Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekly Secret


Obama and Iran, Part III

My discussion with Jeromy continues from here.

You know I had to respond to this one. :)

I would have been disappointed if you hadn't.

1. Diplomacy is not like going out to dinner with a buddy. Every action, every word, every small iota has serious insinuations. Just sitting down at a public table with another country speaks volumes about the relationship with that country.

Hmmm...I don't think the mere fact of opening a dialog with a nation says anything other than "we are willing to talk." It doesn't mean we agree with them on anything. It doesn't mean we like or condone their actions. It just means we're not above talking to anyone, nor should we be.

Reward them with positive changes in behavior? That's no different than not sitting at a public forum with them because of previously bad behavior. Same attitude, different tact.

I disagree. Not talking with them gives us an arrogant, "better than you" posture. That's not going to make matters any better. Rewarding good behavior is also a better tactic than punishing bad behavior.

3. Regarding Obama personally- Although I probably would pay attention to a 500- page dissertation on American-Iranian relations, I would settle for a two-page document with just a couple of specifics. Just three years ago Obama was singing a different tune , talking about missile strikes, sanctions, and the unpredicability of the Iranian government. Three years ago it was popular to take a "tough stand" against Iran, now its popular to play the diplomatic card.

I don't think Obama was really "singing a different tune" then. In the link you gave, Obama talked about using missile strikes as a last resort if Iran was on the verge of getting nukes. He talked about going through the UN and using economic sanctions first. In the story I originally linked to, Obama talks about using "carrots and sticks" in working with Iran. Sounds like the same kind of thing to me.

And you're right, the argument I made could be said about most politicians because that's the nature of the game. And yet you said in your post after the quote that you support Obama exactly because of the kind of this kind of statement. If statements like this ARE generic and meant to gain favor, is it wise to base your support for him on such rhetoric?

If I said I wasn't going to support any politician who played the game of politics, well then I'd never support any politician. I try to look at their track record and listen to them. From what I have seen, Obama does not seem to be the same kind of pandering pol as we usually see. I don't think he's perfect by any means. I definitely have my disagreements with him on issues. However, I think he is by far the best candidate in either party running right now.

Do we "take our ball and go home" because Iran's not playing by the rules? Absolutely not. But do we formally sit down at the world trade and commerce table with them without recognizing the oppression, torture, and hatred that flows from the hands and mouths of the Iranian government? How is it that the same people who are ready to throw Bush out for water boarding (I count myself in this group) are also willing to legitimize a man and government who openly admits, even glorifies, decades of atrocities and torture?

Cold shouldering is not the answer, but a koom-bay-a session, as Obama seems to suggest, is not the answer either.

Obama is not talking about legitimizing the Iranian regime. He is talking about "changes in behavior." He is also talking about using "carrots and sticks." That doesn't sound like Kum Bah Yah to me, but like realpolitik.

As for Obama- I hope he gets the Democratic nomination, because I still think he's the lesser of the many mistakes that we could make. But I am absolutely not convinced of his true intent and goals. His speeches are simply pages ripped out of the JFK and MLK, Jr. playbooks, which sound great....but are they backed by conviction or merely a ploy to win an election? Time will tell...

I thought I was supposed to be the cynic. As I said, I don't think Obama is the Second Coming or anything like that. However, there is absolutely no way to be sure of any candidate until they are in office. We have to make our best judgment and pray it is correct. I've been trying to pay attention to all of the candidates as best I can and right now, I am convinced Obama is the best one. Time will tell, eh?

Religion Fact of the Day

Early Israeli culture was not monotheistic, but henotheistic (belief in multiple gods with one being supreme). There are many mentions of other gods besides Yahweh such as in Psalm 95:3, "For Yahweh is a great God, a greater King than all other gods" or in the Ten Commandents, one being "You shall have no other gods before me." It's also not likely that so many Israelites kept reverting to worship of Baal if they did not believe he was a real god.

