Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

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“The Music” Vs. “The Message” (w/poll)

January 9, 2009

Sometimes, the inspiration for threads here in the Chamber come from rather odd places, and this is going to be one of those times.  You see, yesterday, I was hanging out on the showroom floor at the dealership, and I couldn’t help but notice that the background music playing over the speakers was what I used to call “Jesus music” (these days, usually referred to as “Contemporary Christian“).   It was playing all day.

At first, I couldn’t understand why in the heck someone would decide such a thing was appropriate for the environment (considering the fact that any Buddhist, Hindu, Hmong, Jew or Muslim could walk through the door and want to buy a car), but then another thought struck me.  First though, I should say that, during my time in this particular profession, I’ve come to realize that this genre is more popular than I would have expected, based on how many radios are tuned to KTIS when we hop into customer’s cars and run them through the wash.  But I didn’t really take the time to stop and ponder it all until yesterday.  christian-albums

In any case, the thoughts began with something like “What the heck is with this stuff, anyway?”.

I’ve got to wonder if anyone would be rocking out to “Awesome God” if you changed the lyrics to, say, something about beer.  Or women.  Or politics.   Also, is it just me, or do all the male vocalists sound the same?  I mean, I think I could tell that I was listening to CC before I heard the first “savior” or “redeemer” uttered in the song, just based on style.  I dunno, there’s just something about it that gives it away. 

Look, I enjoy all kinds of music.  My MP3 player often skips from reggae, to pop, to classical, to metal, to hip hop when I’m playing it.  I can understand why some people enjoy opera and country, even.  But the vast majority of what I was listening to yesterday was just plain bland and mediocre.

So, I guess I have to assume that our KTIS junkies out there listen to it for the message rather than the quality of the music.  I guess there is that choice.  But I can’t help but think that, at some point, one would have to deduce that what you’re listening to is simply the best material recorded by people who happen to sing about Jesus, and that you’re ignoring the huge selection of tunes out there that are really much better from the perspective of raw musical talent.   So why continue?  Perhaps it could be viewed as a sacrifice of sorts, like some kind of perpetual Lent?   

Anyway…

I had this discussion with my girlfriend, and I was surprised to find out that the lyrics themselves actually effects her taste in music as well.  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be that shocked, ’cause once I thought about it for a second, I guess I could understand that there would be people out there who can’t get into anything instrumental, no matter what sub-genre.  A sort of a “can’t like it if I can’t sing it” mentality.  And if one is going to sing it, it’d be more entertaining if the subject was something meaningful to them on a personal level, I imagine.   That’s her, and maybe that explains the KTISers as well.

As for me?  I told her that I’m quite the opposite; the song could be about a dog taking a poop on a rug, and as long as it was catchy, I’d probably like it.   It’s definitely more about the rhythm and harmony in my world.  Give me some powerful chords, groovy beats, and impressive solos, and I’m usually diggin’ it.  

So, I have to ask, who’s more weird?

(I suppose there could be a third, less common category: principle.  By that I mean the selection was about the artist him/her/themselves, and not the lyrics or music per se.  For example, you choose to listen to U2 because of the work Bono does, or don’t, based on it.  What happened with the Dixie Chicks might be another example)

-Exit question:  Is there a name for the two schools?  Or should we coin them in this thread?

-Added miscellaneous factoid:  Did you know that they sang “Shout to the Lord” on American Idol last year?  I didn’t think I’d see that, but here it is:

 

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Open Letter To Barack Obama

March 16, 2008

(this is my first “open letter” here in the Chamber, so bear with me)

Don’t throw your pastor, Rev. Wright, under the bus.

Of course, it’s probably too late, as you’ve already repudiated his cherry-picked remarks, taken him off your campaign, and, apparently, erased his testimonial from your website, so I guess I’m writing this less in the vein of don’t and more in the vein of …why?

Doing all this reeks of political expedience, inherently calls into question your judgement (on why you chose to stick with the church for so many years), and overall, comes off as insincere.  No one is going to believe that you’ve suddenly discovered that Rev. Wright says controversial things now that ABC has broadcasted clips of his sermons for all the world to see, so why give anyone the incentive to scour through church records, interview parishioners and keep the issue in the spotlight while the drooling minions that are hell-bent to take your campaign down try to catch you in a GOTCHA! moment?

I watched as you went on 3 networks (FOX, CNN, and MSNBC) and clumsily attempted to distance yourself from the remarks that they kept playing in ad infinitum fashion.  You alluded to some of the good things the church has done for the community, but you had a hard time making the case for one important aspect: You.  The fact that you have had a successful life and are closer than anyone in history to being America’s first black president reflects favorably upon the church, doesn’t it?  I would think that a black church that can list among its long-term membership a state and U.S. Senator and the frontrunning candidate for the oval office would suggest that the church might have a positive influence on people, an influence that helped inspire you to answer the call to public service.    I understand that you can’t really come out and say all that, but to me, it appeared that you were more concerned with denouncing whatever rhetoric was deemed offensive instead of focusing on defending the church. 

