Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP Benazir Bhutto: ...everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology.

From Journeying to democracy by Benazir Bhutto,
As I board the plane to Pakistan, I am fully aware that the supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have publicly threatened my assassination.

Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander, has said that his terrorists will "welcome" me on my return. Everyone understands the meaning of these comments. And I fully understand the men behind Al Qaeda. They have tried to assassinate me twice before. The Pakistan Peoples Party and I represent everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology. We represent the future of a modern Pakistan, a future that has no place in it for ignorance, intolerance, and terrorism.

The forces of moderation and democracy must, and will, prevail against extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one. Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Elgin's First Universalist Church to be a Church again.

Permission to establish church (Iglesia Principe De Paz) in the historic First Universalist Church Building is on the Elgin City Council's agenda for today.

I hope these good souls have the money to renovate it because the building must be in sore need of it. What better use for Elgin's gambling money than kicking a few points over to this brave congregation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lucien Sève « Le communisme est mort, vive le communisme ! »

French Marxist Lucien Sève on the crisis of the French communist party,
With the death of what was so improperly called communism, history has entered a new phase. In view of the limitless freedom that capital enjoys today, we are in for boundless catastrophes. While on the left there still is no effective political alternative, not even a mental set of opposable political references. All our woes stem from this void. The task of those who follow in the wake of Marx today is therefore clear: for years we have been talking of inventing a communism for the 21st century. Now, at long last, the time has come to do it. We have had enough talk on the subject.
...not even a mental set of opposable political references... no kidding, the left worldwide is in the void.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Krauthammer's An Overdose of Public Piety

He writes elementary stuff indeed on Romney's speech, and for some reason the elementary is impossible for almost everyone else who've I've read comment on the speech --and that's a fair number-- see.

Also check Rick Moran's: Drunk with Religiosity and Ed Morrisey's Will 'Holly Holy' Become A Campaign Theme Song Next?

Camille Paglia: Religion and the Arts in America

Paglia writes,
I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion. Let me make my premises clear: I am a professed atheist and a pro-choice libertarian Democrat. But based on my college experiences in the 1960s, when interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was intense, I have been calling for nearly two decades for massive educational reform that would put the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum. Though I shared the exasperation of my generation with the moralism and prudery of organized religion, I view each world religion, including Judeo-Christianity and Islam, as a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe. Knowledge of the Bible, one of the West's foundational texts, is dangerously waning among aspiring young artists and writers. When a society becomes all-consumed in the provincial minutiae of partisan politics (as has happened in the US over the past twenty years), all perspective is lost. Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.
It's a good essay and deserves more comment than I have time for, but lease read, and expect me to come back to it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Torture: What did Pelosi and her colleagues know - and when did they know it?

Enemy combatants captured fighting outside the rules of war i.e. Geneva Conventions, should, in my opinion, be coerced to give up information beyond the Geneva's provision for name, rank, and serial number.

Whether water boarding is allowable way to coerce, I don't know. McCain said no. He takes a stand. The administration struggled to draw the lines.

But Democrats have demagogued it, and for sure leaders were briefed long ago. Here's today's Boston Herald Editorial: Who knew what on Capitol Hill?
The Washington Post reported Sunday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top congressional leaders were briefed in September 2002 on CIA interrogations designed to squeeze information from suspected terrorists. Among the techniques described, according to the Post, was waterboarding.

“In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” one official present during the briefings told the Post. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ ”

And yet, once word of the harsh techniques became public, Pelosi, among others, began employing it as a blunt political instrument - proclaiming the practice of waterboarding as an illegal form of torture and condemning the Bush administration for allowing it.
Also, Hitchen's today on Abolish the CIA. Destruction of the water boarding tapes the last straw.
And now we have further confirmation of the astonishing culture of lawlessness and insubordination that continues to prevail at the highest levels in Langley. At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence. This deserves to be described as what it is: mutiny and treason. Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Theodore Dalrymple: What the New Atheists Don’t See

Grace before meals seems one of the most important acts we can do. It is indeed necessary for gratitude and decency and its seems to me even atheists should promote it. It's one more thing atheists don't get. Perhapes because it leads to this.

From Dalrymple's What the New Atheists Don't See.
The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

Lenin and the mystagogues: Lesley Chamberlain's The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia

Finished Lesley Chamberlain's book The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia reviewed here by Frances Stonor Saunders and by Bryan Appleyard over at Orthodoxy Today. Appleyard writes,
In September 1922, in St Petersburg, Lenin's political police loaded 25 families onto the German ship Haken. Six weeks later, about the same number were loaded onto another German ship, the Preussen. The ships steamed out into the Gulf of Finland and the families waved goodbye to Mother Russia.
and finds the real heart of the this story,
On board those ships was a peculiarly Russian mix of philosophers, critics, historians, mystics and theologians. They were divided by many things, but they were united by three big things. First, they had all been identified as threats to Leninism; second, they were famous, and executing them would have alienated foreign supporters; third, they had all seen the malignancy that lay behind the hyper-rationalism of the Bolshevik revolution. They had seen, in other words, the fatal weakness in the Enlightenment Project and were seeking an alternative. Chamberlain calls them "the shipped-out mystagogues".

The book's true subject, therefore, is the confrontation between reason and faith. But the banality of that formulation simply does not do justice to the depth and passion that Chamberlain brings to her story, nor, indeed, to the complexities of what we mean by faith. The reason this is such a good book is that the author feels the conflict within herself. She sees herself as a rational secularist and humanist, but, equally, she sees how catastrophically those causes have failed in the past. As a result, she understands the evil of Lenin but also grasps his deep and entirely logical attraction for western intellectuals; on the other side, she sees the vagueness, eccentricity and, frequently, just plain madness of her mystagogues, but also their honesty, heroism and high decency. In almost every sentence, one feels the pressure to codify this conflict into a coherent statement, and the impossibility of the task.
Much of the task and scholarship according to Chamberlain is happening on the web. Here's a nice site on Nikolai Berdyaev and his essays translated into English.

It is a tough book to read in the sense I felt this need to jumb to the net every few pages and google the names from the list of passengers to follow up later with their writings.

Saunder's review quotes Lenin in his scatological mode Marxists prone too,
These metaphysical antiquities [the philosopher exiles -Baar] had no place in Lenin's world, which was anti-metaphysical, rationalist, atheist. As Chamberlain writes, under Lenin reason "took a perverse, political form . . . which became the foundation of the totalitarian system. It led to a militant and incriminating ban on all expressions of faith and an attempt to destroy individual conscience and human inwardness." Lenin spoke of religion as getting off on the dead; he referred to those he was evicting as "the shit". Trotsky, eager assistant in the deportations, described one of the victims as "a philosophical, aesthetic, literary, religious sponger, that is, he's the dregs, trash."

The Forward: Why Annapolis Worked

An Editorial in The Forward. Would it be out of line for Rev Sinkford to as UU's to over a moment at Church in thoughtful support for these two men: Abbas and Olmert? Prayer even...
What happened in Annapolis? In a narrow sense, not much. Nobody betrayed Israel or shoved it down a slippery slope toward doom, as the right had been warning. Nobody offered any new concessions, nor even a promise of specific concessions down the road. In concrete terms, the most that can be said is that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders finally acknowledged to one another the magnitude of the concessions that will be required of each if peace is to be reached.

Beyond that, the two leaders promised only “good-faith” negotiations — “vigorous, ongoing and continuous” — to try and reach agreement on a peace treaty within the next 13 months, “before the end of 2008.” And they declared that the treaty they hoped to reach would resolve “all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements.” So they hope.

Yes, it is infuriatingly vague and noncommittal, as critics of every stripe have pointed out. But there’s more there than first meets the eye. In pledging “every effort” to conclude a peace treaty within 13 months, the two leaders effectively said that reaching such a treaty might be possible. Otherwise they wouldn’t step into the noose, with the whole world watching. Olmert and Abbas are survivors, not poets.

