Saturday, November 3, 2007

MS Fatigue

Since I have been feeling very good lately and my last MRI showed "dramatic improvement" I've been trying to go without my pills for staying awake. I was taking a 200mg tablet of Provigil every day and I did need it. Without it, I was a zombie by dinner time. Lately, though, I've felt pretty good even when I haven't taken it. Some days I still take half a pill, but for the last couple of weeks I've been getting by without it for the most part. It's saving me money and I feel a little less like a walking pharmacy. We'll see how long this lasts.

Pakistan and the Neocons

Joe Klein wonders why the neocons aren't concerned with recent events in Pakistan. Joe suspects it may be Israli influence. He may be correct, but what amazes me more is how the neoconservative movement seems to revolve around war. It's the first option they put on the table for any sort of international problem as if America should be an empire throwing its weight around militarily wherever we feel like. I guess they don't realize that this is one of the reasons we are much less respected in the world these days and why our soft power has seen a sharp decline.

But, back to Pakistan. I think we should be much more worried about events there than in Iran. After all, we know Pakistan has nukes.

Jesus Doll

Some people will stir up controversy over anything. A Jesus doll now available at Wal-Mart can recite Bible verses and tell the story of feeding the multitudes. This has some people fired up. No, not atheists, but Christians who fear that this will "trivialize" Jesus.

That's right parents. Don't buy your kids toys that will teach them about Jesus. Get them Barbie dolls so they learn how to objectify females and GI Joes to instill in them a love of violence. That's what Jesus would do.

Okay, slight hyperbole, but I can't believe the things some people get worked up over. I can't imagine the reaction these people would give to this Jesus toy (with the best commercial ever).

Friday, November 2, 2007

America Divided

Andrew Sullivan has an insightful article over at the Atlantic. He examines the source of the growing divide in America.

Given this quiet, evolving consensus on policy, how do we account for the bitter, brutal tone of American politics? The answer lies mainly with the biggest and most influential generation in America: the Baby Boomers. The divide is still—amazingly—between those who fought in Vietnam and those who didn’t, and between those who fought and dissented and those who fought but never dissented at all. By defining the contours of the Boomer generation, it lasted decades. And with time came a strange intensity.

The professionalization of the battle, and the emergence of an array of well-funded interest groups dedicated to continuing it, can be traced most proximately to the bitter confirmation fights over Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, in 1987 and 1991 respectively. The presidency of Bill Clinton, who was elected with only 43 percent of the vote in 1992, crystallized the new reality. As soon as the Baby Boomers hit the commanding heights, the Vietnam power struggle rebooted. The facts mattered little in the face of such a divide. While Clinton was substantively a moderate conservative in policy, his countercultural origins led to the drama, ultimately, of religious warfare and even impeachment. Clinton clearly tried to bridge the Boomer split. But he was trapped on one side of it—and his personal foibles only reignited his generation’s agonies over sex and love and marriage. Even the failed impeachment didn’t bring the two sides to their senses, and the election of 2000 only made matters worse: Gore and Bush were almost designed to reflect the Boomers’ and the country’s divide, which deepened further.

He then talks about the only '08 candidate he thinks can bridge the divide and bring people together - Barack Obama.

But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.

We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.

Sullivan has made it clear that he disagrees with many of Obama's more liberal positions, but supports him because of his character. Matt Yglesias notes that Sullivan's analysis is "more personality-driven than is wise," but that it also seems to be the way many voters are. I find myself agreeing with Sullivan on this in that I find my support for Obama more to be because he seems a genuine person willing to say tough things and wanting to unite people more than for any of his policy positions.

Religion Fact of the Day

The Fourth Crusade in the early 13th century to retake the Holy Land actually took a detour. The crusaders hearing of riches in Constantinople stormed the city in 1204 and sacked it. They took their newfound riches and returned home ending the crusade. Most of the crusaders never even made it to the Holy Land. This tragic event sealed the division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church and remains a point of contention even to this day.

School Voucher

Megan McArdle has been arguing vociferously on her blog in favor of school vouchers. She is confident enough in the free market to solve the problems public schools have not been able to fix.

