Saturday, February 11, 2006

George W. Bush; Global CEO


I’ve been getting a lot of opposition this week to things I have written, so what better way to cap off the week than by pointing out the 1776-pound elephant in the room?

Readers will know that I have begun to pursue my Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), and so I have also taken interest in the history of that degree’s development and certain related developments in which the MBA plays a part.

The MBA is a quintessentially American degree, so much so that in the world’s leading accrediting body for business schools, the AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), which lists 515 accredited business schools, 434 are American (84.27%). The MBA was actually created in the United States more than a century ago, and has developed to meet the changing needs and increasing demands of the business world. This is because the world of business operates at a scale and pace unimagined just a generation ago, and so the stakes for effective management of operations has risen commensurately.

The political significance of the MBA then comes into focus, when it is considered that George W. Bush is the first holder of an MBA to be elected President of the United States. This means that unlike the lawyers and diplomats who held the office in the past, Bush carried real-world knowledge of economics and practical application of theory into the Oval Office. While prior Presidents had applied their experience to the job, Bush understood a perspective never before applied to the world order, and since he came in at a time when the United States was essentially a free actor, a significant force in any matter it chose to pursue, Bush naturally understood that the selection of doctrine would set the tone for a long time to come, provided he was wise in his choice.

As we know now, history chose Bush’s course for him, as the 9/11 attacks required a commitment to defeat Global Terrorism, and to defeat the more pernicious opponents likely to choose such weapons. This determined the need to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, and to replace the tyrannies in those nations with freely elected republics.

But Bush has done a great deal more than that. Where past leaders might have intervened in one place or another, or expressed an American interest in one part of the world at one specific time, the Bush Doctrine establishes the American intention to act wherever and whenever American interests are at stake. This effectively forces other nations to either accept that the US will act as it sees fit in any situation, or to oppose the United States through restraint. The United States, one may reason, will act within the terms of agreements and treaties, but will not allow foreign interests supremacy over American sovereignty. The effect of the doctrine establishes de facto US sovereignty over sea lanes and strategic territory, through the sole ability of the United States to back up its intentions with sufficient force at need in any single scenario. As a consequence, the doctrine also makes the American President the effective Chief Executive Officer of the planet. We don’t own the world, but we manage it.

Does it sound arrogant? Yes. Is it appropriate? Looking at History, yes. Is it the right course? Again, looking at the results so far, yes. But it must be understood that I am not suggesting an 'Imperial' America at all, but rather a sort of regency, where the US accepts (as it so often must) the role no one else wants, to protect what everyone needs. Ever since 1917, the world has pretty much called on the USA when bad guys start trouble. And ever since 1800 the world has gotten used to "Yankee Ingenuity" to come up with all sorts of things to make life better, and yes that includes new business paradigms. Before you laugh to think that a CEO can directly affect your life, consider how many people work in salaried or hourly-wage positions, for a company in a network of businesses. The better business runs, the better life is for these billions of employees and their families. And Bush is the first man to not only think about the operations of the world as though they were part of a broader plan, but also the first man to be in a position to make the changes needed to set the course for where we need to be.

That course can be described in 2 words: Ownership Society. We already know that people take better care of things they consider their property than what they consider public use, that people respect something they worked to receive more than what was handed to them. So yeah, that applies, even to the government level, even to the law we create and live by.

Something to think about.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Islam and Jihadism, part 5


Why Islam Is Not The Enemy, and The New Mid-East

[ part 1 here ] [ part 2 here ] [ part 3 here ] [ part 4 here ]

