Thursday, November 30, 2006


As of Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, at least 2,885 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,314 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• A soldier was killed Wednesday in Baghdad.

The latest identifications reported by the military:
• Army Spc. Christopher E. Mason, 32, Mobile, Ala.; killed Tuesday in Bayji by small-arms fire; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
• Army Sgt. Jeannette T. Dunn, 44, Bronx, N.Y.; died Sunday in Taji of non-combat related injuries; assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Source: AP

Profiling badly

It used to be "driving while black" that attracted the attention. Now it's "flying while Muslim" (or at least attempting to fly).

Six Muslim Leaders Removed in Handcuffs From US Airways Plane After Praying in Airport

After their release, US Airways denied them passage on any of its other flights and refused to help them obtain tickets through another airline.

It's simple: when the US mistreats Muslims, it aids enemies of the US by providing those enemies with a recruitment tool. Abu Ghraib. Secret prisons. Torture. And admittedly smaller scale- but still provocative- episodes like this.

Continuing to alienate the Muslim world is not a strategy for success.


Not encouraging news

Saudi [Arabia] will intervene in Iraq if U.S. withdraws

This is not what the US needs. The nation that finances much of the spread of the Islamist attitude around the world stepping into the vacuum the US has created in Iraq.

Iran and Syria are more active dangers in one sense- they support and finance terrorism directly. But Saudi Arabia stokes the fires that Iran and Syria utilize. Saudi Arabia does this by financing the Wahhabi approach to Islam through literature, Islamic Centers, and mosques around the world.

Just another example of how the war in Iraq has not served American interests.



About this Newsweek article... 
Adjust the CourseDespite the Democratic congressional victory and James Baker's independent commission, President Bush seems unwilling to make major policy changes on Iraq.
Andrew Sullivan says the following...
George W. Bush is incapable of dealing with reality. He may be psychologically incapable of self-correction because it entails self-criticism. But if this Newsweek story is correct, we have a truly dangerous situation on our hands.
He's right.
The article is worth a read.

Murder instead of elections?

MSNBC banner:  AP: Aide says former Russian PM Yegor Gaidar may have been poisoned.
This would be the third murder of a Kremlin critic in the last couple of months.  What's going on in Russia?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


As of Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006, at least 2,881 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,308 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
Source: AP

President Bush Still Doesn't Get It

More news from the State of Denial:
"There is one thing I'm not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said...
The violence in Iraq now?  It's not a civil war.  It's al-Qaeda.
I'm starting to think he really believes this.

Another Ironic Headline

If President Bush had not foolishly led the US military into Iraq, he would have more than 100,000 troops to put into Afghanistan to truly control the situation there and give Afghanistan a chance at success.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unvarnished Truth

A rather bold statment from a CNN correspondent/anchor- Iraq is an absolute mess.

An excerpt below, and a You Tube clip following.


Excerpted from a transcript of CNN's "Reliable Sources":

KURTZ: If you're sitting at home watching it on TV, you see mass kidnappings, suicide bombings, mosque bombings, death squads. When you're there as a journalist, does the situation seem as chaotic to you as it does to a viewer?

ROBERTS: You know, Howie, I had a perception of Iraq going in, and it was the first time I'd been there in three-and-a-half years. I got out a couple of days after the Saddam statue fell, after the initial invasion. So it was quite a shock to go back and see the chaotic state that the country was in. And as -- I guess you could say as realistic as my perceptions were about going in there, the reality on the ground far exceeded that.

The place is a mess. It's an absolute mess. There is nowhere you can go in the Baghdad area as a Western journalist without an escort, where you could feel safe from being kidnapped, shot at, whatever. The amount of death that's on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an astronomical level...

Unclear how to react...

How does one respond to this headline?

Justice [Department] watchdog to review domestic spying

The Justice Department is going to police this program? The Justice Department led by Alberto Gonzalez- the lawyer who provides the President with legal justifications for the program and for torturing detainees? Was there no one except the fox to put in charge of the hen house?

Forgive the Pilgrim for not seeing this as a major step forward for defending the Constitution.


War in Iraq Hurting the United States

President Bush has been on trips around the world recently, but, according to a CBS News report, wherever he goes, he encounters hostility.

From Britain to China, Bush is the "go-it-alone cowboy" to much of the world, leading the United States in the direction he wants, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

"He is too arrogant about the image of the U.S in the world," a young man in Beijing China told CBS White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

The natural extension of this negative view of Bush in the eyes of the world is a negative view of the U.S. That view is not just isolated to the Muslim world, where 30 percent of Indonesians and Egyptians polled had a negative opinion of the U.S., but to 23 percent of people in Spain. Less than 50 percent of those polled in France, Germany, Russia and China had favorable opinions of the U.S.

Andrew Kohut, who conducts the annual Pew Institute Global Attitudes Survey — a study of anti-Americanism in 16 nations — says the study shows broad dislike driven by the war on terror.

"This sounds very strange to an American ear but when we go out and we question people, the depths of concern about American policies put us on a plane with the real bad guys of the axis of evil," he said.

Anti-Americanism isn't static. In Asia, America's image rose markedly after U.S. aid poured in following the 2004 tsunami. It isn't permanent, either. Just five years ago, for instance, international opinions of the U.S . were much more sympathetic. Many people around the world wanted to help the United States after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The president would argue that those attacks changed everything, but world opinion is a bit more discerning. Polls show that in much of the rest of the world, there was general approval for one part of Bush's response to 9/11; The war in Afghanistan made sense and seemed proportionate. But Iraq is a different story in the eyes of the world, said London School of Economics professor John Cox.

Interesting how people in the US often think of the rest of the world as a bit behind the curve, at best, and even backward.  And yet, the rest of the world seems to have a more sophisticated view of the current world situation that much of the US.  Everything is not about 9/11, in their view, and 9/11 doesn't justify any and all actions by the US. 

