Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Matthew linked to a documentary called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. You can watch the entire film (about hour) in clips here. [Watch for the jihadi rap to Sean Paul beats in part III--I couldn't make that up].

Matthew writes: There is no excuse for hiding from the reality of the world, right now. No excuse.

I agree. Although we disagree quite a bit (agree as well on subst. points) about what that reality is.

The film is wide-ranging but the main thrust of which is Radical Islam is a monolithic global threat to Western Civilization--it is the new Fascism (Islamo-Fascism)--and most importantly it is a religious (not political or politico-religious) ideology.

Some thoughts on the film. First what it covers well.

1. Makes the distinction between Radical Islam and Islam itself.

2. Some good background on the relationship between the Grand Mutfi of Jerusalem and Hitler. There was a strong connection between the two. And the propaganda tools of the Nazis flowed into the Arab world and anti-Semitism is rife, in fact omnipresent, in Arab (and larger Muslim) society. The Germans, for the Arabs, were allies--the Arab's enemies were the French, British, and Russians who had colonized the Middle East. The Nazis were for the Arabs the destroyers of their enemies. Also good info. on the ways in which Nazi indoctrination techniques have been co-opted by these groups (esp. with youth soldiers).

3. Sad and awful imagery of the pathetic nature of Arab media and the pervasiveness of anti-Semitic, anti-Western propaganda. Also the reality that Arab propaganda is guided primarily by corrupt autocrats--mostly Sunni--who use the propaganda as the only outlet in police states. No dissent of the government is allowed; hence all problems are the fault of a conspiracy by the West and Zionists.

Major flaws:

1.Radical Islam as such does not ex-ist. There are Islamists or Islamisms. The problem, from both a theoretical and certainly from a military-political pov, is that you would never unite your enemies. The entire strategy is divide and conquer. Why would we give reason for groups who certainly have connections and similiarities but also massive differences/agendas to be so intimately linked. It is the West (one monolith) versus Radical Islam (another). Why do this?

al-Qaeda is not the Muslim Brotherhood is not Hezbollah is not SCIRI is not the Mehdi Army is not the Taliban, is not the Algerian Front, is not Hamas is not PLO is not Iranian Ayatollahs, and on and on and on.

These groups often hate each other as much, if not more than the West. Bush's foreign policy and use of terms like Islamo-Fascism only brings these groups together. They are dangerous; that is why we need to keep them as separate and in-fighting as much as possible.

2. My mind the biggest flaw of this line of argument. Suicide bombing ALWAYS takes place under political occupation. ALWAYS. Of course this Islamist version gains an extra credence from within the Islamic tradition.

Who uses suicide bombings?
--Iranians when they were fought/occupied by the Iraqis.
--The Palestinians. Especially if they still consider all of Palestine as occupied territories and not just the West Bank and Gaza (another post to come on that point)
--Taliban: Afghanistan occupied by NATO/US Troops.
--Tamil Tigers (Sri Lanka--want an independent Tami homeland....not Muslim)
--Hezbollah Lebanon 1983: Occupied by Israelis. Majority of suicide bombers were actually atheists Marxists, even a few Chrsitians under the umbrella of the Shia militant group.
--Sunni Iraqis: Occupied by US Forces and view Shia as Iranian agents (govt, army, police)

But then you may ask what about 9/11 or the attacks on European targets? The British subway attacks for example were carried out by British Muslims, born and raised. They aren't occupied by a foreign power. These groups, not without some validation, see themselves as unaccepted by the larger society. They feel they live under an occupied foreign regime. French Arab youth as well.

And who committed the 9/11 attacks? Saudis and Egyptians. Saudi Arabia where American forces were stationed and Egypt (who along with Israel) receives over 90% of US foreign aid. Whose regime only stands and has stood becasue of US armaments, moneys, training, etc. The notion that Arab rulers are usuerpers and occupiers of Muslims and therefore Muslims can kill their Muslim rulers comes from Sayid Qutb, bin Laden's greatest intellectual-theological influence. But even here bin Laden is in the minority of minorities; the vast majority of radical Islamists, who are themselves only the smalest minority (like 2%) of Muslim populations, want to overthrow their own governments not the US.

3. Islamo-fascism. While there are links between Arab and Nazi propaganda this film makes some ludicrous claims. Walid Shebat, former PLO terrorist says that radical Islamism is more dangerous than Nazism becomes Islamism is a religious doctrine. It is God who calls people to jihad not the Fuhrer, he says.

First off Nazism, at least among Hitler's inner circle was a religion. That was the whole point. It was a religion of the return to pre-Chrsitian Germanity. See the films on Hitler and the Occult. SS Leader Heinrich Himler envisioned the SS on the model of the warrior class of Brahmanical Hinduism--his favorite text was the Bhagavad Gita. They practiced vegetarianism and animal care as religious articles of faith.

Sheobat also says that Islamism is more dangerous than Nazism because Islamism exists around the world, in numerous majority Muslim countries. So therefore there could be multiple Germanies. However, outside of sub-Saharan Africa and the possibility of Egypt or SA falling, there are no Islamist regimes in the world. And the ones who are are not the world premier industrial and technological power as was the Third Reich.

George Bush is not Winston f---ing Churchill. This is not 1935.

And even if you want to go that route, which is imbecilic if you ask me, but ok, here goes. Who is completely missing from this documentary and all this talk of Islamo-fascism, Hitler, anti-Semitism, and radical Islam?

I'll give you a hint: Churchill, Roosevelt are both in the film--but which other Yalta-member was not? Joseph Stalin. The Soviets. It's only this Western democratic mythicism that says that the Anglo-American alliance won the day and the 20th century is only about the rise of liberal democracies. The West would not have won without millions of Soviet deaths and a frigid winter bogging down the Nazis in Russia.

We did not defeat the Nazis without the later evil commis. So who are our comrades today?
Iran--think about it. Iran is our Soviet Union. The Nazis then are the Sunni Islamist Jihadis. The Shia are the Soviets, Ahmadinejad is our Stalin not our Hitler as a result. Like the Soviets they are going to get a nuclear weapon "against our warnings." So deal with them like we did with the Soviets--use them to beat the Nazis, contain, and let the fluctuation bring them down.

4. The influence is only a one-way street. We only hear about the talk of global radical networks and never ask how all that media technology got there in the first place for them to exploit? The radical Isamists constant refrain of America wanting to take over the world is a perverse way of explaining a half-truth (twisted though): namely that globalization is coming with a force to the Sunni world as the latest phase of Western influence or colonialsm depending on your pov and that the Arab culture/religion is not ready to handle the social dislocation that is resulting. Plus the West is unready to give space for the growth pains the ME needs to go through in order to enter the modern world. Iraq is the primary example of that reality.

5. The carciaturization of anyone who thinks they are other influences at work than Islamic reigoin as Michael Moore/Neville Chamberlains. You gotta be better than that.

No reference to the history of nations with natural resources like oil and diamonds almost always becoming failed states, from Africa, Latin America, to yes the Middle East. No reference to the history of colonialism. No reference to the work on the politics of suicide bombing. No reference to the massive dislocation the world over experienced by the influx of globalization.

[All that and I really do not like the over done-fear mongering documentary music.]

Psychologically and intellectually the movie strikes me as paradoxically quite soothing emotionally. It creates a whole climate of fear yes, there is this global enemy lurking in the shadows ready to destroy the West, they are the new Nazis. But since they are the new Nazis there is an element, a major assumption (and a wrong one!!!) I see pervasively on the right, that we know how to beat this enemy.

Nevermind we forget about the Soviets, like I said before. The view assumes that once we all get together and finally recognize the enemy for what it is, we will triumph.

THAT IS PRECISELY NOT THE CASE. The whole lesson to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the US Army has not yet learned how to fight localized (not GLOBAL) insurgencies, criminal gangs, within failed states. Global guerillas that is.

Their whole point is fragmentation, breaking down order, supporting cronies--not world domination like Hitler no matter what they say. Their rhetoric is what it is, their actions are much more important.

Hezbollah is not taking over Lebanon it is destroying Lebanon. It is a product of not even a failed state but no state to begin with really. This is the defining issue of the post Cold War world, the breaking down of the colonially imposed lines of nation-states. The wars around the globe are sectarian strife (former Yugoslavia), inter-religious conflict, etc.

[Look for the few clips from a Prof. from West Ontario Salim, who they unfortunately don't follow up on, but who talks about failed states and non-state actors....}

It is actually in that sense darker than these prophets of doom lead us to believe. The real quesiton is how to fight, reconstruct, bolster failing states, and promote development in order to isolate these radical and unconvertible elements as much as possible.

The Nazi analogy is so awful because these guys do not wear uniforms. There is no Fuhrer, there is no German nation. There never will be an Islamic Caliphate. There is therfore no total victory. There will never be an "end" to this--it is a Long War. Not a four year one. It is degrees of victory, no peace accords or all the rest.


If you want to see my homestate and hometown blasted, honored--you have to be a Buckeye to get the humor of all this.

The Daily Show all week from (my alma mater) THE Ohio State University.

History and background on Cincinnati's own Skyline Chili here.

LeBron for Gov? Pres? He's already King.


