I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.I can understand his frustration after decades of debate and division. But what if someone said, "I will no longer be in dialogue or communion with a Christian who says he doesn't believe in the bodily Resurrection of Christ," which is the case with Bishop Spong? I'd say that's an even more foundational issue for the Church than our obligations to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Better to keep talking, even when we don't feel like it or our sensibilities are offended.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Somalia's hardline Islamist group al Shabaab has publicly whipped women for wearing bras they say violate Islam by constituting a deception, north Mogadishu residents said Friday.
[Gerald] Posner, the anti-conspiracy author, said that if there really were something explosive involving the C.I.A. and President Kennedy, it would not be in the files — not even in the documents the C.I.A. has fought to keep secret.“Most conspiracy theorists don’t understand this,” Mr. Posner said. “But if there really were a C.I.A. plot, no documents would exist.”
Sandy launched the Festival of Children Foundation in 2002 and serves as its executive director. As a leading supporter of the Register-South Coast Plaza tie-in (carefully nurtured by my longtime colleague Noah McMahon, a trustee of St. John's School, shown here riding around in circles to finish off last year's drive), Sandy graciously presided over today's working lunch along with the ever-resourceful Jackie Saragueta, who oversees the Register's own annual holiday drive, Season of Caring. It's raised over $6 million for local charities since former Register publisher N. Christian Anderson (my St. John's Church brother) launched it in 1999.
Since we judges gathered this time last year, Daniels' passion for helping non-profits that care for children has gone national. Earlier this year, former Supervisor Wilson, now handling the Festival of Children Foundation's governmental relations, helped Sandy persuade Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina to join with California's Diane Feinstein and their opposite numbers in the House to designate September as National Child Awareness Month to draw further attention to children's charities. The Daniels-Wilson team is now getting to work persuading Orange County's cities to follow suit, and the timing couldn't be better. These charities need and deserve all the attention they can get as kids are whipsawed between crisis unemployment levels and government's dwindling resources.
If children unite us, so does music. Another member of Sandy Daniels' team is Cassady Taylor, Festival of Children's director of marketing and public relations. He's named after Neal Cassady, a seminal Beat Generation figure who appears under another name in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Cassady's father, John Taylor (no relation, except in a larger sense), was an audio technician for the Grateful Dead, which in John's day was known for having the finest sound system every designed for a rock and roll band.
To make all this perfectly clear to any Republican Deadheads who may still be reading, Cassady is not named for the Bob Weir-John Perry Barlow song "Cassidy," which appears on Weir's 1972 album, "Ace" -- though Weir and Barlow are said to have had Neal in mind along with another Cassidy, daughter of a band archivist. And to end up, as we so often do, with politics, Cassady Taylor's stepfather is a son of President Nixon's late friend and former advance man, Jack Drown, and his wife and Mrs. Nixon's best friend, the late Helene Drown.
So like I said: Donate to "Season of Caring Presents the Possible Dream"!
[U]ltimately, the real answer is that this is just a hard question. Obama will have to base his decision on a rough blend of hypotheses and guesstimates -- from whether a future "Talibanistan" would shelter al Qaeda to the threat al Qaeda currently poses to American security to what the different options mean for the stability of Pakistan. In war time is always of the urgency, but nothing is more urgent than making the best decision possible.
The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and "reset" buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever or even serious behind it. It is amateurishness, wrapped in naivete, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.
In the U.S., the economic crisis has caused many to question capitalism. But Britain has discredited the center-left agenda with its unrelenting public spending, its public development agencies and disappointing public-private investment partnerships.
Osborne and David Cameron, the party leader, argue that Labour’s decision to centralize power has undermined personal and social responsibility. They are offering a responsibility agenda from top to bottom. Decentralize power so local elected bodies have responsibility. Structure social support to encourage responsible behavior and responsible spending.If any Republican is looking for a way forward, start by doing what they’re doing across the Atlantic.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
If we are unwilling to pay the price for a serious civilian capability--and admit that foisting the job of development and political assistance on the military is a bad idea--the only option is to alter our basic strategy. We could find a way to thwart Al Qaeda and other terrorists without trying to re-engineer weak states. We could, in other words, get out of the counterinsurgency and stabilization business. This is not an attractive option and entails many risks. But it does reflect reality. Ultimately, it may be better than a strategy based on a capability that exists only in our minds.
