Saturday, July 23, 2005

Damn Treasonous POW War Heroes!

Regarding the fact that the Administration is trying to strong arm Republican senators Graham and McCain, Andrew Sullivan writes:
It beggars belief that, after Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Gitmo and the dozens of deaths in interrogation that the administration wouldn't want some way out of its own impasse. But no: as so often, it sticks its heels in, and refuses to acknowledge an obvious and terrible mistake in the war. I look forward to the hard right describing McCain as a leftist or unpatriotic because he wants to restore America's reputation as a country that acts ferociously but always humanely in its own defense.

Well put. As I said in an earlier post, both of these men are conservatives and I do not agree with Graham and McCain on many things, but on this issue, they deserve credit. McCain, especially, should be listened to by this Administration; who better to explain just what the boundaries of 'cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment' should be?
(Crossposted by Bostondreams at FloridaBlues)

Why They Hate Us, Part 2

Again, the Islamist terrorists bomb a target with no military value, and indiscriminately murder over two dozen people, wounding hundreds and destroying a hotel in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. Sharm el-Sheikh is a popular resort destination for foreign tourists in Egypt. According to CNN,
Twenty-eight of those injured are non-Egyptian citizens, said Hala el-Khatib, spokeswoman for the Egyptian Tourism Ministry. They include 13 Italians; five British; three Spanish; three Saudis; one Turk; one Ukrainian; a Russian; and an Arab-Israeli, she said.
About five non-Egyptian citizens are among the dead, she said, but their nationalities were not available.

This was a stupid, stupid move on the part of the terrorists, and does nothing to influence a government or intimidate a people. How is this action a protest against Western influence in the Middle East? My God...they killed their own co-religionists!I'm sorry. This really bothers me. Insane. Insane.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at Floridablues)

Friday, July 22, 2005

How DARE You Think You Have Power!

According to the Washington Post, President Bush has at last discovered his veto pen, and is threatening to veto any spending bill that, in the words of the administration, "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."
Now, I am pretty sure that the Constitution gives the Congress the right to decide how money should be spent and provides for checks on presidential power, wartime or not. The Administration's position is that the President has the right to do whatever is needed to for 'the protection of Americans' in the War on Terror. This would include, I assume, rendition, forms of torture, the holding of 'ghost' detainees, and permanent confinement without trial or hearing, as well as no outside oversight of military prisons such as Abu Ghraib or Guatanamo. From the article:
"If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed, the statement said.

This, of course, is all along the lines of 'Fighting them in Iraq so that we don't fight them here,' which has worked so well. We know from experience that torturing prisoners gives accurate and helpful information. And hey, if you limit the ability of the President to do what he wants, then you are endangering America, you damn commie, Muslim-loving traitors John McCain and Lindsey Graham!
Say what you will about Graham and McCain, both conservative Senators are at least making an effort to rein in the excesses in prisoner abuse and to ensure Congressional oversight of Executive actions, and paying more than lip service to the so called 'culture of life.'
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Raising the Age, Lowering the Standards?

According to recent reports, the Pentagon is seeking approval to raise the maximum enlistment age to 42 years old, up from the current 35 years old. This would apply to all services, but focus primarily on the Army, as the other branches have met recruitment goals so far this year. This is not a good sign. How long could you expect these soldiers to serve on the front or in high intensity combat positions? 8 years? 10 years? How long until they begin to show their age?
Perhaps I am wrong. Roger Clemens is 42 years old and is one of the best pitchers in baseball today (though I shudder saying that as a Red Sox fan!). Nolan Ryan pitched into his forties, and Julio Franco continues to play at a high level closer to 50 than 40. One hopes, then, that our old soldiers would be able to function at the level of these men, or close to it.
It is a bad omen that we are now close to relying on older men to fill the ranks. I wonder, within twenty years, will we be lowering the minimum age?
I guess this gives me ten more years of 'Re-enlist! Join the Army, Become an Officer' stuff in the mail.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at Floridablues)