Aafaq: Saudi Activists Organizing Sit-in in Front of Court In Solidarity with the "Girl of Qatif"

It will take some courage to participate in this.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Unitarians Universalists throwing manhole covers

A comment by LilBridge on one UU's dismay over Mark Green's $8 million donation to Oral Robert's University,
I'm from Tulsa and work less than a mile from ORU. I'll tell you this: there are a lot of people who believe in the missions of Oral Roberts Ministries and the university but don't agree with the way the organization(s) has/have been run. With Richard Roberts stepping down, a lot of people see this as the opportunity to change the course of ORU and ORM while still maintaining the goal. I don't agree with the mission of the Roberts' regime, but I think Mr. Green has the right idea -- he put some serious conditions on that donation.

And not to sound rude, but our religion is hardly lacking in affluence. I'm willing to bet UU groups around the country have a lot more money than most others religions of the same size.
As one who's done a Church pledge drive, I know that --like Ditka said of George Halas-- UU's throw their nickels around like manhole covers.

I was going to suggest some reasons... It is strange that so many militant secularists though, have such a hard time talking about oh so worldly cash.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Church and State; Religion and Politics

Father Neuhaus explains the difference over at First Things.
I speak in favor of the separation of church and state, and therefore against the resolution that religion and politics should always be kept separate. Permit me to explain. To enforce the exclusion of religion from politics, or from public life more generally, violates the First Amendment guarantee of the “free exercise of religion.” The free exercise of religion is the reason for the separation of church and state—a principle that aims not at protecting the state from religion but at protecting religion from the state.
Although sometimes the religous have a nasty habit of taking politics to extremes the issues don't deserve,
IN 1995, Jim Wallis was arrested for protesting against welfare reform in the Capitol Rotunda. In 1983, he was arrested in the Rotunda for protesting the MX missile. But these days, Wallis is more likely to be meeting lawmakers than breaking laws when he is on Capitol Hill.

Mona al-Tahawy on Saudi Arabia treatment of women

Gender Apartheid
by Mona Eltahawy

NEW YORK — Once upon a time, in a country called South Africa the color of your skin determined where you lived, what jobs you were allowed, and whether you could vote or not.

Decent countries around the world fought the evil of racial apartheid by turning South Africa into a pariah state. They barred it from global events such as the Olympics. Businesses and universities boycotted South Africa, decimating its economy and adding to the isolation of the white-minority government, which finally repealed apartheid laws in 1991.

Today in a country called Saudi Arabia it is gender rather than racial apartheid that is the evil but the international community watches quietly and does nothing.
Read the rest over at The Arabist....

Friday, November 23, 2007

First Things Ryan T. Anderson on the Stem Cell breakthrough

From The End of the Stem-Cell Wars by Anderson.
Princeton's legal philosopher Robert P. George, who also serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, told me, "From the beginning we have been arguing that we must do everything we can to advance the cause of stem cell science but without sacrificing our respect for nascent human life and the principle of the inherent and equal dignity of each and every member of the human family. This latest news just goes to show that it really is possible."

It also is illustrative of the politics of science. Had a President Gore or a President Kerry allowed the science to go forward without regard for moral principle, it would have set a terrible precedent. A Gore or Kerry presidency would have bestowed federal blessing and taxpayer funds on laboratory work predicated on the assumption that embryonic human beings can be treated as spare parts and that cloning to kill is acceptable.

But because President Bush stood his ground, we have avoided that moral catastrophe. Had Bush lost either election, or had he caved to pressure from those who slandered him as "antiscience," it is very possible that the new method of stem cell production--the new gold standard, in all likelihood--would never have been found. Most likely, science and the public would have accommodated themselves to the mass production and mass killing of human embryos.
It was listening to Democrats demagogue embryonic stem cell research that made a political conservative out of me. Ron Reagan's speech at the Democratic Convention convinced me the party had flipped out. I was only vaguely aware of the whole issue until then but Reagan's promises were overreach. The more I read, the more immoral the whole thing seemed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sisyphus: Vote right on abortion or go to Hell

via Sisyphus:
The Bishops’ instructions included a warning to voters that “their eternal salvation could be at stake” on how they vote.
Every decision we makes carries consequences.

Whether one of those consequence is our salvation I'm not sure, but it's not a bad idea to view even our small decisions --much smaller than voting-- as decisions with consequences.

I guess I would just respond to the Bishops their salvation is at stake too, then cast my ballot; the contents known (hopefully) only to me and the Gods.

The defense of socialism in Czechoslovakia is more than the concern of the Czechoslovak people

Instapundit links Adriana Lukas on Czechoslovakia and 1968 forty years later.

It doesn't seem that long to me. Many old videos to be found on YouTube.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grassley goes after the "prosperity gospel"

Preachers feel heat of Grassley tax probe via the Des Moines Register online.
Grassley wants to know about personal use of assets, relationships among related church organizations, expenses to maintain personal residences for the ministers, credit card statements, leased vehicles, houses or land deeded to churches, loans from followers, and more.

Most of the ministries in question preach what's known as the "prosperity gospel," promoting the idea that God will grant rewards of financial wealth to those who are faithful followers and contributors.

Grassley said he launched his investigation following media reports by "enterprising journalists" about some of the ministries, and after receiving tips from unnamed church insiders. He's asked for answers by Dec. 6.

"Churches aren't any different from any other nonprofit organization, and they have to abide by the same tax laws," he said.

At issue is the credibility of the nation's tax laws, Grassley said. He also wants to ensure that nonprofits are careful trustees of contributors' money.


Grassley's inquiry has puzzled one close observer of televangelists, whose reach and influence are considered to have shrunk since their heyday in the 1980s.

Stephen Winzenburg, a professor of communications at Grand View College, has for 20 years studied televangelists, taping broadcasts and analyzing content. He said he doesn't understand why Grassley has chosen to launch an investigation now, or why he has chosen these six churches.

"I'm thrilled that he's doing it, but the timing is odd and the choice of people is very unusual," Winzenburg said. Media investigations of some of the ministries date from several years back, he said.

He said he wondered why Grassley was pursuing some relatively new televangelists rather than longtime, prominent figures such as Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts or Jimmy Swaggart.
Makes the IRS and All Saints look sort of lame. Grassley's going after the preachers' lifestyles and stewardship because of unamed tips from parishoners.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Michael Yon: Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home

Photo of Muslims and Christians preparing St John's Church, Bhagdad for the arrival of the Most Reverend Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq.

Much more over at Michael Yon online


UUJeff: Until atheists and humanists even come close to 1% of any nation's populations....

UUJeff writing on Atheism as movement,
Until atheists and humanists even come close to 1% of any nation's populations, how can they ever hope to become the dominant paradigm of thought?
Atheism was the dominant paradigm of thought in Marxist lands, and I would think 1% of the populations in today's China or Russia --and a good many other countries-- would identify as atheist.

Militant atheism has failed. Marxism has failed. All the 20th centuries "isms" failed, but that's why Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and the others are back flogging books.

Religion's important again and atheists are part of religion. The flip side of the coin. Militant atheism as movement is gone, but atheism as God's absence is very much back.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Evolving Liberalism: John Haynes Holmes debates Clarence Darrow on Prohibition in 1924

Liberal Religion isn't what it used to be. From Jacob Rukin's Prohibition. The debate is available in a book from albris.
Responding to arguments that Prohibition limited a person's freedom of choice, clergyman John Haynes Holmes said in a 1924 New York City debate, "We all agree, do we not, that the liberty of the individual must bow in a complex society to the safety and happiness of all of us together?" Holmes continued, "Liquor is dangerous to public safety because it creates poverty, it cultivates crime, it establishes social conditions generally which are a burden to society."

