectarian strong men in league with Iran. Furthermore people like Sadre need to be eliminated, and their followers crushed. Not talked to and brought into a cooperative government.

The reality is that if we want a democracy in Iraq then the forces that do not represent democracy need to be eliminated one way or another. Militant Islam and democracy do not mesh. You can have one or the other but not both.

This is a nasty problem and I in no way claim to find the solution palatable. But war has never been palatable, nor glorious, nor honorable, nor good. It is carnage pure and simple. We need to stop acting like school kids and start acting like adults.

Friday, July 06, 2007

My spur-of-the-moment weekend II

In the morning my daughters boyfriend came over and he and I completed the outfitting of our spacecraft. We then went and got my younger daughter and then my older daughter who was at a friends house. After stopping at Starbucks we were off to Elk Lake.

The journey from my home to the lake is about 200 miles along mostly open road. My main worry on such a trip is music, or rather the control of music or lack thereof. Do we plug the MP3 player in and listen to the soundtrack to High School Musical? Or do we plug the iPod in and listen to Metric. The kids trade off from time to time and no Jihad happens, not that there is much room for terrorist activity in such a cramped car.

We drive past ancient forests, alpine Mt Hood, and across the vast casino lands of the Warm Sprins tribe. We cross deep gorges in mere seconds that would have stymied Peter Skene Ogden for weeks, and go past luxury home sites surrounded by deep green lawns fed by the plundered central Oregon aquifer, until finally we are in Bend.

Bend has changed a lot since I was a kid visiting my grand parents in La Pine. Currently there are 75,000 citizens in the town, or rather the city. None of us our dressed in a way that the locals would approve of. We are not wearing Tevas, Patagonia, or Northface. Everyone seems like they are waiting for the photographers to get back from brake to finish the LLBean or Eddie Bauer catalog photoshoot. There are no fat people in Bend. This may be a local ordinance I am not sure. Neither are there many people of color, unless you count the leathery skinned white folks waiting for the results of their latest skin biopsy.

My kids haven’t been here for years so to them it is brand new. We slice our way through the confusing nest of streets and find our way to Century Drive and finally brake free of the last vestige of urban life, the Wigi Creek golf course and accompanying luxury subdivision. In ten minutes we are high in the pines with splendid peaks before us. I get nervous traveling to places I have not been in a while. Are they the same as last I saw them? Have they been corrupted by the bourgeoisie? As I drive on I see the titanic nature of the landscape develop. This is not land easily corrupted by roads or golf courses. Not up here astride the ring of fire. My kids note that the landscape in places seems like Mordor, from the Lord of the Rings. It is a land of stark contrasts.

On onside of the road are jagged black monoliths of fractured obsidian as large as office building, toppling like some satanic dark glacier spat up from Cocytus. Beyond them rise up a series of strato volcanoes each capable of destroying vast sections of Oregon should the crust shift just a bit. On the other sided of the road is an idyllic paradise of lush wetlands, tall firs, still lakes, and full of wildlife. We will be staying on the “paradise” side of the road not the “inferno” side.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My spur-of-the-moment weekend

Last week I decided about mid week that I was going to take my two daughters camping. On the surface this sounds like a typical American pastime for Summer. Lots of families partake in this time honored tradition. My family itself has a long tradition of camping at Yale Lake in Washington.

This time I was determined to camp at Elk Lake, in Oregon. I checked the Deschutes National Forrest website for particulars and discovered that the lake had a campground and no reservations were required. Just first come first serve. My two daughters and I, along with my oldest daughters boyfriend, would be camping in alpine splendor (elevation 4900 ft).

I drove home and stopped to pick up camping gear at mom’s house. I took my favorite camp item, a nice thick foam pad to sleep on. This little item gave me the first hint that there might be trouble ahead. I own a Scion xA; the tiny one not the box. Its trunk is about big enough to hold two bags of groceries provided they were filled with marshmallows and could be compressed.

At home I started packing in earnest. After an hour I came to the stark realization that I could take the gear required to support 4 people in the woods or the four people, but not both. So I started dropping items off the list. To begin with my nice sleeping pad. It had to go. I would simply stop at Fred Meyers and get a blow up mattress, one of the cheapies. This after all was going to be a cheap trip. I put one of my camp chairs away, I did not have to sit in a chair, the ground would be fine for a day or two.

