Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Christian Pacifism, the Constitution, and War in Libya

The Libya situation is a classic rubber-hits-the-road situation for an evolving pacifist like myself.  On the one hand I believe strongly that the Gospel implores us to practice non-aggression, and practical experience shows that violence never begets less violence but only escalates it.  On the other hand you had peaceful protests from Libyans seeking to only secure democracy for themselves, but were met with violence from their government and it seems only right to send our military in to cripple their oppressive and aggressive government.  The world is, indeed, a complicated place.

But I can't support military action in Libya.  Not only do we have two wars of choice already being fought in the Middle East, not only is our military stretched thin, not only is our budget (and our military budget in particular) spinning out of control, not only does America tend to get bogged down in regime change messes, but I believe escalating the violence is the unethical response.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Whine About Our Political Parties

Pres. Obama is certainly a better president that Pres. W. Bush was, and is certainly better than Sen. McCain would have been, not to mention the mediocre crop of hopefuls lining up to challenge him next year.  He's done some good things such as at least making an effort to end our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not starting any new wars (. . . yet, but we're keeping our eyes on you, Libya), making an effort to reform the health care and financial systems, and, importantly, changing the tone of discourse in the White House.  But it hasn't really been that great, overall.  Where he has tried to make some progress in areas of war and regulation reform, they have been meager and more or less disappointing.  I went over some of the failures before here.

Now we learn that Pres. Obama will not be shutting down Guantanamo Bay any time soon, like he promised, will reinstate military tribunals and not use our world-class criminal justice system, and will continue indefinite detentions without hearings.  He also fired the State Dept. spokesperson for criticizing the brutal detention of Bradley Manning, the Wikileaks leaker.  His record on civil liberties is no better than Bush's, which make me sick.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Utah HB477 and Government Transparency

The Utah legislature passed, and Gov. Herbert signed, HB477 which is an attempt to destroy government transparency.  It is a bill that excludes cell phones and emails from GRAMA laws, imposes extremely high fees for information requests, and requires proof by preponderance of the evidence of wrongdoing before granting requests for communications that are suspected of being illegal.

It is an absolute assault on good governance and the proposition that government is for the people, of the people, and by the people.  The public response is universal outcry, but the legislators and governor don't care because there is basically no threat that they will be voted out of office in Utah's one-party system.  So they can pass laws which hide what they do and say from the public and assault the very contract between the governing and the governed and know that no matter how upset people get, it won't translate to the ballot box.

Please read the excellent and surprisingly combative editorial by the Salt Lake Tribune, visit keeputahopen.com for information on the referendum process that is already under way to get the law repealed, and contact your state representatives and let them know how undemocratic this is.  Just when I start to get the bug to be more states' rights oriented something like this happens and I remember that I live in Utah.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Divide and Conquer, Religious Style

Rep. Peter King is using his position as chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security to terrorize Muslims.  He is instituting hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims based on vague accusations that ordinary Muslims and their leaders have not done enough to speak out against terrorism.  He has yet to produce, of course, any proof of any of his claims that American Muslims are becoming more radicalized and that they are not adequately assisting the police and counter-terrorism officials.

The impetus for these hearings likely has nothing to do with the radicalization of Muslims, and everything to do with politics.  By turning Americans against each other politicians can pursue the old divide and conquer technique.  Anyone who knows American Muslims knows that they are just like everyone else.  They are mostly good, hardworking, honest people who value their freedoms and abhor oppression.  They are serious about their religion and embrace their cultural and familial roots.  While most are good, some are not.  The same could be said about nearly every group of Americans, no matter how you dissect them.  You could say the same about Catholics, Mormons, atheists, middle class, lower class, New Yorkers, Utahns, blacks, whites, and on and on. It is cliche but still basically true that the things that tie us together are both more numerous and more important than the things that differentiate us.