We do not war against Islam, nor should we. Let’s begin with the practical side. As I said early on, almost a billion and a half people call themselves Muslim. Stop right now and think about that number. If even one percent of Islam took up arms against the West, it would create an army number 14 million strong. Islam counts in its numbers a great many brilliant minds, including scientists in medicine, mathematics, engineering and chemistry. That is, a corps capable of creating WMD and their delivery systems in very short order. If such an army were formed and competently led, the resulting war would be more destructive and precipitous than anything history could show in our past. Spread around the globe as Muslims are, they would also be capable of launching coordinated raids in literally every first-world country, so that the conventional notion of battlefields and fronts would become meaningless. Such operational capability, as it happens, is exactly what the Jihadists have hoped to create. Yet, for all their planning and efforts, it has not turned out that way at all. One of the ironies of the Jihdists is that their very aggressiveness comes from a deep-seated cowardice, a fear that they are already losing. I exchanged emails this week with some Muslim colleagues, who explained that the angry protests against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed rise from a feeling of helplessness. “There is a belief, and it is popular, that the United States is attacking Islam by taking away one Muslim country at a time” he wrote. I explained that we are fighting a war against Terror rather than Islam, and emphasized the protection given to Mosques and Muslim clerics, but the Jihadists, as you might expect, continue to paint themselves as victims of Infidel aggression, and as defenders of Islam, instead of acknowledging the brutality and evil of their doctrine. But it is also telling, that the removal of the Taliban and the regime of Saddam Hussein are creating such disquiet and worry among the Jihadists. Because the Jihadists know, and fear, the power of personal freedom and the identity which is crated by the exercise of open discussion. This is why they fear ‘freedom’, to the point that editorial cartoons must be shut down and entire governments threatened for the offense of letting people make up their own mind. I have read the Quran, many times, and there is little in it that can be claimed to justify murdering children, as the Jihadists have done so often for more than a generation. Certainly nothing in the context it presents. Small wonder so many of the protestors hide their faces. They fear Allah might see them as they are, hiding behind the pretense of the faith.

I am not saying that I believe in Islam. As it happens, I am a Protestant Christian, so my faith and mind both convince me that the way of Islam is not true. Yet I am also a believer in freedom of choice, and I am an individualist. I recall that although Jesus was an observant Jew, when He chose to praise a man for faith, he praised not a fellow Rabbi or priest, but a Roman Centurion. His example of the loving neighbor who pleases God, was a Samaritan. Even if your belief is false, your heart can be true, and your faith pleasing to God through the character of your soul. It is the doctrines which we have problems accepting, not the faith. As readers have noted, anyone who personally knows Muslim believers, finds that many of them are quite humble and peaceable, unlikely to raise their voice, much less act in anger. Some readers have observed that this is most common in parts of the world where Muslims are a small minority, but it is also true that we do not see such violence in Maylasia, where Muslims are the majority, or in most parts of Pakistan, or in Egypt, or in Jordan, and so on. The many images we see all tend to come from urban centers of large cities, and they are supported or sponsored by radical groups. It occurs to me that another reason these mobs hide their faces, is because so many of them might be like American protesters, unemployed except to show up at “spontaneous” rallies and feign outrage at the West. The doctrines do not come from the Quran, but are Sharia, which is to say they are the conventional wisdom of the Imams in a given place and condition, and those interpretations some times reflect the prejudice of the men who deliver them. It is, therefore, these doctrines which need correction, not to Western values, but in reflection of Islam’s better ideals. Anwar Sadat was a Muslim, and a man of peace. The ink-stained women who voted in Iraq are Muslims, and women of courage. The students in Iran who have demanded reform from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‘s regime are Muslim, and men of valor. Ahmadinedjad speaks for Islam in the same way Tookie Williams spoke for Dr. Martin Luther King; falsely.

So, if they are basically good people, why haven’t Muslims risen up against Jihadism, why has there not been a wave of outrage against this manipulation of their faith for such malice? Well, in a word: History.

Take Slavery, for instance. Nowadays we take for granted that owning another person is morally abhorrent and should be illegal with very harsh penalties in any country, period. Yet for literally thousands of years Slavery was a common and legal practice, present in every country fortunate enough to enjoy a measure of wealth and power. It was a status symbol. It was so prevalent, that Christ Himself did not waste His time decrying it, except to warn slave owners to be accountable, and slaves to be obedient. The few people who challenged the practice were largely ignored, or when inconvenient put down.

Take the Reformation of Christianity. I’m not saying, at all, that Christianity is morally the same as Islam, yet I am all to well aware that the catholic Church in Europe was guilty of some very nasty excesses, what with prohibition against lay people reading the Bible on their own, and against personal ownership of Bibles. I recall reading of arrests and trials and tortures of innocent people, for the purpose of advancing the fortunes of favored individuals and punishing their enemies. I recall the histories of indulgences granted by the Church, manipulation of governments and heavy tax burdens levied on the people with no choice but to endure it. These injustices lasted for centuries with very few dissenters, and small wonder – the Church hired men to devise means of torture, to literally wrack confessions from malcontents and so suppress any thought of revolt. Few men indeed had the courage to speak up during those years.