It is clear that the war in Iraq has not been viewed as justified by many around the world.  The negative view of the war has led to anti-Americanism.  Who cares?  Well, anti-Americanism has fueled terrorism.  The war in Iraq has thrown more fuel on an already raging fire.



Sunday, November 26, 2006


As of Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006, at least 2,875 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,303 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:

• Two Marines were killed Saturday in Anbar province.

• A soldier was killed Saturday when a roadside bomb detonated in Diyala province.

Source:  AP

Saturday, November 25, 2006


From AP

As of Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006, at least 2,873 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,303 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• A soldier was killed Saturday by a suicide car bomber near Fallujah.
• A Marine died Friday from combat wounds in Anbar province.


The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in the war that
President Bush's father fought in, World War II.

As of Sunday, the conflict in Iraq has raged for three years and just over eight months.

Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer.

Explosive Allegation

If true, this could be incredibly damaging, and have legal ramnifications for Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general

Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."

The Geneva Convention says prisoners of war should suffer "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion" to secure information.
Source: Reuters

His signature on the document? That should be easy enough to validate.

And Rumsfeld had the nerve to accuse those of us who opposed his policies of being 'morally confused'.



An Op-Ed from American Baptist Press presents a perspective from what would generally be thought to be the 'Religious Right' that is refreshing in regards to the Iraq war.

I want to offer a centrist Christian take on these events.

Exit polls clearly showed that weariness with the war on Iraq, and unhappiness over its conduct, played a dominant role in this election. Conservative Christians in the last several years have often offered uncritical support for the war, primarily, I think, because of a reflexive patriotism, a desire to support the troops, and a tendency to want to back a Republican president.

I have tried to argue for the last three years that the war did not meet just-war criteria and that Christian patriotism does not mean uncritical support for war, for Republicans (or Democrats), or for this (or any) president. I have also tried to say that supporting our troops does not mean uncritical support of a policy that keeps rotating them back to Iraq indefinitely in the service of a strategy that is not working and costing 90 American lives a month. It looks like the elections may finally force a rethinking of the entire enterprise, which is a very good thing.

Combining this with the earlier post on the resignation of the Christian Coalition leader, and perhaps we'll see some people breaking away from the monolithic Religious Right. And then, maybe, just maybe, other Christians can begin to work with those people to pursue a broader agenda in keeping with the spirit of Jesus' message for American politics.


Cale and Clapton

Lyrics from the song "When this war is over" from the album Road to Escondido:

When this war is over
It will be a better day
When this war is over
It will be a better day
But it won't bring back
Those poor boys in their graves

Ain't no sense in no action
Killing people all the time
Ain't no sense in no action
Killing people all the time
When it happens on the street
We call that crime

Man, he can't get along
He just won't agree
Who's right and who's wrong
Don't matter you see
All we know is killing
Ain't the way to go
Gotta get a plan
And change our ways you know

Listen to the song here.



The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

The Religious Right's Values

James Dobson claims that liberals have no values. A quote in which he attacks liberals (the segment about a 'fallen leader' in the middle is in regards to the Haggard affair):

Those again on the liberal end of the spectrum are those who have no value system, or at least they say there is no moral and immoral. There's no right or wrong. . . . But when a religious leader, or especially an evangelical, falls, guess who is the most judgmental of him and calling him a hypocrite? . . . Those that said there is no right and wrong in the first place. The truth of the matter is there is right and wrong. And we all within our midst have failures, and they do occur."

Well, the people on the Right, whom Dobson represents, do indeed have values, but, according to another leader who would have been one of their own, the Right's values are not Jesus' values. Another quote [emphasis added]:

The Central Florida pastor recently tapped to lead the Christian Coalition of America resigned his position in a dispute about conservative philosophy -- more than a month before he was to fully assume his post, he said Wednesday.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Longwood's Northland, A Church Distributed, said he quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment."These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

As Christians, we need to be open to the broad set of values that Jesus appealed to, not a narrow set that is advantageous to get out the vote and keep our party in power. Jesus spoke more often, and more clearly, about the disadvantaged, for example, than any other social issue, and yet the Religious Right would ignore it entirely- and support a part which seems to act regularly to increase rather than decrease the disadvantage.

The Left often makes the same mistake. But to say that the Left has no values? Judge not, Mr. Dobson, judge not.


Friday, November 24, 2006


U.S. military deaths in Iraq hit 2,871

As of Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006, at least 2,871 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,302 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• Three Marines were killed Thursday in Anbar province.

Source: AP

Thanksgiving just became a devastatingly sad holiday for those military families.


Escalation of Grisly Violence

From an AP report:

Shiite militiamen doused six Sunni Arabs with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and killed 19 other Sunnis in attacks on their mosques Friday, taking revenge for the slaughter of at least 215 Shiites in the Sadr City slum the day before.

The mosque attacks came after the government, in a desperate attempt to avert civil war, imposed a sweeping curfew on the capital, shut down the international airport and closed the country's main outlet to the shipping lanes in the Persian

The Baghdad attacks appeared to have been a reaction to the deaths in Sadr City on Thursday, when Sunnis unleashed bombs and mortars that killed 215 people and wounded 257 in the deadliest assault since the U.S.-led invasion. The killings threatened to tip Iraq' s widespread sectarian violence into full-scale civil war pitting majority Shiites against minority Sunnis.

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, 23 people were killed and 43 wounded when explosives hidden in a parked car and in a suicide belt worn by a pedestrian detonated simultaneously outside a car dealership, said police Brig. Khalaf al-Jubouri.

All this the US invasion unleashed. So much for the 'candy and flowers' the Bush administration promised.


