Friday, May 14, 2004

The Religious Wrong 

Several of the Pack (Lobo, Lupus, even Wilk) have been silent of late as the oxymoronic (or just moronic) creations of the "W" Tiger Team's crusade in the Middle East have come to their "logical" consequences. Lupus has claimed "non ho parole", and indeed it is hard to write about, because it's a bit like working a handheld fire extinguisher on Der Hindenberg. Which, not coincidentally, occurred at about the same time in the Third Reich's cycle (1937) as America feels now. Does this mean we'll go to war with Poland in two years? No, history doesn't replicate itself exactly, but would it surprise you at all if something similar happened two years from now--if "W" is re-elected, "finds" Osama, or declares martial law? How about a nice unwarranted invasion of Iran that gets the entire Muslim world to support guerrilla warfare against the Crusaders? But I digress...

Folks say they are worried about the Religious Right in this country, but I think this is 180 degrees out of whack. The real worry is the Religious Wrong, both here and abroad. The truly religious, from Jesus to Gandhi, do not wear religion on their sleeve. They lead through their actions. Those Bible beaters who cite Leviticus or other equally--if possible--intolerant (not to mention poorly-written) chapters of the Bible somehow fail to note that Christ did not once mention the establishment of an institutionalized Church. In fact, depending on which gospels had survived to become the Canonical Gospels, we might have a completely different picture of Christ's life and meaning. The gospel of Thomas, for example, emphasized the humanity, while the competing (and "victorious") Gospel of John emphasized the God Incarnate. Matthew, Mark and Luke say little about Christ's metaphysical role; they are more Hemingway than Faulkner. Why don't people cite Susanna from the Apocrypha (a tremendous short story, with a salacious plot, character development and mystery all in three action-packed pages), written by a genius; rather than Leviticus, written by a crustacean? I digress again.

Religious fanatics need to push their religion on others because of their own lack of security in their beliefs. From Osama and his benighted followers to "W" and his crowd, these people no more represent the nature of religion than Hitler and Goebbels did the German Enlightenment. All of which is probably self-evident--after all, those with a lack of self-assurance often need to brag and prop themselves up because of the same insecurities.

The difference is, religion is currently destroying the world. I'm not talking about pedophilic Catholic Priests, whose protection by the Catholic potentates is simply a horrific--though hardly singular--example of an institutional immune response. Rather, I'm talking about the two most dangerous, growing religious movements in the world--Revolutionary Islam in the Old World, and Fundamental Christianity in the new. The former is misogynist, tyrannical, intolerant, sententious and atavistic; while the latter seems to be a little less hateful to women. But make no mistake, both are throwbacks to the days when religion was indeed "fundamental"--that is, you followed a simple set of dictates as interpreted by your infallible leader or you were inhuman, a pig, to be killed without conscience.

All religions have these people, including the radical Jews who seem to have seized--or at least steered--Israel these past three years. But the percentages are rising. How many fundamentals have dehumanized non-believers? 10%? 15%? This is hundreds of millions of haters. This is not religion. Religion, according to www.dictionary.com, is instead:

Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Reverence and devotion are a positive choice, a standing for something. Dehumanization of non-believers is a negative choice, an ungrounding of belief. Religion is a choice for something, not against something else; it is not saying "NO", but saying "YES" to an alternative.

I choose to think whatever higher power there is, is above such pettiness as nations, peoples, cultures, races, genders, etc. It leaves less baggage. And, since none of us really know what is beyond us, it certainly frees up a lot of time to not find some arbitrary definition and try to force it on others. The truly religious person is "beyond religion" and "beyond self", seeking unity in all rather than division. Let's find those people and let them lead us. It can happen. There was a Gandhi. There was a Buddha. Somehow, I have a hard time thinking of "W" as being like them.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Oil be seeing you later... 

Call me lazy, call me Ishmael (Cheny Dick allusion...), or just call me late to dinner, but this one from the NY Times (thanks to my Catalan brother-in-arms for the tip) is truly spot on...

The Oil Crunch
Before the start of the Iraq war his media empire did so much to promote,
Rupert Murdoch explained the payoff: "The greatest thing to come out of
this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a
barrel for oil." Crude oil prices in New York rose to almost $40 a barrel
yesterday, a 13-year high.

Those who expected big economic benefits from the war were, of course,
utterly wrong about how things would go in Iraq. But the disastrous
occupation is only part of the reason that oil is getting more expensive;
the other, which will last even if we somehow find a way out of the
quagmire, is the intensifying competition for a limited world oil supply.