The bottom line here is:  He’s your pastor.  You’ve made donations to the church.  There’s no escaping it, so why avoid it?  You shouldn’t have to cave and cast him aside simply because, suddenly, people are grilling you on the remarks that were made years ago.    

If one of the networks’ pundits asks you about his statement that America caused the AIDS virus or whatever say, “Fine, call up Rev. Wright and invite him to debate that position, I’m sure he’d be happy to.  Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view.  I’m sure many people out there don’t agree with absolutely everything that their minister or priest says, but I’m sure that most would say that they’ve had a positive influence on their lives.  It’s no different in my case”.  Or to address the accusation that Wright “hates America”, you could say, “I think Rev. Wright loves America like a parent loves their child, and sometimes he believes there’s reason to be angry”.   (After all, Wright is hardly alone when it comes to delivering negative rants on American culture from the pulpit.   Somebody is sinning, somewhere, after all.*) 

See, that sounds a lot more sincere than going so far as to whip out the knee-jerk CONDEMNED stamp.  That, and they can’t really go anywhere with it.  It’s like saying, “Yea, he’s my pastor, live with it.  Let’s move on.”  

In conclusion, I’m afraid that your reaction here has done more harm than good for your campaign.  You’ve put yourself in a hole on this that is going to be a distraction from the debate over the issues and why you’re the best man for the job.    For myself, I’ll continue to support you here in the Chamber, but I’ll say that I’ve been a little disappointed with how you and your campaign has handled these recent events. 

*In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t been to a church service in many years.   Watching what is said by the televangelists, I sometimes wonder why people still go, quite frankly.  So, in this regard, I am not going to consider myself an expert on the range and scope of unhinged sermons, but I think it’s safe to assume that there are some strange things that get said out there.  For myself, I left the church because one person “possessed by Satan” was enough for me.

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Is Obama A Radical Muslim Or A Radical Christian?

March 14, 2008

I had really hoped that the political discourse in America would actually focus on the issues of the day and be conducted in an intelligent and respectful manner.   Now, I’m not going to say that there haven’t been a few moments of this thus far, because clearly there have been, but lately it appears to have gone off the rails and taken a detour into the land of the bizarre.  The internet has been especially burgeoning with wild theories and attacks that have little to do with any of the candidates platforms (not that the net is known for reasonable voices, but still), and its beginning to get just plain ugly out there.  Accusations about (and implying) racism, sexism and bigotry are becoming more prevalent, along with trying to hold the candidates accountable for statements that someone else made, or who endorsed who (a sort of guilt by association/identity politics run amok).  

For just one example of how crazy this has become, let’s take this post from Gateway Pundit:  Obama’s Gave $22,500 to Racist Church in 2006

There are mosques that preach Radical Islam.
There are churches that preach Radical Christianity.
Unfortunately, the leading Democratic nominee for president attends such a church.
Unfortunately, its really not a surprise.

Not a surprise?  Well, just two weeks ago the same blog highlighted Obama’s supposed connection to Radical Islam: Obama’s Militant Muslim Brother Abongo Is Luo Activist

The “Obama is a closet Muslim” angle is a meme that trailblazing bloggers such as Atlas have been pushing for quite some time.  They’ve apparently had a hard time making it stick, since only 13% of Americans think that Obama is a Muslim (although that % has increased since December).   

The rightosphere really ought to make up its mind, ’cause it’s getting confusing and I’d like to get back to the issues.

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Why Obama, Part IV: Faith

February 1, 2008

For the fourth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the faith in politics issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.  The selection of this topic was inspired by comments that arose in Part II, as well as posts I’ve stumbled upon elsewhere in the blogosphere.  For this thread, I will begin with a section from Obama’s “Call to Renewal” speech (6/28/06):

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

I know I don’t talk about religion a whole lot around the Chamber.  I run a pretty secular ship, probably because I don’t consider myself to be particularly religious.  That, and I don’t have anything against those who are (even though I have been told more than once that my soul awaits eternal damnation).   I’ve always considered myself to be open-minded and non-judgmental when it comes to other’s faiths.    Moreover, I’ve made an effort to reach across the blogosphere’s religious divides and communicate to my fellow netizens on a human level; an inclusion of those from different religious backgrounds (with the WPPBA).  I can’t help but think that Obama and I are on the same wavelength here.