I find myself very ambivalent on the issue. It sounds good in theory to give parents the ability to get a voucher and pull their kid out of a struggling school. I haven't seen any plan, though, that addresses all of the problems that arise from this. One, in a free market system, schools may find it prudent to not accept troubled kids or mentally retarded kids because they will cost more to educate. Two, kids who don't move will be stuck in a school that is getting less money and thus less able to pay for necessary supplies. Three, a free market system opens itself up to corporate influence and I'm not sure that is a good idea. Four, such a system is going to need a lot of oversight and if it is going to be so heavily regulated what is the point of contracting it out anyway? Five, many issues in public schools stem not so much from problems with the schools, but with socio-economic factors beyond the schools control. It won't matter where kids go to school, these issues are not going to just disappear.

I believe that society benefits from mandatory public education. I think we have problems in our current education system, but I'm not sure that vouchers are the solution.

Senate on the Verge of Caving In

Mukasey has picked up the support of key Democratic Senators. Does no one have integrity anymore?

Help is on the Way

I got a call yesterday that the aid I requested for my mother was approved and the check was being mailed out. I am very grateful to the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation for this. This means a lot to me, but more importantly it will help my mom keep her house.

The AG on Torture

Mukasey won't say whether or not waterboarding is torture. Andrew Sullivan comes down hard on Mukasey and Congress if they go ahead and confirm him.

Alas, the president almost certainly will never be prosecuted for the war crimes he has committed. He has already seen to that and so, shamefully, has the Congress by passing a law that retroactively granted him immunity. Surely that is bad enough. To compound that by allowing an attorney general to take office by refusing to say whether he will uphold the law in the face of the Cheney-style Protector-Presidency is inexcusable. This is history in the making. Who will defend the rule of law?

Write your Congress and tell them that you don't support torture. This is America. Let your voice be heard.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Religion Fact of the Day

The Albigensian Crusade was one of the darker periods in the history of the Catholic Church. The Cathars were a group of Christians in France who came to believe a heretical doctrine with roots in Gnosticism. They believed the God of the Old Testament was evil and actually Satan. In the early part of the 13th century, Pope Innocent III initiated the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. Over a 20 year period, up to 200,000 people were killed during this crusade. The heresy was for the most part crushed, although small pockets of it remained for the next one-hundred years.

Holding Out For a Hero

Jeromy writes about being tested or finding your "Goliath moment" on his blog.

I think at some level we all seek a “goliath” moment. The untried person carries a nagging question about how he will respond in a moment of clear conviction. To be placed in an insurmountable situation, have the courage to face it, and by grace, overcome, is the heart's desire. In my own life, I inwardly long for just such a challenge- not for the challenge itself, but for the transformation that results, as in David’s life.

I know that ever since I was little I have had this desire, although mine has been in the framework of reading Lord of the Rings, watching Star Trek and Star Wars. I have always had a burning desire to be a hero, to find myself suddenly faced with a situation of insurmountable odds, of desperate times, where everything hangs on a knife's edge. I want to face that situation and rise above it to become a hero.

Unfortunately, things like that really only happen in stories. Most heroes only get their status after a lifetime of serving people and doing small things that add up to something big. It's very noble and admirable. It's also not the romantic story-book stuff I have always wanted to be a part of. Ah, well. You can't always get what you want.

Losing Faith

William Lobdell, a reporter for the LA Times, wrote a very moving article this summer on his loss of faith. He was the religion reporter for the paper and fiercely devoted to his Christian beliefs. In the course of his reporting, though, he saw so many horrible things - the Catholic abuse scandal, people desperate for healing from televangelists who never did, priests becoming fathers and getting out of child support - he lost his faith.

My problem was that none of that surprised me anymore.

As I walked into the long twilight of a Portland summer evening, I felt used up and numb.

My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul.