In that 1924 debate, opponents of Prohibition were represented by the famous defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, who argued, "Every human being ought to be left to follow his own inclinations and his own emotions, unless he clearly interfered with the rest to an extent that was so injurious that it would manifest to most anybody else." He also said, "If the doctrine should prevail that when 60 percent (estimated) of the people of a country believe that certain conduct should be a criminal offense and for that conduct they must send the other 40 percent to jail, then liberty is dead and freedom is gone. They will first destroy the 40 percent, and then turn and destroy each other."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Aleida Guevara in Teheran: "My father never mentioned God"

Sarah Baxter describes a culture clash between between the children of Che Guevara and the Mullahs at Teheran University. From Times Online via Belmont Club
A glorious culture clash took place in Iran recently that made me laugh out loud. The children of Che Guevara, the revolutionary pin-up, had been invited to Tehran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their father’s death and celebrate the growing solidarity between “the left and revolutionary Islam” at a conference partly paid for by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

There were fraternal greetings and smiles all round as America’s “earth-devouring ambitions” were denounced. But then one of the speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, the co-ordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom (who presumably remains selflessly alive for the cause), revealed that Che was a “truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union”.

Che’s daughter Aleida wondered if something might have been lost in translation. “My father never mentioned God,” she said, to the consternation of the audience. “He never met God.” During the commotion, Aleida and her brother were led swiftly out of the hall and escorted back to their hotel. “By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become non-persons. The state-controlled media suddenly forgot their existence,” the Iranian writer Amir Taheri noted.

After their departure, Qassemi went on to claim that Fidel Castro, the “supreme guide” of Guevara, was also a man of God. “The Soviet Union is gone,” he affirmed. “The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words.”
Note the, Those who wish to destoy America... here. Give these folks credit for saying what they mean.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ron Paul on Marriage

Nice thing about the GOP debates is candidates really debates principles and policy. In no small part to having Ron Paul up there. Here he is from last night on marriage,
Cameron: Congressman Paul, to you, on the subject of one of the core debates in the party, over social issues: gay marriage.

You've been quoted as saying, Any association that's voluntary should be permissible in a free society. And you've expressed your opposition to a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Many of your rivals on that stage disagree. Why are they wrong?

PAUL: I'm afraid I haven't been able to get most of your question. I know you brought up the subject of gay marriage, but I didn't get the point of what you're saying. I can't hear it that well.

CAMERON: Why are on those stage who support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage wrong?

PAUL: OK. Well, if you believe in federalism, it's better that we allow these things to be left to the state. My personal belief is that marriage is a religious ceremony.

PAUL: And it should be dealt with religiously. The state really shouldn't be involved. The state, both federal and state-wise, got involved mostly for health reasons 100 years or so ago.

But this should be a religious matter. All voluntary associations, whether they're economic or social, should be protected by the law. But to amend the Constitution is totally unnecessary to define something that's already in the dictionary.

We do know what marriage is about. We don't need a new definition or argue over a definition and have an amendment to the Constitution. To me, it just seems so unnecessary to do that. It's very simply that the states should be out of that business, and the states -- I mean, the states should be able to handle this. The federal government should be out of it.

There's no need for the federal government to be involved in this. You can accomplish this without waiting five or ten or 15 years. The authority can be put in the states by mere voting in the Congress.
When a UU makes a point of saying they favor marriage equality ask them why they think government should license (i.e. discriminate) marriage at all? Nine times out of ten they'll go blank on you.

Giuliani countered Paul noting Government indeed has a stake in marriage and therefore defining what marriage is. In otherwords Government can be moral and can indeed make people more moral. I'd agree with Giuliani but note Paul's point.

A Democrats in debate just duck it all with platitudes on approving civil unions but not same sex marriages.

Hitchens at the Atheist Alliance International conference

HT Allahpundit over at Hot Air. Fast forward to -4:30 if you don't have time for the whole thing.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mere Orthodoxy: Washington Briefing Dispatch: Rudy Giuliani (Updated)

Mere Orthodoxy reviews Giuliani's speech to the Value Voters Conference,
Rudy Giuliani is one savvy politician. He knew that the territory he was entering was going to be cordial, but cool toward him, and he managed to bring the room to loud spontaneous applause.
HT Jill Stanek over at Illinois Review

Cardinal signals firm Vatican stance with Muslims (what say UUs?)

Reuters on the Vatican's response to the Muslim Scholar's call for dialogue with Christianity.
The appeal was addressed to all leading Christian churches. Anglican, Lutheran and evangelical leaders and the World Council of Churches have all welcomed it.

But the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church, which makes up more than half of the world's two billion Christians, is key to any coordinated Christian response to the Muslim appeal.
We're not included on the address list, but I think Rev. Sinkford could make a case we fit here: And Leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere… based on our history and heritage; and maybe respond.

Stephen Schwartz in his essay A Mirror for Muslim Reformers said we have something to offer,
Miquel Servet is a Reformation figure that should appeal to Muslims who want their religion freed from obscurantism, dogmatism, and oppression. His views reflect both intellectual independence and a curious commonality with some essential elements of Islam, and especially of Sufism, or Islamic spirituality. Born in a small village near Zaragoza, in Aragon, Servet was impelled as a youth to doubt the Christian doctrine of the trinity, which he saw as an impediment to the intellectual conversion of Jews and Muslims to the faith of Jesus (see biography at He seems to have excluded from his consideration the Spanish practice of effectively compelling the children of Isaac and Ismail to accept Christianity by force, and to have perceived that the complicated trinitarian system, which both Jews and Muslims reject, erected a mental barrier between the Christians and the others that could not easily be overcome. Above all, however, he was disturbed to find the idea of a three-in-one godhead absent from the Bible. But it is also of interest that both Servet and his great Catalan predecessor, Raimon Llull, on whom I previously wrote in TCS, were influenced by Islamic thought even as they sought to convert Muslims.
Schwartz has also noted how US ARAMCO has sought to portray Wahhabism as a sort of Arab variant of Unitarianism. Here's Schwartz again,
Kelly wrote that Aramco "constituted itself the interpreter of Saudi Arabia – its people, its history, its culture, and above all its ruling house – to the United States at large, and because there were no other sources of information about that country open to the American public, ARAMCO could put across its version of recent Arabian history and politics with almost insolent ease… Its propaganda was framed in a manner likely to strike a sympathetic response in the American people… Much emphasis was laid upon the spiritual nature of the Wahhabi movement, upon its puritanical aspects (with Riyad cast in the image of Salem [Mass.]), upon the felicitous alliance of religion with secular power, and upon the harmonious blend of piety and statecraft inherent in the person of the Saudi king-imam. To make the analogy more familiar, the term by which the Wahhabis distinguished themselves, muwahiddun ('believers in oneness'), was consistently rendered as 'Unitarians', a usage which must have puzzled the adherents of the American Unitarian Church… Naturally, little prominence was accorded in ARAMCO's publicity to the fanatical nature of Wahhabism, or to its dark and bloody past."
Maybe it's time for UU's to clear things up. To respond to the scholars call. As Schwartz shows, we have much to offer and some confusion to clear.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: ...everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology.

Benazier Bhutto's Journeying to democracy which has new meaing after the slaughter of the attack against her. Temendous courage...
As I board the plane to Pakistan, I am fully aware that the supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have publicly threatened my assassination.

Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander, has said that his terrorists will "welcome" me on my return. Everyone understands the meaning of these comments. And I fully understand the men behind Al Qaeda. They have tried to assassinate me twice before. The Pakistan Peoples Party and I represent everything they fear the most - moderation, democracy, equality for women, information, and technology. We represent the future of a modern Pakistan, a future that has no place in it for ignorance, intolerance, and terrorism.

The forces of moderation and democracy must, and will, prevail against extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one. Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.