I’d also like to use this thread to debate the relevancy of Obama’s personal religious background, whether it be accusations that he was indoctrinated in a madrassa, or his church affiliation.  Also, if anyone has a guess at how many times righty blogs have attempted to appeal to Islamophobes by selectively using Obama’s middle name (Hussein) when addressing him, post it here. 

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I might as well take the opportunity to send a pingback out to Chamber visitor and profiled flame warrior Liberal Ass Kicker , founder of the blog OsamaLovesObama.com

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2007

This is the Chamber’s first Christmas, so I thought I’d jazz up the blog a bit with some snow, a neat header, and some Jingle Bells

We had some carolers come to the door last night, and the family and I sang right along with them.  It was great. 

Thanks for stopping by!

-CZ

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“Merry Christmas” When It Ain’t Christmas

December 13, 2007

This post was inspired by something that happened at work today.  Specifically, I did a favor for a client, and instead of a “Thank you”, I got a “Merry Christmas”.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting it, and my reply was a timid “Same to you”.  Why I couldn’t say the words in response, I’m not exactly sure.  I don’t have a problem with Christmas.  The exchange sat in the back of my mind for the rest of the day:  What’s my problem?  Am I a Scrooge?  Or, could it be that Christmas is still…

11 Days
3 Hours
16 Minutes

..from now?

So, why do people say “Merry Christmas” when it isn’t Christmas, anyway?  “Happy Holidays”, or even “Seasons Greetings”, I can understand, as they reference a time of the year when there are a number of holidays in close proximity on the calendar.  But to me, saying “Merry Christmas” on any day besides Christmas Day (or, perhaps, Christmas Eve) seems a little illogical. 

There, I said it.  Now I’ll have the AFA on my ass for sure.  And Gibson/OReilly.  Oh, and these guys:

 defend-christmas.jpg

While I’m at it, I guess this thread becomes my official “War on Christmas” depot by default, where I track evidence that there is a organized movement to destroy Santa.

There.  Done.

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Somebody Grab A Mop

December 7, 2007

Well, today was the day for Mitt Romney’s much-anticipated (for those who care, anyway) “religion” speech (aka “The Speech”).  For the better part of a week, the media and the blogs were discussing this thing, referring to it as a make-or-break political maneuver for a Mormon desperately trying to hold his ground as we enter the home stretch of this race.  From the outset, I was thinking that Mr. Romney was banking more on the hype than the content of the speech itself, since this was, in fact, being hyped.  Tremendously.  I really couldn’t figure out why this was made out to be such a big deal.  I mean, what do presidential candidates do when they’re campaigning?  Why, they give speeches!   

 Needless to say, there was a lot of chatter about this today because The Speech finally happened and the various pundits out there had their liveblogging gear all ready to go for the big event.  It appeared that just about eveyone had an opinion on this, but the one that stood out above the rest in the category of “largest cyber wad blown” belongs to…Hugh Hewitt.

You see, Mr. Hewitt found it necessary to post not one but two gush sessions over this, the likes of which would make Peter North cower in the corner in intimidation:

Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” speech was simply magnificent, and anyone who denies it is not to be trusted as an analyst.  On every level it was a masterpiece.  The staging and Romney’s delivery, the eclipse of all other candidates it caused, the domination of the news cycle just prior to the start of absentee voting in New Hampshire on Monday –for all these reasons and more it will be long discussed as a masterpiece of political maneuver.

I’d actually agree with some of that, albeit on a somewhat less enthusiastic level.  However the Romney camp did it; whatever calls had to be made, emails sent, or blog entries posted…it certainly did get hyped.  It was Mitt Romney day today.  Of course, whether that hype pays political dividends is something that remains to be seen. 

As for the content of the speech, I’ll say that it was well written but delivered in a manner that lacked passion.  It was a speech that, to your average conservative, probably looked good on paper, but watching it I couldn’t help but be reminded of that public speaking course I took in college.  You know, the one where half the class falls asleep while your fellow classmates regurgitate the performance they gave to the mirror the night before.  It can be summed up pretty quickly:  He’s a) a Mormon, b) hopes you’re OK with that, and c) wants you to trust him that he won’t be taking marching orders from some polygamists meeting in secret in barns on some compound somewhere.  The rest of it was material that could have been delivered by any of the candidates (including a few of the Dems).

Anyway, I thought I’d close this entry with another Hewitt howler (hey, maybe I could coin that?); after he gave examples of all the prominent conservative pundits that gave the thumbs up to the speech The Speech, he posted this:

Here are seven of the most influential conservative commentators in the U.S., and their opinions on the Romney success are all aligned with mine.  Thus, objectively, the speech cannot be judged as other than an extraordinary success for Romney.