Or what of America’s history? Before Martin Luther King, there were a few other black activists, but few indeed spoke up for their legitimate rights between 1865 and 1964. And few white men indeed, ever rose to shout down the evils of the Ku Klux Klan. How many protested for the equal rights of women to vote and to hold equal jobs prior to the 1920s? How many people put their ideals to the test, and stood for justice when it was unpopular, or was perceived to be? Should we decry all that George Washington did, or Benjamin Franklin, because they allowed Slavery to endure? Shall we condemn Teddy Roosevelt, even though he fought for the rights of the Black man, because he opposed the rights of Asians and against women? Shall we deride FDR, because his attention to the Depression and the Fascists took his attention away from Civil Rights and equal pay? If we give these honored men their due for the good they did, then should we not also be willing to consider the difficulty and stakes which the Muslim faces?

The Muslim perspective is greatly different from the Western one, but it should be understood. Al-Jazeera, for example, is a joke by reasonable standards for journalism, but they represent the Arab world reporting actual events. Even when they hide the motive and character of events, the fact that actual events are being reported is a step forward. We should not call this a finished product, but we should understand where the medium used to be. Muslim politics is an even weirder brew, with religious imprecations applied to otherwise –secular issues, in order for leaders to be seen as humble yet in control. This is not very different from the practices used by the Sultans and Sheiks in the past. As for Sharia, it really comes down to a consistent and static code of law – the horrid decisions we used to see from the Taliban, and the most recent excrement coming from Iran this week, are the common reaction from thugs. Far more reflective of Islam’s traditional teachings are the verdicts coming down in Iraq and Afghanistan, which generally punish only intent to harm, and the only death sentence is a suicide decision made by pointing a rifle at a Marine. It is important as we move forward, to differentiate between the Muslim faith and the Jihadist’s plans. There is no need to point a rifle at a man because he points his prayer rug to Mecca; but there is no reason to hesitate shooting a terrorist because he claims he speaks for Mohammed. In time, more and more Muslims will support the right course, but the historical model is for Muslims to wait and see who wins.

This brings us back to the case model of Afghanistan and Iraq. Franky, Ahmadinejad is very upset at the US-led invasion of Iraq because he had hoped that Iran could invade Iraq and lay the foundation for an Arab Superstate. Instead, he has the worst of threats at his very doorstep – a nation of free-thinking Muslims, with fresh experience from a tyrant in their memory and dreams of their ideals in their heads and hearts. This is very similar to what the Nazis must have felt when they realized the US Third Armored Division had freed France (yes, I know the British helped, but for some reason no British general was feared by the Germans the way they dreaded Patton), or if France had suddenly acquired the spine and mind of Churchill. Worse, the resolve shown by President Bush in spite of complete cowardice on the part of the Democrats, and quisling complicity by the MainSquirm Media, is showing results in Middle East elections and in opinion about the mission. So why can’t we predict exactly when the war will be won, or pinpoint a scoreboard of where we are? Michael Yon said it best:

“This may not be the war some folks had in mind a few years ago. But once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress.”

Michael Yon has also explained the Bush Doctrine in succinct fashion, though I know he was talking about a specific incident.

“three more shots through the front hood, the universal sign for “stop.”

I’d like to see us start taking that tactic as a diplomatic measure in a certain number of situations. Just to avoid, hmm, possible future misunderstanding of our intent and resolve?


It boils down to this. There are a lot of ways we could screw this up. All it takes is a Clinton or a Kerry in the White House, and we will pull out of the Middle East rather than consolidate what has been paid for in such bloody cost. All it takes is a sufficient number of RINOs to put their silk-suited interests ahead of the nation’s future. All it takes is a nation which trusts the lies of the MSM instead of getting the straight facts. Scary, that. But the trend is promising. Americans are proud of our nation, who we are, what we stand for. And they trust the men who fight for our nation far more than the elitists who sneer at a code of “Duty, Honor, Country”. And more and more they vote for a party that, however imperfectly, stands for more than getting by and playing by someone else’s rules, for an ideal that we make a difference, and that there is a purpose to our identity which requires strength and diligence, on a road to bettering the world as a whole.