The Forward: Atheistic Denomination Struggles To Fill Void Left by Founder’s Death

The Forward on Humanistic Judaism's first meeting without founder Rabbi Sherwin Wine.

It does beg the question So what’s the deal with atheists and the UUA ad campaign? if we do live in a time when God is less controversial.
Ultimately, the movement’s greatest challenges may prove, ironically, to be born of its own ideological success. In the decades since its founding, the Jewish mainstream has itself grown more pluralistic and flexible; for example, the new official Reform prayer book, “Mishkan T’filah,” itself draws from a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish sources, presenting them as companions to the traditional Jewish liturgy.

Humanistic Judaism “was born at a time when belief in God may have been more central and more controversial within Jewish society, and even American society,” said Steven M. Cohen, a research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “Now, we live in a time when, for Jews at least, God is less controversial, so people don’t have to choose up sides as firmly as they did in the past. Probably, most Jews in America affirm a nominal belief in God, but God doesn’t play a major role in their thinking about what it means to be a Jew or even a good person.”

Gen Harbord's recommendations to Congress from his Mission to Armenia

Harbord laid out the Commission's recommenations on the US Gov accepting a mandate to govern the fledgling state of Armenia in two columns: one Pro and one Con. The final 14th Pro recommendation lacked a matching Con. Here it is from page 28,
14. Here is a man’s job that the world says can be better done by America than by any other. America can afford the money; she has the men; no duty to her own people would suffer; her traditional policy of isolation did not keep her from successful participation in the Great War. Shall it be said that our country lacks the courage to take up new and difficult duties?
Our decision to not accept the mandate for Armenia would have been an interesting topic for Congress to reflect on.

House Resolution 106 just noted this response by Congress to Harbord's report,
(13) Senate Resolution 359, dated May 11, 1920, stated in part, `the testimony adduced at the hearings conducted by the sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have clearly established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered'.

(14) The resolution followed the April 13, 1920, report to the Senate of the American Military Mission to Armenia led by General James Harbord, that stated `[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages'.
Congress noted Armenia's suffering but strangley silent on how it responded to Harbor's recommendations on what should or should not have been done.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pete Stark on the SCHIP veto override vote

Well, at least he skipped the fruitcake charges.

Update: UU World on the responses from Congressional Offices to Rev. Sinkford's Peace Petition.
In accepting the petitions, the representatives from each office expressed appreciation. David Schnittger from the House Republican Leader’s office said, “While Congressman Boehner probably wouldn’t agree with all of the views expressed, he would say that he has respect for your views and the views of those you represent.”
Update Oct 23, 2007: Stark's apology here.
I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scott Thumma and Dave Travis: Beyond Megachurch Myths - What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches

I watched Thumma discuss his book on c-span last night and discoverd he has a blog devoted to it today.

They're not at all my kind of Church but I find them fascinating things to study. They always have a very long driveway and I'm sure there is a very deliberate reason why.

A good blog to follow.

Bush hosts Dalai Lama amid Chinese outrage

on Reuters
Beijing has bitterly denounced plans for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.

Bush was scheduled to attend the ceremony on Capitol Hill, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president will appear in public with the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate whom China regards as a separatist and a traitor.

"We are furious," Tibet's Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, told reporters. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world."
That's the way awards work sometimes Comrade.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Novak: Rudy and Religion

Today's ST,
The most surprising recent national polling result was an answer given by Republicans who attend church weekly when Gallup asked their presidential preference. A plurality chose Rudy Giuliani, a Catholic who in 1999 said: "I don't attend regularly, but I attend occasionally." Their choice raises deep concern among prominent conservative Republicans who feel it would be a serious mistake for leaders of the religious right to scorn the former mayor of New York.
I think God is speaking to them.

Al Gore and ignoring the 'final solution' to eliminate Tutsis

The Guardian from March 2004: US chose to ignore Rwandan genocide -Classified papers show Clinton was aware of 'final solution' to eliminate Tutsis
President Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.

Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president had been told of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.
The National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute based in Washington DC, went to court to obtain the material.

It discovered that the CIA's national intelligence daily, a secret briefing circulated to Mr Clinton, the then vice-president, Al Gore, and hundreds of senior officials, included almost daily reports on Rwanda. One, dated April 23, said rebels would continue fighting to "stop the genocide, which ... is spreading south".

Three days later the state department's intelligence briefing for former secretary of state Warren Christopher and other officials noted "genocide and partition" and reported declarations of a "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis".

However, the administration did not publicly use the word genocide until May 25 and even then diluted its impact by saying "acts of genocide".
A guy who remained silent during this a heck of a choice for a peace prize.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Iraqi Liberal Khudayr Taher: My Journey from Darkness to Light; America Is the Prophet of Liberty

MEMRI's translation of Khudayr Taher's essay at the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph.
"Allah's Justice and Mercy Encompass All Humanity," Except for the Terrorists, Wahhabis, and Khomeinists

"It is illogical to think that Allah, Who is just, would prefer one sect… and love only [those belonging to it], and bring them into the pleasures of Paradise while bringing the rest of humanity into hellfire. It is impossible that Allah's justice and mercy [would allow this]. Allah's justice and mercy encompass all humanity, all religions, and all countries, and no one has the right to claim a monopoly on truth and faith.

"[But] naturally, I exclude from Allah's mercy the terrorist movements and the criminal takfiri groups like the Wahhabis, [the followers of] Khomeini's [theory of] the rule of the jurisprudent… and all the Islamist [political] parties, [both] Shi'ite and Sunni… Theirs is ignominy in this world and punishment in the next world.

"I left the prison of sectarianism… and turned to the concept of Allah… as a philosophy and a belief that symbolizes beauty, justice, love, virtue, and the principle of human brotherhood for all, without differentiating between Sunnis, Shi'ites, Christians, Jews, or Buddhists…"
Curious liberals and religous liberals wouldn't talk about an essay like this more.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dan Harper: It's hard being a UU

I heard Dan Harper give this sermon once at the Geneva Church. Given all the blog talk about the new video, and it all seems centered on what a UU Church can offer you, it might be worth asking what members are expected to offer the Church.

Sort of like ask not what UUism can do for you, but ask what you can do for UUism. I recall it being a good sermon although he Dan didn't express it in quite that Kennedyesque way.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Was Tun! oder nichts?

via Belmont Club

From a review of a very good book,
This short, loosely organized collection of occasional essays makes for a surprisingly interesting and valuable book, well worth reading and pondering. Sociologist and radical activist Todd Gitlin, who has been a figure in the American Left since his Vietnam-era days in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), has made a serious effort to reflect on the failures of the American Left since the 1960s. The criticisms he puts forward here, which are inevitably self-criticisms in part, are unsparing and penetrating, made all the more memorable by his unacademic, direct, and often epigrammatic style.

Gitlin's criticism is relentless, and will win him few new friends on the Left, though it will likely energize the many enemies he already has there. He sees a story rich with irony, in which it has been precisely the Left's most triumphant expressions in contemporary American life that led it into the spiritual wasteland in which it now finds itself. And for this lost condition, he believes, the Left has only itself to blame. It embraced the smug disassociation from existing society epitomized in the sweeping call by émigré philosopher and '60s hero Herbert Marcuse for a "Great Refusal" of the confining ideals and crass manipulations of the modern capitalist political economy. But the embrace of Marcuse's influential but ill-defined slogan has amounted in practice to a "great withdrawal," a narcissistic retreat into self-proclaimed "marginality," an obsession with ever more minute forms of identity politics and the infinite "problematizing" of "truth," a reflexive opposition to America and the West, and an immurement in "theories" whose radicalism is so pure that they never quite touch down to earth—follies all underwritten and protected by the perquisites and comforts of academia.