William mentions the theodicy problem. It is a hard, perhaps the hardest, question for any believer who attempts a serious examination of their faith. There are many answers, but no one that seems to satisfy a majority of people. In my own mind it comes down to a combination of having free will (and the baggage that comes with it) and being given tests in order to learn and grow. We learn nothing if we are not challenged and I think one of our purposes in this earthly existence is growing.

Read the whole article. It is a moving look at a person's journey to faith and then away from it.

Do We Need An Air Force?

Robert Farley doesn't think so.

But it's time to revisit the 1947 decision to separate the Air Force from the Army. While everyone agrees that the United States military requires air capability, it's less obvious that we need a bureaucratic entity called the United States Air Force. The independent Air Force privileges airpower to a degree unsupported by the historical record. This bureaucratic structure has proven to be a continual problem in war fighting, in procurement, and in estimates of the costs of armed conflict. Indeed, it would be wrong to say that the USAF is an idea whose time has passed. Rather, it's a mistake that never should have been made.

He makes a good argument while conceding it won't happen anytime soon.

Mental Health Break

The last few weeks at work have been rather crazy. We upgraded our access control software and it has been nothing but trouble since. I think we got all the bugs worked out yesterday finally. My boss said she thought it would be a good idea if I took a few days off and I wasn't going to disagree. So, I am taking today and tomorrow off for a four-day weekend. It feels great already. I slept in until 9:45 today. I have plenty of homework and chores around the house to take care of, but I don't have to go to work so it's all good.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Religion Fact of the Day

More people are familiar with the sweeping reforms made by the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in the early 1960s, but the First Vatican Council also made some important changes to the church. It was called by Pope Pius IX and begun in 1869. The most notable change was to officially declare the doctrine of papal infallibility. It had been an unwritten rule up to that point, but in a controversial move, the church made it official. Papal infallibility means that in matters of the church and faith, the Pope can not be in error.

Funeral Music

I don't deny that I have a somewhat morbid mindset. It's just how I am. Even though I know I am going to live for a very long time, I have been thinking about my funeral and what I want it to be like. Yeah, I may not physically be there, but it's my funeral, damn it, and I want it conducted how I want it.

On that note, I've been thinking about the music to be played. This is the playlist I have come up with so far. I've got another hundred years of life, though, so it's bound to be tweaked a bit.

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  2. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  3. White Shadows – Coldplay
  4. Hero of the Day – Metallica (S&M)
  5. The Likes of You Again – Flogging Molly
  6. Come Sail Away – Styx
  7. Dead Boy’s Poem – Nightwish
  8. “Moonlight” Sonata – Beethoven
  9. Fur Elise – Beethoven
  10. Into the West – Annie Lennox (Return of the King soundtrack)
  11. On Earth As It Is In Heaven – Ennio Morricone (The Mission soundtrack)
  12. Amazing Grace – Dropkick Murphys (Live on St. Patrick’s Day)
  13. God U Tekem Blong – Hans Zimmer (The Thin Red Line soundtrack)
  14. Hallelujah – Handel (Messiah)
  15. We Are the Champions – Queen
  16. Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo
  17. Book of Days – Enya
  18. Angels Fall First – Nightwish
  19. Also Sprach Zarathustra – Richard Strauss
  20. A Final Dream – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  21. Son of Pain – Rhapsody of Fire
  22. Cry to Heaven – Meat Loaf
  23. The Breaking of the Fellowship – Howard Shore (The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack)
It's not in order or anything, yet. I've got time to decide things like that. Some of the songs are here because I really like them, others because they're amusing, others because they move me. They all mean something to me, though, and that is why they are on the list.

Are there other 28-year-olds out there who are planning their funeral?

Now We're Not Moving

First we were. Then we weren't. Then we were. Well, now we are definitely not moving.

Shawn still wants to get out of the house. This has been tearing Mom up and I've been racking my brain for a solution. I'm not really sure I have one, but I have decided that we are not going to sell the house. Shawn has said that as long as he can walk away free and clear, he won't worry about his share of the equity at this point. Mom and I were sure we couldn't make the house payment on our own, though, so we thought we were going to have to sell. Well, I have been really looking at my finances and some options and I think I can make it work.