I've Got Wheels!

After nearly a month of being without one, I finally have a vehicle. My sister had a Toyota 4-Runner that she was not driving as she had bought another vehicle. She wanted to dump it, so I got it for the cost of getting it fixed ($2600) which is probably a better deal then I would have been able to get from any snake-oil salesman at a car dealership.

It's funny how we take things for granted. Certainly I did with having a car. Going a few weeks without one will remind you how nice it is to have one. I'm not holding my breath for this vehicle to last long, but it works now and I am grateful to have one again.

Thanks, Shawna.

Facts About the Amish

A.J. Jacobs, mental_floss writer and the man who attempted to live Biblically for one year, has written a post with some interesting tidbits about the Amish.

Amish have beards in accordance with Leviticus, which forbids the shaving of the corners of your beard. But they do shave their moustaches. The moustache was thought to have military associations by the early Amish, who came over from Switzerland in the 18th century.

There's more including an amusing story about baseball.


I haven't posted much in the last few days because my life has been rather hectic. I'm not sure how regular I will be over the next few months, either. The holidays are coming up. I just started another class, God and World, that is going to keep me very busy with lots of reading and writing. I need to be looking for a roommate for the house so my Mom and I can keep it.

I'll try my best to be regular, but no guarantees.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

But, But, They Do It, Too!

I didn't think this was a proper defense for anything, but to see it applied to torture as Cal Thomas has is appalling.

There is a double standard when it comes to this subject. We in the West are supposed to adhere to certain rules so we "won't be like them." But if the other side adheres to no rules and sees our standards as a form of weakness, such things are counter-productive to our objectives.

Yes, it is a double-standard. That's because we're America and we're supposed to be better than that. I can't believe that our great nation has descended to this. How can a terrorist attack, even one as brutal as 9/11, bring us to this, to saying torture is okay.


We let our leaders and the media whip us up into a panic over the "Islamofascist threat" and subsequently we resort to our most primal instincts. Do anything to survive. Don't think. React.

Unfortunately, this puts on the same level as animals. We need to take a step back and really examine ourselves, our morals, our principles. We need to think about what kind of nation we want. Do we want a country in which we suspend individual liberties and support policies such as torture? I don't. What makes it even worse is that it is a well documented fact that torture does not work. People being tortured will say anything - truth or not - to make it stop. We're degrading ourselves with a horrifying act that doesn't even work.

Just because our enemies use a tactic does not mean we have to do the same. We're supposed to be better than that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Religion Fact of the Day

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are known as Abrahamic faiths because all three religions trace their roots back to Abraham. For Jews, he is the one Yahweh made a covenant with to grant them the land of Israel and the father of Jacob later named Israel and the prodigal father of the Jews. For Christians, Abraham is the father of the Davidic line that culminates with the birth of their savior, Jesus. In the Muslim tradition, Abraham's first born son, Ishmael, cast out by Abraham's jealous wife, Sarah, becomes the father of the Arabs.

More on Obama and Iran

My friend Jeromy had some comments in response to my post about Obama and Iran.

How much do we legitimize actions like the one cited here (and the hundreds that have been reported like it) when we sit down to the table with a guy like Ahmadinejad?

See, I've heard this argument before and I just don't get it. We live in a world with people who see things much differently than we do here in America. We live in a world where not everyone likes us. We need to learn to live with that and effectively deal with it. If we take the stand that you have to do what we want before we will even talk to you, then we are only going to make more enemies. Ahmadinejad is not popular in his country as can be seen by recent protests. If we tell Iran we won't talk to them unless they do what we want and constantly beat the war drum, we are only going to whip up a national fervor there. Those people protesting Ahmadinejad will rally behind him against the arrogant American threat.

Dialoging does not mean condoning. We should never be afraid to talk to anyone. In fact, we will accomplish much more through meaningful discourse backed by incentives and the threat of a stick than we will through arrogant posturing.