The Middle East is, some say, impossible to change. That is a malicious lie. The Middle East has been in constant change for well over a half century, and the only question is choosing its direction. Millions of people with dreams and hopes deserve the chance only America can offer, and that includes people whose voice cannot be heard while madmen steal the stage and pretend that a merciful God demands blood and horror. There will be a new Middle East, and it depends on the will of the American people, executed through the President and the Congress and the American military, to ensure that the fleeting but substantial promise we see shall not be lost. With a stable Iraq and Afghanistan, the proof of democracy in the Arab world will be irrevocably established, and the opportunity for an alliance of moderate and democratic republics will be well underway. Under such conditions, a Jordan/Iraq/Afghanistan/Lebanon/Kuwait alliance is distinctly foreseeable, with benevolent relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Emirates. The governments which now support the Jihadists will be as much the pragmatic outcasts as they are the moral minority, and the futility of violence will be clear to them to such a degree that only the most insane could deny it.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Islam and Jihadism, Part 4


Jihadist Blunders and the Renewed America

[ part 1 here ] [ part 2 here ] [ part 3 here ]

To err is human. And the more important people become, the more spectacular are their resulting fumbles. It is a fact of human history, that sometimes Good prevails because Evil overlooks an important element. Historians have noted that if he had not put so many resources into the ‘Final Solution’, Hitler could have committed enough troops and supplies to defeat the Soviet Union by 1943, and so changed the course of World War 2. If Japan had listened to Admiral Yamamoto’s warnings about American politics, the attack on Pearl Harbor would have been prevented, and with it the likelihood of direct conflict between Roosevelt and Tojo. If Caesar had listened to his wife and stayed home, Rome might have remained a viable Republic. But it is not in the nature of tyrants to listen to any inconvenient counsel, nor for proud men to accept questions concerning their decisions. And so it is, that Jihadism pursues the same course as previous tyrannies, and makes disastrous mistakes allowing for effective opposition by the forces of reason and representative government.

Before going into the blunders of the Jihadists, however, I must note some of the worse stumbles of the West. Because we need to clean up those mistakes, in order to take advantage of our opportunities and deny the same to the Jihadists:

[] Target selection – the media is no help, but President Bush’s distinction about our enemies must be said again and again and again: We are not at war against Islam, but against terrorists who want to destabilize the world and advance a bloody doctrine.
[] The Democrats – There is one way in which the current war is very much like Vietnam; the Democrats have no stomach to keep our commitments or back our troops in a war which will decide a region of the world’s future for the next generation at least. If a Democrat takes a stand for the troops and the truth, as Joe Lieberman did, he must be supported and applauded. But whenever a Democrat attacks U.S. policy in a manner which endangers the troops or the war, they must be relentlessly attacked for their reckless words. If they want to whine about their hurt feelings, too bad. Explain the stakes, and be clear about our objectives, and don’t worry about the American people – they know the difference between courage and cowardice, between priorities and political games, between the demands of war and the bleating of a liberal. The War is to be Issue #1, in every election and at every level. Stress where they stand versus where we stand, and let the voters choose.
[] Prosecute! – When the New York Times feels the need to mock the President, let them – but when they put operations and Americans in danger by revealing classified material, send in federal marshals and shut them down. Period.
[] Don’t Hide 9/11 – We were “suddenly and deliberately attacked” on September 11th, just as we were on December 7th. The images of Pearl Harbor reminded people what we were doing, even when the enemy was Italy or Germany, who had no direct connection to Pearl Harbor. So it is fitting that we remember and recall the dastardly attack which started this conflict, as well as all the other acts of cowardice against freedom. If the media is too complicit with the Jihadists to be pro-American, then shut down their U.S. headquarters and let CNN and its like relocate to Damascus, but push to have American values trumpeted, long and loud, to get the message out every single day.

The good news is, we already have good people working on every one of those problems, and there is progress. Now on to the Jihadists’ minefield:

