Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rethinking Iraq

Recently in Newsweek (November 6 cover "We're losing, but all isn't lost.", Fareed Zakaria wrote an excellent and balanced view of Irag with recommendations for a way forward. Frankly, I'm tired of simplistic pronouncements on "Bush's War", from both Bush critics and some supporters. Critics blindly overlook the stark realities of the Saddam era, saying we should leave now and never should have been there in the first place. Some supporters, and Bush himself, overlook the stark realities of the escalated Sunni/Shiite sectarian hatred and violence (and the fact that much fighting is largely not a jihadist crusade but a Sunni struggle for control of the country) and its impact on uniting a democratic Iraq. Zakaria gives a more realistic picture and suggests a more balanced solution.

Democracy in Iraq--although I believe it still has a fighting chance--is not winning. Zakaria says we must "reduce and deploy our troops and nudge Iraqis toward a deal" in order to avoid total loss and get a "gray" outcome. In laying out the bad and the ugly, he doesn't overlook the good: a free Kurdish north and democratic free elections. One point he hits home is the critical fact that "the way out of this stalemate is not to pack up and go home. That will surely result in a bloodbath or worse."

One element missing from Zakaria's analysis is the need for forgiveness in Iraqi society. Without it, there is little hope. Shiites are venting after years of Sunni control and oppression, and Sunnis are retaliating trying to regain control. Shortly after Zakaria's article (and Saddam's hanging sentence), the largely Shia-controlled government finally made an effort to reign in Shiite death squads that attack Sunnis and then offered Sunnis their old government jobs from the Saddam era--a huge concession. Steps to reconcile and forgive like this will do more than any military solution. And as Zakaria said, with a Shia and Sunni agreement, Al Qaeda would be marginalized in the country.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ted Haggard's Darkest Hour

The case of Ted Haggard and his recent fall from grace is a truly bizarre story. Haggard initially minimizes the accusations by Mike Jones (I bought meth from him, but didn't take it; I got a massage from him, but didn't have sex with him - sound familiar? "...but I didn't inhale"), but eventually confesses his own deception: "The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring about it for my entire life..." He still says not all of what was claimed was true, but enough of it is. Meanwhile, Mike Jones passes a lie detector test partially--the part about him having sex with Haggard he fails. Perhaps he was stressed at that time, says the test implementer, and says he will do it over. Whatever the outcome is irrelevant now that Haggard has at least admitted deception, sexual immorality, and a "dark side".

Haggard is now mocked by the left and tolerated by the church, as a fallen brother, whose sin now exposed, was part of God's will as "God is a holy God and he chose this incredibly important timing for this sin to be revealed, and I actually think it's a good thing. I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually, " so said a leading board member of Haggard's church.

God is using this to shake America? Isn't he using it to shake the church? Shouldn't people be angry that the church continues to foster deceptive leaders? Or, is there a deeper element that should be faced--the fact that narrow, legalistic teaching bears the bad fruit of deception, hypocrisy, and in some cases deep sexual frustration?

One of the bizarre elements of this is how no one seems to be asking how a anti-gay-rights evangelical influential leader could fall into homosexual sin in the first place! Doesn't it appear like he was a man struggling with homosexual orientation and finally gave in? If so, his story must be reminiscent of Mel White's, although Mel didn't openly preach against homosexuality.

In 2003, Haggard was quoted as the new President of the National Association of Evangelicals: "This is evangelicalism's finest hour. It is the time for evangelicalism to assert itself in the public debate of ideas." If that was their finest hour, today is one of their darkest. And, another piece of evidence that the church is in desperate need of a new reformation.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Myths in the Media and in Public Thought

Did you know almost everything you know is wrong? So says 20/20 consumer advocate John Stossel in his new book Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. And he has a good point with a strong case.

I have been flabbergasted how so much of what the media reports and how they frame debates is distorted and misrepresented. Headlines announce news and without reading the whole article or digging deeper into facts, you walk away with a distorted view. Or, the bias of the media outlet slants the issue the way they want. The result is many of us are duped. Stossel exposes this phenomenon with his fact-finding investigative approach. Here are some samples of his findings:

Myth: DDT is dangerous to the environment. Truth: DDT saves lives.
I've been telling this story that DDT is way overhyped as a killer. It's only dangerous at very high levels and when public policy banned it years ago, it proved devastating for Africans. If the US funded DDT spraying, we could prevent the spread of malaria, but we don't and millions die.

Myth: Gas prices are going through the roof. Truth: Gasoline is a bargain.
When adjusted for inflation, we still pay little for gas. In fact, factoring inflation, gas today is 69 cents cheaper than 1981!

Myth: Outsourcing takes American jobs. Truth: Outsourcing creates American jobs.
Outsourcing helps the poor in the developing world and lowers prices and helps us consumers. Lower prices means we have more money to spend. Outsourcing also enables businesses to expand operations and create new and better jobs for Americans.

Myth: Republicans shrink government. Truth: Republicans say they will, but don't

Myth: Government helps the needy. Truth: Government hurts the needy by vomiting the public's money everywhere.

Myth: Politicians (e.g. President and Congress) run America. Truth: The people run America.

Myth: Public schools are underfunded. Truth: They have lots of money.

Myth: Business rip us off. Truth: Most don't.

Myth: Experts can cure homosexuality. Truth: Experts delude themselves.
(My thinking on this one has changed and I agree with Stossel - see Mel White).

Myth: (a) Global warming is happening because of fossil-fuel burning and (b) signing the Kyoto Treaty would stop it. Truth: (a) Maybe and (b) Hardly.
The evidence points that it doesn't. See Canadian scientists statement. Kyoto would hurt the poor.

Myth: Polygamy is cruel to women. Truth: The women aren't complaining.

Myth: John Stossel is a conservative. Truth: John Stossel is a libertarian.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Posts to Come

I've been so busy with my new job, I haven't had a chance to post much. I've got several subjects on my mind to post around including the Ted Haggard incident, John Stossel's new book called "Myths, Lies, and other Downright Stupidity", the Dead Sea Scrolls, the recent excellent Newsweek article on Iraq, and more about the Intelligent Design movement (just watched a video of Richard Dawkins visiting Ted Haggard's church -- a misrepresentation of the ID movement and a shameful display by Haggard, which reinforces again the need for a radical reformation in the church or else materialists and/or legalists will rule the day).

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