Happy 'Buy Nothing Day'


Every November, for 24 hours, we remember that no one was born to shop. If you’ve never taken part in Buy Nothing Day, or if you’ve taken part in the past but haven’t really committed to doing it again, consider this: 2006 will go down as the year in which mainstream dialogue about global warming finally reached its critical mass. What better way to bring the Year of Global Warming to a close than to point in the direction of real alternatives to the unbridled consumption that has created this quagmire?

And from on their Frugal Living page:

[T]he first Buy Nothing Day [was] started by a man named Kalle Lasn, an advertising executive turned anticonsumerist activist. He produced the ad that the networks wouldn't run. He tried to buy air time for it over and over, but was turned down, with remarks to the effect that "there's no law that we have to" and "it's in opposition to the current economic policy of the United States."

If you believe that people have the right to make decisions based on information instead of propaganda; if you believe that overconsumption is selfish; if you believe that shopping can become a compulsive disorder and if you believe that it is the vehicle for getting one deeper and deeper in debt, then please do participate.

It's easy. Simply stay home, buy nothing at all. Don't go shopping. Don't buy anything. If you work, take your lunch instead of buying it. Take a snack if you usually buy one, a thermos of coffee, a thermos of tea. If you can, walk to work instead of buying gas or a bus ticket. Don't run to the grocery store for milk and bread... find a way to do without - just for 24 hours. Make bread instead. Drink water.

More than that, show your support by finding an activity that suits you. Stand behind those who would blow the whistle on big business. If nothing else, you can save your children from believing that material goods are their salvation, their happiness and their only goal in life.

The commentary about the commercialization of Christmas has become endless. Here's an opportunity to do something about it. Stay home today. Buy nothing.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Spend time with people you love.

Be thankful you have them near you.


Follow-up to UN findings

Below there is a post that reports the UN findings that more that 3,700 Iraqis died in October. Events of the past 3 days should help to explain why that number has gone so high, and why it is clear that the US is not providing anything that approximates security for the people of Iraq.


From CNN:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- More than 140 bodies have been found dumped across Baghdad over the past three days, police said Wednesday.

Police said 52 bullet-riddled bodies were found Wednesday, with 20 of them blindfolded, tied up and possibly tortured.

Police also discovered 29 bodies on Tuesday and 60 on Monday.

The dead are thought to be victims of Sunni-Shiite sectarian revenge killings.


Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
-Abraham Lincoln

More evidence that US must end occupation


U.N.: 3,709 Iraqis slain in Oct.; highest toll yet

Officials blame growing armed militias, rampant torture for 'grim picture'

"Hundreds of bodies continued to appear in different areas of Baghdad handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing," the officials quoted the report as saying. "Many witnesses reported that perpetrators wear militia attire and even police or army uniforms."

According to past U.N. reports, 710 civilians were killed in January, 1,129 in April, 2,669 in May, 3,149 in June, and 3,009 in August.

The US military is not- and cannot- provide security in that nation.  There is no other reason for the US forces to be there.  Consequently, the US military should begin a phased withdrawl.
Will the violence end with American withdrawl.  Of course not.  But at least then the full responsibility for the situation in Iraq will lie with Iraqis and the Iraqi government.  Perhaps then there will develop a will in Iraq to end the violence.
And then the US will be in worse shape in terms of security than it ever was in the days of Hussein.  A new terrorist state will be in existence. 
The failure of the Bush policy towards Iraq is indisputable.  There is no putting the genie back in the bottle.  We can only move forward.  But we must move forward with the knowledge that the US has a new and grave threat to contain in the post-war Iraq.

The Balrog is Dead!  Long Live Gandalf!

Global warming already killing

From CNN:

Global Warming Already Killing Species, Analysis Says

Animal and plant species have begun dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming, a review of hundreds of research studies contends.

These fast-moving adaptations come as a surprise even to biologists and ecologists because they are occurring so rapidly.

At least 70 species of frogs, mostly mountain-dwellers that had nowhere to go to escape the creeping heat, have gone extinct because of climate change, the analysis says. It also reports that between 100 and 200 other cold-dependent animal species, such as penguins and polar bears are in deep trouble.

"We are finally seeing species going extinct," said University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, author of the study. "Now we've got the evidence. It's here. It's real. This is not just biologists' intuition. It's what's happening."

A truth that cannot be ignored.

The Balrog is Dead! Long Live Gandalf!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Significant Admission

Perhaps someone learned a lesson from the war in Vietnam after all.
From the New York Times:
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who regularly advises President Bush on Iraq, said today that a full military victory was no longer possible there. He thus joined a growing number of leading conservatives openly challenging the administration's conduct of the war and positive forecasts for it.

"If you mean, by 'military victory,' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," Mr. Kissinger told BBC News.

If victory is not possible, the withdrawl is the only option.

Now, before the 'cut and run' argument can be drug out, let's remember this- we never should have invaded Iraq in the first place.


Saturday, November 18, 2006


Consider this in reference to the post on the Attorney General's comments discussed in the post immediately below:

Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.
Lewis H. Lapham

Completely Wrong

A poorly thought-out speech from Attorney General Gonzales.

From CNN:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales contended Saturday that some critics of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program were defining freedom in a way that presents a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

"But this view is shortsighted," he said. "Its definition of freedom -- one utterly divorced from civic responsibility -- is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."

What's the point of even attempting to spread democracy if we are only going to destroy it at home?

The notion that dissent from government policy is somehow a 'grave threat' defies any sense of democratic tradition and notion of limited government (and these people call themselves conservatives?).

Dissent is not a threat, it is essential, to democratic government. Without dissent there can be no marketplace of ideas, and no true choice. We need a variety of opinions- even misinformed opinions such as Gozales'- for the voters to have options from which to choose.

Fortunately, in the election just past, they, overwhelmingly, did not choose the sort of views expressed by Gonzales.

People who defend the Constitution against threats- internal as well as external- are patriots, and not a threat.