[] The Jihadists are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda lost it’s bases in Afghanistan in 2002, and despite the casualties the Iraqi people, including many who once protested, even fought against the Coalition forces, now support their nation’s independence. Sunni and Shia are cooperating, however grudgingly, in a coalition government, which translates to the loss of two battlefronts for the Jihadists. And it will be much harder for Jihadists to take control in Iraq the way they did in Iran, or for Jihadists to reinstall groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan.
[] The young are protesting in Iran, against the repression by the “Jurists”. Considering that this is where the Mullahs need to pull their recruits for any war, and considering how harshly the regime has already been against criticism and revolt, to discover that thousands of university students have protested and continue to protest the government means that critical pressure against the regime is beginning to show. Even the old Soviet republics did not see this level of public protest when they began to lose their grip, warning that an internal battle for Iran and Saudi Arabia, one not controlled in any way by the Jihadists, may be building.
[] The Internet – the buys in the KGB were horrified to discover that they had no effective tool to stop communication and coordination of groups armed with only fax machines and cell phones. The Jihadists are discovering that try as they might, they cannot stop the Internet. Blogs by Iranians, for example, are the fastest growing demographic, and the Mullahs cannot stop them. And Al-Jazeerah is already feeling the heat.
[] Blenders – Jihadism, like all conquest plans, depends on effective scouting of the enemy. As Muslims leave for the West, they generally believe they are entering lands of intolerance and bigotry. When they discover instead that the West, especially the United States, is quite the opposite, more than a dew lose interest. What’s more, some Muslim communities see the United States as their natural ally and the Jihadists as their enemy. In Dearborn, for example, when terrorist cells entered the United States and expected the local mosque to hide them and local Muslims to protect their intentions, Muslims instead notified the FBI. There is no clear number known, of sleeper cells which entered the United States and chose not to continue the Jihad, but it is known that the effect has been happening. And at the higher level of planning, this interferes with Jihadist strategy, as no can be certain whether the response to a call for a terrorist attack will be obeyed.
[] Osama bin Laden – In their original plans, the 9/11 attacks were intended to demoralize the United States and cow us against involvement in the Middle East. Instead, the attacks established a level of provocation which could no longer be ignored or blamed on American “imperialism”. And every ‘message’ from bin Laden helps renew focus on the need for vigilance and security.

And finally, the Jihadists badly misjudged the character and leadership of the United States. It is difficult to properly gauge what response the USA would have delivered, had Al Gore or Bill Clinton been President when those planes were flown into the towers, but there is no question that George W. Bush knew what to do. Invade the countries where the Taliban has bases, invade the country which last tried to take on the United States in a war, and replace tyrants in both places. Not a bad start.

George W. Bush followed the lead of Ronald W. Reagan in his foreign policy doctrine, though the Jihadists did not understand Reagan. Bush simply replaced Reagan’s laser-keen focus on the USSR, with an equally sharp sight on the Jihadists, and just as Reagan understood the fundamental internal contradictions which would bring down the Soviet regime, Bush understands the basic internal contradictions which will kill the Jihadists’ campaign. He has a less concentrated target to attack than Reagan had, and internal enemies within the United States working against him in desperation, but Bush has already changed the landscape, by reawakening the basic American sense of justice and rights. Provided the Congress listens to the President and the People, and provided the next President understands the conflict in context, we will win this war.

NEXT - Part 5, Why Islam Is Not The Enemy, and The New Mid-East

Larry Sabato's Donkey Ball


I lost a lot of respect for Larry Sabato in the early months of 2004. By February he was claiming “Bush Is In Real Trouble”, and claiming that the President would have trouble keeping up with John Kerry. By April, Sabato was gravely informing us he considered the U.S. to be in “a serious recession producing a "very poor" economy”, strongly inferring that President Bush would lose in November. In August, Sabato assured us that the debate about the candidates’ Vietnam War records would play a major role in the decision.

You get the idea. Sabato was wrong. Not by a little, and not just on one call, but consistently, he missed the mark by a country mile.

So, keep that in mind when you read Sabato’s latest prognostications:

“Americans are once again reminded that every once in a while, an underdog team can come back up from the depths, run the table, and pull off a remarkable victory. This year, congressional Democrats … are crossing their fingers for some of the against-the-odds Steelers magic”

Of course, the Steelers had an idea what their game plan was, they were a class act, and their coach was a long-time veteran of the game with ideals and discipline, and a decent clue about what would work. Can’t say the same for the Donks.

“Statehouses Gleam for Democrats in 2006”

All that glitters is not gold, pally.

“2006 Senate Leans Democratic”

And I hear Enron stock is a good buy right now.

And as for the White House?

“Should one party pick a nominee who is manifestly closer to the nation's large moderate, independent pool of voters, that party will be on track to victory”

The 2008 early Oscar hopeful, “Shilling for Hillary”, is now showing at Sabato’s multiplex, it seems.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Islam and Jihadism, Part 3


Policies of the Terror State

[ part 1 here ] [ part 2 here ]

Some people may be aware that the Ayatollah Khomeini, while exiled from Iran by Reza Shah Pahlavi during 1978-9 lived and taught in France. This apparently extraneous detail is important, as a study in tolerance as a strategic blunder and also as a lesson in cultural influence. Because Khomeini had studied European History, and was quite familiar with the Revolution of 1789 in France, along with the period known to historians simply as “The Terrors”, when the Jacobins arrested and massacred countless political and personal enemies, and established a thoroughly despotic regime. Bloody though it was, Khomeini noted that it effectively wiped out the monarchy, which was his own goal.