Thanks to the mess in Iraq ? including a continuing campaign of sabotage
against oil pipelines ? oil exports have yet to recover to their prewar
level, let alone supply the millions of extra barrels each day the
optimists imagined. And the fallout from the war has spooked the markets,
which now fear terrorist attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia, and
are starting to worry about radicalization throughout the Middle East. (It
has been interesting to watch people who lauded George Bush's leadership in
the war on terror come to the belated realization that Mr. Bush has given
Osama bin Laden exactly what he wanted.)

Even if things had gone well, however, Iraq couldn't have given us cheap
oil for more than a couple of years at most, because the United States and
other advanced countries are now competing for oil with the surging
economies of Asia.

Oil is a resource in finite supply; no major oil fields have been found
since 1976, and experts suspect that there are no more to find. Some
analysts argue that world production is already at or near its peak,
although most say that technological progress, which allows the further
exploitation of known sources like the Canadian tar sands, will allow
output to rise for another decade or two. But the date of the physical peak
in production isn't the really crucial question.

The question, instead, is when the trend in oil prices will turn decisively
upward. That upward turn is inevitable as a growing world economy confronts
a resource in limited supply. But when will it happen? Maybe it already

I know, of course, that such predictions have been made before, during the
energy crisis of the 1970's. But the end of that crisis has been widely
misunderstood: prices went down not because the world found new sources of
oil, but because it found ways to make do with less.

During the 1980's, oil consumption dropped around the world as the delayed
effects of the energy crisis led to the use of more fuel-efficient cars,
better insulation in homes and so on. Although economic growth led to a
gradual recovery, as late as 1993 world oil consumption was only slightly
higher than it had been in 1979. In the United States, oil consumption
didn't regain its 1979 level until 1997.

Since then, however, world demand has grown rapidly: the daily world
consumption of oil is 12 million barrels higher than it was a decade ago,
roughly equal to the combined production of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It turns
out that America's love affair with gas guzzlers, shortsighted as it is, is
not the main culprit: the big increases in demand have come from booming
developing countries. China, in particular, still consumes only 8 percent
of the world's oil ? but it accounted for 37 percent of the growth in world
oil consumption over the last four years.

The collision between rapidly growing world demand and a limited world
supply is the reason why the oil market is so vulnerable to jitters. Maybe
we'll get through this bad patch, and oil will fall back toward $30 a
barrel. But if that happens, it will be only a temporary respite.

In a way it's ironic. Lately we've been hearing a lot about competition
from Chinese manufacturing and Indian call centers. But a different kind of
competition ? the scramble for oil and other resources ? poses a much
bigger threat to our prosperity.

So what should we be doing? Here's a hint: We can neither drill nor conquer
our way out of the problem. Whatever we do, oil prices are going up. What
we have to do is adapt.

Originally published in The New York Times, 5.7.04

SUVs have been Sucking Up Volumes of oil since the mid-'90's, and everyone still thinks we're going to find a way around the oil shortage without cutting back, funding alternative fuels, and further curbing our population. This is not doom and gloom, because we'll get by--some of us, anyway--without oil, just not as nicely. The trick is to avoid sudden crunches, because that's where the most people get killed. Time to start growing gen-modifed crops in Nebraska, Saskatchewan and the Dakotas solely for oil. And for building engines to handle them. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's all proven technology. Besides, it avoids sudden crises. I think we can all use that about now.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

The best secretary of defense the U.S. has ever had... 

I didn't say it. Not a good enough actor. I guess the White Whale (Cheny Dick) kept a straight face while delivering this. And it comes way at the end of the latest appalling news from Iraq, or Hell on earth...


Elsewhere, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a mortar attack on a military base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Saturday, a U.S. military statement said Sunday.

The death took to 559 the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq since the invasion of the oil-rich country 14 months ago. The killing of 129 U.S. troops last month alone, made April the bloodiest month of the war.

The bloodshed and dismay among Iraqis and Americans at the torture and murder of prisoners by U.S. soldiers has not helped Bush's task in justifying his Iraq campaign to voters.

The most recent Gallup poll showed his approval rating on Iraq had fallen by almost a third to 42 percent since January.

His vice president came to the aid of Rumsfeld after Bush's presidential challenger John Kerry called for his resignation.

"Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," Cheney said in a statement. "People ought to get off his case and let him do his job."

Okay, Cheny Dick, then one has a fair question to ask: "What exactly is his job?" Afghanistan is still an unholy mess, where not even disarming people can help. In Iraq, your troops are afraid to go on patrol, abusing their prisoners, dying in droves because there aren't enough of them, and even "W"'s armor is showing a chink or two in the polls.

Oh, and by the way, I paid $2.75 a gallon for gas in the Bay Area (California) this week. That should help underpin an economic recovery. At least the Europeans see some tax benefits from their fuel extortion...


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