Friday, November 17, 2006


Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Why the time is NOW

From Field Notes from a Catastrophe (Amazon link to hardcover, paperback to be released just after Christmas), by Elizabeth Kolbert

[A]s the ice sheet melted, it didn't so much shrink as start to accelerate. Thus, in the summer of 1996, the ice around Swiss Camp [an observation post on the Greenland ice sheet] moved at a rate of thirteen inches per day, but, in 2001, it had sped up to twenty inches per day.

[T]he acceleration of the Greenland ice sheet suggests yet another feedback mechanism: once an ice sheet begins to melt, it starts to flow faster, which means it also thins out faster, encouraging further melt... [I]f greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled, the total disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could be set in motion in a matter of decades.

Why should this matter to us? Well...

All told, the Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by twenty-three feet. Scientists at NASA have calculated that throughout the 1990s the ice sheet, despite some thickening at the center by twelve cubic miles per year.

And the author makes the following ominous statement, that it is unclear how long it will take for the ice sheet to melt sufficiently so as to cause the full consequences to be felt, but...

once [significant melting is] begun it would become self-reinforcing, and hence virtually impossible to stop.

If we do not get a handle on climate change in the short term, the long term may not matter. The planet is a system, a system that seeks balance. We may cause the Earth to find a new balance if we do not bring immediate change to our behavior.

The planet is also a gift. It is a creation given to us by God, and bequeathed to us by generations past. Will we pass on the gift in all its glory, or only a degraded and possibly dangerous version of the gift? The time to decide is NOW.


Wrong Lesson

From CNN:

U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday the United States' unsuccessful war in Vietnam three decades ago offered lessons for the American-led struggle in Iraq.

"We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said shortly after arriving in this one-time war capital.

If this is the lesson that the President has learned from Vietnam- a war which he did not serve in, instead finding his way into the national guard- then he needs to study harder.

What Vietnam can teach us about Iraq:
  • It is exceedingly difficult for the US military to handle an insurgency movement.
  • Wars should be 'declared' (not merely 'authorized' or launched by a President) in order to unite the American political system behind a war effort.
  • Wars should be fought only when there is clearly an American interest at stake, for if this condition is not met, support for the war will erode rapidly.
  • The government should not mislead the people about the causes of the war or the progress of the war, for if this condition is not met, support for the war will erode rapidly.
Given President Bush's difficulties with stating the facts clearly and honestly, I'm not surprised that he would misapply history in this way.

I just hope Americans won't fall for it.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Torture Memos

From the Washington Post:
CIA Acknowledges 2 Interrogation Memos

Papers Called Too Sensitive for Release

After years of denials, the CIA has formally acknowledged the existence of two classified documents governing aggressive interrogation and detention policies for terrorism suspects, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

But CIA lawyers say the documents -- memos from President Bush and the Justice Department -- are still so sensitive that no portion can be released to the public.

Illegal activity does tend to be 'sensitive.' 
First a denial of CIA secret prisons denied.  And torture allegations denied.  Both lies now completely exposed. 

So long as they are destroying American credibility in the world, they may as well go ahead and completely demolish any sense of faith in the government domestically, right?

Right there with Glenn Beck

And here's why Michael Savage remains on the Pilgrim's boycott list (from Andrew Sullivan):

"And I want to tell you something, and I'm going to say it to you loud and clear. The radical homosexual agenda will not stop until religion is outlawed in this country. Make no mistake about it. They're all not nice decorators. You better get it through your head before it's too late. They threaten your very survival. They went after the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is now caving into the homosexual mafia. They will not stop until they force their agenda down your throats. Gay marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. They want full and total subjugation of this society to their agenda. Now, if you want that and if you don't think it's a threat -- believe me, that is what's going to occur in this country," - radio talk-show host, Michael Savage, with 8 million listeners daily.

Substitute the word "Jew" for "homosexual" and see how it reads.

Just another day

The status quo that General Abizaid defended yesterday (although he denied he was defending the status quo):

As many as 60 or more passengers of six hijacked microbuses were killed by militants Thursday in Baghdad, eyewitnesses told the official TV channel al-Iraqiya, in the latest horrific incident of sectarian violence in conflict-torn Iraq.

The exact number of victims was not yet known, but the figure was believed to be in the range of 60, as each of the six microbuses could carry up to 11 passengers.

Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers killed

Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were killed Wednesday and two others were injured when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle they were traveling in while conducting combat operations in Diyala province.
A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed in action Wednesday by small arms fire while conducting combat operations in Diyala province.

A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier was killed by small arms fire Tuesday while conducting combat operations in Baghdad.

(Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 1240 GMT on Thursday:

* BAGHDAD - A car bomb near a petrol station killed one person and wounded four others in Palestine street in northeast Baghdad, police said.

* BAIJI - Police found the bodies of two people shot and mutilated on Wednesday in the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

* YUSUFIYA - The bodies of four people were found with gunshot wounds in Yusufiya, police said.

* BAGHDAD - A total of 20 bodies were found in different parts of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded three others in al-Shorja area in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed one person and wounded four in the northern al-Qahira district of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked the convoy of the Governor of Mosul, Duraid Kashmula, and killed one of his guards and wounded four others in Mosul, police said. The governor was not in the convoy.

DIYALA PROVINCE - Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Wednesday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

DIYALA PROVINCE - A U.S. soldier was killed on Wednesday by small arms fire during combat operations in Diyala province, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

NEAR YUSUFIYA - U.S. forces killed nine insurgents and detained nine others during a raid just south of Yusufiya, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was shot dead in Baghdad on Tuesday, the military said.

MOSUL - Three insurgents were killed and one wounded on Monday when a roadside bomb they were trying to plant exploded prematurely in Mosul, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen opened fire on a bakery in eastern Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding two, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb near a court killed two people and wounded five in northeastern Palestine street in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - A bicycle rigged with explosives near a petrol station killed a man and wounded another in the southwestern al-Amil district of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeted police commandos, killing one and wounding another near the national stadium of al-Shaab in eastern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

The Balrog is Dead!  Long Live Gandalf!