I’m not exactly sure what brand of logic that is.  If Romney’s goal for the speech was simply to get glowing reviews from blowhard pundits, he probably could have opined about his love for Cap’n Crunch as long as he bought all seven of them a fully loaded Tahoe for Christmas.  Ultimately, positive reviews are never a bad thing, but people have to actually show up at the theater (so to speak) before phrases like “extraordinary success” get thrown around, right?  Objectively speaking, that is.

Update:  Even the folks at Hot Air are with me on this one, which is kinda rare, actually:

Exit question: Does Hugh need to “sit down”?

LOL.  It’s too bad that I can’t comment over there.  I was going to say “take a nap”.

Update:  Iowahawk parodies Hewitt;  definitely worth a link:   In My Objective Opinion.

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Aliens? Sure, Why Not

December 2, 2007

I’m going to take a break from my usual political banter and dive into the realm of science for a bit.  I’ve recently spent some time reviewing something called the Rare Earth Hypothesis (REH), so I thought I’d comment on it. But first a little background…

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in astronomy.  This was one of my favorite subjects in grade school and I even decided to take a course as an elective in college.  Even today I can’t help but gaze at the stars while walking the dog.  The incredible magnitude of it all is just fascinating. 

Speaking of college, I guess its worth mentioning (not that it’d be unexpected) that I was a big fan of shows like Star Trek, and during my time there I managed to view just about every episode of TNG.  If I recall correctly, the show was rerun on weekdays at 3PM, so my roommates and I made it a bit of a daily ritual (combined with some healthy doses of marijuana).  I bring it up because I was reminded of it while reading about REH.   As much as Star Trek adheres to some basic principles of science, certainly a healthy portion of the content stretches and suspends disbelief.  romulan.jpgLeaving aside some more ridiculous assumptions like the idea that a human could mate with a being from another world and bear its offspring (or that said being would even come close to resembling a human with a prosthetic attached to its forehead) , Star Trek wouldn’t be Star Trek with out the assumption that there are aliens in the first place. “To seek out new life forms and new civilizations” is in the title sequence, after all.  As would be the case with a lot science fiction, how far are they stretching that fundamental part? 

Just about everyone has pondered the eternal “are we alone” question.  However, I think there is a certain amount of reluctance for serious people to discuss the subject, probably because they’d want to be careful not to be associated with the tinfoil hat crowd. Also, most religions don’t leave room for the idea that there is anything living on any planet beyond the Earth.  But you certainly don’t have to believe in UFOs, Martians, or being visited by little green men to legitimately entertain the idea that amongst the billions of stars that anyone with decent vision can see on a clear night there might be something living.  There are plenty of brilliant people who keep an open mind and consider that the answer to the question of how many worlds out there that contain some level of life could range anywhere from “none” to “billions”, even when everything known about physics, biology, cosmology, chemistry, mathematics, etc. is brought to bear. For advocates of REH, the answer is much closer to “none”, and they make a fairly strong case.

For many people, the creation and existence of life is not a scientific question but a religious one.  For myself, I’ve always considered the possibility that science and religion need not be mutually exclusive.  In fact, maybe it’s our relentless pursuit of knowledge and adherence to the scientific method that would eventually prove that God exists?  I couldn’t help but think about this while reviewing REH.   The idea of the evolution of intelligent life seems miraculous in and of itself, but what the hypothesis proposes is that the factors that created an environment where it could even develop is equally miraculous.  (interestingly, I also found this article: Was the ‘Rare Earth’ Hypothesis Influenced by a Creationist?)

Watching a show like Star Trek for awhile might give one the impression that complex life can arise wherever there is an atmosphere on a planet near a star.  REH considers that it is far more complicated than that, and states that complex life is unlikely to develop on a planet (or even in a solar system) that doesn’t meet a whole list of qualifying criteria.  This would include (but not limited to)…

…and we haven’t yet considered the size, composition, atmosphere, axis and rate of rotation, magnetic field, plate tectonics, etc.of the planet itself.  Considering that complex life may take hundreds of millions or (in the Earth’s case) billions of years to develop, the idea that a relatively stable and safe incubator is needed for this to happen seems pretty intuitive.  Hot stars, for example, die too fast.  A planet without a magnetophere can’t repel solar radiation.  And even if all other conditions were ideal, a single bolide impact could be catastrophic and prohibit complex life forms from emerging.  All this paints a picture that portrays our existence on Earth as sort of a freak occurrence, and that it is highly unlikely that a wide variety of intelligent life could be found in a single quadrant of a galaxy (as assumed on Star Trek).  In fact, what REH advocates would propose is that Captain Kirk could spend 5 years riding around in the Enterprise and find nothing beyond the occasional microbe.

