Monday, August 23, 2010

Flanders Does Islam (Don Emmerich)

Don Emmerich rails against the anti-Islam hystery widely seen in American Christianity:

Why does just about every Evangelical blogger on the planet think he’s an expert on Islam? Have you ever noticed that? Any mention of Islam in the news and they’ll go off on the Qur’an and all the evil things it supposedly teaches. What’s so crazy about this is that these people can’t even agree about their own scriptures. Just get a group of them together and ask what the Bible says about, say, baptism or eschatology, and you’ll be amazed at all the fights that erupt. And yet they think they have credibility when telling us, with the utmost of confidence of course, that they understand the Qur’an?

Now I myself have never read the Qur’an. I’d like to. Just as I’d like to one day read Finnegan’s Wake. But you know how it is: too much to read, too little time.

Nonetheless, I have a suspicion that most of what these Evangelicals say is total crap. More than anything else, I base this suspicion on the way I’ve seen them butcher their own holy book. Prooftext, prooftext, prooftext—’tis the mantra of most Christians today. Never mind understanding a passage’s historical context. Never mind trying to get at the author’s original intent. Your average Evangelical can twist almost any verse of Scripture to justify pretty much anything he desires.

Now I know the Qur’an has some problem passages. But so does the Bible. In the Old Testament, for instance, Yahweh repeatedly commands his people to commit genocide, sometimes even demanding that they slaughter innocent children. And in the New Testament, we find Jesus commanding his followers to hate their parents and spouses and children. And we find the Apostle Paul telling women to submit themselves to their husbands. Yet these Evangelical bloggers, with all the chutzpah humanly possible, claim that it is Islam, not Christianity, that is the religion of violence, hatred, and injustice.

I’m not trying to impugn Christianity. And I’m not suggesting that there aren’t adequate explanations for the above passages. But, for crying out loud, why don’t these Christians extend the same charity to Muslim apologists that they would like for themselves? Why all the energy spent slandering Islam? It’s not like discrediting Islam will somehow prove Christianity.

If these Evangelicals want to see their numbers increase, if they want to lead others to Jesus, then they should try showing a little restraint, exercising a little humility. Because, when you get down to it, people join religious communities, not because of dogmas, not because of arguments, but because those communities make them feel loved and accepted. And this, it seems to me, is why so many young people are turned off of Christianity and why church attendance continues to fall.

Ron Paul: Let the Housing Market Normalize!

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulRecently there have been some encouraging signs that Congress is finally willing to admit what should have been evident two years ago. Even after a $150 billion bailout, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still bankrupt and should be abolished. Indeed Rep. Barney Frank, a longtime champion of Fannie and Freddie has made a few statements alluding to this and I have signed on to a letter asking him to clarify his remarks and hold hearings on this topic. There seems to be a growing consensus in favor of abolishing Fannie and Freddie. This is the good news.

The bad news is that instead of simply returning to the free market, Fannie and Freddie will probably be replaced with something equally damaging, and at this point we can only guess what that will be. One possibility is that instead of these two giant Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) the government will deputize thousands of smaller banks to do the same thing – that is to securitize mortgages with taxpayer guarantees to encourage lending that otherwise would not happen. In other words, there will be a myriad of smaller Fannies and Freddies, and government involvement will reach even deeper into the financial sector.

Fannie and Freddie, and thus the taxpayer, has an alarming $5 trillion exposure to the mortgage market. To some, spreading out this risk might seem tempting, and a smart thing to do. But the fact remains that if a bank expects to lose money on a loan, so will the taxpayers. Playing around with structures and definitions will still not deal with the root problem – government meddling in the housing market, playing fast and loose with our tax dollars, and central planning by the Federal Reserve.

Banks have complex risk assessment strategies in place that help them forecast if a particular loan will make them any money or not. If they expect to make money, they will approve the loan. If they have doubts, sometimes they will ask for a co-signer to improve their odds. You might do this willingly for a friend or a relative if you didn’t mind losing some money on their behalf, but current government policies essentially force taxpayers to become cosigners for risky borrowers that are complete strangers, who the banks have already determined to be bad risks. Taxpayers have no choice in the matter because politicians decided a few decades ago that dangling homeownership in front of more people seemed like a good way to garner votes.

That was sold to voters as a compassionate gesture to the poor and beneficial to society as a whole. After all, how could giving more Americans an ownership stake in society be bad? The combined policies of loose credit and government backing increased the demand for housing and drove prices sky high. When the housing market heated up to the breaking point everything came crashing down. Those suddenly facing foreclosure saw the reality of government compassion. Truly, when government offers you a gift, you should eye it with great suspicion.

