Saturday, March 04, 2006

Do It Yourself Abortions: A Necessity?

I was surprised when I went on the web this morning and found out the number one search on Technorati was “Do It Yourself Abortion”. South Dakota passed a law which bans nearly all abortions, and many think this law is aimed at making it to the newly-revamped Supreme Court in order to overturn Roe v. Wade.

This is on the heals of the release of Misoprostol, a new abortion drug which is said to be more effective than any of its predecessors. Additionally, a blog called Molly Saves the Day has produced a home abortion manual, to help those who our government is increasingly unwilling to help. Still, Molly knows the dangers of self-abortion:

I will never, ever, EVER recommend self-induced abortion. In any form. In any way. Self-induced techniques are universally dangerous and I do not advocate them.

Abortion may be as hot an issue as exists in our country today, as women (and many men) demand that our rights over our own bodies are not stripped by the government, while others protect the rights of the fetuses, who are unable to protect themselves. You know the issues, stemming around the question of when life is actually created.

But does abolition actually work, especially in a free society? During Prohibition, consumption of alcohol in the US skyrocketed, and it took 20 years after the repeal of prohibition for the country’s drinking habits to subside somewhat. The war on drugs has cost billions of dollars, and only served to increase exponentially the amount of drugs consumed by this country while opening us up to a number of other dangers, the largest being the dangers seen on our borders.

On the flip side, education has proved a much stronger deterrent. Look at cigarettes, where education has drastically decreased the number of smokers out there, and the amount of tobacco consumed by this country annually. When I started smoking, cigarettes did not even come with a warning label. Today, people know the health risks of cigarettes, and many choose never to start smoking because of them. And yes, there are some people like me who have chosen to quite after realizing just how dangerous cigarettes are.

Not only has decriminalization, with other issues, proved to cut down the number of people partaking of the particular “sin”, probably because it eliminates the mystique that attracts people in the first place, but it has societal benefits as well.

Take the example of prostitution, which is legal in just about every country I’ve lived in other than the US. In other countries, health care is provided to prostitutes and regular exams are required, preventing the spread of disease. Specific areas are designated for prostitution, avoiding the spread of crime and the noise and chaos in residential neighborhoods that always accompany the world’s oldest profession. This as opposed to the US, where prostitution runs rampant but the prostitutes hide under the thin veil of massage.

Does anybody believe that outlawing abortion will prevent abortions? As seen by the recent flood of searches and the release of Misoprotel, people are already searching for ways to perform abortions without the government knowing. And these solutions will not provide the counseling and supervision of a health professional that will ensure that when these drastic measures are implemented they are implemented in a healthy way.

It is true, I am pro-choice. I believe no one has the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. And maybe this means I am incapable of seeing this from the eyes of pro-lifers. But will these laws really help pro-lifers reach their goals? Or are these laws only going to create health risks within our community and dissolve the support structure available to women who have to make this very painful decision? In my mind, these laws only serve to stroke the egos of pro-life politicians, and have no place in a free society.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:43 PM / | |  

Friday, March 03, 2006

Alba Featured in Playboy against Her Will

In one of the odder, and perhaps more desirable stories of 2006, Jessica Alba has been featured on the cover of Playboy magazine, despite specifically refusing to allow her picture to be used in the magazine.

Apparently, Alba was chosen as Sexiest Star of the Year in a Playboy poll, prompting the magazine to offer Alba the cover of the magazine, along with compensation. Now I’m not sure, but I think the cover shot of Playboy is always clothed, although minimally, so it's not completely naked. Alba flatly refused the cover, saying it would not be consistent with the image she wishes to portray of herself.

But Playboy did not stop there. They instead turned to a ruse, asking Playboy’s publicist for a promotional photo for Alba’s upcoming movie, “The Smoking Gun” without identifying themselves as representatives of Playboy. They then used this photo as the cover for the magazine without receiving permission or compensating Alba in any way.

First, let me admit it…I may not like pornography, but if Jessica Alba were gong to pose in Playboy, I would buy it. She’s way hot! So it is no surprise that Playboy wanted her on the cover. But it’s not fair to put her on the cover when she has flatly refused to be featured there. It wasn’t like it was tacit; she turned it down, and this to me seems like a total violation of her rights.

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Posted by Scottage at 5:27 PM / | |  

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another Voice Is Heard regarding the Bush Administration: The Children’s

Anyone who reads this blog a fan of the West Wing? I’m a huge fan, and I suspect I’m not alone here, since it’s in many ways a left-wing pulpit, raising many topics that are very pertinent to the left-wing platform, often issues that the right want swept under the rug. Anyway, they had an episode a couple years back where these students came in to talk to Toby Ziegler about why children aren’t allowed to vote. They raised the issues that the actions of today’s government will often weigh heaviest on their generation, and they should have some say in the future of this country and the world.

It’s a very good question, and from the perspective of a liberal like me it’s more pertinent in this administration than in any other recent administration. Their generation will pay off the huge debt being accrued by this government; they will be embroiled in the conflicts that we are creating around the world, particularly in the Middle East and in North Korea, they will deal with the leaks in our borders created by deals like the port deals, and they will rebuild the economic and physical infrastructure of the sites of tragedies that were allowed to happen while the Bush Administration waited to act until destruction was devastating.

Well, finally the children are struggling to make their voice heard. A couple of big stories came out today regarding the voice of our children, and they inspire hope, to me. The first is a mock trial of George W. Bush in Parsippany, NJ for “crimes against civilian populations and inhumane treatment of prisoners.” The second is hundreds of students protesting the suspension of a teacher for his left-wing anti-Bush rant, as it was portrayed by the administration, though I would call it more of an attempt to challenge the students to think about the issues confronting them today.