Does this mean that intelligent life doesn’t exist out there?  Hardly.  The REH has its fair share of critics, and primarily the fact that the model assumes that intelligent life could only evolve in an environment like that of Earth is called into question.  voyagerreverse.jpgGiven the fact that we have but one example (us), there are simply too many unknown variables.  Even if our existence was a one in a billion phenomenon, it would allow for billions of civilizations in the known universe, since there are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars.  What most scientist agree on, however, is that the occurrence is infrequent enough to allow for the likelihood that 2 civilizations would be in close proximity of one another.  In other words, whoever is out there, we’ll never contact them (or vise versa).  Another variable is time.   Even if one assumes and accelerated process in relation to our own, intelligent beings may require hundreds of millions of years to evolve, but may hold that status for a mere fraction of that.  During the history of the cosmos, untold intelligent beings could have evolved and subsequently died off before the earliest organisms made their appearance on Earth.  Still others could develop long after we’re gone. Humans have been intelligent enough to make themselves visible to interstellar observers for less than 100 years, and even if we’re around for another 10,000 or even a million more, that’s still a mere blink of an eye in a universe that is 13.7 billion years old (which adds another concept, in that one could trace our own evolution not just to the first creatures on Earth, but to the origin of the universe, since the Earth itself wouldn’t exist without the random chain of events that made it possible.  From that point of view, one can argue that it took 13.7 billion years for one known intelligent species to emerge).  All this may serve to explain the Fermi paradox, which asks the general question “Where are they”?

Also see:

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My 1½ Years At LGF, Part IV: The 2 Faces Of LGF

October 20, 2007

Mr. Johnson and his website have become somewhat famous, resulting in the occasional newspaper mention, tv appearance, or radio segment.  I couldn’t help but notice that the way LGF is presented when he’s quoted by the “MSM” and interviewed by conservative radio hosts seems to be markedly different from the blog I was reading on a regular basis.  Or, to use one of Charles’ favorite terms, LGF was looking a little “whitewashed”.

For example, his Washington Post quote “The vast, vast majority of Muslims want to get along and live a comfortable life just like everyone else” is definitely a notion that I hadn’t seen volunteered on the blog, and certainly wouldn’t have gone uncriticized if I had posted a similar sentiment in the comments.  In fact, if you spend enough time reading LGF you begin to wonder things like if there’s a single Islamic organization in all of North America that isn’t a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood or connected to terrorism in some way.  But, hey, I’m not a mind-reader.

In an even more blatantly disingenuous episode, Johnson made a July 31 appearance on Dennis Prager’s show to discuss the Stanislav Shmulevich/Pace U./Koran dunking incident.  Right from the begining, he described the incident as a “horrible crime” (audio) and agreed with Prager that “no one was defending” the act.  What Johnson neglected to tell the listening audience was the fact that Stanislav had contacted LGF (?!) and was promptly given a coveted account to post on the site (user:StanS)*.  And naturally, days later, a group of lizards assembled a pro bono defense team for Mr. Shmulevich (with a blessing that would obviously be implied by a dedicated thread about it).

I just shrugged my shoulders on that one.

*I could have sworn that Charles had announced that he had granted the account on the main page, but now I can’t seem to find that little detail.  Scrubbed?  Why in the world would he do that?

Tomorrow’s topic:

Obsession With Daily Kos

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My 1½ Years At LGF, Part III: Gaping Disconnect On The Iraq War

October 19, 2007

As I mentioned earlier, my primary intention when joining LGF was to find a place where I could debate the validity and reasonableness of the Iraq war and Bush’s role in the matter.  I found out early on that my views on the subject represented a tiny minority of registered LGFers.  This was a situation that I was hoping for, since I was looking for something a little more challenging than the relatively friendly confines of fearbush.com.  So, debate I did, and it was good.

As the war dragged on a while longer, however, I noticed that there were fewer and fewer threads on the subject. Why?  I don’t know for sure. I can only offer conjecture…

I think that LGF was like a lot of war blogs in that the support for the war from the beginning stemmed not from the idea that Saddam posed a tactical threat to the US or that the Iraqi people deserve to be liberated.  The underlying justification was much less cerebral, i.e. we were attacked on 9/11 by Arabs, and the appropriate response was to kick some Arab ass.  Or, according to Mr. Johnson:

In the Arab/Islamic shame-honor mindset, this is interpreted as weakness — and it was. It was that perceived weakness that was directly responsible for 9/11. The only way to rectify this is to demonstrate superior force; and that’s what President Bush did after 9/11, smashing the Taliban and dethroning Saddam Hussein.