A reminder

A not so gentle reminder of why Glenn Beck remains on my personal boycott list- he's a religious bigot.

From Media Matters:

CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman (emphasis added):

[Y]ou are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

And the Congressman-elect's restrained response:

Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There's no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don't need to -- need to prove my patriotic stripes.

So the burden of proof is on Muslims. Prove your not an enemy of the US.

Perhaps the burden of proof should be on Glenn Beck: Prove you're not an enemy of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Prove you're not an enemy of the Declaration of Independence ("all men are created equal"). Prove you're not an enemy of human dignity and fairness.

While you're at it: Prove you deserve to have a prime time news slot devoted to you.


And what do we do about it?

The polar bears die (see post immediately below), a sign of our devastation of the environment, but we do nothing?  Is doing nothing a moral option at this point?  Don't we owe ourselves, our children/grandchildren, our God, more?  Or will we sacrifice all on the altar of economic growth?
The 1 degree rise in global temperatures in the past century has in most part been ascribed to the atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases. These gases are the waste products from industries like power plants, automobiles and other fossil fuel burning industries. The United Stats is the largest producer of these gases followed by China, Russia and India.

The Kyoto Protocol which was signed in 1997 had been one of the few global efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Under the protocol, 35 industrialized nations were bound to reduce greenhouse emission by 5 per cent below the 1990 levels by the year 2012. The protocol had not forced a cut on developing countries like China or India.

The US has been the strongest opponent of the Protocol and has not signed it, stating that it would affect the economy of the country. They also wanted the developing countries to be included in the cutbacks. Australia also refused to sign the pact with similar reasons. The idea behind the protocol was that the developed nations should carry the economic weight of reducing emissions till the developing nations reached the level where they could do the same. But both the US and Australia have been skeptical about the developing nations ever doing so. They expect a new form of the treaty which includes all.
Source:  Earth Times

Another Global Warming Casualty?


Fewer polar bear cubs surviving, study finds

Warming, decline in sea ice could be the reason, government experts say

Polar bear cubs in Alaska's Beaufort Sea are much less likely to survive compared to 20 years ago... only 43 percent of polar bear cubs in the southern Beaufort Sea survived their first year during the past five years, compared to a 65 percent survival rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s... The falling survival rate comes as a warming climate has melted much of the sea ice off Alaska's northern coast, limiting polar bears from hunting for food at the ice's edge.

Right now, global warming is 'coming' for animals- such as birds and the polar bears- but soon- too soon?- it will be coming for us.


A Positive Development

A statistic that the Pilgrim finds encouraging from Sojourners/God's Politics Blog:
Iraq was considered the "moral issue that most affected your vote" by 45.8% of voters, almost 6 times as many voters as abortion, and almost 5 times as many as same-sex marriage. Iraq was the top moral issue among Catholics, born-again Christians and frequent church attendees.
War should always be seen as a moral issue.  One may make the argument that war may, at times and under certain circumstances, be morally appropriate.  Still, it should be viewed as a moral issue for the society to constantly monitor and reflect upon.
Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine that a war should not be the top moral issue on the social agenda in a society involved in war.  War involves significant loss of life, and a major re-allocation of scarce societal resources away from other important considerations.  War should top the agenda of moral issues as citizens begin to chart a course for their society with any election.
While it would be preferable to see the percentage of voters who believe the war in Iraq was the most moral important issue, the Pilgrim is thankful that the percentage who see the war in such a way has grown, and constitutes a plurality.  While believing this war to be the most important moral issue facing the nation does not necessarily lead to a particular outcome, it does, at least, mean that the war is being looked at through the proper lens.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Fair and Balanced"

The Huffington Post has published a copy of a Fox News memo under the headline below:

FOX NEWS INTERNAL MEMO: "Be On The Lookout For Any Statements From The Iraqi Insurgents...Thrilled At The Prospect Of A Dem Controlled Congress"...

The Pilgrim has no problem with Fox News being a partisan voice among cable news outlets. The problem is that they lie and pretend not to be exactly what they are- a Republican news outlet. Why do they feel a need to be dishonest, if what they do is appropriate? Why the pretense of objectivity? Be honest. Then there can be honor in the work.

I think that the reason for the dishonesty is that Fox is not a 'conservative' network, but a partisan one- shilling for the Republican party and selling its soul in the process. There has been commentary around since the election, and people like Rush Limbaugh have apparently admitted its truth, that many so-called conservative outlets in radio, TV, and print mediums felt they were defending Republican party policies and sacrificing their conservative principles in the process. Fox News clearly does this, and always has.

If Fox News were truly a conservative voice, driven by principle, then they would make a worthy contribution to the public debate on many issues. Because they are not, the have to publish internal memos like this one and hide their true nature.


Stay the course?

Apparently that's what the lead general in the Iraq War thinks.  From AFP at Yahoo News:
The US military commander for the Middle East said that American troops levels in Iraq should not be reduced as he faced a barrage of intense and often hostile questioning in Congress.
[General John Abizaid said, ...] "Under current circumstances, I would not recommend troop withdrawals," Abizaid told lawmakers.  But he added: "I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem."
So, what exactly is the solution?  More of the same.  That hardly seems encouraging since what has been taking place since the US invasion has led to escalating violence, of which the general himself said, according to the report, the US and Iraqi forces have four to six months to get the levels of sectarian violence down before it tips into civil war.
Sen. McCain, a war supporter to be sure, but still realistic, said, "I regret deeply that you seem to think that the status quo and the rate of progress we're making is acceptable. I think most Americans do not."
It is not acceptable for the safety and security of either the United States or of Iraq. 
We can only hope that the pressure the newly elected majority Democrats seek to apply for removal of troops will bear fruit.