In Parsippany, students are holding a mock trial, complete with witnesses and jury. “The prosecution list included Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen allegedly tortured by U.S. forces; international human rights attorney Michael Ratner; Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell; retired CIA foreign policy analyst Ray McGovern; and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.” Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are next, and the defense will cal eight additional witnesses. The jury is comprised of two English Teachers, a history teacher, a guidance counselor, and a media teacher.

The teacher, Joseph Kyle, has refused to give any opinions on the Bush administration, but wanted to challenge his advance placement government class to think for themselves. The principal is backing Kyle, but the former Sheriff, John Fox and alumnus of Parsippany High School, has come out loudly against the hearings, and is gaining support from other alumni. A verdict is expected by the end of the week, though I suspect the verdict will not be honored anywhere else but the classroom.

In Colorado, a professor has been suspended for a “Left wing political rant” that lasted over 20 minutes. 16 year old Sean Allen had a tape recorder for keeping class notes and tapes a large portion of the rant, and then complained that he shouldn’t be subjected to the leftist political ideals of the 10th grade teacher, Jay Banish. He brought the recording to radio KOA talk show host Mike Rosen, who played it on the air. Then things began to get out of control.

I’ve heard the tape, and yes, there are some things in there that are even too leftist for me to agree with. The worst is a comparison between Bush’s rhetoric and Hitler’s rhetoric, though he’s quick to point out that Bush is not like Hitler. It’s more about the messages that each sends to the population. "I'm not saying Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they're not. OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use," says Bennish.

He also says a few times that he is not asking for the students to accept Bennish’s views, but that he is really looking to challenge them, and get them thinking about what is really occurring in the world today.

"I'm not in anyway implying that you should agree with me, I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think about these issues more in depth and not to just take things from the surface.”

But to my mind, there’s a happy ending for this story; while the one student went to the radio station and complained, the rest of the students were outraged….most by the suspension, others by the preaching. Hundreds of students protested the suspension, walking out of Overland High School demanding “Freedom of speech – Let him teach”, while some students, when leaving classes naturally, chanted “teach, don’t preach.”

Now I am all for the teacher being allowed to challenge the students, and forcing them to think about issues and make up their own mind. While I may not have agreed with his opinions, I don’t believe they were out of line, and I believe they were meant with the best of intentions. Further, as an educator, I think it’s important for him to get his students to examine the world around them critically. But the best part of the story is, without question, that the students made their voices heard, and peacefully. Whichever side of the issue they were on, the fact that the students took impassioned positions is a sign that people are getting involved earlier, and that’s great news.

Is it an accident that both these stories came out just 1 day after the video tape of the Katrina preparatory meeting was aired? Has this new proof of Bush’s lies forced the Bush administration to try to squash even the youngest of dissenters, thus bringing the stories to the front of public view? Or has the level of frustration among the youth risen exponentially as a result of his complicity, forcing Bush-related issues to the foreground? Or maybe you think these incidents aren’t that big a deal? Well, I see them as a big deal, and hope that it leads to further engagement by the younger generations around the world.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:23 PM / | |  

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Craziest Street? The Envelope Please…..

From the office of the capricious, a web site called The Car Connection came out with the results of its contest for the craziest road in the US. And the winner is….

That’s right, Psycho Path Pvt is the craziest road in the US, followed up by Divorce Court, Farfrompoopen Road, Clinton and Fidelity Streets, and Unexpected Road. Perhaps we’re looking at a new horror film? “Purgatory on Psycho Path”? “Psycho Path Prison?” Give me your best one, and we’ll make the movie together.

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Posted by Scottage at 11:55 PM / | |  

AP Video Proves it: Bush Is a Liar

Have you seen it? 1 hour ago, a tape made by the White House documents definitively that George Bush had a full knowledge of the potential and expected ramifications of Hurricane Katrina 2 days before the storm hit New Orleans. Michael Brown is shown fully briefing George Bush and others by teleconference, with a variety of experts on hand, predicting exactly what would occur when Katrina hit land.

The most important players from the incident were located in the situation room, and the screen shows as many as 9 parties in seperate windows, including a screen for Mississippi, Florida, National Hurricane Center, and, of course, George Bush.

First Brown talks about this being the "big one", and how dangerous this Hurricane could be, expressing his concerns as well for the SuperDome. Then a representative of the National Hurricane Center spoke about specific path trajectories and areas for most concern. He addressed the levies, and even mapped the course of the storm.

Then, the moment we've all been waiting for. Bush gets up for his photo op, and pledges his support in the crisis. He says the government will be there for New Orleans before and after the storm, and pledges his support of all of the country's resources to avert a dissaster. Too bad he didn't keep his promise.

4 days later, George Bush was on the air, telling the world that there was no way anyone could have predicted the topping of the levees. But there's Brown, on the tape, predicting the topping of the levees. Bush didn't ask any questions then, but he should have.

How long was it before Bush was pushing the blame onto Brown? It wasn't long, that's for sure. But now we have proof, definitive proof from the White House, that Brown had communicated the seriousness of the issue to Bush. At what point will he take responsibility for his role in this attrocity? 1,300 dead, 2,300 missing. We're a long way from Harry Truman's The Buck Stops Here.

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Posted by Scottage at 7:57 PM / | |  

Next Greatest Danger: Terrorism

Having completed the first in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World series, I am now moving on to my second danger. I want to thank people for the many kind words about the first post, but also to tell you how it will differ from here on out.