Gitlin argues that the results may have benefited individual leftists, who have feathered their own nests quite nicely by fusing radicalism and academic careerism, but they have been unambiguously disastrous for the Left as a political force outside the academy. "If we had a manual," Gitlin remarks, "it would be called, What is Not to Be Done." The Great Refusal turns out to have been little more than "a shout from an ivory tower," an advertisement of futility that was unable to conceal the despair, paralysis, and general contempt, including self-contempt, that lay behind it.
Was nicht Tun liebe Genossen!

Mark D. Tooley: Friends of Mahmoud - The Iranian president gets a warm reception from the religious left.

The joke may not have been to far from the mark. From Tooley in the Weekly Standard,
NOT ALL OF Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's encounters in New York during his recent trip were testy. The Shiite theocrat had what the New York Times called a "warm, even friendly exchange" with 150 church officials at the United Methodist Women's Church Center for the United Nations.

One sponsor, the Mennonite Central Committee, called the gathering a "time of dialogue and prayerful reflection among the children of Abraham." A Mennonite official further explained that "mutual respect and graciousness in this conversation blunts the demonization which is part of the current rhetoric of both governments."

The meeting is the third between Ahmadinejad and his new church friends. Forty five of them had met the Iranian during his last New York visit a year ago. And 13 church officials saw him in Iran in February.

Seemingly, the church officials are fascinated and perplexed by the chief of Iran's Islamist police state. Unlike most of them, he has uncompromising theological views, especially about the end-times, about which he shares freely. Perhaps the apocalyptic dogma is bracing to these liberal religionists, who might be inwardly bored with their own mantras about endless tolerance.

"We haven't reached the point of hard truth-telling," explained United Methodist Women's Division chief Harriet Jane Olson, as reported in her news release. "But this dialogue may help to de-escalate the language of hostility, which is a necessary part of building bridges."
I knew a Communist once in the Merchant Marine who sailed on ships organized by the Union to bring relief supplies to the Soviet Union. He was watching the ship unload in Odessa and watched the guards shoot dead a kid trying to sneak inside the ship by climbing the anchor's ropes.

He quite the Party soon after and became a Mennonite in the West Burbs. I wonder what he would have thought of this story.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pete Stark and the little Fruitcakes

Work in Health care and policy and you'll know Congressmen Stark and you'll know he's poor choice to but a positive face on any issue. Here's Fox on his outburst in 2003,
While no cameras recorded the event, a stenographer took down every word Stark uttered. Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof recited them back on the House floor.

"'You little fruitcake, you little fruitcake, I said you are a fruitcake,'" Hulshof, R-Mo., read from the unofficial transcript.

Stark directed the word — considered by some to be a gay slur —- at Republican Rep. Scott McInnis, who is married and by all accounts not gay.

Republican sources also claim that during the chaotic scene in the committee, Stark fired another gay slur in the direction of Chairman Thomas. The word is too vulgar to print in full, but the last half of it is "sucker."
Democrats in Congress would just as soon hide Stark... and not because of his atheism but his erraticism.

At a time the UU is trying to reach out, this is the last politican we want as a public face for our faith.

Mike Gravel a Unitarian Universalist.

I didn't know Gravel was one. Check out Gravel's YouTube over at The Red Desert. I like it. No idea what the political message, but one could spin fascinating Theology from it!

Here are the UU's supporting him.

Stark's Humanism; Barack Obama's Evengelicalism

Obama tells us,
Faith, he said, is ''what propels me to do what I do and when I am down it's what lifts me up.'' The Democratic presidential candidate said God ''is with us and he wants us to do the right thing,'' including breaking down the divisions between Democrats and Republicans and among religions.
And Pete Stark tells UU's of his untroubled humanism....

...but my troubled inner humanists tells me not to care much what either believes, but ask instead what they will do when creation cruelly reveals itself and demands acts because our beliefs cheap, and without consequence.

Kristol, Burma, and our Peace-War spectrum at Church

Our Social Justice committee posted a spectrum with Just War at one end and Pacifism at the other and asked our Congregation to place a marker where they stand between the two.

I've disliked those UU spectrum. In this case, the common comment is I'm not a pacifist because I'd defend my family with violence.

Just War theory vs Pacifism are about what States should do, and not what individuals should do. There's a difference and it's old pacifists back in the 60s who told me that. They thought the what if my family attacked? argument a way of trivializing a serious policy of non-violence they advocated for the Governments, not individuals. They weren't about to abolish the police.

So, Kristol writes things the US can do now, in Burma. It's tangible and practical stuff and how people come down on these suggestions a better indicator to me on where they really fall on the spectrum of War, Peace, and Justice.

To me the flaw with Just War is the notion of Legitimate Authority. The regime in Burma today doesn't seem like one, the UN's a wishy washy one, so does the US impose itself as one? Bush talked tough about Burma at the UN, the people responded, and now look where they're at. Legitimate Authority simply doesn't hold up well in a world with globalization. It's suited for the old Nation States, and the Princes and Kings before them. It doesn't work well today and it really goes to the heart of Iraq.

Here's what Kristol proposed. Actions I think every UU should evaluate and write the rep about.
So is there nothing more the United States can do? Does the inaction of other governments require our own inaction?

What about using our national power to help the Burmese people against their tyrannical rulers? Burma's regime lost what little legitimacy it had with its bloody crackdown. Parts of the ruling elite must be nervous. Couldn't we give at least some of Burma's generals and soldiers reason to doubt the wisdom of slaughtering political opponents? Couldn't we turn our intelligence-gathering capabilities on Burma to monitor, document and publicize what is happening? Couldn't we tell the generals who are ordering and the soldiers who are carrying out this crackdown that they are being watched, that their names are being recorded -- and that the day will come when there will be plenty of evidence to hold them personally accountable for their deeds?

Couldn't we use other military and intelligence capabilities to put more stress on the regime? As Sen. Joseph Lieberman has suggested, "The junta has tried to cut off the ability of peaceful demonstrators to communicate to the outside world through the Internet and cellphone networks; we should be examining how the junta's ability to command and control its forces throughout the country might itself be disrupted." What about limited military actions, overt or covert, against the regime's infrastructure -- its military headquarters, its intelligence apparatus, its rulers' lavish palaces? Couldn't such actions have a deterrent effect, or might not they help open up fissures in the regime? Have we really done all we can to avert the disaster that is unfolding?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Petition here calling on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the Burmese monks

via NormBlog,
There's a petition here calling on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the Burmese monks. Please consider signing it. (Thanks: IH.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reactionary Radicalism: Dan Erdman's review of Look Homeward, America. In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists

From the review in Democratyia, Autumn 2007,
If there is an ideological core to 'reactionary radicalism', it is surely isolationism and pacifism. Almost every one of the people Kauffman profiles seems to have devoted their lives to the pursuit of one or both of these causes, in various different historical circumstances; Kauffman uses their stories to evangelise for these values.
It hasn't been around for a long time, but it was common in Chicago once, and I knew some of the believers.

Sinkford, Geldof, and arrogant unilaterialists

As Rev Sinkford wanders the halls of Congress, petition in hand, as monks are slaughtered in Burma, I wonder if he hasn't missed the arrogant unilateralism of China instead; and maybe ought wander over to their Embassy. The Rock Star knows better the source of cruelty,"
I was in Darfur 20 years ago and people were killing each other then. It's an ancient battle between nomadic people and settled people, between Arab Africans and black Africans, between Islam and Christians ... The reason why it has not been resolved is because of China," Geldof said.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ace on a do-nothing immorality play

Ace of Spades on Burma,
It's a Good War, to liberals and chin-strokers, because the US is doing absolutely nothing there to abate slaughter and tyranny. Which makes reporters and academics effectively our "front line" of defense -- which is how they want it. Their "defense" amounts for nothing, of course, and saves no lives and destroys no tyrant's bunkers, but they get to be the stars of this do-nothing immorality play, which is better than the non-college-educated morons in the US military who got stuck in Iraq getting to be the stars.