Young Earth, Old Fools

Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent and author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, has been attending the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference in Lynchburg, Virgina. For the past few days, Bailey has been posting a journal of his daily experiences at the conference, with a surprisingly limited amount of snarkiness. He does a great job of commenting on the logical fallacies and misleading arguments of the Young Earth creationists he has been listening to, and his closing thought on the conference is, really, one that makes you sad for these people and concerned for the future:
"With Batten's lecture, my time among the creationists came to an end. Just as the Reverend Jerry Falwell promised, there were no snake-handlers at the Creation Mega-Conference. Instead the conferees were a bunch of decent people trying to make sense of the world and live good lives. The deeply saddening thing is that these decent people have come to believe they have to reject modern science in order to do so."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why religion and science must be balanced. Should science be completely adrift from religion, it could lack morality and turn to Mengelism (though certainly religion is not the only source of morality, it is an important one). Should religion control science, science ceases to explore the big questions and consider data and research beyond religious text. As Bailey says, according to some conferees, 'God said it, so it is true.'
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at Floridablues)

Why They Hate Us

Olivier Roy, a professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and the author of "Globalized Islam,"has an op-ed in the New York Times attempting to explain just why Islamic extremists are blowing themselves up and attacking Western societies. Others will most certainly disagree with this piece, but I think it does make some strong points. For example, Roy argues that we need to look beyond the Western prescence in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, we need to better examine 'the radicalization of young, Westernized Muslims.'
He has a point. Consider the recent bombings in London. These do not seem to be the actions of poor, ill-educated Muslim immigrants, but of radicalized and Westernized British Muslims. Roy argues that these young men have bought into the following idea:
From the beginning, Al Qaeda's fighters were global jihadists, and their favored battlegrounds have been outside the Middle East: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir. For them, every conflict is simply a part of the Western encroachment on the Muslim ummah, the worldwide community of believers.
Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, did not support the PLO because he felt that 'to fight for a localized political cause was to forsake the real jihad, which he felt should be international and religious in character.'
Roy also asks us to consider who exactly is involved in the terror attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bali, London, and other locales. He wonders why
"...if the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are at the core of the radicalization, why are there virtually no Afghans, Iraqis or Palestinians among the terrorists? Rather, the bombers are mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Egypt and Pakistan - or they are Western-born converts to Islam. Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan? It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the United States involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination."

I would note that in Iraq at least, a significant percentage of the insurgents are certainly native Iraqis, though the most recent horror of murdered children was almost certainly the work of foreign jihadists. Still, he makes a good point. Much of the rage goes beyond simple Western involvement in Middle Eastern disputes.
Roy continues in the op-ed, arguing that this newest generation of terrorist, the radicalized and Westernized young Muslims, are no different than the 'Red' terrorists of the 1970's and 1980's, rebels seeking a cause and claiming to fight for a worldwide utopia they have no idea how to create. They are isolated, excluded, and angry young men turning to radical religion to find a place for themselves.
"What was true for the first generation of Al Qaeda is also relevant for the present generation: even if these young men are from Middle Eastern or South Asian families, they are for the most part Westernized Muslims living or even born in Europe who turn to radical Islam. Moreover, converts are to be found in almost every Qaeda cell: they did not turn fundamentalist because of Iraq, but because they felt excluded from Western society (this is especially true of the many converts from the Caribbean islands, both in Britain and France). "Born again" or converts, they are rebels looking for a cause. They find it in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah, the same way the ultraleftists of the 1970's (the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades) cast their terrorist actions in the name of the "world proletariat" and "Revolution" without really caring about what would happen after."

As Roy points out, since Spain withdrew from Iraq, the Spanish police have continued to discover and prevent terror attacks in Madrid. Would pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan cause the Islamic terrorists to cease their actions? From Roy's point of view, probably not. Consider, for example, the fact that much of Bin Laden's early rhetoric was directed at American troops stationed on 'holy' Saudi ground (and was a justification for 9/11). Since American troops have left Saudi Arabia, he has found new reasons and new excuses for advocating terror against Western targets. His goal, and the goal of related Islamic terror groups, is the establishment of a pure Islamic caliphate encompasing the boundaries of the old Ottoman Empire, if not beyond.
Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, while desirable, would not stop the terror attacks.
Roy finishes his piece with this disturbing close:
"The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations. And their vision of a global ummah is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are."

A lost generation. Perhaps a good phrase to use in describing these young men who die for the ravings and rantings of self-proclaimed imams and religious scholars. The question I leave you with is simple: what do we do to save this 'lost generation'? How, indeed, do they save themselves?
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Definitely NOT Money, Baby!