Another tragedy is that many job seekers are now tethered to their locations because of upside down loan obligations. It takes a lot of effort with their bank and damage to their credit scores to figure out how to get out and move to a place where there are jobs. Will the government now be seeking ways to subsidize renters in some way because of this lack of mobility? Some think so.

My hope is that for the long term stability and health of the economy, the government will extricate itself from the market altogether and let it normalize. My fear is that in its usual misguided efforts at solving one crisis, it will create a thousand others.

Ron Paul: Left and the Right Demagogue Mosque, Islam

Dr. Paul injects some truth into the "Ground Zero" mosque debate:

Ron PaulIs the controversy over building a mosque near ground zero a grand distraction or a grand opportunity? Or is it, once again, grandiose demagoguery?

It has been said, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." Are we not overly preoccupied with this controversy, now being used in various ways by grandstanding politicians? It looks to me like the politicians are "fiddling while the economy burns."

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be "sensitive" requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from "ground zero."

Just think of what might (not) have happened if the whole issue had been ignored and the national debate stuck with war, peace, and prosperity. There certainly would have been a lot less emotionalism on both sides. The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate, raises the question of just why and driven by whom?

In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.

They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. A select quote from soldiers from in Afghanistan and Iraq expressing concern over the mosque is pure propaganda and an affront to their bravery and sacrifice.

The claim is that we are in the Middle East to protect our liberties is misleading. To continue this charade, millions of Muslims are indicted and we are obligated to rescue them from their religious and political leaders. And, we're supposed to believe that abusing our liberties here at home and pursuing unconstitutional wars overseas will solve our problems.

The nineteen suicide bombers didn't come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Fifteen came from our ally Saudi Arabia, a country that harbors strong American resentment, yet we invade and occupy Iraq where no al Qaeda existed prior to 9/11.

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don't want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be "sensitive" and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible.

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses.

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam -- the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don't want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society -- protecting liberty.

The outcry over the building of the mosque, near ground zero, implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to those who are condemning the building of the mosque, the nineteen suicide terrorists on 9/11 spoke for all Muslims. This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservatives' aggressive wars.

The House Speaker is now treading on a slippery slope by demanding an investigation to find out just who is funding the mosque -- a bold rejection of property rights, 1st Amendment rights, and the Rule of Law -- in order to look tough against Islam.

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

We now have an epidemic of "sunshine patriots" on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there's no controversy and nobody is offended.

Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ron Paul: Washington's Idea of Fiscal Restraint

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulIt has been months now since the new healthcare reform bill was passed into law. As is so typical, this massive piece of legislation was passed with a sense of urgency so acute that leadership declared America could not afford to wait until legislators, their staff and the general public had time to thoroughly read the bill.

The truth comes out eventually, however. Much like the recently discovered exemption from Freedom of Information Act requirements for the SEC that was slipped into the equally massive and “urgent” financial reform bill, we are finally seeing what other insidiousness has been hiding in the fine print of the healthcare reform bill. It seems that all provisions in this poorly written and poorly conceived monstrosity need to be repealed as soon as possible.

One such disaster-waiting-to-happen is one of the revenue generating provisions used to claim that the healthcare reform bill was “paid for”. $17 billion in additional tax revenues is supposed to come from an onerous new IRS reporting requirement that any taxpayer with business income who spends over $600 in one year with one business will have to report those expenditures to the IRS. Mind you, this is a cumulative total of $600 in transactions in one year. This will involve so much extra accounting and paperwork that the IRS claims it will be unable to deal with it effectively, and even the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (to whom it should be a boon) has come out against it! Apparently they realize they will actually lose customers, especially small businesses, to bankruptcy because of this!

Gold dealers are especially alarmed by this provision, as most of their transactions easily top $600. This represents a significant outlay of time and paperwork and no additional revenue for businesses with which to hire people. Not to mention this makes every business a de facto IRS agent, as if they didn’t have enough to worry about already!

Of course, there is a tremendous outcry against this. Several other legislators also see how unreasonable this is and are trying to repeal it. However, this would simply mean that $17 billion in healthcare funding will have to come from somewhere else, and there are no good options. Taxes from some other equally bad collection scheme? Borrowing and more debt? Creating more money from thin air and adding to inflationary pressures?

