Search This Blog

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Georgia Down, America Left Powerless by Bush, McCain More of the Same

I have to say it and no one will be surprised to hear it from me. It's ironic (but not at all unexpected) to hear this administration admonishing the Russians for something that they (the Bush cabal) are just as guilty of doing. Invading and occupying.

I think it's just one more huge bit of evidence as to the complete lack of leadership that exists in the Bush administration, and the total and absolute failure this administration has been on both the domestic and world stages, especially since March of 2003. They had no credibility with the rest of the world before this week and they have none now that the Russians have waltzed into Georgia. Now Bush - and by extension, we - look like self-righteous demigods telling other nations they can't do what we do. No damn wonder we're called Ugly Americans. At least November will bring a change - a real change - and we can start to put the past and old ways of thinking about things behind us....hopefully for good.

As for the Russians, don't think for a minute that the music has stopped and the Russians are content to sit the next one out. That tune will keep playing now that we're, a) spread so thinly militarily and more importantly, b) have practically no allies left on the geo-political stage. You think the Russians are happy about what's happened over the last 20 years? Do you think for one minute that their "success" in Georgia isn't green-lighting them for the rest of the Balkans, the European "divider" states of Ukraine and Belarus, the Baltics, along their southern borders in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and their pseudo-ally, Iran?

It won't happen tomorrow, but I think it will happen. The Russians, under Putin, are going to try and reconstitute their USSR-era place of prominence on the world stage. Make no mistake, Putin is the real Wizard of Oz controlling Russian actions from behind the curtain. We shouldn't expect anything less than the start of very some serious chilling in American-Russian relations.

And what are we going to do about it? What can be done? Rattle our saber.....rally world support.....economically isolate the world's 7th largest oil reserve ( I don't know, but I'm not optimistic considering the failed state of domestic and world geo-politics left behind by Bush.

I think our best chance to influence Russia and other misguided political leaders the world over is to flush our neo-conservative leaders and their failed belief systems and policies, especially as they manifested themselves over the past 7 years. It seems to me that neo-cons just refuse to think in big-picture mode, and recent incarnations of that political mindset seem truly incapable of really and sincerely engaging the world. "Bring it on" schoolyard thuggery has gotten us nowhere.

McCain is pretty much more of the same - a losing approach at being nothing more than the world's bully. If Obama is to be believed, at least he's willing to accept the social and political realities of the world - that not everyone wants to be an American, nor should they be - and that talking is the first step toward peace.

I know what some of you are thinking. I'm talking about globalism or giving up our form of government for some U.N.-led world society....kumbaya, eh? Wrong.

As a student of leadership, I can tell you that every single expert I've ever read on the subject agrees that the true mark and measure of a great leader is one who leads only by virtue of the authority and support granted him or her by their followers. Strong-arming like Bush's tactics are doomed to failure.

People only become true followers by choice, not by coercion or force. They expect their leaders to acknowledge and embrace the skills, experience, and knowledge that followers have as the real foundation of power. That means leaders can't do everything themselves, aren't always right, that they need to sincerely engage their followers in the decision-making process, and that when mistakes are made they are addressed openly and truthfully. None of this seems to be very well understood by Bush and now McCain. More of the same for the next 4 years? No thanks.

How refreshing it would be for the next American president to acknowledge that the last 5 (if not 8) years of American leadership have been a failure. I'm not suggesting a mean-spirited, throwing-under-the-bus of Bush and Company, but an open and sincere change in leadership principles to demonstrate that, as a true leader of world affairs, we are going to do things very differently. No more dictating terms and pretending we never make mistakes and, instead, more willingness to take the wants and needs of other country's and the rest of the world into account. No more thinking like some kind of medieval fiefdom or a conquering nation.

The next president will unfortunately inherit a complete lack of political and moral credibility for the U.S. with the world community thanks to the last 7 years of this failed Bush administration. The blame is not all Bush's. For most of that time he enjoyed a rubber-stamp Republican Congress which has now, regrettably, turned into a gutless one that still has no visible or viable Democratic opposition unity or leadership.

The Russians aren't stupid. They know that we need them and that we really aren't in a position - perhaps even can't if we want to - stop whatever it is the Russians want to do along their borders. Think about it. This administration has all but bankrupted this great country on every level - political, financial, and moral. As for the options that were and may be still open to us regarding the Russian incursion into Georgia, I think we did and are doing all that's possible considering that this administration has no moral authority or credibility left in the world, the lack of military resources notwithstanding.

Bush is leaving behind a geo-politically scorched earth. He's squandered every bit of credibility we had with the rest of the world, and it should come as no surprise when equally-backward thinkers like Putin take advantage.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fitna the Movie

The latest video to presumably draw attention to the threat to Western society from radical Islamists got me thinking about religiosity in general, human thinking about religious beliefs, where else such violent beliefs are preached, and what is supposed to be the point of a video like Fitna.

