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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
A Debate I'd Watch
Forget the YouTube presidential debate idea. To call it a three-ring circus is an insult to circuses. Here's a better idea. Get a panel of , say, eight pundits - four liberal and four conservative - and give each an equal number of questions to ask the candidates. The punditocracy tends to be less clownish than YouTubers, and CNN can't let leftist questions dominate the debate under this format.
What I want to see is a panel of eight people who can put forth sober, reasonable and insightful questions. Here's my suggestions for the conservative questioneers:
George Will One of our best all-around pundits.
Thomas Sowell One of the most multitalented intellectuals to be found anywhere.
Rush Limbaugh Radio's best armchair pundit. A more serious thinker than Media Matters makes him out to be.
Peggy Noonan Has a strong government resume along with her pundit credentials.
For the left side of the panel, David Broder is the first name that comes to mind. Clarence Page would be a good choice. Maybe throw in a Brookings scholar. Any other ideas for the liberal camp?
No, I don't want the intellectual deck stacked against the liberals - no Helen Thomas, no Al Franken. The goal is to get thoughtful and relevant questions for the candidates to answer.
Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 3, "The Family of Imran," verses 33-63
Robert Spencer has the installment here. Today's topic: a little Islamic spin on Mary and Jesus.
I find it fascinating that the Koran acknowledges that Jesus performed miracles, even raising the dead. Of course, since the Koran says that Jesus was not divine, it alleges the power did not originate from Jesus, just as the Bible says that Moses' miracles did not originate from Moses' own power. But this thought rolls around in my mind: if Mohammed was the last and greatest prophet, would he not have performed greater miracles than Jesus did? Does the Koran record any Mohammedan miracles at all?
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Avi: Surely, there are many versions of Islam, just like there are many versions of Christianity, of Judaism, of all major religions. You’re presenting it as just one thing, and obviously it’s not!
Ayaan: Islam, as a faith, as a doctrine, is defined by the Koran and the example of the Prophet Mohammed, and unreformed, unchallenged, it is a monolith.
Avi: I could point to things in other holy books that are equally offensive.
Avi says surely there must be more than one Islam. Ayaan says otherwise, that there is only one "gospel" of Mohammed. So Avi changes the subject, and discusses the offensiveness of religions.
Avi should realize that the reason that there are so many "versions" of Christianity and other religions is because people add stuff to and/or subtract stuff from the original teachings. A religion is defined by its founder. Christianity is what Jesus and his Apostles taught. Islam is what Mohammed taught. Buddhism is what Buddha taught.
The different denominations of Christianity are each in their own way and in varying degrees imperfect reflections of the faith. They cross the line from imperfect Christianity to counterfeit Christianity when they reject doctrines relevant to salvation; those doctrines are fairly well summarized in the Nicene Creed (although there is room for disagreement over the Filioque).
Avi should ask this question: can Islam be compatible with civil society without rejecting Mohammed?
Unfortunately, Ayaan gives a lame response:
Ayaan: The other holy books, the old testament, the bible, have become almost obsolete, and there are no Christians who want to have the bible replace any constitution in Western society.
No part of the Bible is obsolete to Christianity. The Old Testament contains the stories of the Creation and the Fall of Man, histories of God's various agreements with individuals and the nation of Israel, some prophetic writings, books of wisdom and poetry. The NT summarizes the gospel of Jesus, the teachings of key prophets, the history of the early church, and John's mysterious prophecy. God gave commands to theocratic Israel that he didn't give to the Christian church, and vice versa, and certain unique commands to Abraham, Noah, Hosea, Jonah, etc.
Avi needs to visit the United States more often:
Avi: OK, whoa! You live in the United States of America. This is a country where Evangelical Christianity has ascended to the highest ranks of power, where conservative social values drawn and justified by the bible are imposed on people every day.
Neil Flagg responds:
Truth: This is complete insanity. If you can’t see that America has gone through 40 years of progressive” social values being imposed on the people every day, you are simply dim.
Avi completes his journey off the deep end:
Avi (interrupting): They shoot abortion doctors in the United States of America!