So we can all cluck, cluck about how horrible this all is and pretend that it matters a whit that we are collectively "horrified."

International Blogger's Day for Burma on Oct 4th

Free Burma from a comment found over at Kuan Yin's Chalice.

Ko htike blog on massacre of Monks

Via Ko Htikes Prosaic Collection. The pictures aer pretty graphic should you follow the link,
A troop of lone-tein (riot police comprised of paid thugs) protected by the military trucks, raided the monastery with 200 studying monks. They systematically ordered all the monks to line up and banged and crushed each one's head against the brick wall of the monastery. One by one, the peaceful, non resisting monks, fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Then, they tore off the red robes and threw them all in the military trucks (like rice bags) and took the bodies away.

The head monk of the monastery, was tied up in the middle of the monastery, tortured , bludgeoned, and later died the same day, today. Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the monastery, warded off by troops with bayoneted rifles, unable to help their helpless monks being slaughtered inside the monastery. Their every try to forge ahead was met with the bayonets.

When all is done, only 10 out of 200 remained alive, hiding in the monastery. Blood stained everywhere on the walls and floors of the monastery.
Jim Wallis writes The news this afternoon from Myanmar/Burma is not good, and suggests,
In response to the world wide call of Free Burma groups we have a sign in our window, THE WORLD IS WATCHING, FREE BURMA, with a candle below the sign.
Just watching seems a little obscene.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rev Sinkford's statement on Myanmar: video of Monks praying as soldiers shoot in Burma

Compare Sinkford and Laura Bush comments on the brave people of Myanmar in the video below:

The people of Burma/Myanmar are in our thoughts and prayers.The images we've seen and the stories we've heard of the brave and inspirational witness offered by Buddhist religious leaders and citizens have touched our hearts and souls. Their peaceful protest against a cruel and repressive government is a notable moment in the multi-generational struggle for peace, liberty and justice in our world. The arrests, the killings, and all the forms of violence which they have suffered in response from the government are entirely unjustified. We stand in spiritual solidarity with the people of Burma as they risk their safety even as further governmental reprisals occur. We pray for their well-being, their vision, and their commitment.
Laura Bush,
The United States stands with the people of Burma. We support their demands for basic human rights: freedom of speech, worship, and assembly. We cannot--and will not--turn our attention from courageous people who stand up for democracy and justice.
Laura Bush asks Americans to stand with Myanmar. Rev. Sinford talks about their notable monent in the multi-generational struggle (I guess be patient Burma... wonder how this translates into Burmese? ) Bush says America will commit to do. Rev Sinford tells Myanmar we'll feel their suffering and our spirtual solidarity.

Sinkford's words are not worthy to speak too a people in a great struggle. They should not wait for generations. The Methodist Librarian lady knows it. The Rev. from Boston seems lost.

This is a tragedy.

UUA Statement of Conscience

Just browsing it from the 2007 GA minutes (a pdf doc). Here are some quotes and thoughts,
People often make religious claims about controversial issues such as reproductive rights, steam cell research, the death penalty, and the teaching of evolution. Their efforts to advocate one perspective, to the exclusion of others, are influencing every branch and level of government. Consequently, the United States is moving away from its constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

It is time for Unitarian Universalists to assert and defend two basic principles underlying the United States Constitution: (1) the basic principle of freedom, the right of all human beings to follow a life of their choosing as long as others are not harmed, and (2) the basic principle of the inherent equal dignity of all human beings, which includes the right of all human beings to equal justice.
The principles are fine. Who's human the question. The Constitution gave a poor start on that one defining African-Americans as only 3/5ths human.

Science speaks clearly to me. Human Life starts at conception. Life's stages after conception are stages of Human development.

That means harvesting Human Embryos for Medical Research and Therapies is morally wrong. Just as harvesting tissue from any human found less developed or under developed is wrong.

Abortion is different. It's a clash of the first principles. The state can't ask a woman to carry a child to term at risk of her own life.

The constitution got us off to a bad start. A fatal flaw America paid a bloody butcher bill for later.

So it would be nice if this Statement of Conscience was clear on it's scope of humanity. Right now it's a gapping hole given the issues the public faces.

The moral values of Unitarian Universalism correspond profoundly with those embodied in the founding documents of our nation. The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution embody freedom of religion, the right of conscience, and the worth and dignity of every person.

Like the values to which we aspire as Americans, our Unitarian Universalist values are distilled from the hopes, dreams, experiences, and struggles of all who honor them. Our Unitarian Universalist Principles parallel the Ends Principle, the Golden Rule, and the founding documents of this nation. History shows the dire consequences when this core morality is rejected. Although our country has not fully implemented the promises of its founding documents to all of its people, we Unitarian Universalists strive to help this nation fulfill those promises.
This is a remarkable statement. I can't think of any faith that links itself so closely to the organic documents of a State. I think this is true and key reason why I've bleonged to UU Churches: ours is an intimately American Religion.

We really should include a reference to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. A President who my historian friend at Church assures me was really a Universalist, and one who invoked the Creator and the United States in a way few Presidents have since,

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in...
and that work was the work of War.

Stop United States Sponsored Torture – A Religious Call to Action
Only question here is: what is torture?

The Geneva Convention allows the capture to ask only name, rank, and serial number of the captive. That's it.

When the United States capture a terrorists who fights outside the rules of the Geneva Convention, is the United States allowed to ask more than the Convention allows? May the United States coerce more from a captured terrorist, and if so at point does coercion become torture?

BE IT RESOLVED that the 2007 General Assembly stand in support of the Restoring the Constitution Act, including Legislation to restore habeas corpus;
I'm not too keen on having captured combatants brought before US Criminal Courts and Juries.

Chief Justice Stone wrote of Nuremberg, he was disturbed a court would be....dressed up in the habiliments of the common law and the Constitutional safeguards to those charged with crime to try a combatant as criminal.

If Padilla had been sent to Gitmo instead for the duration, I suspect he would be a free man sooner than what his criminal sentence will allow.

Clinton, Syria, North Korea and Just War

From News Max,
Hillary Clinton said she strongly supported Israel’s reported air strike on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria.

During a presidential debate on NBC Wednesday night, the Democratic hopeful said: “What we think we know is that with North Korean help, financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.”
It would be interesting to see how Israel's actions square with the spirit of Rev Sinkford's message here,
I invite you to sign the petition below calling for an end to our reliance on violence as the first, rather than the last, resort and an end to the arrogant unilateralism of preemptive war.
If Israel's reliance on violence as a first, rather than last resort, was arrogant unilateralism.

Maybe they should have waited?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reformed Chicks Blabbing on Gov. Patrick

The Chicks on this quote for 911,
Among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding,” Patrick said. “It was a mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also a failure of human beings to understand each other, to learn to love each other.
Wikipedia lists him as Presbyterian. Thank the Gods.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Resolution on a Peace Church

My thoughts below posted on our Church's Social Justice bulletin board after participating in our Social Justice Committee's retreat.

Every Veterans day our Church acknowledges Veterans. It's good we do. Sometimes we ask them to relate their experiences.

I've belonged to two UU Churches since the 1980s. I grew up in a Liberal Congregational Church. I've never seen any of those Churches assemble a group of Peace Activists to discuss their reactions to War and Peace. To ask why they did what the did, and ask them to reflect back now on their actions.

It's a strange omission and I think a bad one. Reflecting on your Church's past response to War and Peace would help shape your response to this resolution. In the case of my Church the debates go right back to the Civil War when the congregation pitched its abolitionist Preacher. We're not unique.

Those were my thoughts when writing this,
I think the resolution would violate our covenant's call to gather, not as agreeing in opinion, - not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after Truth & Goodness.

However decided: the resolution would be a clear statement of Truth & Goodness.

Sadly, I think it more a political test of membership rather than a religous test, and quite an insult to faiths such as the Witnesses who see members routinely imprisoned, all over the world and including the United States, over it.