First, there's absolutely no excuse for and never can be any for acts of terrorism regardless of who perpetrates them upon whom. It's inconceivable to me that we as a species still want to use force as a means to resolve conflicts, solve problems, and force ideologies upon one another, and that we will gladly kill each other doing so.

As far as I’m concerned, violence is a primitive, lizard-brain response. It is a product of “mentally retarded” thinking. Not the physiological / neurological condition but a conscious and intentionally backward thought process. I just don't understand how after millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of social development, our species continues to think that killing one another is an acceptable way to deal with each other.

It’s also why I have a hard time with the hypocrisy of opposing abortion but defending capital punishment; how as a society we demand rights like bearing arms and yet still have one of the most violent societies with the greatest numbers of the population in prisons.
(see,,, and

But that’s a discussion for another day. Back to Fitna.

I'm sure that this next statement will not go down well with some. Religiosity – especially fervent and blind-faith kinds of religiosity - has elements of intellectually backward thinking in it, too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing or condemning anyone with a belief. Here’s what I mean.

If everyone with an overly zealous religious belief could somehow and someday put aside the teachings of their religion that tell them that their beliefs are superior to others and that those who believe differently need to be either converted or eliminated, then it stands to reason that some measure of the violence that plagues us disappears.

Take note. I'm not saying you have to abandon the belief. Personally, I don't care if people want to believe in a Hebrew god, a Christian god, a Muslim god, a bunch of gods living on top of a Greek or Italian mountain, or elves, or The Force. All I'm saying is that believers need to accept others and their beliefs without the backward and primitive compulsion to convert or kill the non-believer. Is it so hard to put the lizard brain away?

So the immediate question for me was, “How’s that possible when the belief itself calls for either conversion or destruction?”

My answer to that turned out to be pretty simple; how about just a little more thinking and little less blind faith? People with strong beliefs can still have them, they just need to apply the tiniest bit of rational thinking and recognize that it’s ok if someone else doesn’t believe as they do. Threats and subsequent violence occurs only because believers share this “convert or kill” core value in their religion. Reject that and you’re on your way to peace.

Which brings me to this about religious thinking; I think that the last thing that should happen is for any religion to become the basis for governing rule. Secular democracy is, to my thinking, the only way for societies to peacefully exist. Religion – any religion – has absolutely no productive role to play in governing society exactly because every major religion teaches this fundamental belief that all other beliefs cannot be tolerated.

Before looking at other texts, I think it’s important to appreciate a couple of points.

As with the passages of the Quran quoted in the “Fitna” film, one needs to keep in mind that no two translations ever are the same. See if you’re interested in seeing how the Quran is translated 3 different ways.

Let’s also not forget that other religious texts like the Bible are also translations and that, “Translating word for word is both impossible and inadequate” (see

The other thing people should guard against is taking any translation or individual passage out of its complete context. I readily admit that I have never read the entire Quran or Bible, and have not done so now. Not doing so actually makes this point for me – I’m not judging either book or its teachings, only showing how similar passages and teachings can be found in more than one place.

That being said, the Quran isn’t the only religious text that calls its followers to violence. The following are a few passages courtesy of made easier to find courtesy of

Starting with the Old Testament since that covers the Jews and the Christians:

Exodus 22:20 (King James Version)
“He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”

Deuteronomy 13:5 and 10 (King James Version)
5: And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
10: And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

And just in case anyone thought that violence was limited to the Old Testament, here’s a passage from the New Testament which, as believers would tell you, contains the direct teachings of Jesus himself:

Luke 19:27 (King James Version)
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Remember, this is supposed to be Jesus himself speaking if one is to believe the Bible.)

Here’s a New Testament passage about the “warm reception” the Jews gave to Paul for one of his sermons:

Acts 22:22 (King James Version)
And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

Again, I’m not condoning or supporting the teachings of the Quran (or the Bible, for that matter). I’m only making the point that before anyone condemns the Quran for being the *only* religious text that calls its followers to violence, it’s simply not the case.

What I’m curious about is what Geert Wilders or anyone else thinks needs to be done? Should every practicing Muslim be converted to Christianity or put to the sword? Should Western societies expel every Muslim as a potential terrorist? Should imams who preach for violence be silenced under current or new hate laws, and where does the line get drawn between freedom of religion and freedom of speech? If the KKK still can march and spread their message, why not others?

I don’t profess to have the answers. All I can do is encourage tolerance and understanding instead of proselytizing and religious self-righteousness, intellect instead of blind faith, and laws that criminalize criminal behavior and not religious beliefs.

What I can’t help thinking is that if people had no religion at all would we be having these problems? If there were no religious differences and no need to convert or kill the non-believers, would we still find reasons to want to kill those who are different? When are we going to evolve in our thinking so that belief systems aren’t the foundation for violence?

Islam, like every other religion and belief system, has a power structure that depends upon a large amount of unquestioning faith. So long as believers allow themselves to be led around like sheep we’ll probably never see real peace; otherwise, how does the Pope or a Shiite cleric retain their power without a follower’s blind faith?