Report: Maliki Orders Lifting of Checkpoints Around Sadr City

Story here.

Pretty much the same story last couple of weeks. A high level member of the Mahdi Army is captured and then the Prime Minister personally releases the man. The US Army sets up roadblocks in Sadr City (their stronghold, east Baghdad) and Maliki orders them down.

Maliki only got into power by the slimest margin (remember former Prime Minister al Jaffari?) through the vote of Sadr. The Army is in many ways a front for the Mahdi Army, who is also busy fighting the police, who are infiltrated by their Shia milita rivals the SCIRI--Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al Hakim.

The US keeps talking about taking on the Shia militia, which angers the Shia who see the real enemy as the Sunni-led insurgency. The Shia militias, not the US Army or the Iraqi green-zone government, are what protect Shia on the street.

Bush's plan of building up a central gov't, a army, and then leaving shows its weakness here. The Shia use the Army, Police, and militas as a unified strategy of protection, building up power. There is no unified Iraq--who wants this other than Bush? The Shia want any means whereby to consolidate their power and the elected govt is just one (and actually probably a small one) of achieving that end. The Shia are loyal to the Shia not the notion of a unified Iraq, secular, democratic, and an ally in the war on terror. What would they care about such nonsense?

The Army is a sectarian force which is why the Sunnis do not trust it. The Sunni Insurgency is really at this point the Sunni militia for defense of Sunnis.

If Sadr's people went off again--as they did during 2003/4--the US would be facing a two-prong insurgency from both Sunni and Shia. The government would fall if Sadr withdrew his support and could turn large portions of the Army, who are more loyal to him than a united Iraqi state, to a larger scale civil war.

Lost in Maliki's rhetoric of the past days about not being America's guy, wanting the Americans out in six months bc he believes the Iraqi Army (hint, hint) can take of the security problem: what he means is that the Shia, militias and Army included, would destroy the Sunni in numbers we do not want to imagine.

It wouldn't stop the suicide bombings, probably only increase them. But the Sunni, lost in their rhetoric and attacks on the US, are scared. Are deeply afraid of the Shia now. If the US leaves, it will be a Sunni bloodbath, with the Kurds on the sidelines.

The Sunnis do not want in on this government, the Shia don't want them. The Kurds don't care. The US just keeps a lid for now on the whole thing blowing up Rwanda-style, but is not leaving any stability to go forward. Every side is just keeping their guns watiing for the Americans to exit.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Fascinating speech and respnose from Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks on the state of conservativism from C-Span BookTV. Whatever one may think of their respective views, both deeply engaging speakers/presences.

Listen really intently to what Brooks has to say--quite brilliant I think.

Sullivan does a wonderful job of explaining the core principles of conservative thought: epistemological doubt, moral doubt (not moral relativism), but doubt that any of our plans or actions are ever perfect, that anything human is perfectible. A Lockean emphasis on returning to the facts and a Hobbesian notion that human nature includes evil and therefore government must promote objective restraints which it backs up by force, if necessary (Leviathan). And even in the force to hold open the possiblity that that force is easily corruptible: power corrupts, absolute power.....absolutely.

But then Sullivan applies that core principles to what he calls Christianism. I agree with Brooks that the conservative doubt benchmark should be applied rather to the federal government and this administration. The so-called arrogance of power. And that social conservative "Christianists" have been used by Bush, as by Reagan (and Nixon), for political ends and are mostly pawns in their game (see David Kuo's new book Tempting Faith, former 2nd at Office of Faith-Based Initiatives). And even worse the fragmented tribalism of our day.

Like Brooks I also believe that conservatism of the Hayek variety is the intellect's suppository, flushing it of nonsense and bad-sense. But never should be the governing phlosophy AND that one must have a governning philosopohy. The absenting oneself from having such a view, participating allows far worse elements to fill that vacuum.

George W. Bush's 2000 campaign's slogan of "compassionate conservatism" spoke to that. It was a realization that conservatives could no longer just be the Party of Reform ('94 Contract) but were now the mainline party as the Dems were during the New Deal Days. And that running the federal government is difficult and for all the talk of a Grover Norquist of shrinking that gov't to the size whereby it can be drowned in the bathtub is--by conservative logic of non-centralized planning--not going to happen. Bc, among other things, a la Brooks, conservatives also remember that human beings are prone to evil and brutality and you need, as a necessary evil, a Leviathan around. And truth be told, that Leviathan is never going to be dis-interested, is always going to want a piece of the pie (outside of military exploit). Human beings are not econoomic self-interested machines.

Because conservatism has a proper place for subsidiarity: the notion that decision making shoul be left to those on the scene, closest to the action (hence suppport for free-er markets). But that notion taken as a unchangable tenet is one of the prime problems of the so-called post 9/11 world.

Globalization can (and does) empower super-individuals (or 19 of them if you like). Subsidiarity here can cause a dereliction of duty and nature abhors a you-know-what. And then Sullivan's fundamentalists enemies will be there to fill that void. Though CATO Insitute folks will hate it, there have to be rule sets created on a universal scale commensurate with our core "creed" as Brooks calls it---rule of law, freedom of worship/belief.

Otherwise subsidiarity and traditionaal European (Sullivan is British) aristocratic conservatism will just leave room for global guerillas.

40-60s Liberalism, the Great Society and all the rest failed. Contract with America Republicanism also has failed. So sadly did an attempt to bridge the gap: compassionate conservatism. Or rather not as much failed as sadly never saw the light of day. Partly that was a result of the terrorist attacks, but less so than most imagine in my view. Gandhi was once famously asked what he thought about Christianity. He said he was all for it, too bad nobody had ever actually tried it out. Same for compassionate conservatism.


Spending more time in the last couple of weeks with the so-called Wilber critics. Although critics really isn't the right word because many hold a great deal in common with Ken. Just wanted to put down some observations on different thinkers.

I'm gonig to do a bit of categorization, which by nature is a limiting enterprise--no substitute for in-depth exploration of one's own. Also it's not a universal list. Also these are observations; this is not a defense of AQAL or whatever. Just exploring the interaction between the theories for now--and trying to stay away from the egoic-personality stuff on all sides. In subsequent posts, I'll go back highlighting one/two in particular.

The two best sources for most (not all) of the thinkers covered: integralworld and openintegral. Otherwise, source is linked.

In no particular order...

1. Metaphysicians: Frank Visser and Alan Kazlev.

When Frank stays away from pathetic posts about how Ken shouldn't use the word "simply" and sticks with the real thrust/passion of his writings, it invovles a neo-Perennialism. His main criticisms then are to do with Wilber-5, the so-called postmetaphysical writings. Or what Ken, within those writings, calls this naturalistic turn.

Alan Kazlev. Neo-Aurobindian. Kazlev disagrees with Ken's description of Sri Aurobindo. It generally revolves around a similar issue with Frank--the labeling of Aurobdino as meta-physical and Wilber-5 as post-metaphysical.

2. Deconstructionists: Jeff Meyerhoff (and Geoffrey Falk?)

Meyerhoff uses traditional Continental (mostly French) postmodern deconstructive philosophical-literary tools, esp. diferance, in an attempt to dismantle Wilber's meta-narrative of integration.

Falk is author of two very critical works--Stripping the Gurus and Norman Einstein. Falk relies heavily on anti-cult writings and evidence, e.g. Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, to argue that Wilber is the Guru Head of Cultish I-I.

Both these authors also accuse Wilber of bad scholarship.

3. We-Space, Intersubjectivity: Mark Edwards, Edward Berge.

Mark has written extensively on the need for more appreciation of the We-space, the social and communal nature of integral existence. Check the integralnaked archives for his discussion/debate with Ken. Also has argued against a Flatland interpretation of the right-hand exterior quadrants.

Edward feels that Ken has not actually gone far enough in his post-metaphysical turn. He wants to see p-m applied to states of consciousness and like Mark feels Ken relies too heavily on development psychology, thereby practically privileging individualist (over more socia-communal) interpretations. Implicit in that criticism is that the individualist bent comes from his American, midwestern background--and hence the occassional charge that Ken is a Republican, right-winger.

But these two are in much more agreement overall with Wilber than any named above.

4. Holonic Theory: Andrew Smith. Smith is pretty much a category unto himself. Very hard to summarize his work--I'm still spending a lot of time with it. Smith advocates what he calls a one-scale model of hierarchy (i.e. a non-quadratic holonism). Also disagreements over the definitions of nonduality and the relationship between individual/collective dimensions.

5. Humanities/Canon. Matthew Dallman. Readers of this blog will know of my on-going dialogue with Matthew concerning definition of integral, the value (or lack) of structuralist analysis in the Humanities, definitions, scope, and methodology of integral, etc.

So just to keep in mind, this is my int. of their works and often my interpretation of their interpretation of another person's (Wilber's) interpretation-argument. And some of my responses may be considered traditional defenses from the AQAL vantage point, others not.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

50 Books for Evangelicals

Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.

Not necessarily written by evangelicals though many are.