First, I wanted to give people an overall idea of what the format for each of these posts would be with my first post, The Conflict between the West and the Middle East. This format will be maintained. However, from here out I will post one portion of the post every weekday, hopefully around noon, so there’s something shorter and new to read around lunch time.

Second, I was originally going to cover Iran second, but decided instead to use the poll, found on the right side of the screen, to determine my coverage order. Yes, there aren’t many responses there now, but that means one individual can have a big influence on what a write about. So please respond to the poll, it only takes a second.

Finally, I’m hoping to get some submissions for good posts by other bloggers to include in this post. This cuts down my research time and increases the coverage of your posts (I’ve gotten emails from 3 bloggers I linked to in the first post saying their getting a ton of hits). So why not, send me the post, it takes one second and is totally appreciated.

Thanks to everyone for their comments and criticisms of the first post, you're what make it worth while to put in the effort. I hope you enjoy the next entry in the series.

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Posted by Scottage at 4:29 PM / | |  

NYP Tammy a Hoax? That’s not what I’m Seeing…

I received the following question today from Sonia-Belle, as cool a person as there is on the web, and figured I would address it with a new post. Certainly, it merits a bit of attention:

Is this Tammy NYP story a hoax? There are no photos of her on the net, and her alleged video clip shows two teddy bears having sex. This looks like that follow-the-link 'the best blond joke' prank...

So I went off in search of info. And there was quite a bit of it. If it was a hoax, we’re talking as elaborate a hoax as I’ve ever heard of. The story is out of control now. The story gets searched more than the Olympics, the resumption of Iran’s Uranium Enrichment program, and Dick Cheney’s hunting habits, combine. It gets written about more than John Tierney setting the Women’s Movement back 10 years. And if estimates are correct, more people have seen Tammy’s movie than have seen The Pink Panther.

Hundreds of thousands of t-shirts have been sold, with the simple slogan “I F@#$&! NYP Tammy”. It actually says something a bit worse than that, but I’m trying to not offend anyone here. People are selling the DVDs on street corners, including the one outside humiliated Tammy’s house, and the Singaporean government is cracking down, trying to determine who broadcast the tape out to the internet, while already working out a punishment for the 21 year old boyfriend who is guilty of corrupting the morals of an underage girl.

So at this point, I definitely believed in the tape. And then I found the holy grail of Tammy-ism. Wally World is nearly entirely dedicated to the story, and takes you through every aspect of situation. Any detail you want, they’ve got it. It was there that I found the picture of Tammy and her boyfriend, pictured here (yes, it’s really them this time, so I hope that’s not offensive to anyone) And then I found it, a link to a page with a link to a page where you could download the movie.

I must admit, I’m not really interested in seeing it, so I didn’t pay the $1 to gain access to the download. So who knows, maybe it’s not authentic. But to my eyes, it’s a legitimate story, and one that has obviously caught the attention of the entire world. Who would have guessed it?

If you want to read more about this incident, you can look at my first post on it here.


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Posted by Scottage at 2:48 PM / | |  

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Disney World Rape

Man, you gotta be kidding me! I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who clings to the small shreds of hope that there are some pure, innocent places left in the world. And I thought of Disney world as one of those places.

Apparently, a story is beginning to emerge from Orlando, Florida of the gang rape of a Disney worker by four of her employees. All five were part of the Disney College Program, a paid internship for international college students that has been around for over 30 years. All four attackers have been identified and interviewed, and have admitted to having sex with the girl, though no arrests have been made to date.

Come on, people. This is Disney World, the place where people take their kids to be safe and have fun. You are being treated to a paid internship in the US, of course because of your merits, but also out of the generosity of an American institution. If you can’t have respect for the girl, which is abhorrent in my opinion, at least have respect for the institution to which you owe something.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:47 PM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Overview

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World series
Part 1

First off, my apologies for the delay in publishing this, but I wanted to take some time, to start with a clean slate, and just take in a wide variety of texts on the subject of the conflict between these two cultures before passing any judgments. I read stuff that was so far left I wanted to go hunting with Dick Cheney, and I read posts so far right I wanted to move to Canada. Ok, I wanted to move to a 1990s version of Canada.

So first, a brief overview of the findings of my research, along with some of the conclusions I came up with. Basically, over the past 15 years there has been a growing division between the “Western” nations and the “Middle-Eastern” nations. While some say the division is over form of government (democracy vs. dictatorship) and others believe the conflict is over religion (roughly, the Judeo-Christian ethic vs. Islam), it is becoming more and more apparent that the conflict is equally about world power and the place of the Muslim community in the world order.

When going back through all the research, there were three points that stood out to me as serious misconceptions that could have severe impacts in how we deal with this new threat. And in my opinion it is these three issues where we can make a difference, making sure people know the truth of the conflict, and not simply accepting the party line given to the public by whichever party is in power at any given moment.

First and foremost, there is a myth that that democracy is the only type of moral or valid government. We are bombarded with images of the unholy society with issues and situations that offend our value system, and we are told that this is why we need to fear and hate the other society. It was this same thought process that fed into the cold war, and it’s this same issue that may turn this conflict into a long-term test of wills.

In reality, Islamic society has some advantages over Western society, though personally I would never give up the basic freedoms afforded by a democratic society. Islamic nations have existed for thousands of years, and to say that the Islamic dictatorships are not valid is to turn a blind eye towards the very rich history of the Middle East. And while I feel that Islam is immoral on such issues as the rights of women, I must concede that I view these issues from the perspective of my own morality, and the Muslim community has a very different, not necessarily lesser, morality.