Back from Vegas. Wow. They give out porn in the streets there. I could get a whole collection of nice little cards of naked women if I wished. Such a family friendly place! That being said, what a trip. I lost money, but I developed a newfound appreciation for blackjack. Upon reflection, that may not be a good thing.
Anyway, I want to welcome back Gatorchick to Floridablues and say what fun I had posting on the blog. I hope to continue contributing, with I think a bit different perspective than miyazaki and the others. :)

(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at Floridablues)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Money, baby!

I'm off to Vegas. See ya later this week, hopefully richer! :)

Lipstick Lesbians and Islam

There is a great article at Times Online about Irshad Manji, 'a lipstick lesbian, a Muslim and scourge of Islamic leaders,' who wrote the book 'The Trouble With Islam' (which I admit I have yet to read). An excerpt from the article:
The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare ”.

“The good news,” she insists, “is it doesn’t have to be like this.” She wants a reformation in Islam, returning it to its clever, fun-loving roots. “The world’s first ‘feminist’ was an 11th-century Muslim man. Baghdad had one of the first universities in the 9th century; the Spanish ‘Ole!’ comes from ‘Allah’; Islam even gave us the guitar.”

Interesting. I never thought I would hear the words 'fun-loving' and 'Islam' in the same sentence. It's an intriguing article, and she makes some great points, particularly about the imperialistic nature of early Islam and Arabia; check it out! (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan)
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Kill All the Liberals!

Isn't this lovely. Dave Neiwert of Orcinus gives us the lovely background on this admirable sticker. Save America! Kill a Liberal! (Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

No Principal? Who Will Micromanage?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story about an interesting new trend in education: schools without principals. According to the article, instead of a traditional administration, the school is run as a sort of co-operative, and decisions are made by the teachers.
The teachers make decisions about the curriculum, the budget and student discipline. They perform peer evaluations of each other. Often, they come to decisions through discussion and debate, taking a vote if a consensus is not reached. The buck stops with them, not in the principal's office.

As an active member of my local union, this particular part of the article gives me hope for the future of the educator unions:
But in 2001, the IDEAL Charter School, a more pure "teacher cooperative," opened. "We take a lot of pride in the fact that we all have a vote and say in things," said Barbara Ernest, a teacher. "It's a lot of work sometimes, but it's worth it."

Ernest said union officials from New Jersey and school officials from Boston visited IDEAL to see how the teacher cooperative model looks in practice. "This idea has gained a lot of acceptance in recent years," said Jennifer Carter, a teacher.

It is important, I think that with the amount of venom directed at the so-called 'Education Establishment,' the unions become active and visible in studying and supporting this sort of major reform.
Naturally, with the program in infancy, it is difficult to judge just how effective it will be in reforming and improving schools. And I honestly question whether it is right for every school. It depends, I think on the personnel. Consider, for example, how decisions are made at the IDEAL Charter School:
Although specific tasks at the school might be delegated, everyone has a say in the major issues. "There is one main teacher in charge of the budget, but everybody has input and knowledge about it," Ernest said.

At IDEAL the teachers have many meetings, where they sit in a circle and go around, giving each of the 10 teachers the chance to speak. Usually, the teachers arrive at a decision through discussion. Occasionally, they vote.

My own school might have some difficulty with that; it seems, at times, that the faculty cannot agree on the color of the sky! Part of that could be because we have a number of teachers set in their ways, unwilling to embrace change. Or just because we all want to be chiefs.
Whatever the case, I am excited by this experiment. Think of the money that might be available with the removal of administration. And teachers actually working together to make decisions, and CONTROLLING THE BUDGET AND DISCIPLINE. I like it, I like it a lot.
Too bad it will all probably end up on the right wing scrap heap as some stupid socialist experiment. Communalism is always bad, donchyaknow.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

'A Gayer, Fatter America'

Once again, the Bush Administration is seeing the consequences of dividing attention and stretching forces thin. It seems, alas, that according to the always reputable Borowitz Report, the Administration is admitting that it will be unable to fight the War on Terror, War on Gay Marriage, and the War on Obesity all at the same time. According to spokesman Scott McClellan,
“It turns out that these insurgents are more determined than we originally expected, and so are these damn gay couples.”

Mr. McClellan also raised the possibility that the insurgency in Iraq could prevent the U.S. from continuing to fight the war on obesity.

“Let’s face it, folks,” Mr. McClellan said. “For the near term at least, we may be looking at a gayer, fatter America.”

Damn this Administration. Next thing you know, we will have overweight gays dying in Iraq because of this Administration's incompetence.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamers at FloridaBlues)
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