As I noted in the first two parts of this study, Islam has patterned itself after Christianity as the Imams perceive it. That is, because the Christian Church held broad temporal power by the 7th Century, the Mullahs pursued control of nations as well as spiritual conversion. Because Christian nations and Pagan nations had armies, Muslim leaders considered warfare an appropriate means for expanding their numbers, and coercion a valid spiritual tool. Because the Jewish and Christian and Buddhist practices were culturally established, the new Muslim faith’s leaders believed it was necessary to restrict such religions in territory they controlled, as if to quarantine debate and competition. As a result, whatever Mohammed intended for Islam during his years as its Prophet, the course following his death was distinctly militant, intolerant, and isolated. In total therefore, the sum effect of Islam has driven it towards Jihad – forcing all to choose between Islam or their own identity.

Ruhollah Khomeini was also a product of his environment. An old man by the time he came to power (he was born in 1902), Khomeini had learned the ways of the British, the French, the Germans, and to a limited extent he had impressions of the Soviets and the Americans. All of those ideas worked within his mind, along with the means he planned to employ to forward his vision of Islam. In many respects, Khomeini was strangely evocative of Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler, Khomeini’s father died while he was a child. Like Hitler, Khomeini started as a bit of an aesthetic, preferring philosophy in his early years in much the same way that Hitler tried to pursue art. Like Hitler, Khomeini found his fame as a rabble rouser, and a hater of Jews. And like Hitler, Khomeini rose to power through usurpation of the existing regime. In Hitler’s case the dissolution of political dissent after the Reichstag fire; in Khomeini’s case the strident cry for armed revolt against the Shah.

Khomeini also found the lure of ‘Mahdi’ irresistible, though the man was canny enough to avoid actually claiming the title. A devotee of ‘Irfan, which blended elements of mysticism into practices and study of the Koran, Khomeini took this largely Sufi practice and applied it to politics, essentially declaring that Allah had pronounced the “Rule of the Jurist”, or national rule through the Imams, firmly tying legitimacy of government to Sharia and control by the Mullahs. As their head, Khomeini pronounced himself the supreme ruler of Iran, and as such directed the revolution against the Shah. Declaring the Shah’s dictates to have “no value”, Khomeini further polarized the conflict, constantly decrying the corruption in the Shah’s government and the brutality of the SAVAK (ironic, compared to the sort of tactics Khomeini’s own regime later sponsored), and casting the conflict as a ‘Shah or Allah’ choice.

There are basically four ways for a leader to rule a nation:

· Many tribes and monarchies relied on the rule of love for the leader. This is also more accurately called the ‘cult of personality’;
· Leaders often rule by directing hatred towards a selected target, often a minority group within the country as a scapegoat for government failures, or a neighboring country to blame or attack for various economic or cultural troubles;
· Representatives democracies and republics use the rule of law to establish a consistent standard of expectations and accountability. Respect for the rule of law is the principle condition for this method;
· Governments which cannot justify their actions any other way will rule through fear, often by excessively harsh penalties for noncompliance.

Khomeini chose a blend of methods two and four, casting Iran as the sole defender of the faith against an Infidel world, and by creating a maze of government bodies based on his personal interpretations of Sharia, so that he maintained control of the military, police, and media. Further, he directed the funding, supply and moral support for dozens of terrorist groups to destabilize regional governments, including connections to the Jihadists who murdered Egyptian President Sadat in 1981. It speaks to the state of the Middle East that the assassination of their President did not result in a major war between Egypt and Iran. The Jihadists grew bold. After the American retreat from Lebanon following a terrorist attack on their barracks in 1983, the Jihadists grew bolder still, believing that they had found a way to take consolidate control of the Middle East, and establish the long-awaited Caliphate, secured by the military strength of terrorist attacks and paid for with oil.

The West answered, though not fully. Various dictators received comeuppance from both the United States and the Soviet Union, who cooperated in a secret and thoroughly unofficial manner in such events during the 1980s as the Osirak raid in Iraq, a number of rescue operations in Lebanon and Egypt, and in tanker protection for Kuwaiti oil during the Iran-Iraq war. There is even reason to believe that someone played a hand in the 1987 humiliation of Libya by Chad, though intelligence sources in both the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. only smile and deny any personal participation in the matter. The problem was not only the continuing, if diminishing, Cold War between East and West, but also the problem of addressing a threat which purportedly had no connection to a formal state. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, got around the appearance of sponsorship by funneling money and supplies through prominent families and religious groups.