The second misconception is that we are entered into a battle on multiple fronts with the Islamic communities. Terrorist leaders and leaders of Western-perceived rogue-nations are considered to be leaders of the battle, dispersing militants into our societies to fight the battles of the growing struggle between democracy and Islam. And I admit that this was the image I had before doing this research as well. Of course, if this was the case, I wouldn’t label this paragraph a misconception.

In reality, there are two conflicts occurring here, as opposed to the one general conflict most people perceive. The first conflict is between what I’ll call “Diaspora” Muslims, or Islamic people who have left the Middle East, or Islamic people living in an occupied nation in the Middle East, and either the nations these Diaspora Muslims live in or the occupying country. The second conflict is between the afore-mentioned terrorists and militant leaders and the Western “imperialist” governments.

The first conflict has to do with the treatment of Muslims as second class citizens. This is particularly noticeable in Europe as well countries like Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan where the general populace is occupied militarily. The second conflict is a push to prevent democratic values from being pushed into the Middle East arena, and to introduce the Islamic community as a substitute for the Soviet Union as a global super-power. The two conflicts only merge when the general Muslim community believes their position can be advanced by conflict with the West.

The final misconception I will touch upon is the belief that all Muslims view Western society as incompatible with Islam. In reality, most Islamic people I have met or have red are looking for similar things out of life as most people from Western society, including peace. However, most Muslim people have become frustrated with the growing Islamophobia seen around the world, and many see conflict as the only viable solution. Many people from the Western world see conflict as the only viable solution as well.

In the following posts we’ll examine each of these issues in more depth, and cover some of the better posts I’ve read on the issues. But draw your own conclusions, and let me know what you think. If the cold war is a model for what we’re experiencing, we are not looking at a new society that may or may not succeed, and one that may eventually burn out on its own. The cold war lasted 50 years because communism finally withered. Do you believe, after thousands of years of existence, that Islamic society will fail?

The moral of the story is that this single issue could dominate the public’s consciousness well past your or my lifetime. If the rift between these two societies continues to grow, it could affect every aspect of our lives, from our energy sources to our freedoms, from safety to the very makeup of our society. So draw your conclusions early, and try to make a difference. Because if the conflict continues to grow, we will all be affected by it.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5:


Posted by Scottage at 1:27 AM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World series
Part 2

In George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech this year, he talked about the spread of freedom, positioning the righteousness of this cause as a given. And make no mistake, I believe that the spread of freedom, of democracy, of our system of values and government is a good thing. But it’s not a given; there are other schools of thought out there. Take a look at the characterization Bush gives to both sides of this conflict:

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam -- the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder -- and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.

The West, especially during this administration, assumes that everyone is happier in a democratic society. But Muslim theocracy is a time-tested, viable alternative to democracy. And while I may not see some of their practices and beliefs as moral, my view is tainted by my own beliefs. Furthermore, there are aspects of the Judeo-Christian ethic I don’t necessarily consider moral, but it does not change the validity of a wide variety of societies based on the Judeo-Christian ethic.

All that makes Muslim societies less valid is that we do not agree with some of their values. But do these differences of opinion make Muslim societies worse than democratic society, better….or just different from the democratic societies we’ve come to respect. Read these paragraphs from the blog of Spinoff two-tribes.html comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Islamic and democratic societies, and you’ll see that , from the Islamic perspective, they have a very viable option for a society that, while not appealing to me, and probably not appealing to many Westerners, is still 100% valid.

So we are left with two belief systems: that built upon a protestant Christian framework with its belief in success through hard work, an individual relationship with God, and a communitarian focus on a welfare society; and Islam. Islam’s enormous strength comes through many things. The Qur’an is the directly revealed word of God, and therefore provides real certainty as well as being a manual for how to live one’s life. Importantly, it is the revealed word of God in the language of God (the Qur’an is only ‘real’ in Arabic) providing a commonality of language and understanding lost in the west since the King James Bible and Vatican II.

The Islam of the Qur’an provides all those things the West provides, and many it does not. Protection of widows and orphans is expressly mandated. The role of women is clearly defined (the prophet was married, remember, and his wife Hadija’s legacy provides an important role for women). The ‘Umma, the unitary nature of Muslims around the world, is explicit. Islam works: as a belief system, as a social and political polity, as a consistent and powerful model not only of how one should live one’s own life but how the world should live its.

And this is where the clash is inevitable, quite simply because western liberalism promises the same. The ideology of the west is a peculiar blend of Christianity, small-c communism, welfare statism, synthesising a broad range of political thought and belief but ultimately promising a way of living that is supportive in difficulty and rewarding in success. It also happens to provide a consumerist society where goodies are abundant – the most superficial, but attractive factor that attracts the majority of people to the western lifestyle.

So, you think this is a minor point, that whether the Muslim Theocracy is a valid form of society is beside the point? Actually, it’s at the heart of everything going on here. As George Bush’s United States and the rest of the Western countries further “the advance of freedom” described in the State of the Union, the Muslim theocracies are being destroyed one by one.

And while we can play the proverbial game of “Which Came First: The Suicide Bomber or Western Imperialism” till we’re blue in the face, the fact remains that today Muslim theocracies consider this a fight for survival. Bush stated “we seek the end of tyranny in our world,” while forgetting that what is tyranny for us is a wonderful life for others. That is why this issue is so vital.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion


Posted by Scottage at 1:19 AM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 3a

Many people, me included, look at the growing rift between Islam and democracy and see one conflict. But I believe now that there are two conflicts occurring here, and that the two conflicts are not closely linked. Instead, they are merely allies of the loosest form, following the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In fact, many Muslims that I have read over the past week hate the alliance with terrorism and the militant leaders like Ahmadinejad, considering their allies in violation of the teachings of Islam. But these same people see no alternative to defend their way of life.