On Obama himself, Jeromy said:

I think Obama's intentions are decent, but realistically he's positioning himself for an election, which means the rhetoric about foreign policy, while it sounds good, is not nearly as simplistic or practical as he makes it sound.

You can make that argument about any politician running for any office ever. Of course they are going to say things that may sound simplistic. No one would pay attention to Obama's 500-page Dissertation on American-Iranian Relations. Especially in our sound-bite era, politicians break things down as small as possible. That's the way our system works.

The reason I like Obama is because (with the exception of Ron Paul), he is the only candidate that really comes off as genuine and different than most every other politician. He's not afraid to tell people things they aren't going to like (e.g. his speech to Detroit automakers). He's not talking about sticking it to the Republicans or doubling Gitmo or torture being cool or giving free money to everyone. No, he's talking about coming together and making a better America.

Yeah, yeah, he's saying that to get elected (like every other person who runs for office). Well, it sounds good; he sounds like he genuinely means it; and it sounds better than what the other candidates are saying. That's why I support Obama.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hitch on Islamic Radicals

Christopher Hitchens has harsh words for people who think that the only reason there are terrorists in Iraq is because we are there.

After all, if the usual peacenik logic were to be pursued, and it was to be assumed that "we" are chiefly responsible for magnetizing "them," then it would follow that if we were to leave, they would either give up or go elsewhere. Is there anybody who can be brought to believe anything so fatuous? Well, then, if this logic is self-evidently false in the case of Afghanistan, why should it be any more persuasive in the case of Iraq?

Unfortunately, Hitchens does what he accuses "liberals" of doing and simplifies the issue to much. First, it is true that al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq under Saddam. Our failed attempt to bring stability and order after overthrowing Saddam did create an opening in which al-Qaeda elements could move in and start a splinter faction we now call al-Qaeda-in-Iraq (AQI). However, it is also true - and Hitch gives several examples - that America is not responsible for creating all of the Islamic terror cells in the world. Terrorists are not going to go away if America suddenly withdraws all its military forces from foreign soil and brings them home.

It is true, though, that even if our presence does not automatically create terrorists out of thin air, the actions of this administration have driven more people to become terrorists and have violently inflamed emotions to the point that many Muslims, even if not terrorists themselves, silently condone violence against Americans. It's more than the fact that we have botched the Iraq war. It's the horrible rhetoric, calling the war a "crusade," and saying things like "dead or alive." It's the lip service paid to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It's the beating of the war drum with Iran. It's the botch we made with Afghanistan by declaring victory too early and allowing the Taliban to regroup.

In short, Hitchens is correct to say that America doesn't magic up terrorists out of thin air. He is wrong to imply that our actions have no effect on terrorists or those who choose that lifestyle.

Music Sampling

For someone who had a huge hit, "I'll Be Missing You," heavily based on "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, you'd think Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Diddy would be doing more to protect artists who sample music.

Foreign Policy Sanity

From Obama regarding Iran:

Take notice: on Iran, at least, Obama is speaking a new kind of language for mainstream American politics. For nearly 30 years since the Iranian revolution kicked out a shah who had been installed by the CIA, American leaders have been too timid to engage in a constructive dialogue with Iran. That includes Hillary's husband, whose curiosity was aroused by the moderate Khatami but failed to rise to the challenge of how to achieve a diplomatic opening for the good of both countries. Now Obama says he's willing to go to Iran to talk without preconditions, reward Iran with positive changes in behavior and demonstrate that the U.S. is not hellbent on regime change.

It's exactly for reasons like this that I have become an Obama supporter. He's not spouting the same tired rhetoric that other pols are. We need a desperate change in our foreign policy tactics after the current administration has destroyed our standing worldwide. I don't see any other candidate (save maybe Paul) being able or willing to make the necessary changes.