Global Warming

According to Earth Times:
Global carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at a faster rate than expected, according to researchers at the Global Carbon Project... [B] etween 2000 and 2005, emissions nearly quadrupled well above the levels in the previous decade. From 1990 to 1999, the global rates of carbon emissions were 0.8 percent, but these spiraled to 3.2 percent between 2000 to 2005...  "On our current path, we will find it extremely difficult to rein in carbon emissions enough to stabilize the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 450ppm, and even 550ppm will be a challenge," [Dr. Mike Raupach] said. "At some point in the near future, we will miss the boat in terms of achieving acceptable levels."
While we are losing our opportunity to fix the problem, the Bush Administration is ignoring the problem and cutting spending on environmental programs. 
If only the President understood that programs to save the environment are faith-based programs.

A War Protest


Crosses Turn Hillside Into Statement On Iraq War

Symbol Of Mounting Death Toll

A protest of the Iraq war is unfolding in one East Bay community. The anti-war declaration quiet, somber, powerful and growing. It's the work of one man determined to honor American servicemen killed in Iraq.

[The protesters name] is Jeffrey Heaton and he says there are more of these 300 crosses on the way. Each represents 10 Americans killed in Iraq -- a ratio that will decrease eventually. He intends to plant 3,000.

Sometimes it takes a visual reminder to get people to understand something clearly.  When people realize that the crosses represent lost lives, then perhaps they will begin to face up more readily to the futility of the US policy in Iraq.


Monday, November 13, 2006


Being good stewards of God's creation is an important way of expressing our faith. Environmental damage is a good legacy of neither our love of God, or our love of our children and grandchildren.

Consider the following from Reuters:
Global warming could wipe out most birds: WWF

Unchecked climate change could drive up to 72 per cent of the world's bird species into extinction but the world still has a chance to limit the losses, conservation group WWF said in a report on Tuesday.

From migratory insect-eaters to tropical honeycreepers and cold water penguins, birds are highly sensitive to changing weather conditions and many are already being affected badly by global warming, the new study said.

"Birds are the quintessential 'canaries in the coal mine' and are already responding to current levels of climate change," said the report, launched at a United Nations conference in Kenya on ways to slow warming.

"Birds now indicate that global warming has set in motion a powerful chain of effects in ecosystems worldwide," WWF said.

As we make the environment unfit for birds and other species, we make it unfit for our children and grandchildren.

This article from CNN shows that the impact is already being felt on human life:

Aboriginal communities in Ontario's far north are becoming increasingly isolated as rising temperatures melt their winter route to the outside world and impede their access to supplies.

During the coldest months between January and March, "winter roads" are cleared on the frozen network of rivers and lakes to let trucks deliver bulk supplies like fuel and building materials.

But average temperatures have risen during the past decade, weakening the ice and shrinking the bulk-shipping season by several weeks, aboriginals say.

In the past 60 years, regional temperatures have increased by an average of 0.8 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter, and by 1.3 degrees Celsius in spring, according to Environment Canada, a federal government body.

That change has been more pronounced in the far north, where average winter temperatures have jumped 4.4 degrees Celsius over the same time.

Indeed, warming has speeded up since 1998, after which temperatures in Canada have consistently been above normal, said Bob Whitewood, a climatologist at Environment Canada.

So many reports on global warming say that we can limit the losses. We must do what we can. If we fail to do so, as people of faith, we disgrace ourselves.


Why "We Must Never Forget"

German politicians reacted with shock and outrage yesterday after right-wing extremists chanting "Sieg Heil" desecrated a memorial to the thousands of Jews whose synagogues were sacked and plundered during the Nazi's infamous anti-Semitic Kristallnacht pogrom in the 1930s.

"The gang invaded the memorial site soon after the ceremony was over. They hurled wreaths into the air and trampled on candles and flowers that had been put down only minutes earlier ," a witness said.

Police said the gang's members chanted the Nazi party slogan, "Sieg Heil", as they intervened to arrest them. Yesterday the 16 youths remained in police custody. A police spokesman said that the culprits were "known members" of eastern Germany's burgeoning neo-Nazi movement.

As a teacher, I sometimes face the reaction when teaching about the WWII era, "Why do we need to study this?  Hitler is dead."  This story shows the importance of continuing to face the reality of the Holocaust, and teaching about the hate that lay behind that evil time in the history of the world.

Anti-semites are still around- in Germany, and in the US as well.  We must understand, and we must never forget.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Encouraging News

Democrats say will push for Iraq withdrawal

Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push for a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq to begin in four to six months...

"First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.

Democrats will press President George W. Bush's administration to tell the Iraqi government that U.S. presence was "not open-ended, and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Levin said on ABC's "This Week" program.

Perhaps the recent election truly will mean change.



Continuing the thought from the post below, I think it is important to note that there is no reason- other than political- for now to be the time for a major re-evaluation of the Iraq policy by this Adminstration. If the strategy in Iraq is correct morally and strategically, as the Administration has claimed, then it should be continued. Nothing substantial on the ground has changed in Iraq in the last several days.

So, why the proclaimed interest in "new eyes" and possible changes? Pure politics. Now the White House is beginning to look ahead to the '08 elections.

Imorality piled upon imorality. Our government should do what is right by our people and by our troops, not what is politically advantagous.

The Iraq war is not right by our people and by our troops. And it has not been right since it was begun. But it clearly has not been right for at least a year now.

No moral credit to an Administration that will look at doing the right thing only after a "thumpin'"- to use the President's term- at the polls.


Wonderful Quote

From Imitatio Christi:

Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold, and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children....This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Only Now?

From Reuters:

Top U.S. military leaders have begun a broad review of strategy in Iraq and other crisis areas in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, The New York Times reported in Saturday editions.

They've BEGUN a broad review? After many months of uncontrollable sectarian violence they've BEGUN a review? After 2,845 US soldiers have died they've BEGUN a review?