Positive Ones (imho):
#45 The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark A. Noll (should be #2)
#42 The Purpose Driven Life (had to be on there)
#31 The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins--the best writer on Xty alive.
#24 The Meaning of Persons: Paul Tournier
#19 Dietrich Bonhoeffer: (Lutheran), one of the top 5 theologians of the 20th c.
#11 Celebration of Discipline: Richard Foster. [From the site: "opened the door for many evangelicals to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines and find a connection with the church throughout history"]
#4 Francis Schaeffer: The God Who is There....easily the most important since Edwards, evangelical theologian/thinker.
#1 Prayer Conserving with God: Rosalind Rinker.

#40 Darwin on Trial, Philip E. Johnson
#36 Left Behind: Timothy LeHaye (Rapture ideology)
#34 This Present Darkness: Frank Peretti (obsession over spiritual warfare, demonlogy)
#33 The Late Great Planet Earth: Hal Lindsay (The Book of Revelation as guide to determining the future)
#29 Dare to Discipline: Dr. James Dobson
#22 The Genesis Flood: Morris and Whitcomb. Young earth creationism meets hydraulic engineer (yikes).


On the positive side, works that emphasize evangelical continuance with the Christian tradition, prayer-spiritual discipline, silence, and mystical union. That show conversion must be of the heart and head.

Negative: anti-Darwinian, creationism, anti-evolutionary ideology. And second the Rapture, apocalyptic obsession and fear-mongering of the prophet of doom from the so-called Christian Right.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Further Strains Afghan Mission

In light of the recent NATO attack that killed about 70 civilians, Mullah Omar has turned down an offer of true from Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai.

On Friday, Karzai said he would be willing to hold talks with Mulla
Mohammad Omar and his followers if they stop receiving support from foreign
fighters and cut ties with al-Qaeda...Karzai has also written to influential ethnic Pashtun politicians in Pakistan asking for their support to stem the growing Taliban insurgency. The purported statement from the Taliban, sent by e-mail Saturday to the Associated Press by militant spokesman Muhammad Hanif, dismissed Karzai's latest offer of talks and called his administration a "puppet government."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Barack and Thoughts on Race

Amidst all the Barack coverage, I find it so fsacinating (and saddening at times) how race is still thought of in American discourse. So many paeons to Barack being the possible first African American president. But I find a key elment missing in them.

Interesting to note. His father is from Kenya--so he is originally perhaps African American in a different sense we normally mean from that term. His mother is white. His parents met in Hawaii, where Barack was born and raised. He lived for a few years in Indonesia (with his then Indonesian step-father & mother), moving back to Hawaii raised by his maternal grandparents (who would be white by my reckoning).

So a black-white-Hawaiian from Kansas, Indonesia, Chicago, Harvard, Columbia. A Democrat and Christian (United Church of Christ affiliated), with strong pull in rural districts in his Illinois Senate Race.

I'm not saying he's not black. Charles Krauthammer has an op-ed today where he encourages the Junior Senator to run for Prez. It's well meaning, says some nice things about how a black President would be a great blessing for the US--which I happen to agree with. But there still to me is this strange idea that there's only "black". All the diversity is funneled down to just one label.

We are locked into these monolithic racial categories, seems to me.

John McWhorter opines here on how Obama is getting too nice of treatment precisely because he is black, which however well inteionted, McWhorter still feels does a dis-service to black people. Which may be true, but still assumes, seems to me, only the African American/black element of his background.

Barack to me represents more this post-racial, melded identity or identities really. I don't mind people calling him black--although to be fair I haven't heard anyone call him white, and the case could be made he is equal parts both.

I'm sure there will be charges( if not already) that because of this mestizo background, Barack isn't really black--whatever that means. Or because he is an establishment guy, not because of his mixed racial background, he's not really black. Black in this construct, meaning I guess, automatically against the system.

And there is this interesting question of his relationship vis a vis the descendents of enslaved peoples in America. He certainly is seen I'm sure by others through that lens. Out of college he did work with voter registration and social service for the poor. But his father is not.

Doesn't mean he can't identify with that strain, isn't identified with that movement, to it's just interesting to note. His wife is black. His daughters. And minus his time in Indonesia has lived in the US, so has experienced these emotions, viewpoints firsthand. In Dreams of My Father, Barack writes very eloquently of the spiritual legacy of the African American peoples. Their great connection to the Exodus story, to the God of the oppressed, to graciousness and hospitality, and to care for the poor.

Very similiar to Tiger Woods in my mind and how from a fluid series of backgrounds, individuals, for whatever reasons of their own, projectd onto another one construct.

I think a Barack presidency woudl help heal racial wounds, but not in the way it seems that many others think it would. I think it could help people move beyond these simplistic and outdated notins of race--instead of trying to accept everyone's outdated version we just get to a new place where everybody is shades of everyone else.

Like Salman Rushdie said, we should all keep getting together until we're all brown and olive. Originally we are all from Africa anyway, right?

Or as Morgan Freeman (great last name) said, I don't want African American history month anymore. Because that assumes it isn't American history.

Whatever value that consciousness-raising models had from the 60s, they do perpetuate the notion, I find, that Black History is different, "other" to use the postmodern jargon. Wherever there is other-ness there is fear, hatred, suspicion, even well-meaning guilt (usually among liberals).

Sameness and otherness are two poles co-arising. Like black and white.

2006 Dirtball Politics

Update: The RNC has dropped the ad against Harold Ford with the Playboy bunny. They have replaced it with an ad saying he wants to give abortion pills to children. I've taken the YouTube video off from my previous posting.

Today's WashingtonPost has a sorrowful but insightful account of the negativity of this year's attack ads. The article points out that while the RNC has pulled the ad, it flourishes anyway.

From the article:
At the same time, the growth of "independent expenditures" by national parties
and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves from distasteful
attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube have provided free
distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.

In no particular order, from the article, some of the real losers.

· In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate
Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex.
"Hi, sexy," a dancing woman purrs. "You've reached the live, one-on-one fantasy
line." It turns out that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state
Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to
that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25.

In two dozen congressional districts, a political action committee
supported by a white Indianapolis businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, is running ads
saying Democrats want to abort black babies. A voice says, "If you make a little
mistake with one of your hos, you'll want to dispose of that problem tout de
suite, no questions asked." [Should the plural of ho be hos or hoes?]

A host of Democrats have been accused of trying to "cut and run" in Iraq --
including House candidate Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs in

Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad online ridiculing Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) for attending a late-night fraternity party. "What's a 50-year-old man doing at a frat party anyway?" one young woman asks, as a faux Sweeney boogies behind her to the Beastie Boys. "Totally creeping me out!" another responds.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Theological Strains in Hegelian Globalized Islam(ism)

[This is a followup to the last post--that one should be read first.]

The key spiritual insight, for me, is that the entire universe is sacrificial. It is all a sacrifice.

I, as a Christian, see the Sacrifice as one of Thanksgiving and Praise. Christians call this the Eucharist.

The only spiritual inquiry worth having is: Am I avoiding relationship?

That to me is an even deeper question than Ramana's "Who I am?" Or the other version of that question:"Who is God?"

That question brings about the realization of Oneness (Non-duality). But it is alone and can easily keep one away in enlightened bliss--very common in traditional Eastern spirituality.

"Am I avoiding relationship" is asked even after (and only really then) one has answered, "Who am I, who is God?" The answer being not an answer in a traditional sense but rather the dropping of the Witness in Presence without an Observer. No bell, no ringer, just the ring-ing.

Am I avoiding relationship is the question of sacrifice. Am I avoiding sacrifice? Am I avoiding living out in this and every moment the fact that I am always already in relationship will all beings.

It is not just that everything is One and joy/peace flows from that, although that can be experienced and is true to the degree it is true. It is that I am always related to all else.

Pulling back from that admittedly pulled back political view in the last post, my thoughts on a Europe beyond that division, is a reflection on sacrifice. The sacrificing of millenia of history and identity, even the sacrificing of the comfortable post WWII identity of bleakness, nihilism, and victimizer. That can be sacrificed by the conservative Euro backlash. But the former is far deeper, to bequeath the legacy to others.

As light, as a supernova. For no other reason than to. Sacrificing/bequeathing the heritage of rule of law, debate, universalism beyond color or creed for the salvation of both.

The Truth forgotten by both conservative and liberal Euros as well as Islamists. We are all inherently connected---not just politically and socially although that too, that is the only the result of the deeper truth. We are all in relation to the very core of our beings.

To be righteous--liberally or conservatively--is to sin against this truth. It is to forget that we always already love one another. In the true sense of love. The painful heartbeat to the Universe.

That deeper context, the reason I pull back from getting involved in too many short-term arguments, narrow thinking-feeling is that we talk without recognizing the space of Sacrifice. Capital S.

From the outside, from the pulled back view there is this great trajectory, the evolution of life and consciousness. From the inside it is Sacrifice. That "system" being impersonal is not a respecter of beings.

That is the paradox, for most the problem, of our existence. This long view, This Long View-er, has used wars to bring us together. We only know and care about Islam, Shia, Sunni, Islamism, to the degree any do because of self-interest. Because of an attack. While painful from the inside in the short term; it is actually a great blessing in disguise. Not that that excsues barbaric action or the murdering of innocents. It does not.

From the inside there is always choice. It is trajectory not imposition. There need not be the violence, the bloodshed, and sorrow--at least not the degree of--involved in the transition.