I came to this conclusion after reading two very distinct bodies of work describing the two conflicts. Neither side recognized that there were two conflicts, but indeed they were describing very different phenomena. And by understanding the roots of each conflict we can begin to determine causes and, hopefully, solutions. For the first conflict, that between the diaspora Muslims and their host countries (predominantly in Europe), or between Muslims living in countries occupied by the West, let’s begin with a blogger named Benjamin.

Benjamin used to have a blog called “Moderate Musings”, but after further introspection changed it to “Politics, Compassion, and Justice” as he’s not sure he qualifies as a moderate. On January 1st before the whole Mohammed Cartoon incident, before Ahmadinejad has really introduced himself to the world and long before resumption of Iran’s nuclear program, Benjamin wrote about the roots of the present conflict stemming from our own societies and the cartoon conflict bore out his theories.

Benjamin saw rising tensions, particularly in Europe, between the Muslim communities and the Judeo-Christian establishment. As such, Benjamin characterized this first conflict not as one of nations versus nations, but ideologies versus ideologies. As such, Benjamin posits, the combatants live in and amongst the societies that they are fighting, especially in Europe. While the US is generally blamed for their imperialist policies, Europe shares their imperialism with a rampant anti-Islamic sentiment that has done a great deal to enhance the rift between Islam and the West.

Forbidding Muslim girls to wear headscarves in French schools while simultaneously trying to control French Muslims through officially recognized Islamic organizations gets matters exactly backward, as most Americans will easily see. Our constitutional combination of freedom to practice one’s religion coupled with the strong separation of church and state, has worked far better in accommodating religious diversity than anything Europe has yet dreamed up.

Most people tie the actions of the general Muslim population to the actions of extremists, but this is not correct. This is truly a distinct conflict, and addressing terrorism and the Muslim theocracies will not fix the issues surrounding Muslim people in general, issues of inequality and oppression (perceived or actual, that is not for me to determine). Marc Shulman of the American Future blog, points out this dichotomy, and while he believes this is because extremists won’t accept reconciliation, it’s really because this is not the extremists’ conflict, and extremists don’t’ really care if the Muslim community is oppressed or not.

The Muslim reaction to the cartoons depicting Mohammed provides the strongest evidence yet that eliminating the extremists would not bring peace, if by "peace" one means the absence of violence and the presence of tolerance. Freedom of expression—one of the bedrocks of Western secularism—and the sharia are incompatible.

Marc is right that eliminating the extremists would not bring about peace, but his definition of peace is off target. Eliminating the extremist elements will not bring about tolerance from the Muslim communities around the world, because they don’t feel tolerated by the democratic societies in most places around the world. Violence might or might not be the result if extremists were eliminated, but the violence would probably be in a different form than the terrorism we see more and more often today.

Israel has an interesting role in this conflict. The Palestinian people are oppressed by the Israeli government, and terribly, and as a result they fall into this class. While it hasn’t always been the case, I feel that of late Palestinians are now looking for a homeland and a better life, and their goals no longer revolve around the destruction of the state of Israel.

However, Yasser Arafat was one of the militant leaders I will speak of in the next portion of this post, and has often tied the agenda of the Palestinian people to the agenda of other Muslim nations and leaders. That tradition continues today, and because of this the Palestinian people remain in limbo, in a struggle between the needs and hopes of the Palestinian people and the goals of the various leaders in the region.

The Mohammed cartoon protests are clearly a battle in the conflict for the equality of Muslim communities throughout the world. The fact that the majority of the protests took place in Europe or was aimed at European real estate is a testament to the penned-up frustration felt by the Muslim community towards treatment of the European Muslim communities. However, Benjamin probably has been a bit over-compensating on the quality of the US treatment of Muslims; we are definitely starting to feel some of the hatred here regarding the cartoons.

But this conflict is one with an easy solution; if you treat the Muslim community better, and give them more representation, this issue can be eased. Or at least it could be; it’s questionable if these tensions could be eased now, when they have escalated to such a degree. Furthermore, treating the Muslim community better now, when there is such an air of mistrust, and while we do not know where the loyalties of many people lies, would be much more difficult. Finally, there may not be enough time to ease tensions sufficiently before this situation explodes, as it has begun to with the protests over the cartoons of Mohammed.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion


Posted by Scottage at 1:13 AM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East - Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 3b

The second conflict is the rapidly-developing power struggle between the West, predominantly the US and it’s perceived emissary (Israel) but also to some extent Europe, and various Middle-Eastern leaders, either leaders of Muslim theocracies, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Basher al-Assad, or leaders of terrorist groups, such as Osama bin Laden and Aymen al-Zawahiri. These leaders recognize a void in the balance of power that the US has attributed many of the world’s successes and progresses to. And they wish to fill that void by creating the next super power.

This is a point which I have pontificated about before, and if you’re interested in a complete description of the motives and goals behind the progression these leaders are taking, I refer you back to an earlier post on Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called Ahmadinejad Trying to Push the Muslim World towards Action and Unity. This post talks as much about Ahmadinejad’s actions and motivations as it talks about an opportunity that many Muslim leaders, such as the leaders mentioned before, are trying to exploit.

And make no mistake about it; exploitation is what we are talking about here. These are people trying to obtain power for power’s sake. This is a common phenomenon throughout the ages in the Middle East, and I have no doubt it is what is occurring now. These leaders see the dissolving of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to increase their power, and see the growing areas of discontent with the growing power block in the West as opportunities to grow their power. And they exploit these opportunities, looking for greater opportunities to gobble up power.