Such a review should have begun months ago, and new policies should have been devised months ago.

Incompetence. Ignorance. Arrogance.

You choose.


Torture NOT on the Agenda

From the NY Times:

A Topic in the Air but One That Political Candidates Declined to Touch: Torture of Prisoners

[In t]he October issue of Theology Today... Jeremy Waldron, a professor of law at New York University, that “we have no choice but to conduct a national debate about torture.”
That debate, Professor Waldron continues, is not about stopping torture by “corrupt and tyrannical regimes” but about whether the American people and the American nation want “to remain part of the international human rights consensus that torture is utterly beyond the pale.” There were few if any signs of such a debate in the midterm election campaigns.

Torture is different. It is such a stain on personal and national character that nothing but appalling photographs could have forced the subject to the fore. When it comes to pressing the question of official complicity, no stack of equivocating documents can have similar force. In a season of shameless attack ads, torture is still too shameful to be debated.

As for religious reaction, Fleming Rutledge, the Episcopal priest and noted preacher, said in this issue of Theology Today, “In my lifetime, I do not remember any major public question being so studiously ignored as this one.”

“Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved — policy makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished values. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

“Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?

“Let America abolish torture now — without exceptions.”

This article is absolutely on target. While many candidates debated the war in Iraq in the campaign, the great moral issue of the US government permitting torture was avoided.

The two topics go hand in hand in regard to the US position in the world, and, more importantly, the status of the collective soul of America: an immoral invasion and an immoral policy towards detainees. The immoral invasion opened the door for torture by lowering the moral standard.

This has been a great shame on this nation. One that will not easily be undone. And one that no politician seems willing to take on in any serious way at the present.

The citizens will have to lead the way.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Choice?

I'm not going to have much to say about the Ted Haggard case. First and foremost, I feel terrible for his wife and children- the scrutiny that has been placed upon their family must make an incredibly painful situation virtually unbearable. Beyond that, I have no desire to heap ill-will on him as many seem to want to do at this point.

I'd like to use the case, however, to deal with a broader point.

Much of the debate in America regarding the morality of homosexual behavior comes from an argument over whether homosexuality is a choice. Many seem to believe that gays can be somehow 'straightened out.' [Pun fully intended.]

Isn't Haggard really the final nail in the coffin of that argument? If anyone would have chosen not to be gay, wouldn't it have been Haggard?

Perhaps by putting the 'it's merely a choice' argument aside, we can lift our discussion to new levels. Levels reflecting a call to 'love our neighbor'- whomever he or she might be.


A New Path?

Rumsfeld is out.

He's replaced by former CIA director Robert Gates. Gates was head of CIA when the first Bush administration removed Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and decided not to fight all the way to Baghdad- because some, hopefully Gates, forewaw what we have now in Iraq.

We can only hope that Gates is the man to lead us down a new path- the path out of Iraq.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Powerful vote of no confidence

This is actually 'old news' (by a couple of days, anyways), but still worthy of note.

From Army Times (selections from the article):

Time for Rumsfeld to go

One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,” we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples.

The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

[C]olonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

This is a devastating indictment- because of its source- of a failed policy.

It was a policy that was a failure from its inception- from the moment it was decided to launch an unnecessary war of choice.

It is a failure for which not only Rumsfeld, but Bush, Cheney, and (now in hiding at the World Bank) Wolfowitz are responsible. It was a failure not only of strategy, but also of moral judgment.

We cannot undo that failure. We can only move forward with a new plan. That movement must be movement out of Iraq in an expeditious fashion. Dropping the phrase 'stay the course' is not enough. We must change course, and do so now.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Nov. 7- Election Day USA

Vote your Values.

37 [Jesus] said... "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22

3 "Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
4 "Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!
5 "Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!
6 "Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!
7 "Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!
8 "Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!
9 "Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!
10 "Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
11 "Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.
13 "You are like salt for all mankind. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.
14 "You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
17 "Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. 18 Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with -- not until the end of all things. 19 So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven. 20 I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.
21 "You have heard that people were told in the past, "Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.' 22 But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, whoever calls his brother "You good-for-nothing!' will be brought before the Council, and whoever calls his brother a worthless fool will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. 23 So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.
25 "If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute with him while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. 26 There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine.
27 "You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery.' 28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.
31 "It was also said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.' 32 But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also.
33 "You have also heard that people were told in the past, "Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.' 34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 Just say "Yes' or "No' -- anything else you say comes from the Evil One.
38 "You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.
43 "You have heard that it was said, "Love your friends, hate your enemies.' 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect -- just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5

Very interesting comment

From Imitatio Christi [emphasis added]:

As regular readers know, I consistently argue that the Gospel has political implications and that God has discernible intentions about the shape of our public life. Consequently, I take political endeavors very seriously and think that Christians should. However, it would be idolatry to elevate partisan political institutions to the point that we see our definitive hope in them.

Look at the mailing below sent out by the Religious Right. It is evidence that they seem to place more faith in the Republican Party than in God. Idolatry seems a good way to put it.

Arrogance as well. It appears they believe you cannot be anything other than a Republican and have family- ie., Christian- values.