So, the Ayatollah Khomeini came to signal a paradigm shift, from Islam as a personal practice led by a few theological Imams, to Jihadism and the expectation of public displays of piety and Political Correctness on a level only dreamed about in California. The Jihadists demonstrated whom they feared by repressing them harshly, from women who might vote, to media which might report both sides of an issue, to young Muslims choosing leadership based on their personal needs and aspirations. Sharia was used to keep women under male control, to control the flow of information and propaganda, and to prevent young men from holding major offices, unless they had proven their services in the revolution. It is no coincidence that Iran’s new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was directly involved in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, and a strict Jurist in the Khomeini mold. Nor should it surprise anyone, that the Imams have been working to insure the “political reliability” of anyone in power in the Middle East; leaders have been advised, sometimes in distinctly unsubtle ways, that their political survival, perhaps their literal survival, depends on support for Jihad. Muslims around the world have been told that Jihad is no more or less than a battle for the survival of Islam, and that any strike against Jihadists must be considered an attack on all Islam. Lacking an effective leader, Islam has not yet responded to correct this lie.

The Jihadists’ game plan operated on four levels. The primary level was to shove all foreign influence out of the Middle East, which is to say all non-Islamist governments, including Israel of course, but also Turkey and several of the aristocracies inclined to secular rule, such as Jordan and Kuwait. The second level was to push out the Soviets, which was effectively accomplished with the retreat from Afghanistan, which further fed the Jihadists’ confidence. The new second front is to deal with Asia, which is to say principally address relations with China – the Middle East has found that the People’s Republic is amenable to anything which insures the flow of oil, though the growing Jihadist threat along China’s Southwest flank gives its Army concern, as well it should. The third front is Europe – the Jihadists have found little to fear from Europe, seeing the flaccid response not only to the Bosnian Wars but also the Chechnyan and Balkan insurrections. Small wonder the matter has spread to incited violence in Holland, Germany, France, and England.

The fourth front, and the most difficult to predict, is the American front. The Jihadists learned American politics from Jimmy Carter. Claim to be the victim and hey, that’s what you are! The Jihadists misread Reagan, taking his focus on the Soviets for disinterest in the Middle East, but they read Bill Clinton right. Like the Chinese, Clinton seemed to judge successful relations in the Middle East in terms of oil production, trade agreements, and meaningless promises. The Jihadists noted the lack of attention to Hussein, the disinterest in North Korea’s nuclear buildup, and the mercenary character or Clinton’s political campaigns, and decided that money and stealth would suit their purpose in the course of actions. Ironically, one of their own uncovered their plans before they could come to fruition.

NEXT - Part 4, Jihadist Blunders and the Renewed America

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Islam and Jihadism, Part 2


Nationalism and Industry

It is commonly said that one reason Islam and the West cannot see eye to eye, is that the West has separation of Church and State, while Islam mixes the two beyond visible distinction. There is something to that at one level, but on another, the problem for Islam devolves from an even sharper separation of Mosque and State than in the West. This is nowhere more obvious than in the National histories of the modern Arab states, and the industries which feed them.

For many years, the Middle East was fairly amorphous in terms of borders. This was partly due to the nomadic nature of tribes in the region, as well as Islam’s reluctance to accept boundaries to its territory; it is as if the Imams hoped to renew the push to regain lost territory, and to claim new lands for the Prophet. Certainly, Islam developed a largely theoretical existence, as Mullahs were forced to accept the rulings of Sheikhs and Emirs in legal judgments, ostensibly based on Sharia but far more often just the whim of the ruler. This was especially the case in those territories held by the Ottomams, who preferred to rule “loosely” and let the locals handle smaller issues. Then the Germans came out to play. And the Ottomans backed the wrong horse, which cost them their empire.

“War for Oil” is a modern-sounding slogan, but it is far from accurate in the present conflict. It is, however, an apt description of the Middle East’s value in World War One. Germany grabbed the Industrial Revolution in a big way, and this helped establish its independence as a European power, so long restrained by the old Continental powers. But Germany was a hungry nation, and the Kaiser knew that German Industry needed oil. And the most convenient place for readily-processed petroleum was the Middle East. Some historians have even speculated that the unrest in the Balkans was a German/Austrian pretext to move South. Certainly all of Europe saw the Middle East as a prize which they had to hold. For all the romance of Lawrence of Arabia, people too often forget that the British sent him in there to keep the Germans from gaining the upper hand in the region.