The number of abortionist shooters in this country can be counted on one hand, and as Neil points out, the most recent shooting was in 1998.
Our intrepid journalist may be in violation of Canadian law. According to Wikipedia's article on hate speech:
In Canada, advocating genocide or inciting hatred against any 'identifiable group' is an indictable offense under the Canadian Criminal Code with maximum terms of two to fourteen years. An 'identifiable group' is defined as 'any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' It makes exceptions for cases of statements of truth, and subjects of public debate and religious doctrine. The landmark judicial decision on the constitutionality of this law was R. v. Keegstra (1990).
If Avi had made the blanket statement "American teachers have sex with their students" or "American gays molest children" or "American Muslims have ties to terror," the applicability of the law would be obvious even to the left. People as described in these statements do exist, and they outnumber abortionist shooters by far, but they still represent minorities of their respective groups. Book him, Danno.
Thank you for support me. You can know too more about me with reading this text: Best Regard Arash Sigarchi
Arash Sigarchi the Iranian Journalist and blogger was born in Rasht City center of Gilan province in north of IRAN that have 300 Km distance from Tehran (capital of IRAN) He fond very soon to reporter and he started this job with a sport newspaper in only 16 years. Thereupon , He went to Tehran for study in university. He activity in Reporter of political and social proficiency in Tehran `s professional newspapers. “Sigarchi” have presence in reformist newspapers as a journalist Simultaneous with come president Mr. Khatami .
Sigarchi was a analyzing and author for reformist newspaper. He owned very experiences in that years. He wined in Iranian press festival 10th and 11th in branch of Interview and political article. The forty newspapers arrested by the Iranian leaders`s injunction in a day at 2000. Sigarchi was unemployed as others journalists. He comeback to his birthplace Rasht City and he operated a new newspaper with 16 pages ; that name was “Gilan e Emrooz” (means Gilan Today). He used his experiences in this newspaper and it extended to more sale at the country in during his Editorship. His newspaper between local newspaper of IRAN was the best for Three years.
Sigarchi in the 5 years editorship of GilanToday instructed journalism to 60 persons at two method : scientific and tentative. They are active in many newspaper in IRAN now. “Sigarchi” operate a blog at 1999 befor start brunt of censorship on the Iranian press. he written in his blog Until he cant published his article or news in his newspaper ; Hereinafter he encounter with brunt of censorship. After this accidence , he was a famous Iranian blogger in Internet. Iran `s intelligence service decided For Confliction with “Sigarchi” for this reason. They sallied to his home in first time , for Activity in blogging and try for promotion of “freedom of expression” and prevalence of “professional journalism” in IRAN by “Arash Sigarchi”. They removed his computer , books , handwritten and other personal tools. after this conflict , they prisoned “Arash” in desember of 2004 and sentence he to 14 years prison in 4 January 2005.
Iran `s reign was be impel for freedom of “Arash” from jail in march 2005 after remonstrance of many Iranian and universal journalists and bloggers and world liberals like Ms. “Shirin Ebadi” (peace Nobel Prizewinners in 2003) too . she was attorney of “sigarchi” in court. After 9 month , in December 2005 , revision court lessened “Arash” condemnation from 14 to 3 years and they sended “Arash” to jail. Don’t long time from presence of “Arash” in prison , yet that his brother , “AShkan Sigarchi” deceased in a accident. He was a famous Iranian musician and pursued case of “Arash”. This Shock and pressures of prison afforded Arash was be sick after a year. He had a bad tumor in his tongue. That was a bad cancer! Arash become to leave from prison for remedy With protest of bloggers and journalists. He do chemotherapy , surgery and radio therapy in last six month. He is ok now and he wait for end of his condemnation. He have many program for future . “Arash Sigarchi” is a poet and auther. He has a poem book as namely “Inebriety Vainglory”. He has e two collection of story that cant published in IRAN. “Arash” has not permit for publish. Don’t let censorship! Arash Sigarchi Go to others country for lecture about “freedom of expression” and “free flow of information” now. His email Address is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .
Sigarchi's blog appears to be entirely in Farsi; at the homepage the only English translation appears to the be About Me page.