These leaders see the general perception of oppression by the Western world, and view this as an opportunity to present the average Diaspora Muslim, who probably does not agree with the methods of these leaders, with a better option than the options presented by Western society. They present an option that includes equality, along with some of the benefits their present society can’t provide, to these Diaspora Muslims. And slowly but surely, this rhetoric is having the desired effect.

If the dissension of Diaspora Muslims within their host society represents a distinct conflict from this conflict, the protests we saw over the past month+ are the first example of the first conflict being used as a weapon in the second conflict. Based on past history with similar cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, it is doubtful that these cartoons would have sparked the controversy they did had it not been for the instigation of Iran, Syria, and al-Qaeda. These groups pointed out the oppression of the Diaspora Muslims, and the Diaspora Muslims took to the street.

In the past, one leader, like Saddam Hussein or Yasser Arafat, has attempted to mobilize the Muslim community, and been squashed before he had the chance to gain any momentum. Today, it appears that we are seeing the alignment of multiple leaders in the region, leaders who in the past would not have worked together. There is certainly cooperation between Ahmadinejad and al-Assad, and now we are seeing collaboration with al-Qaeda operatives.

Will this group continue to ally themselves with groups that are not as tightly associated with the Western countries? Will they wind up with China and Russia as strong allies in any conflict that could occur with the West, creating a serious disadvantage for the West as far as population size? And will the Muslim people continue to ally themselves with the Middle-Eastern countries, creating a situation where our enemy is amongst us? One thing is for certain: of the two conflicts, the second is far scarier.

One final thing I want to touch on is that, while solving the first conflict will ease the tension in the second conflict, solving the second conflict will probably exacerbate tensions in the first conflict. This is because the second conflict will require a conflict of some sort to resolve it; otherwise, I suspect that the Muslim leaders will continue their own manifest destiny, and work towards continual expansion of their empire.

In 2005, on the Hayhows blog, he indicates that Muslim writings are very clear in stating that that Islam is concerned with a complete transformation of all and every nation in which it resides. Abul Hamid AbuSulaymin’s book “Crisis in the Muslim Mind” is quoted:

"The Islamic world community has been charged with a responsibility towards itself and towards history to perform the duties of vicegerency (khilafah) and reform civilization in the blight of the noble principles of Islam. In vie of the present world situation, humankind and the Muslim Ummah have no alternative but Islam. Only through Islam will reform come to modern civilization."(p. 65)
Owing to the influences of backwardness, the isolation of the intellectual leadership, and the concept of religion as understood through the filter of Western experience, the areas in which Islamic thought and methodology may find practical application have been relegated almost entirely to the spheres of the spiritual and personal concern of individual believers. (p. 98)

The first rule for gaining power is to consolidate your power and work from a position of strength. As a result, Israel is a serious issue for Islamic world; Israel is definitely aligned with the West, and living in and amongst the Middle Eastern nations provides a friendly port that will never disappear for Western countries as well as a front line fighter in any conflict involving the Middle East. From a military standpoint, the presence of Israel is as challenging as the existence of Cuba during the cold war. As such, Islamic leaders seeking power will always attack the existence of Israel.

The conflict will, most probably, cause a more serious rift between the West and the Muslim communities, as this act will be seen as Western imperialism. On the flip side, as I mentioned earlier, improving conditions and working towards equality for the Muslim community will ease tensions and would eventually solve the conflict between the Diaspora Muslims and the West. Furthermore, this will remove a large weapon from the arsenal of the Muslim leaders.

Similar outreach towards the nations of China and Russia could yield similar results. But, we may be past the point of no return, and it may be infeasible now to provide that type of equality, with the uncertainty in the intentions of each community. We may have to start figuring out solutions to take care of both issues simultaneously or prepare for our new cold war.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion


Posted by Scottage at 1:07 AM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 4

Many Westerners have an image of Muslims that is unrealistic, and this translates into the type of oppression that causes the first conflict mentioned above. Muslims are seen as evil, full of hatred, or just plain immoral. In the eyes of your average person from a Western nation, everything that we believe in as just, righteous, or fair must be against Islam. Members of Islam are seen to be simultaneously a puppet of the Islamic will and evil in and of his own right, down deep in the soul. Look at a couple paragraphs from a post by Fjordman in Norway:

It should be done by giving Islam its proper name: Slavery and apartheid. Women are the slaves in the cult of Islam (submission = slavery). One peculiar thing about male supremacy or any form of slavery, is that it enslaves both parties. Muslim men should realise, that the emancipation of women also emancipates and frees men. This has been the lesson in the West. And so it has continued. Thus Muslim men should not be frightened in letting go - they will also be freeing themselves from the chains of islam. This inevitably leads us to ask, can we somehow re-define Islam, in particular for a Western audience, not as a religion but as a political ideology, and one whose tenets are sufficiently evil, so that it merits destruction, much as Nazism. This construct has to take place so that the Western populace sees it as justifiable to actually give the physical and moral support that is required for such a large undertaking. In passing it is worth noting the political difficulty that Bush and Blair are having in Iraq in sustaining political support for the war, once they had proclaimed that Islam is a RoP - they had conceded the moral ground.

Islam is institutionalised slavery, and the Jihad's main purpose is to garner slaves, both men and women, from the lands of the Free. Muslims, both men and women, then become the first slaves of Islam. Two points come to mind immediately. 1. The institution of slavery crushes the spirit of slaves. They were unable to think for themselves as a consequence. A striking feature of Islamic societies. 2. Runaway slaves used to be beaten, and oft executed, as a lesson to other would be runaway slaves. The same punishment is Islamically sanctioned for the Muslim apostate.