I'm going to defer one of my student loans that I have been paying. I'm going to talk to a friend about moving in. I've applied for some assistance from a program through the hospital I work at. It's going to be tough and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous. What it boils down to for me, though, is that my mom's dream is being crushed. I would feel like a shitty son if I didn't do everything in my power to prevent that. This may be a failed venture, but at least I won't be able to say I didn't try.


Some Halloween thoughts from Bill Maher.

And finally, New Rule: This Halloween, every time you see something that's supposed to scare you, like a skeleton or a severed head or a gay wizard--take a moment and think about fear. What are you afraid of? What should you be afraid of? What's really scary this Halloween is that the same group of idea-free losers who won the last presidential election could win the next one, by making us afraid of the wrong things. Which is why this year for Halloween, I'm going as something truly horrifying: a melting polar icecap. And I have the costume right here. [he puts "Melting polar icecap" on his head] What do think about it? Hmm? That's going to be my Halloween costume.

All right. Now, this week, as every week, all the Republican candidates talked about was who was the toughest in the war on terror. While the country's most populace state literally burned. The Democrats, as usual, said nothing, because they didn't want to offend fire.

The Republicans, including the "Scaremonger in Chief," sell themselves as our protectors. But it's always from fears they made up, like Iran. [with mock horror] "And their leader in Iran, who is pure evil. Ahmadinejad! Terror has a new name...and it's nearly unpronounceable."

At the Republican debate this week, Mike Huckabee said, "Islamofascism is the greatest threat we ever faced." Really? More than the Nazis, and the Russians and the Redcoats? In his latest ad, Mitt Romney warns eerily that Muslim jihadists want to establish an Islamic caliphate covering the whole world, including America. Yes, and I want to be adopted by Angelina Jolie.

And you thought the people who were scared of gays and Mexicans were paranoid. Islamic terrorists taking over America? They can barely get across the monkey bars. Our defense budget is $600 billion a year. They're using guns they took off a dead Soviet in 1981. I think we can hold Charleston.

We are the most powerful nation on earth, with the largest economy and the best military. And we're made to act the fool by a few thousand cave dwellers who still put out their video on VHS!

And that's the problem. Because of the incompetence that goes by the name George Bush--we have become the most insecure, paranoid superpower ever. We don't think we can get anything right anymore. We can't take care of our own citizens after a hurricane, or plan for our wars, or maintain our infrastructure. And our celebrity rehab facilities obviously aren't working at all.

As a species, we are failing at survival trick number one: prioritize the threats. Environmental catastrophe is going to visit all of us in the coming decades in one way or another, and when it does, I hope people like - oh, I don't know, Lou Dobbs - says to himself, "Huh, maybe if I was going to spend my whole career obsessing about one issue, it should have been global warming. My skin just fell off my face, and it turns out that really wasn't the fault of a Mexican."

Poetry Time

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

For Cat Lovers

Time has an interview with Tracie Hotchner, a feline expert who has a show on Sirius called Cat Chat. Here is something I was not aware of:

My big campaign is to get people off of dry food. The message of Cat Chat is: Think outside the bag. Dry food is kitty crack. It's addictive, and incredibly harmful to your cat. Of course, that goes counter to everything your vet tells you, and everything that advertising tells you. But when you start to feed cats wet food, their personalities will change, anywhere from 10% to 100%, toward affectionate and relaxed.

I've checked a few other cat sites and they are all saying the canned stuff is better. I guess Tiberius is getting a change of diet.

It's Not My Fault!

I'm glad to see that blame-shifting is not just the province of us lowly peons. Hillary Clinton is blaming her poor debate performance...on Tim Russert. I think she's feeling a bit nervous with the the fact that the Iowa caucus is rapidly approaching and she is not pulling ahead of the pack.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Blog on the Block

My good friend, Jeromy, has finally started his own blog, Seeking Goliath. He's always got something thought provoking to say, so check it out.

Spam Humor

Everybody who has passed within shouting distance of the internets knows about spam. It's a fact of life, unfortunately, but we always find a way to cope such as turning it into poetry.