The American Press Leaks Classified Data, Again - But Of A Different Sort
Possumblog has the right take on the unauthorized preview of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
Sugar, you do realize one of the rags we're talking about here is the New York Times, right? Do you really think that a paper that has a long and rich history of blithely and continually seeking to subvert American interests and giving editorial aid and comfort to various terrorist groups around the world for the sake of a political grudge against the sitting Administration really gives a fat rat's tail if it messes up your precious book launch? What sort of fantasy world do you live in?
Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 3, "The Family of Imran," verses 1-32
On to the third book of the Koran. Robert Spencer has the installment here.
One of the cited commentaries caught my eye:
The 20th century Indian Muslim scholar Allama Shabbir Ahmed Usmani sees this as proof that Jesus cannot be divine, for while "God is powerful to venge [sic] and punish whenever He deems fit," Jesus "cannot be a sovereign like God because he could not overcome the miscreants who were chasing him to kill."
Usmani misses the point; Christians argue that Jesus would not evade his pursuers, not that he was incapable of doing so. The Bible says that Jesus ultimately defeated the miscreants anyway, by physically rising from the dead.
There's more. Read the whole thing.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.
Moreover, the pro-war libertarians believed there was "legal" cause to take military action against Saddam's regime--from its manifold violations of the ceasefire to firing on American planes legally patrolling the "no fly" zone and its persistent refusals to cooperate with weapons inspections. Saddam's regime was left in power after its unprovoked invasion of Kuwait on these and other conditions that it repeatedly had violated, thereby legally justifying its removal by force if necessary. Better to be rid of Saddam and establish an ally in the war against Islamic jihadists in the heart of the Middle East, the argument goes, and then withdraw American troops.
Pretty much explains pro-war factions in general, and not just libertarians.
Blogging the Quran: Sura 2, "The Cow," verses 222-286
Robert Spencer has the installment here. The longest book of the Koran is wrapped up here. Of particular interest if the "no compulsion in Islam" verse (Sura 2:256). Spencer elaborates:
Islamic spokesmen in the West frequently quote it to disprove the contention that Islam spread by the sword, or even to claim that Islam is a religion of peace. According to an early Muslim, Mujahid ibn Jabr, this verse was abrogated by Qur'an 9:29, in which the Muslims are commanded to fight against the People of the Book. Others, however, according to the Islamic historian Tabari, say that 2:256 was never abrogated, but was revealed precisely in reference to the People of the Book. They are not to be forced to accept Islam, but may practice their religions as long as they pay the jizya (poll-tax) and "feel themselves subdued" (9:29).
So, according to these "others," us infidels are not bound to religious compulsion, but we are bound to political compulsion. Allah orders Muslims to make war against the infidels, and while some dispute whether the surviving infidels be forced to convert to Islam, there is no doubt that non-Muslims must submit to Islamic political rule. And that's the nicer translation.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Here's a word for both the pop educators and the "hooked on classics" crowd: balance. In between the old kid-unfriendly classics such as Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, uber-depressing nihilo-crap like A Separate Peace and Catcher In The Rye, and ancient works such as Beowulf and Canterbury Tales that require an advanced degree in linguistics to read, there's gotta be some fun stuff. Kids need to be able to develop the discipline to read challenging works, but for the sake of morale and future reading habits they've got to be exposed to literature they might actually enjoy.
I was one of those kids who hated reading during childhood. I took a stab or two at reading for pleasure but could never get into it - mainly because I didn't know where to look for suitable authors. In my early twenties I finally stumbled across paperback science fiction. The combination of fascinating subject matter and excellent writing style (particularly that of Heinlein and Niven) did it for me. I now have a book collection that could completely fill the bed of my pickup truck - old college textbooks, lots of sci-fi, some classical literature, books on history, current events, and philosophy. I discovered the joy of reading despite school.
None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?
Through abrogation, Allah reserves the authority to overturn old scripture in favor of something "better or similar." Question: why doesn't Allah lead with the best possible dictates in the first place? Why go through the trouble of writing Sura A if a new and improved Sura B will be coming down the pike?
