In Defense of Islam

What a wondrous world we live in, when wealthy, liberal (?), journalists (?) can so ably diffuse religious tensions inspired by a tendentious pope with but a few words. The new pope - the illustrious (?) Pope Benedict the 16th - has caused quite a stir, what with his gratuitous quotation of a 14th century Byzantine emperor:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

They say context is king and there is so much surrounding those remarks that entire volumes of encyclopedia have been written.

A Byzantine emperor? That very name evokes the old Roman empire and that introduces Constantine into the story, the Roman Emperor who transformed the religion of Christianity from that of the persecuted to that of the persecutor.

Sorry, but this is my blog and I do have the right to editorialize as I choose.

So here we have a 21st century pope, quoting the words of a 14th century emperor - the literal descendant of Constantine. In the 1000 years between Constantine and Manual II Palaeologus, Rome had fallen to the Huns and a vibrant new religion was threatening Nova Roma (Constantinople) from the South - Islam. There is no need to wonder why an emperor who is beset by opponents might feel such venom, so the real question is why would his figurative descendant (the pope, who perhaps in his mind still thinks of himself as the Holy Roman Emperor) be recalling those days?

In these times - less than 1000 years later, but not by much - Catholicism is again beset. Having cast their lot with the Europeans, Catholics have seen their star wax and wane; now, birth rates in Europe are declining; now, citizens of Europe are less likely to accept the solemn dictates of a bunch of men who have removed themselves from society to better control it; now, the growth of the Catholic church is coming from the nations of the Southern hemisphere (a different sort of man [can the Europeans really entrust them with the keys to the kingdom?]) - and here on all side Catholicism is once again beset by the rise of Islam.

Of course the pope knew he was insulting Islam; Islam is a threat to him and his power base. Of course the pope is against Turkey joining the European Union; a thriving nation placed side-by-side with nations who are growing weaker daily - an Islamic nation at that - would send a definite message to the remaining nations of Europe and a message with which the pope would prefer not to contend.

So, surely the good Mr. Friedman must be kidding when he tells us that the pope was actually treating Islam with respect. Surely he can also see that the pope was merely protecting his turf - as any good gangster would do.

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Is it really 2006?

A century after the publication of The Jungle, Americans are still being poisoned by our food. Why? We know more about the dangers of food-borne illnesses than any generation before us and still we are not doing enough to prevent people from dying at dinner. Perhaps a bold statement, but it is buttressed by this sentence from the ninth paragraph of the article that is linked to in the title of this post:

"Natural Selection announced this week that it would start a program to test samples of spinach for E. coli. The procedures will mirror some of those put in place by the meat industry after four people died from eating hamburgers at Jack in the Box in 1993."

What? Does that sentence really say that the company is making a decision to do tests - food industry standard tests - that have been available for a decade and a half at least? Why does this paragraph not say that the Food and Drug Administration is about to fine Natural Selection, LLC for not properly following the food safety regulations? Why is this decision left up to the company as to whether they run these tests or not? It is always in the "economic interests" of the company to sell a good product that does not cause harm (although with the farmer and the packager and the brand all upstream of the grocery store that finally sells the product to the consumer - how the hell can even the most knowledgeable consumer even know what farms to avoid, what packagers to avoid, what brands to avoid or what stores to avoid?), so clearly "economic interests are not strong enough to prevent a company from selling a product that is deadly to consumers.

This is the exact situation for why the FDA was created in the first place, so at a minimum, the following step needs to happen here:

  1. If the FDA does not have the authority to compel this level of testing across every area of our nations food supply, then that authority needs to be granted.
Whenever you here someone question the need for government regulation, please recall this incident: people died here, people were sickened here, people were rushed to hospitals and farmers who were not responsible saw their products tainted with the brush of contamination. All of this happened due to industry lobbyists who paid off congressmen and congresswomen to not empower the regulators with the will of the people: save us from food-borne viruses!

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The Reluctant Democrat

This just in: the Democratic Party is dead. What is left know is just a re-animated zombie, stumbling about and frequently bumping against walls, chairs, puppies, etc. "How can Democrats be dead" you say, "I just saw Bill Clinton on TV giving that FOX News reporter the business! Wasn't that great?"


The era of Bill Clinton is gone, never to return again. Get over it. For some, it was nice while it lasted - and compared to life under GWB it sure looks like good times, doesn't it - but those days are done. So instead of debating, discussing and deliberating about Bill Clinton, what are the Democrats who are in office today doing?

They are rolling over - again - with the same old tired triangulation strategy of staying close to Republicans, so they won't be labeled as pro-terrorist by the President and his cronies. For anyone who has paid attention to the '02 and '04 elections, that strategy will sound familiar and not in a good way. People who are old enough to know will recognize that this strategy lost in those two previous rounds. Those same people will also ask - why should a strategy that has lost the last two rounds - and I could have included the '00 and '98 and '96 and '94 rounds too - be placed back into operation? The bottom-line is that the Democratic Party is controlled by an organization who call themselves the Democratic Leadership Council and their reason for being is to make the Democratic Party as close to the Republican Party as possible.

That is why the recent debate about detainee treatment was not a debate between Democrats and Republicans, but a side-show debate of Republican v. Republican, with no one ever seriously doubting that Republicans would make their Republican President look good. But when the majority of the American people disapprove of the President (the other side of a 40% approval rating) one might naturally think that highlighting how different you are from him is the best thing to do.

Not the DLC. No matter how many times they get taken out to the woodshed (most people reasonably think that if they are going to get a Republican, they might as well vote Republican) the DLC keeps coming back for more, ever hopeful that if they pretend to be just like Republicans hard enough, Republicans won't be able to say those mean things about them, like calling them liberal.


Is there another party around here?

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