It’s closer to Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth.”No, it's not, because that would be the government doing the broadcasting. In any event, why waste space at "Salon" attacking Fox? Anyone expect it'll lose viewers as a result? What I'm waiting for is a pundit or columnist wrapping up another ritualistic fusillade of Fox fire by saying, "There oughta be a law." That would be Orwellian.
What has changed about our ability to discern terrorist preparations from afar other than (one assumes) our pre-Sept. 11 tentativeness about acting on what we learn?He replied:
[H]ere's my response to the gravanem of your question: It's about the safe-haven. You like what we're getting out of the tribal areas? Multiply that by twenty-fold.
Your speculative counter-factual is worth pondering, but there won't be a satisfactory answer. You could answer, "yes, if Clinton had acted," we might have prevented 9/11. Not, however, that there is anything we could have done that would have comprehensively eliminated all real and nascent terror camps in Afghanistan. But a focused and devastating strike against Al-Qa'ida may have resulted in preventing their strategic target shift from the "near enemy" (Saudi, Egypt, Jordan) to the choice they were concocting, the "far enemy" (the U.S., the perceived backer of the "near enemy"). Certainly a sustained campaign against Al-Qa'ida could have had a deterrent effect. This is Clinton's most spectacular foreign policy failure.
However, I recommend you read, sometime, Omar Nasiri's Inside the Jihad, a breathtaking (and well-written) account of that cat's experiences in the late 1990s terror camps of Afghanistan, before AQ took organizational control. If you are sympathetic to the notion that AQ has morphed into a franchise-holder, more than a tightly-controlled global organization (along the lines of Marc Sageman's Leaderless Jihad analysis -- nb: truth in argument, Sagemen supports the small-footprint model), than you have to recognize that chasing AQ will not be the only game in town, and the most undermining factor for our ongoing CT fight is safe-haven.
If we could get the Taliban, AQ and the other terrorist groups to sign a credible agreement that they will no longer go after us (Taliban would likely sign), then we could abandon Afghanistan, despite the moral hazard (which, as is pretty clear by now, I find repellent). But, lacking that, ignoring the safe-haven problem is, in many ways, similar to Clinton's greatest failure. Except now we have less of an excuse.
Thanks to the good people at Austin's SXSW, a global performance of the epochal song about loyalty and perseverance first recorded by Ben E. King and written by King and Leiber & Stoller.
Hat tip to John Barr
Afghan militias were willing to align with us because we were moving in. To assume they would align with us, as Pape does, when we are moving out is beyond counter-intuitive, it's just dumb. Who does that!? Militias and people in general will align in ways to preserve themselves, and that NEVER includes associating with an absquatulating power perceived to be flinching against the local insurgency. Not that we're any good at picking and choosing the right sides, as demonstrated in 2001, but to assume anyone would want to align with us is just plain dumb. And, I hasten to add, taking the reduced counter-terrorist approach (as opposed to the more comprehensive counter-insurgency approach) still requires local support (it's only done purely with technical operations in video games and Hollywood movies). Where will those people be when we've gone?Here's the entire issue for me: Is the terrorist threat in Afghanistan worth the continued commitment of U.S. ground forces and the risk to their lives? Here's the same question, put another way: If the Clinton administration had had 20-20 foresight about the attacks of Sept. 11 (not the specific details, obviously, but an understanding that a concerted, massive attack would emanate from the terrorist communities and training facilities in Afghanistan that we knew about at the time), could President Clinton have diminished or eliminated that threat without ground forces? If he could have, then why do we need the ground forces today (leaving aside the interests and needs of the Afghan people and especially their Taliban-harassed women)? What has changed about our ability to discern terrorist preparations from afar other than (one assumes) our pre-Sept. 11 tentativeness about acting on what we learn?
[T]he United States does not need to station large ground forces in Afghanistan to keep it from being a significant safe haven for Al Qaeda or any other anti-American terrorists. This can be achieved by a strategy that relies on over-the-horizon air, naval and rapidly deployable ground forces, combined with training and equipping local groups to oppose the Taliban. No matter what happens in Afghanistan, the United States is going to maintain a strong air and naval presence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean for many years, and these forces are well suited to attacking terrorist leaders and camps in conjunction with local militias — just as they did against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A rift has opened between those who want to agitate for immediate action and those who want a sunnier relationship with their president. On Sunday tens of thousands marched for gay rights in Washington, bellowing calls for rapid, not incremental, change. It was not unlike rallies a year ago, when a young black man was running for president and urging people to rise against the status quo to usher in a different sort of change.