To me it’s clear that Islam is not some evil religion, and that the Islamic people are not all bent on destruction. However, after doing all this reading on the conflict, it’s also very apparent to me that a large portion of the Muslim community is very frustrated with their current lot in life, and that they hold the Western nations responsible for these frustrations.

John Esposito, of Islamica Magazine agrees that what we are experiencing is two separate conflicts, but points out that the West is attacking the members of the first conflict by denigrating Islam as a religion, and as such attacking the victim of the whole cycle. As such, he believes the present violence is a fight against oppression, as opposed to a cultural war.

What we are witnessing today has little to do with Western democratic values and everything to do with a European media that reflects and plays to an increasingly xenophobic and Islamaphobic society. The cartoons seek to test and provoke; they are not ridiculing Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but mocking Muslims’ most sacred symbols and values as they hide behind the façade of freedom of expression. The win-win for the media is that explosive headline events, reporting them or creating them, also boosts sales. The rush to reprint the Danish cartoons has been as much about profits as about the prophet of Islam. Respected European newspapers have acted more like tabloids.

Esposito is correct in saying that we are attacking the wrong enemy, and the Muslim perception of oppression is growing. However, it appears that most Muslims really do not favor a violent resolution to the conflict. Esposito sites a Gallup World Poll of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia, which had some very interesting results about where the priorities of the majority of the Muslim world lie.

When asked to describe what Western societies could do to improve relations with the Arab/Muslim world, by far the most frequent reply (47% in Iran, 46% in Saudi Arabia, 43% in Egypt, 41% in Turkey, etc.) was that they should demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam, show less prejudice, and not denigrate what Islam stands for. At the same time, large numbers of Muslims cite the West’s technological success and its liberty and freedom of speech as what they most admire. When asked if they would include a provision for Freedom of Speech, defined as allowing all citizens to express their opinion on political, social and economic issues of the day if they were drafting a constitution for a new country, overwhelming majorities (94% in Egypt, 97% in Bangladesh, 98% in Lebanon etc.) in every country surveyed responded yes, they would.

Similar studies have come out of Palestine, Egypt, and Muslim communities in France and the Netherlands. In a response to a post sited earlier in this paper by Marc Shulman, Jim Ellsworth, a war college professor and national security advisor to the Bush administration, is strongly supportive of Bush’s policies for dealing with the growing rift between Islam and democracy. I suppose it’s no surprise that Mr. Ellsworth believes that the US should leave the situation in the negotiating hands of the government, and that no one should speak out against them.

At the end of the day, though, what may matter most to our servicemembers fighting this war is that—as I have said before—those among our countrymen who choose to agitate for a clash of civilizations are directly supporting the strategy of America’s adversaries in the information battlespace in which it will largely be decided. America’s forces, facing those adversaries to the front, are flanked on one side by the anti-war crowd among us, who want to see us lose what they see as an immoral war. On the other flank, we face a media enterprise that doesn’t especially care one way or the other as long as it sells copy—and bad news sells more than good, and what we don’t expect to see (like alleged American atrocities) sells more than what we do expect to see (like al-Qa’ida atrocities).

But Ellsworth makes an excellent point, and a point that really defines why the US has had much better relations with the Muslim communities in this country than has other Western nations. It’s because of our separation of church and state that the Muslim communities feel more welcome in our society, which is a great start. He also goes on to point out that, in actuality, Islamic laws are not always as prohibitive of the values of the West; it is the values of extremists that are prohibitive.

It is also not correct to claim that Sharia law is inherently incompatible with free expression, any more than is Mosaic law. What is incompatible with freedom of expression is the unification of church and state, regardless of the faith involved. In Muslim societies like Indonesia, where there is tacit, though incomplete separation, Sharia courts adjudicate matters of faith without interference with the general tolerance that Indonesia is known for. Nor does Islam equate to Sharia law: take Turkey, an Islamic nation with a fiercely secular system of government.

In reality, the Islamic people I know are not so different from the Western people I know; the values are similar, the wants are similar, the needs are similar. The differences are a matter of a slightly different value system, but only the extremists really differ greatly from Western values. And I believe that to say that the Western and Islam cultures can’t live side-by-side is naïve; Islamic communities have existed amongst Western communities for hundreds of years, and most of that time has been peaceful. Perhaps we need to remember that.

One of the keys to successfully dealing with the increasing tension between the two people is to realize that the people are not as different as we speak. If we try to understand each other a bit better, and work towards a better tomorrow for both sides, respective of both sets of values, perhaps we can find a better solution. That is, if we have not passed a point of no return in the conflict.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion


Posted by Scottage at 12:59 AM / | |  

The Conflict between the West and the Middle East: Conclusion

First post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 5

The rift between the Middle East and the West is growing rapidly, and is showing the potential to become this generation’s version of the cold war. The division between these two cultures is predicated on a lack of acceptance of the religious theocracies commonly found in Muslim societies; whether that is due to misinformation and a campaign of fear from the Western governments or because of a general lack of communication between actual members the two communities.

This lack of understanding has led to two distinct conflicts: a conflict between “Diaspora” Muslims and their host communities, which is a conflict primarily based on a push for equal treatment within their communities, and a second conflict between various Islamic leaders and the imperialist leaders of the West, this conflict either being a conflict to stop Western Imperialism and the destruction of Islamic theocracies or a conflict to expand the Muslim communities and spread Islam throughout the world, depending on your perspective.