But we humans are slow learners. Power corrupts, sin is rife in the human heart. But there is alwyas hope. Things are made new. There are resurrections after we die to the known.

From the Absolute it is not learning to love, learning to understand Muslims, it is realizing they and us arise from the Same Heart. That they and us are humorous fake words we must use.

Hegelian Thoughts on Globalized Islam(ism)

Reflections on this blogpost by Thomas Barnett.
Maybe corrupted Hegelianism would be more accurate, but anyway--some thoughts.

Overly simplified form we have (something like) thesis-antithesis-synthesis.

What is often missed in debates about the Islam versus the West, specifically Islam within Europe is this Hegelian insight, that the thesis and antithesis flow together are made possible by a prior movement of which they are mirror images.

Which for the moment I'll say is globalization--makes me sound more Marxist than Hegelian I guess. I actually do believe the deeper deeper thrust could be called intentionality/eros but that'll just get cause more trouble than it is worth.

In other words, how did all these people who don't want to assimiliate get to Europe in the first place? By a reverse Crusade, a declared jihad? Or because of job opportunities, demographic shifts, modern travel/communications?

Take again an example I return to often--Christian American Prot. fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in the US Prot. circles started in the NORTH!!!! Not the South. The South was pre-modern/pre-fundamentalist. Only where liberal modern ideas/technologies infiltrate do you have such reactionary movements.

Fundamentalism got big in the South during the 60s and 70s because those damn liberal ideas of Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and more importantly economic modernization hit their full tilt then.

So why is there such Islamism and retrogade movements at this moment? Why has there only been so for the less than a hundred years? [Prior wars and so on were imperial not Islamist].

Because the West is deeply penetrating into the Middle East--as much in fact much much much more so than Islam is penetrating the West.

Why would we be hearing about a Muslim preacher in Australia having to apologize for his sermon which said that women who went outside without covering were like meat left out for the animals to feed on?

First off, why do I know that? Because of GoogleNews right. Second, why did he have to apologize--because of a firestorm of controversy and he was shamed. Third, why would that bother him--because the women of his community do see women out there dressing freely AND (here's the anti-thesis) see those women degraded as are all women in Western society and treated above all as sexual objects. He's not right about women having to cover and be controlled by men (thesis on this one) but he is right that the current system hurts women profoundly in ways it did not in the olden days (anti-thesis), so you need some kind of freedom for women to be non-objectified (synthesis).

The anti-thesis always hold a truth (an inverted truth) forgotten in the thesis. Some initial thoughts as to what that worldview still holds: remembrance of poverty, traditional culture-religion, the massive pain of modernization. And most importantly for Islam I think is the desire not to fall prey to the individualism and secularism of the West. What I have called here before an Islamic way of being modern. Just as there is/will be a Chinese and Indian and Brazilian way of being modern. And that these together will have their own massive differences but overall will be in ways more markedly different from say the French and Scandanavian versions of being modern. Perhaps even the French and US way of being modern. I don't know, we'll find out.

The population bulge that is hitting the Islamic world has already peaked btw. So in 20 years we'll see a middle-age Islamic bulge. Think it's not coincidental that this is uptick in violence has anything to do with the fact that the bulge is a lot of unemployed young men? Check the demographics right before the French Revolution and the later conservative Napoleonic Restoration as a parallel--hint: violence when young, calming down when older.

Europe has deep soul-searching to do and asking whether they should have the political right to say whatever they want, which looks on the surface pretty big, earth-shaking, is actually (given the Hegelian context) not a very big deal at all. Barely scratches the surface truth be told.

The real question for Western Europe is how they are going to live in a post-colonial, post-racial world? The postmodern guilt-ridden, "tolerance" model has failed. Their relative separation even "backwardness"--minus some Asiatic and German "hordes" flooding in periodicially--and dominance for 500 hundred years abroad, their embracing for a time of the idolatrous doctrine of nationalism and the carnage that ensued as a result, has left them now only arguing non-arguments about whether individuals born in their countries but not considered of the proper stock/mentality should wear headscraves or not. Whether you should be tough or tolerant on these people. As short-sighted, in their own, as the Americans are with foreign policy.

Europe is based more as people identity. British, German, etc. The US, for all its manifold sins abroad, does relatively well at home (minus Native and African Americans) because it is a Republic of citizenship, which so long as we hold to that bodes well for the future.

Holding to the identity of a people (not a constitution) is the cause of the violence and separatism the world over. Europe is hardly unique or even nearly the worst in this sense. There will always be insurgencies by French Muslim youth so long as that is the French model. Not whether or not their sisters can wear hijabs to class.

All these questions about is there a limit to tolerance (Dutch) or not, miss this key issue. It is not that those are unimportant questions--they are important to a degree. It is that they take place outside what is occurring, what is arising. Toleration or non-toleration, expanding immigration/curbing immigration, need to be asked in light of the movement to a post-people identity. That is the synthesis, if you like, for Europe.

There can be and will be disagreement as to the tactics around certain forms of dress, who is integratable who is not, deportations, inflitirations/closing down of mosques, etc. Fine. This is a wide angle lens for a moment. That's not the concern for now.

I read arguments like: "the standard is really whether people are open to debate or not. We (fill in the blank) are a people who reason, have rules, etc." And that would be true if it also acknowledged that the definition of who is French, British, Dutch, whatever were something like: we are all those things plus historic ethnic makeup.

The synthesis "wants", as I see it, that thesis (rule of law, post-patriachial, pluralistic) plus the anti-thesis (end of ethnic-national makeup) as a, I'm sure I'm being utopian here, merger of the two.

Now it could be that those reactionary forces, like all patriarchial regimes, keep breeding until Eruope is in fact Eurabia and becomes just a further swath of the failed Sunni Middle East/North Africa. Those immigrant groups may not follow pretty much the standard course of immigrants--have less children, moderate, become conservative (in the good sense). They may not be offered a choice--because of the identity issue--and therefore rebel. Or at least a small enough, strong enough minority does to keep the rest held to their illegitimate ends.

I don't want to come off as coy about that. That is a real possiblity---I did say trajectory not inevitability. I'm not that Hegelian.

If that is what happens that W. Europe will be left as failed states. The Descent of Western Europe will be complete. But the future belongs to the South and East anyway. To be uber-hard nosed for a second, politically-strategically-militarily the US' eyes aren't there anyway.

I want to make that's not me supporting violence against women or against so-called non-believers. Or saying that the West deserves terrorist attacks, or that Islam doesn't need to go through both a Reformation and a move into modern Islamic theology.

I'm saying there is something much larger at work. It is halting and painful, never-ending, always struggle to maintain the great gains it has made.

Or white Europeans kick in and bump up their demographic numbers. Or technology massively extends lifespan, energy needs are more taken care of and the tyranny of sheer numbers slightly abates.

Europe is only really going to learn how to deal with differences domestically if it takes a much wider gaze and much stronger pull outward--this time not as colonials but as the backbone of the SysAdmin function that daily calls out for its naming.

Overview of Policy Chage Options for Iraq

Reflections on Charlie Rose (interviews Les Gelb and Robert Kagan). Click on episode 10-25.

The Bush line--which is not any longer called Stay the Course, but is in essentials Stay the Course. Les Gelb, thinks Bush just wants to hold the troops in Iraq until 2008--so that he hasn't lost the war. Kissinger's advice to Bush--there is no exit strategy but victory.

If that is the case, then as Gelb suggests Bush will not only wreck his presidency but the next president who will be a one-termer likely. I've heard some Obama-supporters argue that he should not run for this very reason. McCain would only be a one-termer who for his greater loyalty to Bush would earn the role of Hamlet.

And Bush's policy has failed.

Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, (and John McCain?)--Send in more troops. Still no answer to the fact that the government has the validity. Power has devolved to the local level. Open source wafare and all the rest. Plus this has no political support in America.

Mediate Republican Plan--Graham, Warner, Baker? Bring in Syria/Iran, the Sunnis, and Turks.

The Democrat Line--various versions of a timetable. Get out immediately. Set dates, set a timetable, etc. The criticism: that we are singalling a loss and which will embolden "terrorists." By which the critics mean various al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda inspired groups, who will gain a foothold--not as strong as Pakistan perhaps--but in the heart of the Middle East.

al-Qaeda can not take over a government, has no popular mandate. But they can wreck massive havoc. Also, with an American pullout, the civil war explodes.

And these arguments are true.

The Joe Biden/Les Gelb Plan. Tri-partitie regionalism, buy ins on oil, water to the Sunnis, Shia, Kurds. Criticism (from a Ferguson): leads to further bloodshed. Would it lead to a regional war? The country can't be split easily because of mixed populations. The mass flux of refugees and ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods--already happening. Will happen at a clip beyond belief.

So the real question--after Vietnam there was this worry of the dominoes theory of communism. Which turned out to be completely wrong. Vietnam has now become Capitalist, as China has become their prime motor.

Nixon-Kissinger made a deal with China--Kissinger foresaw the multi-polar world coming. The obvious answer would be to make such a move with Iran.

The argument has come up about whether our lack of winning the peace in Iraq (Bush sticks with this War imagery, the War has been over for years....which is the source of most of the confusion on both sides).