Thoughts on the Politics of the Moment

First, there is a great deal of speculation about whether the Democrats will take over the Congress.  Right now, the Pilgrim's best guess is that they will in the House of Reps. and will not in the Senate (although many Senate races are too close to call).
My response- What difference will it make?  I've heard nothing from the Democrats that comes even close to a 'plan' to get America out of Iraq.  At this point the Democratic party itself is terribly divided between the Lieberman faction ('stay the course') and those who would withdraw rapidly.  Without a plan, I'm not sure it matters. 
Second- and related to the first- there is a growing call for the removal of Rumsfeld.  This is especially a point of emphasis among Democrats on the campaign trail.
My response- What difference will it make?  If we remove Rumsfeld, replace him with someone else, and "stay the course," we have made no progress.
Faithful readers of this blog will know that the Pilgrim rarely finds himself in agreement with the Decider.  But on a recent campaign stop, President Bush repeated the mantra, against the Democrats, "What's your plan?"  
In 1994 the Republicans took control of the Congress with their "Contract With America."  Some folks may have renamed it "Contract ON America"- especially the poor- but it was indeed a plan, and the Republicans came to Congress and began putting their plan into action.
The Democratic Party has no apparent plan at this point.  If they indeed to take charge of some or all of the legislative branch, they will need to develop a plan quickly if they intend to stay in charge.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wisdom from Gandhi

From Mahatma Gandhi:
Seven sins that lead to violence:
  • wealth without work,
  • pleasure without conscience,
  • knowledge without character,
  • commerce without morality,
  • science without humanity,
  • worship without sacrifice,
  • politics without principle.
Gandhi's grandson, Arun, added an eighth sin: 
  • rights without responsibility
To avoid a world of violence, we must avoid these errors. 


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Comments Requested

It has been a long time since I've called on the readers of this blog to send me a note to let me know that you're out there. Whenever I've made such a request before, you've stepped up in a great way. So, I'm calling on you again.

Since that last request I've added a 'stat counter' to the page, so I know that I receive visitors. But I don't hear from you. That's ok. If you just want to see what I'm reflecting on, no problem. But, from time to time, I like to get some feedback.

So... let this be a call to all of you. Send me a message (click the 'Send Me A Message' link to the left, or comment on a specific post if you prefer). Go ahead and remain anonymous, if you like, but let me know what you think. Am I on the right track? Am I lost in the wilderness? Your thoughts matter to me.

So, I'll say it again... Send me a message.

Even a Grey Pilgrim likes a little companionship once in a while.


Did these topics even come up?

As support for an invasion of Iraq was proclaimed by all sorts of evangelicals and members of the Religious Right, and as the President told people in various ways that he was acting on God's will, did these selections from Jesus' teachings receive any consideration?
  • You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resis an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have you cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefuly use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5: 38-45) [Note: A virtually identical passage is found in Luke: 6:24]
  • Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

Jesus taught us clearly that we are not to resist evil with violence- both in a general teaching and in a practical situation with Peter in the garden as He is arrested.

How was this not relevant in what so many on the right claim is a Christian nation as we chose as a nation to make war?

Ghandi once said that only Christians don't think Jesus was a pacifist.


An Encouraging Development

Turks March Against Islamic Radicals
Associated Press

Thousands of nationalist Turks marched in the capital Saturday, vowing to defend the secular regime against radical Islamic influences and urging the government not to make too many concessions in order to gain European Union membership.

Some 12,000 people from more than 100 pro-secular associations waved Turkish flags as they marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. "Turkey is secular and it will remain secular," they chanted during a march broadcast live on television.

Turkey is predominantly Muslim but is governed by strict secular laws that separate religion and state. Many fear that if left unchecked, Islamic fundamentalism will lead to a theocracy like that in Iran under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Radical Islam is not in control everywhere in the Muslim world. The policy of the US should be to develop friendships with those in the Muslim world who wish to turn back the tide of Islamism and practice the faith as truly intended.

Wars of agression in the Muslim world and the torture of detainees will not aid our cause.


Just War Theory, Part III

This is the third in a series of posts attempting to apply the concept of Just War Theory to the war in Iraq. Earlier posts include an Introduction, a discussion of proper authority (Part I), and a discussion of war as a last resort (Part II).

According to Just War Theory, any war must be undertaken with "all possible moderation." The failure of the Bush Adminstration to abide by this principle is most obvious of all the violations of Just War Theory, in fact, it is the most disturbing and flagrant violation of religious principles.

In a just war, all international conventions are obeyed, excessive destruction should be avoided, and particular care must be undertaken to avoid the death and injury of non-combatants.

First, this war was begun with a campaign of Shock and Awe in the city of Baghdad. Such a campaign is hardly targeted. Americans are (mis)led to believe that our 'precision weapons' are able to seek out individuals, check addresses, and do no harm except to a purported high value target. While US weapons are indeed more accurate and do less 'collateral damage' that WWII vintage weapons, when our military bombs a major city like Baghdad, with 'Shock and Awe' as an objective, that violates the principle of limitation necessary to avoid civilian deaths. A limited attack, targeting only military installations, for example, may be appropriate. 'Shock and Awe' is not.

The video clip below demonstrates the size and scale of the 'Shock and Awe' campaign, and demonstrates its violation of principle of limited action to avoid civilian casualties.

Additionally, the US has failed to meet its Just War obligations by failing to provide adequate protection for Iraqi civilians in the post-war environment. Untold thousands of Iraqis have died. Thousands more have become refugees from their homes, living with the suffering the results. This failure compounds the consequences of the US invasion which cause death and injury to non combatants. I will deal more with this issue as it relates to another aspect of Just War Theory in a subsequent post.

The Bush Adminstration has made a conscious decision not to abide by international conventions regarding the treatment of detainees. This is an issue about which I have posted on numerous occassions, so I will no revisit all of the issues here. Suffice it to say that our President has seized authority for himself to be the 'decider' as to what constitutes torture, and that practices that clearly are torture under international understandings- such as waterboarding- have been 'redefined' as merely 'aggressive interrogation techniques.' See previous posts such as "World Leader in Torture", "Wisked Away", "Torture Law is Signed", "This Isn't Torture?" (w/ video of waterboarding), "We don't torture...", and "Read my Lips" for some of the details on the US torture policy.

And then, of course, there is Abu Ghraib.

We have failed to conduct a war consistent with the protection of Iraqi civilians (those who we went to Iraq to liberate), and failed to conduct a war consistent with internation conventions.

Again, the US has demonstrably failed to meet the moral obligations of Just War Theory.