These conflicts have different manifestations in different locals. In the US, tensions between the greater Muslim community and the Judeo-Christian populace are minimal, but growing rapidly. The conflict in the US has more to do with our imperialist practices, and enemies that attack here will be coming from afar. This is not the case in Europe, where the largest battle is with the Muslim populace, who has tired of European discrimination. England gets the worst of both worlds, being both imperialist and having a largely anti-Islamic society. And Israel remains a front line in the second conflict, and as such their own conflict with the Palestinian people is consistently aggravated.

Through the rhetoric of our governments, these conflicts have now taken on a personal nature, as mistrust and hatred runs rampant between the two communities. The growing division between the two people is exacerbating the first conflict, and helping our opponents in the second conflict ally with the greater Muslim community. In this way, we feed into the developing situation, and act as a catalyst for future chaos between the two communities. Similarly, by working to dispel these myths, and better understand the Muslim community, each of us can help avoid a larger conflict.

This conflict may be the single largest issue faced in our lifetime, and the resolution of it may be protracted or may be swift and brutal. Either way, the growing rift between Islam and democracy, between the Middle East and the West, represents one of the biggest threats to Western society today.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: The Validity of the Muslim Theocracy
Part 3a: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between Diaspora Muslims and Host Country
Part 3b: Two Distinct Conflicts – Conflict between various Muslim Leaders and Western Imperialism
Part 4: Muslim Compatibility with Western Society
Part 5: Conclusion


Posted by Scottage at 12:51 AM / | |  

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Haveil Havalim #59 is up!

Daled Amos has compiled Haveil Havalim #59. I didn’t know anything about Haveil Havalim until last week, but already I’m hooked. If you aren’t familiar with them, Haveil Havalim is a Jewish blog carnival, which if you’re as new to blogging as me means a whole mess of different blogs with a common tie, in this case Jewish bloggers or blogs about Israel. Well, maybe I’m not describing it well, I will leave it to the people who run the site:

Haveil Havalim is the carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havalim”, which means "Vanity of Vanities", is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon. Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but “hevel”, or in English, “vanities.”

A couple favorites for me that are listed in Haveil Havalim are Meryl Yourish’ post on the IFM using VBlogging, Soccer Dad’s Israel Apartheid Week, and AbbaGav’s Limitations of Appeasement. Of course, I haven’t read them al yet. If there’s one you see that’s great, let me know so I can make sure I hit it. And enjoy the carnival.


Posted by Scottage at 11:21 PM / | |  

Nomad Hosted by Sanity’s Bluff for a Week

As many of you know, I believe myself to be the modern-day nomad, scurrying around from place to place to find the next great adventure. And while now I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m starting to slow down a bit, I still love the road, the feeling of anticipation as you approach a new town and a new culture, the excitement as you hear a new perspective.

The Web Loafer is a kindred spirit. He is a trucker with a blog called Sanity’s Bluff, and he is definitely a nomad at heart. I’ve always had a romanticized notion of truck driving, heading off across the country to find inspiration, and a livelihood where you define the terms. So I must admit I’m envious of the Loafer. Thus I’m honored that he agreed to host my site this week.

Throughout my travels I have always been surprised that people think Americans are all alike, but in reality there are hundreds, maybe thousands of different cultures throughout the US, and hundreds of thousands of different points of view. Truly Web Loafer must be in contact with so many different people that he’s continually challenged, continually inspired by some new culture. The views espoused on his site reflect that depth of communication.

I know it’s not customary to promote the site that is hosting my site, but Sanity’s Bluff is an exception; it’s a great site that everyone should take a look at some time. Web Loafer, thanks for hosting me, and thanks for writing.


Posted by Scottage at 8:58 PM / | |  

McLaren: Logging Out of the Blogosphere

Leah McLaren wrote a commentary yesterday in indicating that she was done reading blogs, siting the poor quality of present-day blogs as her reason. And she has some interesting points to make.

McLaren says that most bloggers maintain poor writing quality, and those that can write have questionable motives, either a “commentator” trying to stir up public debate, or a truly good writer who invariably gets pulled into the establishment with opportunities for book deals or positions at major publications. As a result, McLaren posits, the era of independent commentary is dead. Bloggers write to hope they get noticed or to hear the sound of their own voice, McLaren thinks. I’m not so sure.

The article got me thinking about my motives for writing, and what I hope to gain from writing a blog. I mean, 3 months ago I had never heard of a blog, certainly hadn’t read on. Now it’s a part of my daily life. And I have a hectic life, why would I dedicate the time to it? I think my writing quality is at the least decent, and I’m not looking to be discovered or to get a job through my blog. So why would a guy like me dedicate the time to blogging.

To me, it’s the opportunity to have a voice in the world, to be heard. I believe I have some valid opinions, and some opinions that are not necessarily found commonly in the world on some issues (though perhaps not many). But how do I know if my thinking is valid or correct if I don’t have people refute my opinions, challenge me, critique me, and help me to define my own beliefs and views. To me, it’s a way of developing my own thoughts on issues that catch my eye, with the help of other bloggers.

Of course, it’s not just my own blog, and the comments made on it, which help me develop my views, but the blogs of others around the blogosphere. The issues they comment on help me define issues I should be looking at, and the posts of other bloggers give me insights into a wide variety of issues, including issues I have thought I was knowledgeable about.

How about you, why do you blog? Is McLaren right, is the bloggosphere either poor quality or commercialized? Or has the blogosphere become a place for anybody, even an average Joe like me, to have a voice in the world, as I believe? I guess it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves, but I mkust say I don’t believe the blogosphere is dead.

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Posted by Scottage at 2:45 PM / | |