The Dominoes would then be as Rumsfield said a Caliphate. Which of course is nonsense. The Dominoes would more likely be a regional war. The Shia have risen--that is a domino falling but a rising.

Kissinger told Bush that if Iraq fails, it will be worst than Vietnam. Vietnam was a tragey--as Charlie Rose points out--of human loss, American and Vietnamese.

The problem with still calilng this the Iraq War, as Barnett notes, is that wars are either won or lost. Post-war Iraq is neither won nor lost but only degrees of each. There will never be victory in Iraq in this sense. This is the crux of hte multi-polar world. It's only degrees of bringing people into modernist ways.

The US still has lawless ghettos for God's sakes. Why do we expect diferently in Iraq of all places?

So what dominoes are there to fall? There is no Caliphate coming. Although there could likely be an Waziristan-like al-Qaeda holdout in Anbar. Which becomes a base for operations against Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria.

The dominoes are not to al-Qaeda but possibly to Sunni Islamism (very different than al-Qaeda) taking hold of the Levant. Oil comes into play then. No doubt about it. The Shia, if only we would pull the Kissinger move on Iran, would lead like China, to likely modernization (a la Vietnam) in 15 years, maybe sooner.

The real shoe or domino dropping or whatever--which is totally obscured by all this War questioning, missed by both parties in its holstic sense--is what to do about Sunni heartland?

The Shia have won. Period. End of story. They will continue to face brutal fighting I'm sure in Iraq. But overall their trajectory is clear--towards China, Russia, India. Hence I call for a deal with them.

The Shia get their oil from China. China is the crux of all this. If we want this multi-polar world to hold together going forward, China and the US must come to the table. China is our mediator with Russia, will be with Iran, and could pull the plug on Kim.

The issue is the Sunni heartland. And the fact that the Shia are in Lebanon and Syria, which gives Iran leverage to pull a Sunni-Shia lockdown against Israel/US as long as the US refuses to accept its nuclearization.

What none of these positions really thinks about is long-term and the change from Sunni dominance to Shia. That is the herat of everything. Bush doesn't see it, the Dems don't see it, pullout, stay the course, all of these are abstract useless arguments and will figure themselves out however they do, outside the context of what is the future trend.

Similiarly the arguments for Ethical Realism, Liberty under Rule of Law, Neo-Realism as future policy proposals--again all of those have some measure of truth but absolutize their partiality to go integral for a moment.

There are those who refuse to see the multi-polarity of the future--and that includes many pullout Democrats by the way. Then there are those who see it here but flinch and see only pain and horror/danger coming as a result (Ferugson, Kagan). The next step is to see what is possible in that future--what is hopeful.

The Work of Peace

Photo of Anglican Bishop of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Duleep de and Geeta de Chickera.

The Bishop and his wife came to visit Vancouver last week. Both of them came for a lunchtime visit to my school last week.

Now here is a man and woman, who have lived through 30 years of Civil War, the devastation of the tsunami, and now sadly as Anglicans have to deal with the chaos in the Communion. They both radiated such calm. He stressed so deeply the constant necessity of dialogue with our opponents--something Americans, boy, could they learn.

It was a real inspiration to me. I'm more and more impressed with the leadership, across denominations (Catholic, Anglican, Protestant), of the Asian Churches. Christians are a small percentage throughout Asia (something like 2%, although 2% of Asia is a massive number aggregately). And the vast majority of those are poor, degradingly poor. They don't really have time for debates on all these non-starter issues--people are dying. People are without hope.

They also, coming from cultures with vast and proud religious histories (Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, depending) are at the forefront of inter-religious dialogue. They come from wartorn areas--India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Korea, Japan. Great givers of the wisdom of peace and reconciliation.

Plus given their relative smallness, Asian Chritians have also played a key role in the work of ecumenism. The Church of South India has united Methodists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Reformed Churches. They realize that ecumenism and the unity of Christians will come when we finally just decide it will happen. When we start to take communion with one another, find ways for it to happen, and then build our systems from there.

Instead of trying to having theological debates first and going back through the history--Orthodox vs. Catholic, leavened versus unleavened bread, reformation versus Papacy, etc.

Unfortunately Bishop Duleep talked about the difficulties he has had with what he calls "new" churches. By which he means aggressively evangelizing Pentecostals, "evangelicals", etc. Most of whom would be categorized as fundamentalist.

One of the sadder stories has been such groups using medical care or child education as a ploy to get people in the door to then push an aggressive evangelizing agenda on them. And if you think that only happens in Sri Lanka, think again. I know of quite a few such churches in the States that will only give bread/soup to the hungry who first accept their message--who publicly proclaim Jesus Christ is their Savior...only then do they get food.

Which of course if read Matthew 25 is exactly what Jesus said right? Lord, when did we feed, clothe you? Answer: When you told the people to first accept me as their personal Lord and Savior and then gave them bread and clothing. Right? But my snarkiness aside, those gruops live in a world in which people must either accept Jesus Christ or they will burn. It is that simple--and simple-minded. So from their view, they will use "any means necessary" (and trust me, they do) in order to convert/evangelize. For them, it is their work of love.

Bishop also talked more generally about fundamentalisms across relgious divides--Buddhist fundamentalists (oh yes, liberal Westerners with your happy Buddha image, they exist, they are large force behind the Civil War in Sri Lanka), Islamic (where don't you get these guys?), Hindu, and Christian.

He said that the more moderate elements of each religious group are in charge of talking to, admonishing the fundamentalists. Which is totally wise. Sadly though he did say that it was generally tougher for the Christian moderates to "police" the Chrsitian fundamentalists than their Buddhist counterparts--don't know about Hindu/Muslim.

It really to me shames the Western and African Churches--on both sides sadly--for the pain into which this Communion has fallen. And just for the record, the Sri Lankan Church has just ordained its first woman, accepts the US Church's election of the first female Primate of the Communion, and has started a process of discussion on human sexuality.

People like these two--not abtruse theological debates--are the answer to simplistic analysis like Sam Harris. Where do these two fit in his schema? Mother Theresa? Desmond Tutu?

Attacked in the Shower (by your girl)

Yesterday morning I took a shower. The cold water left me for some reason, leaving only the hot, and I got a tad scalded. I quickly moved to the back of the shower, did the tip toe thing and then reached across to knock the shower head down, so I could reach the button to send it back to the faucet. Turn it off and start all over again.

Took a shower last night with Chloe (not for that reason....). Going in I jinked the thing I realize now. I mentioned that the cold water went out and I got burnt.

Sure enough 5 minutes into the shower, same deal. Bam, no cold. So I go into reflex mode and go to the back. But that didn't really work because Clo couldn't get out of the way of the hot water. So there's a little confusion as she gets hit--she doesn't hit the button, I don't take one as the man for the team to my shame. So then I go to get out of the shower and in the moment of trying to pull the curtain away, she pushes me, and I go down.

Of course she didn't mean for me to fall.

Anyway, I sip on the water, trip over the lip of the tub and crash on the floor and then to add insult to injury the curtain ignominously falls on my head. I had a perfect impression of the tub on my side. Fortunately no broken bones, just some real soreness--especially in my hand which broke my fall. It could have been a lot worse.

Honestly, I think my ego is wounded more than the body. But hey, good practice for marriage right? [I just lost my two female readers--sorry ladies].

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Secret (and Fake?) Gospel of Mark

Interesting piece by Bruce Chilton in the NYSun.

Chilton reviews a new work out by author by Stephen Carlson entitled, The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark"

Morton Smith was a Columbia University Professor and Historical Jesus scholar. Smith is famous for his controversial thesis that Jesus was a gay magician (which I've chided occassionally on this post but it was a serious argument).

Smith's thesis was based on a document he claims to have discovered called the Secret Gospel of Mark. The Secret Gospel of Mark is not the same as the Gospel of Mark familiar to New Testament readers.

In the Secret Gospel Jesus initiates a disciple--a young man who it is said wearing only a linen cloth, spends the night with Jesus, who initiates him into the mysteries of the Kingdom.

Now, there is a lot of background. The document Smith claims to have been the Secret Gospel was allegedly an 18th cenutry version of a letter from Clement of Alexandria (2nd century Church Father) and on what he (Clement) purported to have heard taught in the circle of the Gnostic (non-orthodox) teacher Carpocrates.

So notice what has to fall in place.

1. the 18th century manuscript has to be genuine and not contain any errors in copying Clement's letter from the 2nd century.
2.Clement must have actaully written such a letter.
3.Clement must have correctly understood what Carpocrates was teaching--it is purported to be Clement's version of an opponent's point of view, inherently biased in other words.
4.These Gnostics, if they did teach such a thing, had a historical source for Jesus (i.e. Jesus really did spend the night with the young man).

Now, in the Greek spending the night does not mean having sex. It means sleeping in the same room or whatever. Only moderns as Chilton notes would add that layer of meaning on. So even if this were an actual ancient that somehow--which no one can prove btw--describes what Jesus "actually" did, it doesn't produce an argument for inclusion of homosexuals.

Which starts to make the story smell fishy. And just for the record, the concept of magic is a fluid one in the ancient world. Usually magic was negative. The concept of wonder-worker or enlightened master positive. But either way it is a Gnostic text--if it ever actually existed.