But doesn't the God of the Bible do that? Don't the Old and New Testaments represent a Christian parallel to abrogation? No. The biblical God sends different people on different missions, each of which carries unique sets of orders. People who wish to understand this book must discern between mission-specific dictates and general statements of ethics. One example is my old post on capital crimes in ancient Israel.
Verses 190-193 address jihad. Spencer notes the sura that classifies jihad as defensive in nature. So it really is a religion of peace, right? Not so fast.
What constitutes a defensive conflict? A clue to that comes in v. 193: "And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah." Ibn Ishaq explains that this means that Muslims must fight against unbelievers "until God alone is worshipped." Says Bulandshahri: "The worst of sins are Infidelity (Kufr) and Polytheism (shirk) which constitute rebellion against Allah, The Creator. To eradicate these, Muslims are required to wage war until there exists none of it in the world, and the only religion is that of Allah." This conflict would be essentially defensive, against the aggressions of unbelief: if Muslims must fight until unbelief does not exist, the mere presence of unbelief constitutes sufficient aggression to allow for the beginning of hostilities.
The sura says oppression AND religion for some entity other than Allah are conditions for war.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Original posted July 4, 2002. Every year a change is made:
2003 Original image of WTC replaced with mini-collage of WTC, Liberty Bell, and the flag raising on Mount Suribachi. 2004 Image of young girl celebrating the liberation Iraq; LOTR quote. 2005 Iraqi girl image replaced by Iraqi voter; Cathy Seipp quote via Samizdata. 2006 Viktor Frankl quote 2007 Oriana Fallaci quote
Through these fields of destruction Baptisms of fire I've watched all your suffering As the battle raged higher And though they did hurt me so bad In the fear and alarm You did not desert me My brothers in arms
Dire Straits, "Brothers in Arms"
"Then I will live in Montana, and I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck, or possibly even a recreational vehicle, and drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?"
Vasili Borodin (played by Sam Neill), The Hunt for Red October
"'We hold these truths to be self-evident... That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights... That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness... That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men ...'. And this paper that from the French Revolution on the whole West has copied, from which each of us has drawn inspiration, still constitutes the backbone of America. Her vital lymph. Know why? Because it transforms the subjects into citizens. Because it turns the plebes into people. Because it invites, no, it orders the plebes turned into citizens to rebel against tyranny and to govern themselves. To express their individualities, to search for their own happiness. (Something that for the poor, for the plebes, means to get rich). The exact contrary, in short, of what the communists used to do with their practice of forbidding people to govern themselves, to express themselves, to get rich. With their practice of installing His Majesty the State on the throne."
Oriana Fallaci, The Rage and the Pride
"With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
Martin Luther King
"The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden - that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time."
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
"Funny that the same people to whom diversity is a holy word so often bemoan diversity of opinion as divisive. But in a democracy, politics are naturally divisive: you vote for this candidate and someone else votes for that one; you vote yes (or no) on a proposition and other citizens disagree. What's not divisive? Saddam and his 99.96% of the vote. That's how it went during the previous Iraqi election -- an illustration of the Latin roots of the word fascism, which actually means a bunch of sticks all tied together in one big unhappy unified bunch, and not (despite what many assume) any variation from p.c. received-wisdom regarding gay rights, affirmative action, bilingual education, etc. This election was different because it was divisive, which means it was better."
"It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. Because they were holding on to something...That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for."
Sam Gamgee (played by Sean Astin), Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
"[W]e recognize that we are living in the middle of the most overwhelmingly successful experiment in human history. Not perfect. Just the best place in the world to live in, that's all."
"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own."
Number Six (played by Patrick McGoohan, "The Prisoner" TV series)
"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country."
"So this Jefferson dude was like, 'Look, the reason we left this England place is 'cause it was so bogus. So if we don't get some primo rules ourselves - pronto - then we're just gonna be bogus, too."
Jeff Spiccoli (played by Sean Penn), Fast Times at Ridgemont High
"Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."
Alexis deTocqueville, Democracy in America Vol. 2
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way"