The best answer, of course, would be to repeal the entire health care law, along with all other unconstitutional spending. But Congress is more likely to continue the shell game to cover the fact that we are broke and can afford none of this.

This whole idea of “paying for” new programs is a political euphemism that suggests that raising taxes is just as good as cutting spending since neither one increases the national debt. Raising taxes and overwhelming small businesses with paperwork and regulations still increases governmental burden on our fragile economy. But this is our government’s idea of “fiscal restraint” in action. Washington needs to stop creating new programs and spending so much money. That would be true fiscal restraint.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ron Paul: The Cycle of Violence in Afghanistan

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulLast week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report on the effect of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq that confirmed what critics of our foreign policy have been saying for years: the killing of civilians, although unintentional, angers other civilians and prompts them to seek revenge. This should be self-evident.

The Central Intelligence Agency has long acknowledged and analyzed the concept of blowback in our foreign policy. It still amazes me that so many think that attacks against our soldiers occupying hostile foreign lands are motivated by hatred toward our system of government at home or by the religion of the attackers. In fact, most of the anger towards us is rooted in reactions towards seeing their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other loved ones being killed by a foreign army. No matter our intentions, the violence of our militarism in foreign lands causes those residents to seek revenge if innocents are killed. One does not have to be Muslim to react this way, just human.

Our battle in Afghanistan resembles the battle against the many-headed Hydra monster in Greek mythology. According to Former General Stanley McChrystal’s so-called insurgent math, for every insurgent killed, 10 more insurgents are created by the collateral damage to civilians. Every coalition attack leads to 6 retaliatory attacks against our troops within the following six weeks, according to the NBER report. These retaliatory attacks must then be acted on by our troops, leading to still more attacks, and so it goes. Violence begets more violence. Eventually more and more Afghanis will view American troops with hostility and seek revenge for the death of a loved one. Meanwhile, we are bleeding ourselves dry, militarily and economically.

Some say if we leave, the Taliban will be strengthened. However, those who make that claim ignore the numerous ways our interventionist foreign policy has strengthened groups like the Taliban over the years. I’ve already pointed out how we serve as excellent recruiters for them by killing civilians. Last week I pointed out how our foreign aid, to Pakistan specifically, makes it into Taliban coffers. And of course we provided the Taliban with aid and resources in the 1980s, when they were our strategic allies against the Soviet Union. For example – our CIA supplied them with Stinger missiles to use against the Soviets, which are strikingly similar to the ones now allegedly used against us on the same battlefield, according to those Wikileaks documents. As usual, our friends have a funny way of turning against us. Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein are also prime examples. Yet Congress never seems to acknowledge the blowback that results from our interventionism of the past.

Our war against the Taliban is going about as well as our war on drugs, or our war on poverty, or any of our government’s wars – they all tend to create more of the thing they purport to eradicate, thereby dodging any excuse to draw down and come to an end. It is hard to imagine ever “winning” anything this way.

We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, both to the Afghan people, and to ourselves. It’s time to re-evaluate the situation. It’s time to come home!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aug. 6, 1945: "Now I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds"

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the horrific nuclear attack on Hiroshima. Incredibly, there are still many who consider the murder 0f 200,000 people there and in Nagasaki to have been justifiable. If you are among them, please read Ralph Raico's powerful article on the bombings.

It begins:

The most spectacular episode of Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten, but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including several thousand Korean workers. Twelve U.S. Navy fliers incarcerated in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.

Great controversy has always surrounded the bombings. One thing Truman insisted on from the start: The decision to use the bombs, and the responsibility it entailed, was his. Over the years, he gave different, and contradictory, grounds for his decision. Sometimes he implied that he had acted simply out of revenge. To a clergyman who criticized him, Truman responded, testily:

Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.

Such reasoning will not impress anyone who fails to see how the brutality of the Japanese military could justify deadly retaliation against innocent men, women, and children. Truman doubtless was aware of this, so from time to time he advanced other pretexts. On August 9, 1945, he stated: "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians."

This, however, is absurd. Pearl Harbor was a military base. Hiroshima was a city, inhabited by some three hundred thousand people, which contained military elements. In any case, since the harbor was mined and the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in control of the waters around Japan, whatever troops were stationed in Hiroshima had been effectively neutralized.

Read the rest

(And if you're not aware of why I titled the post this way, that quote was made by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, after witnessing his handiwork at a test site in New Mexico. It is said that most of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project later expressed remorse for what they had wrought.)