I'm having difficulty discovering my sense of our moral obligation to the Afghan people above and beyond the obligation all wealthy, powerful peoples have toward those who aren't. We're at war because Afghanistan's Taliban government nurtured and empowered a terrorist movement that mounted a devastating attack against the United States. President Bush's 2001 intervention was for our sake, not Afghanistan's. If we had focused more single-mindedly on the Taliban rather than going to war in Iraq as well, the situation might be better today, or perhaps not. Afghans are famously resistant to foreign influence and manipulation.He replied:
Don't you think we have an additional obligation to countries we used as proxies in our (successful) global conflict against Soviet communism? Particularly when we conducted said proxy war so poorly (allowing Pakistan to dictate the distribution of arms and aid to fundamentalist forces, in order to keep any subsequent Afghan government weak, while the more pro-U.S. forces, which I have reason to believe RN favored, where left in the cold). Particularly when, having won a Soviet defeat that was a major contribution to the collapse of the USSR, we walked away from devastated Afghanistan, where, in the wake of our dishonorable disengagement, the Taliban rose (again, through Pakistan's nefarious influence).
By the way, those two Pakistan references should highlight the canard in that line about "Afghans are famously resistant to foreign influence and manipulation." Except when they aren't, which is, historically, when Afghanistan is weak, which occurs when it is divided, as it is now, awaiting yet another American absquatulation and the inevitable interference of neighbors, which will likely not be in America's interests. Please abandon that tired line about Afghan resistance, which belongs in the rhetorical junkpile of conservative doozies such as "they've been fighting for thousands of years," invariably intoned whenever a foreign conflict gets complicated and the isolationist delusion rises.
I just have an uneasy feeling that this is too similar to the policy discussions Johnson went through, except those were mainly out of public view and these are not. The whole notion that we can speed up the training of the Afghan armed forces and this will do the job is unrealistic—another numbers game. I guess not being in the meetings puncturing balloons is what is really frustrating me. That and the fact that nobody seems to factor in our moral obligation to the Afghan people. We abandoned them twice. Will this be the third time? What does that say about us? It seems more convenient to equate [President] Karzai with the Afghan people. Maybe it will all come out for the best—but the process, and what I see from the outside being discussed so far, doesn’t pass my gut check.
The outcome of the Afghan struggle is ultimately going to be determined not by our unilateral actions or geopolitical moves, but by whom the Afghan people wind up supporting, even reluctantly. Vietnam—Lesson One.
I'm having difficulty discovering my sense of our moral obligation to the Afghan people above and beyond the obligation all wealthy, powerful peoples have toward those who aren't. We're at war because Afghanistan's Taliban government nurtured and empowered a terrorist movement that mounted a devastating attack against the United States. President Bush's 2001 intervention was for our sake, not Afghanistan's. If we had focused more single-mindedly on the Taliban rather than going to war in Iraq as well, the situation might be better today, or perhaps not. Afghans are famously resistant to foreign influence and manipulation. As President Bush once understood, nation- and democracy-building should not be the goal of U.S. military and foreign policy. As far as I'm concerned, Obama should have just one question for his panel of experts, whoever they are: "What's the best way to decrease the chances that another terrorist movement or attack against us or our interests emanates from Afghanistan?"
The Christian story lays out a model of reconnection with an alienated world: it tells us of a material human life inhabited by God and raised transfigured from death; of a sharing of material food which makes us sharers in eternal life; of a community whose life together seeks to express within creation the care of the creator. In the words used by both Moses and St Paul, this is not a message remote from us in heaven or buried under the earth: it is near, on our lips and hearts (Rom.10.6-9, Deut.30.11-14). And, as Moses immediately goes on to say in the Old Testament passage, 'You know it and can quote it, so now obey it. Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death...Choose life' (Deut.30.14-15, 19).
[Nicholas] Kristof and [Sheryl] WuDunn relate this story in their inspiring new book, Half the Sky, in which they argue that education and ending oppression of women and girls is the cornerstone to economic progress in the developing world. They call it the cause of the century, just as the anti-slavery movement was the paramount moral challenge of the 19th century....