That is the Gnostic Story, unlike the canonical Gospel stories, is not the making into a narrative of what is their theology. Gnostic Gospels are exactly like the Canonical Gospels in this sense, in my book. The entire Historical Jesus pursuit consequently is destroyed on the rocks of the gospels themselves being interpretations from later communities not biographies of Jesus.

Conservative Historical Jesus scholars (NT Wright) take the Canonical ones to be true. Liberal ones (Crossan, Smith) take the Gnostic ones. All of which is backwards and is more a product of their religious-political affiliation then anything to do with the historical Jesus. Who is gone to history btw.

Certain Jesus Seminar Scholars--like John Dominic Crossan--or pro-Gnostic scholars like Helmut Koester and Elaine Pagels supported the text. [10 points to whoever spots the Adi Da reference in this article first--talk about bizarre connections]. Their scholarship flawed but their desire to promote an agenda: namely an anti-institutional one. Crossan argued that the Secret Gospel is earlier than the Gospel of Mark found in the NT. Which fits perfectly a notin that a conservative religious establishment hid the truth of the true radical Jesus turning him into their religious figure so they could control evilly the world. [Calling Dan Brown, calling Dan Brown--pick up the white courtesy phone].

Chilton believes that Carlson has persuasively shown the Secret Gospel is a hoax. Chilton is less convinced that Carlson has proved the case that Morton Smith himself is the author of the Secret Gospel. Chilton says that argument is ;ersuasive not conclusive.

Smith was himself a homosexual who was the recipient of abuse, scorn, and prejudice on account of his sexual orientation. Carlson sees in that fact evidence as to why Smith would have forged the document.

The question of Christianity and homosexuality, which is a monster topic in itself--not going get into that now--has to come on the question of theology and the faith not on the historical Jesus. We have to ask the same questions the Gospel writers did...

Namely what would Jesus be like if he were alive today in our community?

I believe that Jesus were he alive in our world, especially the Western post-industrial world would (and does) love gay people and would support gay rights as well as criticize elements of gay communities that stand in opposition to the Gospel values. But no more so than he would to the larger "non-gay" world.

The arguments about the historical Jesus to me are non-starters. It is to Christ, the Resurrected One and the Holy Spirit that one must look for guidance on these matters. Because they are inter-church squabbles. People on the outside can give their two cents, that's fine. But the Historical Jesus bs is a product of this Enlightenment obsession with what really happened. And this notion, again false, that the Church can never change her mind but only renew what was done in the past and forgotten.

The arguments for inclusion of active homosexuals in committed relationships has to come from the general themes of the Bible--justice, God of mercy, faithful love--not references to the Historical Jesus. The reference to the Historical Jesus is an attempt to bypass the hard work of conversion, of meeting people where they are and trying to show them by one's life and actions that God blesses gay partnerships. The justification via the Historical Jesus is like a theological form of judicial activism. It doesn't want to go through the legislature.

If Carlson's thesis is true--at least insofar as the Secret Gospel of Mark is a fraud, that is a major discovery. I'll have to do some more digging to see if Carlson's book delivers the goods and puts this baby to sleep.

NJ Ruling Out

Watch the two editorial lines on this story.

First, the NYTimes: New Jersey Backs Rights for Gay Unions
Second, the Bellingham (WA) Herald: NJ Court Stops Short of Gay Marriage

Both are true but misleading--or at least shows the editorial slant. The ruling states that according to NJ Law, same-sex couples enjoy the same rights and status as opposite sex married couples under the law. But it leaves open to the democratic process whether this is marriage or civil unions.

I know my position on this isn't popular with all gay people--both friends and activists. But I think this type of ruling (similar to Vermont) is the way forward. Leaving the definition and proceduralism to the local state elections--I realize then in most states there will not be gay marriage legislation enacted. As long as that is balanced by a judicial restraint of protecting rights and leaving open the details to the legislature, while I don't personally like that setup, it is not what I would vote for, I think it is the best deal to be made.

My worry is that if a federal or even state judiciaries impose rulings, we will have another Roe v. Wade scenario whereby the opponents can claim for 30 yrs.+ that it would never have been passed by legislative process and therefore is unconstitutional (judicial activism), ripping another gaping hole in an already fractured American psyche.

More locally and short term, the Senate Race in NJ is hot as the one seat that the Democrats could possibly lose. The Republicans were hoping for a pro-gay marriage ruling two weeks before the election to energize conservative traditional marriage voters. It will be interesting to watch whether this gives the Republicans enough juice.

The strangest scenario--the one the Democrats would shoot themselves if it occurred--would be if the Dems got the 6 seats necessary to change control. That is the Democrats win in Penn, Montana, Ohio, and Rhode Island, which looks very likely at this point. Then take 2/3 of Tenn, Missouri, and Virginia. Then lose NJ and lose their majority by one seat.

The Republicans as of last week had pulled moneys out of the NJ race because of the expense of the market. They may be willing to jump back in here. Don't know.

Iraqi Coverage

The end game is approaching.

Juan Cole reports on Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's defense of regional autonomy for the Shi'a south. Hakim, leader of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (backed by Iran) and head of the United Iraqi Alliance pushed the measure through against Sunnis, Kurds, and some Shia.

Hakim's main intra-Shia rival is Moqtada al-Sadr.

The government of Nuri al-Maliki has attempted to placate the Americans by attacking the Mahdi Army (Al-Sadr's militia). Elements of which are outside of Sadr's control. The Mahdi Army is fighting the Badr Bridage (al-Hakim's militia) and the Iraqi Army/Police in the South [Warning Graphic photo on that link]. Sadr, based in Baghdad, opposes regionalism and hence al-Hakim. The fighting involves Marsh Arabs--considered inferior by many other Iraqi Arabs, Shia and Sunni--have clung to Sadr who is a champion of the Shia poor.

Worse still, perhaps Nuri al-Maliki, Shia Prime Minister has publicly denounced the US Military for the its proposed 12-18 month pullout. His government is collapsing. The Sunni Insurgents have no buy in to the government and al-Hakim and al-Sadr are splitting the Shia apart. Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has pulled away from politics all together in protest. The Kurds are simply waiting for a way out that won't bring violence from Turkey and/or Iran.

Peter Beinart on The McLaughlin Group last week (watch it here 10/20) suggests that the rumors of a coup against al-Maliki will increase in both Washington and Baghdad. I think he is right--not necessarily that there will be a coup, but that the sniff and talk of it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will further weaken his already on life-support coalition.

Operation Stand Together to hold Baghdad has failed by the Army's own admission. They have not the troops nor the know-how to fight 4GW open-source warfare. The Army's timetable of 12-18 months is already what was formerly called "cut and run"--because it will no longer be based on benchmarks.

After the election, moderate elements from both sides--Sen. John Warner, Richard Lugar, James Baker, Lee Hamilton--are going to talk about how the pullout occurs. The consensus I think has been reached that Stay the Course is dead. Bush now publicly speaks of "flexibility" within the last week. He also stated that he has never proclaimed stay the course.

There is not yet consensus as to what to replace the strategy of clear, hold, and hand over, build the Iraqi Army, and buy-in the Sunnis that has dominated the last 2 years or so of Iraq. That policy has failed in Iraq and domestically in the US.

The Newshour, this week is doing a story of different options for the post-stay the course strategy: tripartite division, complete immediate withdrawal, timetables, etc.

This is going to happen whether or not the Republicans hold the Senate. If they do hold the Senate, how this endgame works itself out will likely go differently, but overall the trajcetory is clear. There is only now a question of how soon, how many, and what policy substitution is to take place.

We will now see the beginning of the soul searching that will have to take place in the US military, homefront, political realm, etc.
Even the American Enterprise Institute knows the jig is up.

RNC Attack Ad

Update 10/27: I have taken the ad down. You can still find it on YouTube. I explain the decision here.

Things are heating up for Sen. seat in Tenn. This ad recently came out paid for by the RNC--Republican National Committee. The Republican Nominee in the race is Bob Corker, former mayor Chattanooga. This ad is over the top to put it mildly. After the Ford campaign and even some Republicans called the ad disgusting, Corker himself has asked the RNC to take the ad down.

Which apparently they won't. Ken Mehlmann, RNC Head, has publicly stated the ad stays. The latest news is a so-far unsubstantiated (as far as I can tell) claim on the unofficial Harold Ford weblog that a member of the RNC works for Corker's staff. Very odd situation all around.

Ford has a comeback ad, if I can find it I'll post it. Ford himself has shown strains from this character attack, and uncharateristically (I think) lost his cool a bit the other day. Ford interrupted a Corker press conference to tell Corker to stop attacks on his family. Ford comes from a political dynasty, of whom a couple have been convicted/plead guilty to corruption.

Ford is running to be the first African American ever elected to the Senate from the South. During Reconstruction, African Americans did hold Senatorial Office but they were nominated form their state legislatures not elected in the way Ford is attempting to do. That he is as close as he is, says something I think about his presence and the changing face of the Upper South.

A typical chorus of racism (white woman, black man) has emerged, although Ford himself has been smart not to get into all that. He simply has said that he sees it as a sign of desperation on the part of the Republicans.