So, in the run-up to the invasion, blogs like LGF would routinely run with the theme that pro-war views were appropriate and anti-war views were “weak” (usually delivered in the form of mocking protesters). We invaded, and as the war progressed (from the “kicking ass” phase of “shock and awe”, to rounding up the Baathists and capturing Saddam, to facilitating elections and helping the Iraqis establish a government, to training defense forces and attempt to build infrastructure), the mission began to look less and less like the one that the warbloggers originally advocated.  So, they’ve shifted the rationale a bit so that we’re now “kicking ass” on al Qaeda, and they’ll occasionally post a thread when something significant happens on that front.  Eventually, however, one begins to look a little silly when there’s a celebration for the umpteenth killing of AQ’s “#2″ guy.  That might mean that there’s less to talk about overall.  Again, just conjecture.

These days, the mission that our troops are engaged in primarily involves counterinsurgency operations and facilitating the diplomats’ efforts in bringing about some sort of political stability.  Now, if you read anything about effective counterinsurgency tactics or diplomacy, you’d see that it has a lot less to do with “kicking ass”, and a lot more to do with building alliances, gaining the trust of the population, observing cultural sensitivities, etc. Gaining trust and observing the cultural sensitivities of Arabs is something that appears to be the polar opposite of what’s going on at LGF.

ussoldieriraqichildren.jpg

So, here you have warbloggers who continue to claim that they support the troops and their mission, all the while repeating the “us against Islam” meme that the State Dept. and the commanders on the ground are desperately trying to discredit.  The cognitive dissonance that results when they post things like Michael Totten’s report that our troops are winning the hearts and minds of the residents of Anbar makes my head hurt.  I mean, the realization that this kind of success wasn’t made possible by advocating Koran dunk-athons or mocking the Muslim’s dislike of pork products is still outside the grasp of most of them, but occasionally a lizard will post something especially profound…

#117 Pro-Bush Canuck

One look at the people in Totten’s essay is enough to remind us that not every person who happened to be born into Islam is our enemy.

We have two enemies: Islamists and the Left. Al Qaeda appears to be much more evil, but if I had to choose I would definitely say that the Left is the more evil force in the greater scheme of things. Al Qaeda can be defeated; the Left is like a cancer, and will be a life or death battle for us for many decades to come, long after Islamism has subsided.

…or not.

(the “reminder” scored a modest +4 on the rate-my-post-o-meter, however)

It all kinda gives one the impression that they don’t really know what we’re doing there (or why) any more than anyone else does.  For the most part, they seem to follow whatever the administration talking point of the week happens to be, just with their own twist.  If you ask me, it takes some pretty stellar mental gymnastics to make that work.  But, like the general Weekly Standard-ish crowd, it doesn’t seem to bother them that these people we’re fighting really weren’t a threat to us before we invaded, and that most have only taken up arms because we’re there.  It’s much simpler just think of them all as the 20th hijacker, of course.

Tomorrow’s topic:

The 2 Faces Of LGF

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My 1½ Years At LGF, Part II: Israel/Palestine Conflict and Antisemitism

October 18, 2007

It’s widely known that 9/11 was the catalyst for LGF’s transformation from a weblog discussing web design and bicycling to what it is today.  Now, I can understand how the reality of the attacks might change someone’s outlook on certain things, like domestic intelligence gathering, foreign intervention and espionage. What I’ve never fully understood, however, was the radical shift in attitude with regards to Israel.  As evidence of the change, take a look at this pre-9/11 LGF entry (which, incidentally, pretty much echos my own sentiments):

9/1/01

I don’t like to write about the Middle East. I don’t even like to think about it. It’s a dismaying quagmire of blind religious hatred and irrational Dark Ages thinking on all sides, impervious to logic or reason, perhaps the greatest imponderable stupidity in humankind’s history. I give a slight moral advantage to the Israelis because at least they aren’t exporting terrorism and the slaughter of innocents, as many of the Islamic countries in the area routinely do. They’ll probably all kill themselves one day in a nuclear confrontation. (How’s that for optimism?) I just hope they don’t take the rest of the world down with them. This article in the New York Times is the latest example of the terminal sickness that afflicts the whole region: Palestinians Give U.N. Racism Talks a Mixed Message.