Food was already purchased, two cans of chili, a box of mac’n cheese, muffins, and begals with cream cheese. Pop etc. I took the requisite paper plates. I got some plastic cups too. All told the grocery bill was less than 40 bucks. Great!

After several attempts at packing my little Scion was ready to roll. The interior seating looked about as ample as a Mercury 7 space capsule. My older daughter and her boyfriend would be in the back seat with, three camp chairs, two sleeping bags, 3 pillows, and a bag containing a tripod, between them. They would not be able to see each other for the entire drive. My younger daughter would be packed with the dry food, her own cloths duffle bag on her side and I would have several stuff sacks of stuff under my legs and seat.

God does not need our help?

I know I have pontificated, no pun intended, on what I think is the ridiculous aspect of service to God. I know this sounds anti-God or anti-Christian but it really is not meant to be. It is just the logical conclusion to the acceptance of God as omnipotent. Simply put an omnipotent being does not need us to help it at all. Nor would an omnipotent being need to poke at us to do “the right thing”

Free will would seem to run counter to God’s omnipotent power. How could I write this if God did not want it written? Or how could Osama Bin Laden order the 911 attacks if God did not want it to happen. Or how could Michael Moore make Siko if God did not want him to make the movie. This sort of thinking really makes you dizzy. Either you end up thinking it is all part of Gods divine plan. Or it is the good god vs bad god scenario where God and Satan are vicariously beating up on each other using us. Sort of like the Russians the Americans used the Vietnamese. Both scenarios are pathetic for us.

I will take on the second scenario first since it is the easiest to poke a hole in. Either we live in a Universe that is made by one God or we live in a pantheistic universe with lots of gods, demi-gods, etc. From my standpoint there is no evidence of a pantheon of supernatural anything out there mucking about. Too much of life is ordered by physics, cause and effect, and all that. If supernatural forces were always playing around then the laws that govern, for instance electrical activity, would break down or simply stop working. This never happens. One could say that the supernatural forces work in such a way as to leave no physical traces of themselves. I would retort then that is the same as non-existence for us since the equations we have developed to explain physically reality must be able to predict the actions of these beings. So they would be more natural and not so super.

The first scenario is harder to put a hole in since it is so ingrained in our culture. God has this divine plan for all creation and everything is happening as it has been preplanned to happen. Like we live in a book. This makes us feel good when bad stuff happens. What can really be that bad if God wanted it to happen? Well this stinks, why bother worshipping or adoring a being that says it is part of his plan to have Jews undergo live dissection by Nazi doctors? Or children tortured to death by sadistic killers? I wouldn’t give that god the time of day let alone waste a breath of prayer to it.

Both these scenarios also seem to require us to help God out. Do stuff for him. Build his church, feed his sheep, defend his faith, fight for him, work for him, basically do all the things required of a servant. However there is a biiiiiiiiiiig problem with this. Human rulers need servants since they cannot do everything for themselves. They are not omnipotent. God, at least an all powerful one, certainly would not need us to work for him. The first scenario is slightly less silly since hour work would be the result of Gods plan working itself out. But if this is the case then you have no free will and all the acts you do are puppet maneuvers done by God for God. Become and atheist then, its all part of Gods plan!? The world could abandon the entire concept of God and it would all be part of Gods plan. Or perhaps we could all decide to worship Elmo or Barney.

This is not a silly little problem either. Scribes of old understood this quite well about our faith. Ecclesiastes is entirely about this problem. In the end the author basically says that all of the material world is vanity and the only thing you should do is keep the commandments, your duty is to honor God. Current scholarship questions the exact language of the end of Ecclesiastes. It seems the original text does not tell us that it is not our duty to follow God, but that it is we who are the commandment and that we are the manifestation of the respect of God.

I have felt the connection to God. That connection, when viewed, is obvious. Even though I have this connection to this being, I cannot fathom the totality of what that being is. Nor can I know what the full implications of this connection are. Somehow the light and fluffy stories of old, may not be too helpful when this being reveals more of itself to me. Or then again may God will be an old man with a crown. Either way I am on the ride and will have to accept whatever is the reality behind the enigma.