If there is a belief on our committee that our congregation thinks little about Pacifism vs Just War Doctrine, then I think there are better routes to take.

The best book I've read of late has been Joseph Loconte's The End of Illusions. It's a collection of sermons by theologians from 1940 and 1941 in response to Hitler and War.

Loconte inclued sermons from the anti War preachers of the time. Many are long forgotten, and I think they deserve a little better. They were very popular, and especially popular in the midwest. (Sermons also take less time to read then the suggested tomes on Just War).

Rather than read them through, (and we should) I think it's better, for the purpose of involving the congregation in dialogue, to simply ask members who remember: how did this Church respond to past Wars? Invite those who remember to speak some Friday night.

Rev. Charles Lyttle was an outspoken openent to WWII? How did the congregation respond? How did the community?

Similarly, how did the Church respond to the ongoing wars since? I for one remember the anti-war marches from Chicago's Third Unitarian to Oak Park's Unity Temple. It was my first introduction to UU Churches.

We honor Vets on memorial day in the Church. We've never asked those who have been involved in anti-war movements over the years to reflect back on it, and how the Church responded. And how well those responses hold up in hindsight.

I find that a more meaningful process than asking members where they fall on a spectrum of Pacifism too Just War (and I'm not sure Just War Doctrine offers all that much in a day of asymetric warfare).

Instead of asking what we believe, lets ask what our congregation what we did, and what do those responses tell us about what we believe.

Very much along the lines of Lindsey's line of Don't tell me what you believe, tell me how you spend your money, and I'll tell you what you believe.

I think that would be worthwhile and give us some sense of our heritage to boot.

Accotink Unitarian Universalist and the GOP

Dana Milbank in WaPo,
The sign outside Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke announces that it is a "liberal, welcoming religious community." For Rep. Tom Davis yesterday, it was more liberal than welcoming.

The Virginia Republican, a possible Senate candidate who supports the Iraq war, had bravely agreed to attend a meeting of the antiwar Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. It was a journey into the belly of the beast, and Davis got out in one piece. Almost.

He accepted -- but did not drink from -- the bottle of water with the sticker saying "Iraq War/Wrong Way." He spoke from the lectern with the poster demanding "Representative Davis . . . End This War." He politely endured shouts from the audience: "Chicken hawks! Impeach Bush! Our children are dying! You didn't answer the question!"

Then, as the moderator tried to bring the forum to an amicable close, a man in the second row stood up. "This has been a terrible meeting!" shouted David Kuebrich. "Let's not thank Representative Davis, who has been for the most part lock-stepping with the Bush administration."

Others applauded, booed Davis and joined in the protest. The congressman, buttonholed by angry activists, beat a hasty retreat, pushing aside chairs to get out of the church.
HT CUUMBYA who noted,
I’m surprised at rep. Davis’ naiveté- surely he didn’t expect a Republican to get a polite reception at a UU church. He must be a masochist.
Well, yes, I would have expected a polite reception.

But always be ready to fight the good fight too Congressman Davis. When Religous Liberals are prepared to abandoned people who fight against those who blow up Mosques , it's worth enduring a few slurs to advance the cause.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

UU World: Liberal Religion and The Working Class (and Katz's Deli)

The cover of the fall issue of UU World is a picture of the guy from Katz's (send a salmi to your boy in the Army!) Deli in New York eating a corned beef sandwich.

There was a time when Proletarian Realism meant heroic pictures of Proletarians.

I'm not certain where man with pastrami-on-rye fits in this frame but with all due respect to the owner of Katz's, here's a more deserving shot from a friend in Hungary.

As a guy who's played the workerist frame before workers, I'll post back later with my thoughts on Liberal Religion and The Working Class.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Christopher Hitchens: Don't Mince Words The London car-bomb plot was designed to kill women.

From Hitchen's in Slate which should be read in full.

Hitch may have his issues with God but I'm very certain Lincoln's God is ok with Hitch,
Only at the tail end of the coverage was it admitted that a car bomb might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was "ladies night" and that this explosion might have been designed to lure people into to the street, the better to be burned and shredded by the succeeding explosion from the second car-borne cargo of gasoline and nails. Since we have known since 2004 that a near-identical attack on a club called the Ministry of Sound was proposed in just these terms, on the grounds that dead "slags" or "sluts" would be regretted by nobody, a certain amount of trouble might have been saved by assuming the obvious. The murderers did not just want body parts in general but female body parts in particular.


Liberal reluctance to confront this sheer horror is the result, I think, of a deep reticence about some furtive concept of "race." It is subconsciously assumed that a critique of political Islam is an attack on people with brown skins. One notes in passing that any such concession implicitly denies or negates Islam's claim to be a universal religion.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Moral Police

Taken: 27 April 2007 Location: tehran, Islamic Republic of IranA girl is being taken away by police for, probably, having un-islamic dress and showing her hair in public

via The Spirit of Man

Detention of a woman in Tehran
Uploaded by winston80

Friday, April 27, 2007

IHEU opposes proposed ban on blasphemy in UN Human Rights Council charter

An action alert from the International Humanist and Ethical Union,

IHEU has called on its member organisations to oppose the proposed ban on blasphemy in UN Human Rights Council charter. Together with other NGOs represented at the UN, it has issued the following statement:

Last week, during the negotiations to establish a new Human Rights Council to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of the Islamic Conference tabled an amendment that would extend to the global level the prohibition against blasphemy that already exists in certain countries.

The amendment calls on the new human rights body to "prevent instances of intolerance, discrimination, incitement of hatred and violence arising from any actions against religions, prophets and beliefs which threaten the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This initiative, undertaken by the 56 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the UN, has grave consequences and should be firmly rejected by the European Union, the United States and all countries that cherish freedom of expression, liberty and democratic values. Defense of religion should not be used as a smokescreen behind which to introduce a false equation between matters of religious conviction and those of international human rights.

The amendment by the OIC should be completely rejected for the following reasons:

The mandate of the Human Rights Council, once established, will be to promote human rights, including vital ones of freedoms of expression, the press, religion and belief. By contrast, the principal effect of the OIC proposal would be an increase in censorship of those cartoons, books, articles, works of art, or other manifestations of thought that are considered offensive to any religion, and the erosion of the freedom to dissent from a religion.

One of the primary results of the OIC proposal would be to establish a justification for the violence and threats of violence that have occurred in recent days over the Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammed. In the past, artists, writers, editors and dissidents have also been threatened with death for depicting religions and religious figures in a light deemed unacceptable by certain groups. The OIC proposal seeks a UN and international imprimatur to whitewash this violence as merely acts of "excessive self-defense" against purportedly illegitimate provocations. The result of this proposal would be to increase threats and violence against all those who hold and express contrary religious views.

Next week, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, will present a draft resolution on the establishment of the new Human Rights Council. We urge the European Union, the United States and all democratic countries strongly to oppose the inclusion of this proposal, which would taint the Council from birth. If the price to pay for the establishment of the new Human Rights Council is curtailing freedom of expression and religion, and appeasing violence and threats of violence, it is not worth paying.

Matteo Mecacci
UN Representative
Transnational Radical Party

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch

Jennifer Windsor
Executive Director
Freedom House

Yevgeniy Zhovitis
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Pilar Checa
Fundacion "8 de Marzo"

Gianfranco Rossi
Representative to the UN in Geneva
International Religious Liberty Association

Panayote Dimitras
Greek Helsinki Monitor

Nafsika Papanikolatos
Minority Rights Group

Roy W Brown
International Humanist and Ethical Union

Maryam Namimze posts this on the tabling of the resolution,
The Council delegate from Pakistan, who also represented the Organization of the Islamic Conference, declared: “The resolution is tabled in the expectation that it will compel the international community to acknowledge and address the disturbing phenomena of the defamation of religions, especially Islam.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turkish Christians Tortured Before Murder

From Little Green Footballs,
The three victims murdered at a Christian publishing house in Turkey were apparently tortured for hours before being slaughtered: Slain evangelists were tortured, says Turkish doctor.