Somewhere along the lines, this relative indifference was abandoned, and replaced by a very passionate, pro-Israel view.  It apparently didn’t take that long, made clear by the appearance of Nekama’s Troll Hammer (and subsequent enshrinement) in 2003 and by the fact that Mr. Johnson was being perceived as a “Righteous Gentile” by the Israel National News as early as April 2004.  By the time I joined the site, accusations of antisemitism fired at anyone who was perceived as saying or reporting anything even remotely critical of Israel were pretty commonplace. (I had even been labeled as such by commentors on a few occasions, one of them for simply saying the word “neocon”.)  For more objective media reports that portrayed Israel as less than infallible, efforts were made to challenge those accounts as simply “biased”. And every so often, something would come across the proverbial desk that seemed impossible for anyone with a sliver of intellectual honesty to refute.  It would have to be something simple, like a single photograph. In those situations…they punted:

palmissilelgf.jpg

So, what sparked this metamorphosis?  Was it the videos of Palestinians celebrating 9/11?   Reading up on the history and culture of the region?  The urge to poke the Jihadis in the eye with pro-Zionist propaganda?  All of the above?

In fairness, I suppose I would be equally curious about someone who shifted from neutral to an anti-Israel stance in the wake of 9/11.  I really don’t get it.  It’s the same country in the same messed up part of the world that existed both before and after the attacks.

Exit question: Is being critical of Israel (specific actions, policies, historical events, etc.) automatically make you an antisemite? Scratch that. How about just plain indifference?

Tomorrow’s topic:

Gaping Disconnect on the Iraq War

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My 1½ Years At LGF, Part I: Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

October 17, 2007

It’s no secret that LGF takes heat from both the media and bloggers alike for their constant diatribe about all things Islamic.  Since I didn’t come into the site knowing what it was all about, I’ll admit that I was pretty surprised by it. Initially, I figured that it was irrational fear borne in the ashes of the September 11th attacks.  I wasn’t really offended by all the Muslim bashing that went on in the comments section (I’m not offended easily), and I certainly didn’t go into the site with the intention of “defending” Islam, so while I was there I rarely offered up an opinion on those threads.  I do know (now) that it was, for the most part, the reason why many referred to LGF as a “hate site” (a label that Charles and the rest of the lizards predictably took issue with), and the usual comeback offered up in the comments section went something like “Well, if that means hating those who want to convert you to Islam, kill you, force you into slavery, chop off your head, etc., then, yea, this is a hate site”.

The most glaring problem with this argument is the fact that there are a fair amount of threads about Arabs and Muslims that have nothing to do with terrorism, a worldwide caliphate, or even “sudden jihadi syndrome”.  One thread I recall, Pigophobia in the UAE, clearly had no other point other than amusing the lizard minions with a story about Muslim’s aversion to swine.  The aforementioned comeback loses quite a bit of credibility when you see this kind of thing.  (the defense is also slightly hampered by the fact that LGF has it’s own dictionary of terms, many of them disparaging and originating on the site)

To his credit, you’d be very hard pressed to find anything that Charles himself posts in any given thread that someone might view as blatantly bigoted.  But on the other hand, there are plenty of regular commentors who don’t parse their words nearly as carefully, and the same could be said about many on the list of featured “anti-idiotarians” in the blogroll.  Intentionally or not, the result of all this is a place that attracts the type of people who are looking for affirmation of their own anti-Muslim prejudices, and the comments often reflect that.

This brings me back to the “Pigophobia” thread, where after quite a few comments that had to be deleted, Charles responded:

A note: I am absolutely fed up with posts that advocate rounding up all Muslims and/or illegal aliens and putting them in camps, or that use bigoted language. I do not agree with this kind of crap, it drags the site down, and those comments are not welcome here.

I’m not going to take the heat for it any more — I’m simply going to start blocking people who do it.

Should the appearance of bigoted comments in a thread with “Pigophobia” in the title be that surprising?  I mean, come on.

When confronted, the LGFers would have you believe that the overall mission is to spread the word about the dangers of radical Islam in an effort to make a contribution to the greater “War on Terror”.  They’ll tell you that those who belittle the threat are choosing to be willfully ignorant, have their head in the sand, or fall for the false virtue of political correctness.  For what it’s worth, I think that they really do believe that their efforts are noble, and in the interest of “saving the world“.  To me, however, the site tends to read more like a scavenger hunt for tales of Muslims doing bad things than a place that makes a legitimate effort to combat Islamic terrorism.  It’s not like they’re pouring over pro-al Qaeda websites with translators looking to uncover details on plots and strategy, after all.  Instead, the posts appear to be an attempt to build the argument that Islam itelf is the underlying problem (and the real enemy).  And as well-intentioned as they might consider themselves to be, there is a real counterproductivity with this.  The notion (however vaguely interpreted) that the West is at war with Islam is propaganda that al Qaeda has been spreading.  Even George Bush recognizes that this is a road that we don’t want to take:

“My country desires peace,” Bush told world leaders in the cavernous main hall at the U.N. “Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam.”

In conclusion, I sit back and wonder sometimes if the rantings of the “anti-idiotarians” really are just contributing to the problem, and not part of the solution.