I've spent a lot of time in the South. Cincinnati has a large number of Kentucky migrants--including my grandmother. I have to confess I still can't really grasp race in the South. Tenn recall is Upper South which I think is different even than the Deep South. One observation, not mine but mostly what I've heard from others from there or outsiders who lived in dif. parts of the South--the racism is more overt. Which for some--like a Nigerian fellow I met here in Canada who lived in Alabama for his university--was in a way better. The rules were clear and people quickly figured where to go, where not to go, etc. The implication being that in the North the racism is more covert. The North is supposed to be the place where race doesn't matter, but clearly that just doesn't hold up.

So I don't know what to say about the charges of racism in this ad. Some analysts have wondered whether the RNC is playing the Southern Strategy--the race card among other things.

I have also a suspicion--which I have no proof for, it's just a suspicion given past events--that we may still be seeing the influence of The Architect Karl Rove. Rove, you may recall, during the 2000 Rep. Pres. Nomination process used the race card against his own party's Sen. John McCain. A third party or "independent" rumor (as in the Ford case above) circulated saying that McCain had a black child. Enough said, it was in South Carolina. The black child, in question, was Mcain and his wife's adopted daugher from Mother Theresa's orphanage in Calcutta. McCain being his whole career pro-life, George W. Bush as governor of Texas pro-choice.

Mehlmann is quite close with Rove. On the flip side, White House Press Sec. Tony Snow on Hardball said that if Corker wants the ad off the air, it should come off. Doesn't seem like an official White House position, but that might be evidence against Rove influence. Might not too.

The Rove strategy--if even being applied by another--is to attack the strenghts of the opponent. Attack McCain on his war record--rumors also circulated that McCain was a little crazy, God bless him, from being a POW. Bush of course under a cloud about his whole no-show at National Guard. [If anyone wonders why I bring that up, it is because I think John McCain should have been president for the last 8 years over Bush, Gore, and Kerry, but that his time is now probably past. I think that South Carolina primary has hurt our country immensely]

Ford has done remarkably well among rural whites and more so urban Tenn. whites. Attack the opponents strength to cover your candidates weakness--Corker does not seem to have much cross-racial appeal. In that sense the strategy is Rove-ian. Now every times this happens I think people are too smart to fall for this. And so far--2000, 2002, 2004--I've been wrong. Actually with Rove and Bush it goes back even further.

2006 could be the final punch to the Rove strategy of a permanent Republican majority centered on playing to the base. The House is lost to the Republicans. That is why they are focusing their efforts on Tenn. The Senate is still up for grabs--this race probably being the closest.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One More Foreign Policy Mass Vision

This time from Michael Lind, NewAmerica Foundation.

Long piece, but stick with it. Will be in next month's American Prospect.


Much of America’s weakness will be the result of self-inflicted wounds: the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, along with the Bush administration’s gratuitous insults to allies, its arrogant unilateralism and its hostility to international law. But as tempting as it may be to put all of the blame on the Bush administration, the truth is that most of the trends that will limit American power and influence in the next decade are long-term phenomena produced by economic, demographic and ideological developments beyond the power of the US or any government to influence. The rise of China, the shift in the centre of the world economy to Asia, the growth of neo-mercantilist petro-politics, the spread of Islamism in both militant and moderate forms -- these trends are reshaping the world order in ways that neither the US nor any of its allies can do much to control.

Lind argues that the long 90s (Fall of Berlin Wall until 2003 Iraqi Insurgency) we predicated, among both Republicans and Democrats of various sorts on some flawed assumptions--three in particular: unipolar world, liberal victory, and free market ideology.

1.Unipolar world.
--Neocons being those under Bush who sought to install a US unilateral order
--Neolibes being those who saw US/Europe/NATO/UN humanitarian invasion order with US at head.

The world, as Lind argues, has been multi-polar since at least the 70s. India and China's rise is now 25 years in the making. Islamism, especially of the Radical bent, comes from the humiliation of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

2.The victory of Democracy (note themes in Ferguson)

Lind again:
The fact is that most of the people engaged in political violence today -- from the Basque country to the Philippines -- are not fighting for individual rights, nor for that matter are they fighting to establish an Islamist caliphate. Most are fighting for a national homeland for the ethnic nation to which they belong. For most human beings other than deracinated north Atlantic elites, the question of the unit of government is more important than the form of government, which can be settled later, after a stateless nation has obtained its own state. And as the hostility towards Israel of democratically elected governments in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon shows, democracy can express, even inflame, pre-existing national hatreds and rivalries; it is not a cure for them.


3. Economics


Then there is economics. The conventional wisdom of the long 1990s was correct that capitalism had defeated socialism, but mistaken to assume that the libertarian capitalism fashionable in the US in the late 20th century was the winner. The Japanese never adopted laissez-faire capitalism and China and Russia in recent years have devised their own mixes of state capitalism and free markets.

Remember Ferguson: disintegrating Empires (Lind #1), ethnicities and how democracies can exacerbate sectarian strife (Lind #2), and Economics (Lind #3).

Lind goes on to make many fruther points about how this does not automatically bode well for Democrats. And that if a Dem is elected in '08 will have to deal not only with the death of the Long 90s, but the added catastrophes borught about by Bush--who will be very unlikely to pull out of Iraq if his lame duck tenure starts after Nov. 7th and continues through the 08 Election.

The key then is the establishment needs a new vision, combining both realism, multi-lateralism, uni-lateralism (where necessary), Powell Doctrine conservatism, new alliances with rising Asia, allowing the world to exist in strong regional security zones (Asian NATO), ethical realism, and liberty through law buidling, (pieces of) all of them.

Minus that we are going to see as Ferguson and Lind suggest mass instability in the coming decades on the foreign scene.

What all three of these point to--ethno-nationalism, neo-mercantilism, and multi-polarity is the interpaly between globalized fragmentation and the rising need for stability (blue) and transparency (orange) around the world, especially Asia, on its own terms.

That blue, blue/orange, orange/blue, orange nexus is most volatile in many ways and has been historically. Environmental, human rights, nationalisms, wage gaps, culture shock from modernity, rural flight, upheveal. And all of that going to take place with the technological frame of instant communication, global weapons trade, internet.

All Things Iraq

From the NPR, book reviews from George Packer, author of Assassain's Gate, one of the best books on Iraq.

Packer covers Cobra II, Fiasco, State of Denial (Bush at War III), Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and The Prince of the Marshes. Cobra II and Fiasco cover the military. Cobra II covers the invasion, Fiasco more the occupation. State of Denial the White House. The Emerald City life inside the Green Zone, and the Prince of the Marshes a British officer's take on Southern Iraq.

Packer mentions some key themes that unite all these works.

1.A Dis-interested President (State of Denial)
2.A Sec. of Defense who broke the back of the military (Cobra II), had no plan for after the invasion, and did not see an insurgency (Fiasco), would not recognize it when it emerged. Leading to a military that tried ridiculous counter-insurgency tactics (remember: building a moat around Baghdad).
3.A Sec. of Defense/VP who went past the normal procedures with weak National Security Advisor (Rice) and Sec. State (Powell). This allowed this Def/VP pole to install political appointees, idoelogical pure ones to the Reconstruction (see: Emerald City).

To those 5, I would add Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson, Harvard Professor, has a new work out---War of the World: 20th Century Conflict and the Descent of the West.

Ferguson's website--complete with smashing photo on the front.

Here he is on ForeignExchange with Fareed Zakaria (if you are wanting to skip ahead, though the other pieces are excellent, minute 10 or so).

And on RadioOpenSource.

Ferguson, you'll note criticizes some of the thinkers/policies I've recommended in this blog. To me its a trialogue with Thomas Barnett, John Robb (Global Guerillas), and Niall Ferguson. Staying with these three has really, I feel, sharpened my thinking around global order.

Ferguson's last book was Empire--which essentially argued that the US is acting like an Empire, needs to admit it, and go about doing it well. That didn't exactly happen, so this book is considered likely his masterpiece.

Ferguson is easily dismissed by some as a colonial imperialist, wishing for the glorious days of yesteryear (he is Scot-British). But that's a little too easy.

What War of the World does is track the main instigators behind the brutality of the 20th century. Ferguson identifies three "e"s for "easy" (sorry) reference: economics, empire, and ethnicities. [If you remember nothing else, remember these three].

Empire. Or more properly the dis-integration of them. The British empire's collapse. But more imporantly the falling of the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Empire. The bulk of violence in the 20th century resided in Central and Eastern Europe.

Ethnicities. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Emipres were the empires par excellence of multiple ethnicities/religions/cultures. When Empires fall, the vacuumn leaves political jockeying, often violent.

Economics. When a market-middle class has not truly emerged and democracy is introduced...as it was by President Wison after WWI into the attempt to create nation-state, then democracies can ignite sectarian conflict. As groups vote according to religion-culture-ethnicity.

Now think Iraq and the 21st century across the Middle East. Volatile economics (check), ethnicities (check), and dying Empires (check).

Ferguson also sharply criticizes the Biden plan (tripartite division of Iraq). While I think he is generally right that such a division will cause mass killing, but truth be told I think it is happening anyway and the US can't really do much about it.

I think Iraq is becoming the Balkans to an exponential power.