Real torture. Not Andrew Sullivan-style torture.
Three Protestants murdered at a Christian publishing house in Malatya, Turkey, were tortured for three hours before their assailants slit their throats, a press report said Friday, quoting one of the doctors involved in the grisly case.
So much for giving today's Turks a pass on the word Genocide.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

RIP Najim Abd-Jasem

Harry Barnes writes
Exactly a year ago today I sat near the centre of a long and crowded table at a meeting in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sitting almost opposite to me was Najim Abd-Jasem, the General Secretary of the Mechanics, Printers and Metalworkers Union in Baghdad.

I have just discovered that Najem was kidnapped last Tuesday, brutally tortured and then murdered because of his non-sectarian Trade Union work. His body was found on Monday. It is a sad and shattering anniversary of what had been one of the most telling meetings I have ever attended.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Congregations Come First blog

Boy in the Band finds a link to a UU Blog with this mission,
The Congregations Come First (CCF) Team was formed by the Unitarian Universalist Association Moderator to find ways to remove organizational obstacles to congregational health and vitality. The Team's goal is to recommend actions that will ensure equitable allocation of resources for service and support of our congregations and their missions. The Team welcomes your input as they gather information and formulate recommendations to report to the UUA Board in January of 2008.
The lad in the Band writes,
If there’s a task the common Unitarian Universalist blogosphere can hold — and something that would benefit every constituency and interest group – is applying continual pressure about Unitarian Universalist internal politics and asking for clarification.
Ok, so what's this CCF blog all about and why aren't they blogging more about it?

I'm baffled.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Starr King's YouTube Ad

Here it is over at Starr King's site. I had a hard time getting the YouTube version to play.

CahaliceBlog, Cuumbaya, and UU Enforcer all gave it a deserved thumbs-down. Joel inflicts dial-up users with the transcript,
The sole speaker is a student, Neal Anderson. Here is what he says: “I chose Starr King School for the Ministry because it best encapsulated the values that I have and the values that I wanted to expand upon. The explicit dedication to educating to counter oppression was very important to my call to ministry. I wanted to grow in my understanding of how Unitarian Universalism can live the countering of oppression in the world, and also how we as Unitarian Universalists can build sustainable and justice centered communities.”
Others deconstructed the above. I'm from Chicago so let me just add geez Neal sounds like a sap here. Can't he just say I want to fight the oppressor?

He's so abstract I don't have a clue what he means. I worry he'll graduate without a clue himself if he keeps this up.

Here's some video from Chicago's NBC news (it's violent and not for the faint) of a drunken Chicago Cop beating a woman barkeeper for refusing him another drink.

I belong to progressive blog in Chicago and asked the others there why they didn't speak out. We've had a pattern of abuse by Chicago Police for years. There had been nil posts on police brutality, and I thought local progressives too busy speaking out about the Patriot Act and missed the real oppression in the City. (Maybe because in one of the bluest of States, elected progressives might share some of the responsibility for the abuse?)

Read the comments back. The first blamed George Bush.

I'd hope Starr King would teach how we fight this oppression. Teach us what to do when confronted personally or as citizens viewing the YouTube afterwards.

Keep the talk concrete, because abstract talk leads to abstract solutions like blaming George Bush.

Maybe the response to Starr King is take the Divinity School into the taverns. Scholars may not meet God there but pick the right one and they can certainly meet the Devil incarnate without any abstraction.

Architecture and Morality: The President and his Land: Lessons from the Architect of the "Western White House" in Crawford

Corbusier talks with the his former Prof and the architect of Bush's ranch house.

From the comments.
The irony of our President, so hated by the lunatic left and the envirofreaks, having an enviromentally-friendly house vs. the carbon monster of the Gorecal of Doom is rich. You'll never hear a word about what the President has done in Crawford from the leftstream media.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Maryam Namazie at the National Secular Society: Doesn't Criticising Islam contribute to Racism?

Maryam Namazie responding to questions at the National Secular Society's seminar on Islam, Women's Rights and the Veil. Namazie links videos of her speech, Taslima Nasreen, and Mina Ahadi. Ahadi. I've only listened to the Q & A. Namazie points on the racism of critizing your own religion but making Islam off-limits. Don't hear that obvious point very often in the US.

xp Bill Baar's West Side

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Arabist: White Man discovers Orwell in Alaa Al Aswany

The Arabist on Michael Gove's reading of The Yacoubian Building. Give us western liberals a break Issander. We're trying and yours a tough world to fathom.

Also check the post on Egypt naming its first female judges.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Secular Islam Summit: Part 2

PJ Media has videos of interviews with Nibras Kazimi and Ibn Warraq thanks to Andrew's Notepad (where you can find more video from the summit).

How much is Unitarian Universalism typically American?

Reignite asks a very good question.
How much is Unitarian Universalism typically American? How much is Unitarian Universalism tied to the US American culture? This is probably a question that gets Canadian Unitarians going more than anyone else.

So much of what UUs speak and preach about is very tied to American culture. I heard a sermon about Abraham Lincoln the other day. A lot of what gets talked about is internal American politics, and the social justice dimension is always more American than global.
One reason I'm a UU is because it is so much United States of America. Penty to think about in this post and I'll come back to it.

Quick immediate thoughts:

Matt commented in response to a suggestion US ministers move to the UK: There is a further question - how many congregations could actually support a full-time minister? I'm certain Evangelicals would rephrase that into: how long would we support an Evangelical Minister until your congregation could support him/her?

And regarding, ...the social justice dimension is always more American than global, please read my comments on our failure to express solidarity with liberal Muslims.

Unitarian Record: "University calls off 'Islamic anti-semitism' talk" (Guardian Unlimited)

Unitarian Record quoting The Guardian,
"The University of Leeds this morning hit back at critics accusing it of censorship after it cancelled a public lecture on 'Islamic anti-semitism' due to be delivered by a visiting academic.

The university said it had cancelled the lecture on security grounds and insisted it had nothing to do with "academic freedom, freedom of speech, anti-semitism or Islamophobia."

The university's secretary, Richard Gair, said: "Those that are claiming that is the case are making mischief."
No comment on the mischief caused by those who threatened security here. What happened to Liberalism that will not face down mischief makers? Nick Cohen tells us,
Beyond the contortions and betrayals of liberal and leftish thinking lies a simple emotion that I don't believe Americans take account of: an insidious fear that has produced the ideal conditions for appeasement. Radical Islam does worry Europeans but we are trying to prevent an explosion by going along with Islamist victimhood. We blame ourselves for the Islamist rage, in the hope that our admission of guilt will pacify our enemies. We are scared, but not scared enough to take a stand.
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Haidar's Hero: Ayatollah Sistani

via IraqSlogger.

Sistani would get my vote. Haider writes Iraqslogger,
It is clear for everyone that Ayatollah Sistani was the first highest religious authority in Iraq, which is a religious society, who established a fatwa (in English: religious order) that forbids any single aggressive act against any Baathist or against any governmental office.

Ayatollah Sistani was the first for calling for new, free and quick elections to choose the National Assembly where they can choose people to write the recent permanent constitution.

Ayatollah Sistani was against all types of discrimination. He met all tribes and also met Christian clerics who were impressed by his assuring for the unity of all of Iraq and that people from all types of religion must be treated as brothers and sisters.

Pete Stark's Unitarianism

From the LA Times,
"When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being," Stark said. "Like our nation's founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services."
My first thought was what Member of Congress doesn't consider themselves the supreme being, but if he Stark claims the secularist's label, he should voice solidarity with the secular Muslim signers of the St Petersburg Declaration.
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.
Read it all.