Tomorrow’s topic:

Israel/Palestine Conflict and Antisemitism

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Oh Noes! Not A Green Empire State Building!

October 13, 2007

Tonight I’ve decided to comment on what I consider to be the silliest story on memeorandum at the moment:  Sharia By The Inch

Islamofascism: In a monumental nod to political correctness, the Empire State Building is to be lit up green in honor of the Muslim holiday Eid. The separation of Islam from terror is officially complete.

Six years ago, Islamic terrorists screamed “Allah is Greatest!” as they slammed fuel-laden jumbo jets into two other New York skyscrapers. Six years ago, New Yorkers were worried about the Green Menace.

Now, for the first time, New York’s remaining famous skyscraper will be aglow in green — the color of Islam — to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of intense Islamic renewal. Officials say it’ll be an annual event, in the same tradition of the yearly skyscraper lighting for Christmas and Hanukkah.

You heard it here folks.  The Empire State Building is ….GREEN!

green-lantern.jpg

Victory for the Green Menace!  We’ve subjected ourselves to yearly dhimmitude!  How dare we recognize a holiday in a religion that happens to be the same religion as terrorists that knocked down the WTC!  Remember, they were Muslim!  Green! 9/11! Muslim! Green!  9/11! Aaarrrggghhh!!!

*sigh*

Sorry about the lame wingnut impersonation.  Sadly, however, I’m not too far off:

…and so on, and so forth

The problem, the way I see it, is that we weren’t attacked by Islam on 9/11.  We were attacked by al Qaeda, whose flag happens to look like the Arabic version of pirate colors:

qaeda-flag.jpg vs pirate-flag.jpg

Heck, they even took over the planes like a bunch of pirates:

roberts2.jpg

Anyway, there’s just something irrational about all this.  The Empire State Building gets lit up for all kinds of holidays.  You can’t hold all the Muslims in America accountable for the 9/11 attacks.   And, yes, some of your fellow Americans happen to be Muslim, and the vast, vast majority of them haven’t blown anything up.

Get a freakin grip people.

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Bin Laden Thinks We’ll Do Ourselves In

September 9, 2007

There’s been a lot of buzz (and spin) on the blogs about the latest bin Laden video, so I might as well add my thoughts on it. 

Like many people, I wondered if bin Laden was still alive, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that this appearance proves that he is (although I suppose that it is possible that it’s a hoax).  I only saw a portion of it, so I’ll base my comments from here on in on the transcript.

Bin Laden is all over the board with this.  He mentions everything from Chomsky to global warming to capitalism to Iraq to Jesus and Mary.  I was three pages in and I was a bit unsure if it was really making any sense.  It started out as veiled gloating and evolved into what could best be described as…um…advice.   Eventually, I think I got it, however.

What’s remarkably absent, I guess, is any talk of future attacks.   The point I think he’s attempting to make here is that they don’t need to.   He’s appears to be saying that 9/11 was a catalyst that prompted a course of action that will lead to our downfall.   According to bin Laden,  because of our flawed capitalist system combined with our stubborn and arrogant leadership (who do the bidding of the corporations), we will bankrupt ourselves…and the only thing that will save us is Islam.

While reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck he’d have to say if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.  Who knows?  Maybe he wouldn’t be saying anything.  Maybe he’d be dead or captured by now.

Another thing worth mentioning is the question of whether any of this is really what he believes.  This propagandistic speech is directed at us Americans, and it would be irresponsible to dismiss the notion that he’s just messing with us.  In other words, the speech itself is less a genuine piece of advise and more of an instrument of sociological warfare.  In fact, Jason Stark over at mvdg proposes exactly that:

If I am right about Osama’s plan, then he must be very happy. Actually, he must be very happy regardless of whether he planned it. The response from far right and far left are predictable and to Osama’s benefit. Rather than focusing on how to best fight bin Laden, both the far left and the far right are spending all their energy on each other. The only winner from this obsessive internal political demonization that has become the sum total of American political culture? Osama bin Laden.

Maybe we’re both right.  Perhaps the message kills 2 birds with one stone.  He gets to gloat and inspire and stick his grubby fingers in our political discourse at the same time. 

I feel kind of guilty even posting about this now.  After all, we’re allowing a bearded nutbar in a cave on the other side of the globe to have so much power.  How humiliating. 

Update:  The Telegraph speculates that bin Laden’s speechwriter may be Adam Gadahn.

Bin Laden referred to “the reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgage” and blamed “global warming and its woes” on “emissions of the factories the major corporations”.

A former senior US intelligence official said: “It has Adam Gadahn written all over it.” Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the tape left bin Laden with “the title of biggest gas bag in the terrorist world”.

 

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