The subtitle of the book is the Descent of the West. Which means as the West descends, the East rises. We have too often, and Ferguson is right one here, seen the 20th century as the victory of the West liberal democracy etc. Except that the Old Core, Old Europe is moribund. See the 20th century as the release of Asia/Africa from Western control--India, de-colonialization, the rise of China, etc.

The US, as Ferguson argues, is not built for imperial adventures--they will have to fight the Global Guerillas and need the SysAdmin of Barnett to do so. Here Ferguson sees only a more frightening future, with no empire to step up to the plate. China with its traditional Middle Kingdom notion not interested in political exportation/interference with other nations around the globe.

This is why Ferguson sees more bloodshed not less in the 21st. I see his work as the projection of what will likely happen if the US does follow a Barnett-like transfer to new connections, partnerships with New Rising powers (China, India, Brazil, etc.).

witnessing the end of witnessing

Mute while talking,
words without Word,
a Word of Truth and Power.

How does one speak,
while the speaker is witnessed by another?
Wiser, calmer, and unspeakable.

And even that Witness then dissolves,
Then how to speak?
when speaking is the source?

When plates clanging
is the Truth?


From the NYTimes:

Key quote--

Despite the image of Sudan as a land of cracked earth and starving people, the economy is booming, with little help from the West. Oil has turned it into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa — if not the world — emboldening the nation’s already belligerent government and giving it the wherewithal to resist Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur. American sanctions have kept many companies from Europe and the United States out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are racing in. Direct foreign investment has shot up to $2.3 billion this year, from $128 million in 2000, all while the American government has tried to tighten the screws.

The future belongs to Africa--politically, militarily, economically. And when the US finally gets off this hobbyhorse about Asia, which will have to rule itself anyway, and focus on Africa, China will be there already at every step.

Child labor is up in sub-Saharan Africa, the only place on earth where this happening. Child labor is historically linked with the earliest (and most horrific) phase of industrialization. It is where what Friedman called the economic herd is headed next, like it or not. Without invovlement, this push will make ss Africa the perfect breeding ground for Islamism, 4Gw terrorism, and even perhaps al-Qaeda jihadism. [See Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia].

God save the people of Darfur because it's pretty clear no humans are coming to their aid anytime soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Race and Freemasonry

An interesting piece from the AP on racial tensions, particularly in the Deep South between white and black Masons. A quotation:

Nationwide, Masonic groups operate in a separate-but-supposedly-equal system in which whites typically join one network of Masonic groups, called Grand Lodges, and blacks typically join another, called Prince Hall. But in the South, it goes further: White-controlled Grand Lodges in 12 Southern states do not even officially recognize black Masons as their brothers — the Masonic term is "mutual recognition" — and in some cases, black lodges have taken similar stands. Masons have quietly debated race relations for years, and the issue is increasingly coming into public view.

The article goes on to say that the first mutual recognition occurred in 1989 (Conn.) and then 37 other states have followed suite. Black and white Masonic lodges had been separate since (at least) the Revolutionary War.

And depending on the area, interesting differences emerge. From the article:

This fall, white Masons in North Carolina refused to grant recognition to Prince Hall Masons. The vote was 681 for recognition and 404 against — just short of the two-thirds majority required, according to Ric Carter, editor of the state's Masonic newspaper. Black Masons in North Carolina granted recognition of white Masons in 2004.

But elswhere:

The head of Prince Hall Masons in Arkansas, Cleveland Wilson, said neither black nor white groups there have discussed mutual recognition. Extending Masonic brotherhood would be nice, he said, "but we're fine without them." "I'm of the attitude that since they haven't shown any interest, I'm not interested either," Wilson said.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lectio Divina

In the on-going exploration of non-literal ways of reading/experiencing the Bible--Lectio Divina,
Lectio Divina lit. translates as "Divine Reading." Maybe better as Sacred Reading or Sacred Meditation (on the Text).

Lectio was practiced by the Western Christian monasticism from the time of St. Benedict (400s) up through the Middle Ages, to its renaissance of sorts today. The practice was lost, among both Catholic laity and Protestants who (because of its clericalization/monasticization) says it as a cursed Catholic popery. Although I found out this week that early Reformed Calvinists practiced Lectio.

It is way to enter the Biblical text as a mean of union with God. It can be prayed either individually or communally. The texts most often used is the Psalms.

Lectio consists of four moments: lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio (reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation).

Lectio--the reading of the text. Read the text adn follow along until one is moved--until a word or phrase strikes one. "I look to the hills, from whence shall come my help--In the Lord who made heaven and earth." (Ps 121) A wonderful way to do this is to chant the text or read it aloud as was the practice for the ancients, who never read silently to themselves.

Meditation--also called Rumination (ruminatio). Rumination comes from the word for a cow chewing cud. The pray-er should chew on this text, until meditation begins. What does making heaven and earth mean? What it is to look to the Hills? The hills around one's house--if one lives with such geography.

Oratio. Out of the meditation, one's heart is moved. The words touch us at the emotional level at our core. These prayers can be petitionary, even ejaculatory--Save us Lord. Christ hear our prayer.

Contemplatio. After being touched at our core, feeling the Love of God reach into our most wounded and fearful places, we seek only to express gratitude and to rest in this Lover. Here we reside no longer in the text but the empty space between the text. Contemplation, in a Christian context is a grace. That is only God can lead us to rest in God completely, beyond space-time, beyond language, beyond self-consciousness. Our actions can aid/hurt that movement, but can never gain it, earn it.

In the patristic era (400-800) lectio divina was seen as one time of prayer with four movements. Like a circle, passing fludily from one to the other. In the scholastic Medieval Era (1100-1500), the four movements were viewed more as four separate steps, each following from the other. One was to pray for a period--say years--on meditation, never then reacing oratio, contemplatio.

In integral terminlogy this is the difference between states (patristic) and state-stages (scholastics). An integral spiritual Biblical meditation would encourage practice of the patristic pattern of four movements, seeing overall in the course of time periods of one's life a scholastic-like patterning typical of one or so of the categories. In general terms that would link up those state-stages with the traditional notions of purgation, illumination, and union (lectio/meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio respectively). Both states and state-stages influenced by the stage(s) of one's development--the stages providing most of the content of those states.

What is beautiful about this process is getting out of heady Biblical studies, morality arguments, and all the rest. It also can lead individuals beyond Bible thumping and trite-syrupy pietistic reflections. Anyone, whatever their confession, will be taken to depths by this practice. How they interpret/re-contact after the experience may or may not allow them greater openness, even (so-called horizontal) breadth and the rest. It may not, depending on how constrictive their church context, psychological reasons, and existence/non-existence of mentors and support system to grow.

Sunday Political Junky

First, Sen. Barack Obama on Meet the Press. He is know considering--I think quite seriously--a run for the Oval Office. I imagine the positive showing of Harold Ford Jr in Tenn. is influencing his decision. About the 19th minute on, watch him describe the future of a trans-partisan political discourse.

Russert quotes Obama's book which decries the way in which American political debate--big vs. small gov't, pro/anti war, is all from the 60s. He says, he doesn't want big or small gov't per se, but rather smart gov't. Ding dong, somebody finally gets it. To me, the most important thing the Sen. says is that truly great presidents change the culture and not just policies. Of all peope he names (get this) Ronald Reagan, who though Obama does not buy into say trickle-down (aka voodoo) economics, he sees in Reagan someone who communicated, who changed the tenor of what Americans felt about themselves. [The Dude gets it]. As readers will know, I'm not anti-Hillary per se, but I'm not a huge advocate either. If I were to decide between say a McCain, Gingrich, or Giuliani versus Hillary for '08, I'm not sure what I would do at this point.

But Obama to me is very intriguing. Green, no doubt; he would need a strong team---Biden as Sec. of State, a possible Rep. centrist (Chuck Hagel?) for SecDef. I"m still saying Zakaria for UN Ambassador.

Second, the panel discussion on Meet the Press as well as on Washington Weekly (PBS). The Republicans are likely to lose the House in a fairly decent tidal wave. Charlie Cook, probably the best mind on the subject, suggests a net gain from the Dems of at least 20 seats, possibly in the 35+ category---needing 15 to change the majority.

The Senate is tougher to call. Montana, my own Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are now basically off the board--to the Democratic Party. All incumbent Republicans likely to lose their seats. New Jersey which looked for awhile as if a ripe fruit for the Republicans to snatch from an inept appointed Dem. Seantor (Menendez), looks safe for the Donkeys.

That leaves the Democrats needing 2 out of the 3 of Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri. Ford in Tenn. was out to a lead, but the Republican nominee Bob Corker is pulling even again. tThat seat is open because of the retirement of Majority Leader Bill Frist. Virginia is open only because George Allen has been a baffoon (the whole macaca incident)--should have been a free ride for him. Missouri, I think, looks as of now leaning Democrat.

Third, the President and the would have been President (John Kerry) on This Week with George S.


Tragic news--elevator collapses at Ohio State dorm killing student.

The event took place at Stradley Hall. I lived my freshman year in Bradley Hall--one block away. I used to ride that elevator (circa 98-99) and even then the elevator would open not completely congruent with the floor (note that reference to that in the story).