Kristof and WuDunn also observe, tantalizingly, that in countries where terrorism is nourished, women play a negligible role in the country's economy. In Yemen, for example, women make up only 6 per cent of the non-agricultural labour force. That raises the possibility of creating a safer world if women in such places were better educated and had more influence outside the home.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I can hardly forget my first morning as FBI Director, on the Monday following my meeting with the President. On my desk upon arrival was a letter to the President from the Deputy FBI Director and the Associate Directors protesting my appointment. The Deputy Director assured me nothing personal was intended, they just felt it was inappropriate to have a bird watcher as Hoover’s successor. The Deputy Director, Mark Felt, of ‘deep throat’ fame, who was actively lobbying for the job as Director subsequently resigned when confronted by me for leaking classified information to the N. Y. Times – an unforgivable sin for an FBI agent."Bird watcher" is an allusion to Ruckelshaus's prior service as founding director of the EPA, part of the broader policy legacy of the Nixon administration that he believes was tainted as the result of Mr. Nixon's handling of Watergate.
Hat tip to Maarja Krusten
In comparison to the doltish fundamentalists who plague them so relentlessly, atheists such as Landon Ross brag about their own brain pans:
[A]llow me to make some blunt observations that might not be politically correct, but are nevertheless obvious:Ross thinks zealots are responsible for the decline in the study of math and science in the U.S. and wants to hire teams of lobbyists to get religion out of policy and politics. He also evidently wants to confront your local youth group:
-Non-believers tend to be well-educated, scientifically minded, and smarter than average: 93% of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a personal God, yet roughly 80-90% of the general public do.
-In countries where there is a high standard of living and education...roughly 80% of the population are non-believers (Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc.).
It has become trendy to be completely irrational, and 'cool' for teens to be "down with Jesus;" therefore, secularists should do everything in our power to make it un-cool. We must get past this ill-advised notion that we should "respect" other peoples beliefs.Odd that a smart guy like Ross overlooks a whole category of well-educated, progressive, politically influential Christians who would probably agree with 99% of his scientific perspective (except the part that insists that the whole mighty engine of all that is creative and magnificent and beautiful started up all by itself one fine day -- and also that human beings are doing a fine job as peaceful, loving stewards of creation all by themselves).
If atheists are concerned about achieving policy outcomes in education and scientific research, they might consider making common cause with mainline Protestants and even U.S. Roman Catholics. But if it's all about affirming and validating that their own theological faith in faithlessness, they should continue as as they are. Either way, God delights in them.
Monday, October 12, 2009
a credible threat of military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the United States, perhaps joined by Britain and France, or Israel. If the Iranian leadership believed that such an attack was a real possibility, it, or some parts of it, might be persuaded to change course.
Like most historical analogies bandied about in the media, this one is overdrawn. As serious as it is, the war in Afghanistan hardly approaches the Korean War in its magnitude or impact. McChrystal, for his part, has nothing like MacArthur's prestige, and his testing of Obama's supremacy falls well short of MacArthur's defiance. Yet the story of Truman and MacArthur remains useful to remember—not because it directly mirrors today's but because it created a dynamic in which subsequent presidents felt unduly constrained by the prospect of military commanders undermining them.
The Oslo committee's view is, tragically, true. Thanks to Barack Obama, America is for the first time is aligning its values with those of "the majority of the world's population." If you think the world's population has had better values than America, that it has made societies that are more open, free, and tolerant than American society, and that it has fought for others' liberty more than America has, you should be delighted.
Now Randy Cohen, a former Letterman writer who blogs on ethics for the Times, steps up to the plate with an article about whether Letterman gave his girlfriends special favors, such as putting them on TV. Cohen also makes this critical point:
[I]t is noteworthy that over 25 years, we know of no former girlfriend who has taken legal action against this very wealthy, very public figure.
Some U.S. intelligence and military officials expressed deep frustration with what they see as the administration's single-minded focus on al Qaida's threat to the U.S., saying it's not discussing publicly other, more serious consequences of a U.S. failure in Afghanistan as identified in some assessments.
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.For those who tend to take Revelation as a series of end-time predictions, the idea of that small a group of select usually amounts to something of a riddle. The State of California's budget crisis reveals that while a select few may or may not be treading the golden streets of heaven, they're definitely paving the roads in the Golden State. State finance official H. D. Palmer, appearing on Patt Morrison's KPCC-FM program this afternoon, revealed that 50% of the state's revenue comes in with the top 144,000 returns. The next you meet a rich person, better say thanks.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
She said America's goal in Afghanistan was still to defeat al-Qaeda.But the current US review of the conflict was "leading to some welcome clarity" on the best tactics, she said.