Me? I just try to laugh. For example, the headline of one spam email I got today was:

My friends ask what my secret is and I say it's in my pants!

This gave me the image of some skinny dork (not resembling me), call him Steve, going through life and no matter the question, his answer was, "It's in my pants!"

"Hey, Steve, how's it going?"
"It's in my pants!"

"Steve, how do I fix my computer?"
"It's in my pants!"

"What are you doing tonight, Steve?"
"It's in my pants!"

"Steve, have you seen stapler?"
"It's in my pants!"

As much as I hate spam, a part of me would be a little sad to see it all go.

Strange Associations

There is a cool music website, Pandora, that lets you build your own stations. You put in an artist and it will play a song from that artist and then play music from similar artists. Most of the time it seems to work well; the artists make sense. I put in Metallica and I got Maiden, Priest, etc. Flogging Molly gave me a bunch of Celtic punk music.

Today, though, I got a rather odd selection. I put in Jim Steinman, he of Bat Out of Hell fame (the first two). First up, it played a song from his solo album, Bad for Good. Okay, good. Next, though, it chose a song from Dragonforce.


I happen to like Dragonforce. They are an awesome European power metal band with some crazy fast guitar work. But they really are in a different category from Steinman's Wagnerian rock. Both are good and both are over the top, but that's really where the similarities end.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Religion Fact of the Day

Satan was not always the cosmic force of evil he is usually portrayed as now. In the Old Testament, Satan makes very few appearances and he is a member of God's court, as in the Book of Job. There it is clear that he is one of God's functionaries, tasked with roaming the Earth and testing human morality and faith. The tempting serpent in Genesis is just a snake. It was only much later that people linked Satan with the serpent. Not until the Intertestamental Period (200 BCE - 200 CE) does Satan become the eternal opponent of God.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Birthday

Happy 29th birthday to my dear friend, Jeromy. I believe that this is the 20th birthday of his that I have known him. I certainly could not ask for a finer friend. Actually, I don't even think of Jeromy as a friend any more. He is a brother. I feel lucky, blessed in fact, to have someone like him in my life. We should all be so lucky. I know that if I ever need anything I can count on him to help me out no matter what. I also know Jeromy will accomplish great things in his life and I am excited to see where his path lies. So, Jeromy, I hope you had the best of days.

Jeromy having some quality time with his son, Elijah.

By the way, Jeromy, your present is in the mail, though it will probably be a few weeks before you get it. Sorry.

Magic is Real

At least that's what my daughters tell me. I had another talk with them this weekend about why they don't want to read any more fantasy books. I asked them where they got the idea that magic (even the fictional kind)is bad. They told me they had never heard anything about it at church; only their mother and grandmother had ever said anything about it. I asked them if they were told why it was bad. "Because it opens a door for demons to come in."


I asked them if they had ever seen me doing anything evil (aside from reading evil books). They had not. Whew. I then grabbed my copy of the Bible and set it in front of them. I asked them to find a passage in there that said magic is evil. Amazingly enough, Erica was able to find a couple that she said supported her. Both of them were in the book of Acts. First up:

Acts 13:7-12

7He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Erica was adamant that Elymas was bad because he was a "magician." I asked her if the problem was that he was a magician or that he was opposing Paul and trying to "turn the proconsul away from the faith." She said both, but I said that magician is just his job description. It could say "the blacksmith Elymas." The problem isn't that he is a magician. It is that he is trying to lead people from the faith. She grudgingly agreed.

Her next example was Acts 19:13-19
13Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.’ 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit said to them in reply, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ 16Then the man with the evil spirit leapt on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. 17When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. 18Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. 19A number of those who practised magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books* was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins.

I told her that the problem here seemed to be that these people were claiming to have powers that they didn't have. I also said that many of these people who claimed to be magicians deceived people and conned money out of them. I said magic wasn't any more real then than it is now, but that people would make fraudulent claims about magic (or anything else) to deceive people. Erica and Shaena both agreed that the problem was deceiving people and taking their money. However, Erica hit me with this:

"I believe magic is real."