God Doesn't Like Cell Phones

Well, at least his representatives here on Earth aren't big fans.

Obviously the lady was being very rude by letting her phone ring in church and even answering it. However, I'm not sure that this guy took the right tack in breaking her phone. I think I would have made a crack about rude people being sent straight to the brand new tenth circle of hell, but that's just me.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

No Rift in the Evangelical Fold?

David Sessions writes over at Slate that there is no breakup of Evangelicals because of the Bush Presidency.

This is a highly significant trend within evangelicalism—arguably the evangelical story of the moment. But it doesn't quite have the political implications that the media suggest, namely new stirrings of affection for the Democratic Party. Young Christians are interested in more than "two or three issues," as left-leaning pastor Bill Hybels contends in the Times piece, but they are smart, educated, and usually swing conservative for reasons much deeper than the Big Two (abortion and gay rights). In my time as a student at Patrick Henry College, I have witnessed countless students moderate from "Republican politics is next to godliness" to "we shouldn't be blindly following a specific party or leader." Despite that transformation, not one of them has ever campaigned or voted for a Democrat. They are disenchanted with the GOP for its abandonment of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but they'd consider voting for Democrats an even bigger step back. If there is a political trend to be reported here, it's the fact that increasingly progressive young Christians will almost certainly balance the Republican Party, insisting on a broader focus than clichéd morality battles.

I'm glad that Evangelicals seem to be branching out beyond their primary focus and looking at the bigger picture. That seems to be more than can be said for many other groups.

Still, it concerns me that there is a spirit of "GOP or Bust!" within the Evangelical fold. I don't think it is healthy politically for anyone to stick with a party whether or not it has drifted from its roots. Work toward fixing it, yes, but if it doesn't get fixed, why not vote for a moderate from the other party? That may send the message to the pols that they need to get their act together if they want votes. I also think the Republicans would be much more successful if they did get back to their core issues of small government and fiscal responsibility. They need to renounce torture and empire-building.

Religion Fact of the Day

Early Israelites were no different from many other cultures in that they practiced human sacrifice. When Joshua led his armies into Canaan, enemy cities were put under herem or "ban." Every man, woman, and child was killed in the name of Yahweh. This was done because Yahweh said the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice and would act as tempters leading the Israelites away from proper worship to worshiping Baal. Whatever the reason behind it, killing humans in the name of a supernatural figure is human sacrifice (cf. Aztecs, Celts, Chinese, Scandinavians, etc.).

Obama on the Attack

Barack Obama has certainly been more forceful lately about the difference between himself and Hillary Clinton. Here he is in a Newsweek interview:

Look, watch the videotape. She said that she was for the [New York Gov. Eliot] Spitzer plan and in the span of two minutes said she wasn't for the Spitzer plan. That wasn't something that was prompted by me or anybody else but it was characteristic of her answers on Social Security and her answers on the papers from the Clinton years. Look, I actually recognize that this sort of straddling is oftentimes considered politically savvy in Washington … It's been rewarded. Her ability to finesse her vote to authorize the war during the course of this campaign is something that she has been complimented for on the front page of The New York Times as being politically deft. So I understand where it arises from. The perception is that if you don't allow yourself to be pinned down, then you're making yourself a smaller target in the general election. That's the conventional wisdom. I think it is the wrong way to govern. I think it is not what we need right now.

Is it enough though? He has been taking a lot of flak in the press for not attacking her enough and he is lagging in national polls. Personally, I have found it very refreshing that he is not running a campaign of demonizing her or any of his other opponents. Is that what the country wants? Sure the media says Obama needs to be "getting tough," but I'm not sure whether or not the typical voter wants that. I don't know enough people who are even paying attention to the race, yet, to get a feel for how they are feeling. I don't know.

I do know that putting Clinton in office is a vote for keeping the same divisive politics we have had for awhile now. It would be nice to see something different.

Secrets Are Things We Give to Others to Keep For Us