What? She didn't know anyone who had done "real" magic. She didn't know anyone who knew someone who had done "real" magic. She didn't know any stories of "real" magic being done. But, she "knows" magic is real. I told her that aside from one or two crazy people in the world, no one believes magic is real (yeah, yeah, I know that there is a lot more than one or two. I wasn't going to get into that with her).

I also tried to explain to her the difference between faith and reason. She tried to tell me that it is "obvious" God exists. When I told her that there is no proof for God's existence, she just reiterated her point that it is obvious because "how could everything be alive" if it were not for God. I tried to say that you can't prove God exists and that if there was solid proof there would be a lot fewer atheists in the world. I told her you have to take it on faith that God exists, but that faith is not a bad thing. I told her that my friend, Jeromy, has said he has grown more through faith than reason. She nodded and seemed to think about that.

I left it at that. The whole talk probably lasted a little over an hour. These conversations always seem to leave me mentally drained. Erica was crying a little bit by the time we were done, but she doesn't seem to have hard feelings over these talks. Two minutes later, she gave me a big hug and said, "I love you."

I love you, too, Erica. That's why I won't give up on you and your sister.

One Hip Daddy-O

I mentioned a few months ago that I went to a 1950s theme party for our summer student volunteers at the hospital. I believe I posted a picture as well. Well, one of the adult volunteers, Doug, who was there took a bunch more pictures.

Here I am with my boss, Linda.

And here I am with Linda again and Doug.

This is my co-worker, Jamie.

It was a lot of fun. Many of the kids dressed up and they had some great costumes. I think next year I'll suggest a Star Trek theme, though...

Learning HTML

I am not an HTML expert by any means. I've picked up a few bits here and there, just enough to get me by. I've been wanting to figure out how to add a background color to blockquotes to better set them apart and today I finally learned how. I think it looks much better. Let me know what you think about it.

What To Do About Islamic Terrorism

In a comment to my post about Islamofascism Awareness Week, Muslims Against Sharia said:

And a better way would be?

This was in response to my remark that IAW was not an effective tool for teaching anyone about this serious situation.

I went to their website and it seems like they have a noble purpose namely wanting to reform the current state of Islam. Here are their goals.

* to educate Muslims about dangers presented by Islamic religious texts and why Islam must be reformed
* to educate non-Muslims about the differences between moderate Muslims and Islamists (a.k.a. Islamic Religious Fanatics, Radical Muslims, Muslim Fundamentalists, Islamic Extremists or Islamofascists)
* to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Moderate Muslims are also targets of Islamic Terror

I agree that Islam is in a bad state today. Many Muslims have failed to adapt to modernity and are lost in our world. There also seems to be a lack of leadership amongst Muslims to carry them forward and lead them boldly into a new state of existence with the rest of the world.

I applaud the Muslims Against Sharia for trying to change this. I disagree with them, however, that Islamofascism Awareness Week is going to help matters. Despite their intentions, events like this only serve to create more division and anger. I know too many people who would hear something about this and it would only serve to increase their notion that "all Muslims are terrorists." They wouldn't look any deeper. I think also that many Muslims would see this and, without looking any deeper, chalk it up as one more reason the West is the enemy of Islam.

Words are important. I'm not saying we have to be cuddly and call Islamic terrorists some p.c. term like, oh, "disgruntled and misunderstood persons who just happen to follow Islam." I think we should have conferences on this subject, but call them something more bland, "Muslims in the Modern Age" or something. Save the harsher words for the actual speeches at the conference where the speaker can give context to his words.

I also think that terms like Islamofascism do the disservice of blending all Islamic terrorist groups together. There are huge difference between al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the PLO, and all of the other terrorist groups. While they may use similar tactics, they often do not have similar goals. We can't conflate them into one big bunch and expect to be able to deal with them. Each group has to be understood as a separate entity so that we can more properly evaluate their motives and power structure and goals.

To close, I think Muslims Against Sharia have a good purpose. I just don't think they are going about it in the right way.