Britain made a number of promises to various groups, sometimes in conflict with other promises, the most famous of which is known as the Balfour Declaration. In short order the agreements were intended to grant a measure of independence to the Middle East, while insuring good relations with Great Britain. To that end, Britain drew up borders for Iran, Iraq, and Egypt, while France gained control of ‘Syria’, which originally included present-day Lebanon, and is part of Syria’s claim to control of that region. Germany, having lost the war, was shut out of controlling any Middle East country, while the Emirates largely mistrusted Europe and made deals directly with large American firms, especially Standard Oil. As a result, even before the beginning of World War Two, Oil was a strategic commodity, the Arabs were well aware of its potential as a bargaining chip, and there was intense competition for trade and cooperation with the people who held control of the oil fields. In the Middle East then, there were essentially three power blocs as of 1935:

· The monarchies set up by Britain and France to keep order, usually with loose cooperation between Sultan and Imam;
· The families who represented the various countries in possession of the oil fields;and
· Political opposition groups who saw an opportunity for revolution and change in power, usually backed by a nation on the outside of the Oil deals, such as Germany, the USSR, or Italy.

Note that in that earlier time, the power structure of Islam generally lined up behind the thrones of the Middle East, the various Sultans, Emirs, and Sheikhs who held title. This was largely in the model of Ibn Saud, whose claim to Arabia changed it to Saudi Arabia, and whose policies blended secular rule with the imprimatur of Islam, by including appointments and favors to Wahhabist Imams.

After World War Two, this all changed. Partly because the Soviets took a rather direct approach to meeting their oil supply needs. They simply grabbed Iran, and it took the threat of nuclear force by President Truman in 1947 to get them to back off, But even then Moscow made deals with Baghdad and Damascus, and a bipolar structure took hold, essentially stopping all growth towards true independence for a time.

That changed, in an ironic fashion, in 1974. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) seized the conference of the Oil Production and Exporting Countries (OPEC), it changed the course of government control of terrorist groups, and also showed the weak infrastructure to Middle Eastern governments. Arabs already enraged by the scale of losses taken in the 1967 War with Israel, and the unsatisfactory conclusion to the Yom Kippur War which followed it, believed that only a radical Islamic State could hope to alter the demise of the Middle East into either a Soviet or American puppet. This spurred the creation of dozens of fragmentary groups, sponsored no longer by governments but by families and individuals, often in the Saudi and Iraqi governments. Oil money was funneled into slush funds, and the terrorist groups became significantly more sophisticated and aggressive. Many Americans are unaware of the large number of kidnappings and murders of foreigners during the 1970s and 1980s, including operations in Europe. Many Americans are unaware of Arab connections to such groups as the Red Brigade in Italy, and several Muslim groups in Croatia during the late 1980s. The regional infrastructure permanently changed, and for the worse, when the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran in 1979. Within months, Islamic groups began to desert support for the traditional kingdoms, in favor of revolutionary Jihad, and so began the new wave of Jihad in earnest. Political leaders found themselves choosing to either suppress the rebellion, or pronounce it the will of Allah. With both the Carter Administration and Breshnev regimes oddly timid on the matter, most royals became loyal supporters of the Revolution, which is to say Jihad. By so doing, they hoped to ride out the wave of anger which was palpable in the Middle East. But by so doing, they committed the region to a bloody future. Jihad became the de facto policy of the major powers in the region.

NEXT - Part 3, Policies of the Terror State

Superbowl Officials


I was amused to see that hundreds of people have visited my personal website Monday, a steady stream since the end of Superbowl XL. This is unique for me, so I tracked back to see what was generating the interest. Turns out it was the phrase “Superbowl Officiating”, which I used in my parody piece about “dead-blogging” the Superbowl. A lot of it was from Google, where I am presently the third slot under that phrase. Wahoo, I guess.

Reading through some of the stuff out there, there are a lot of people angry about how SuperBowl Extra-Large was handled by the refs. This surprised me, because I saw a very good job done by the zebras on Sunday, especially given the stakes. I was especially impressed with how the officials worked as a unit, a factor made difficult by the NFL’s playoff selection program. But I am well aware that people will insult and blame the officials when their team loses. It’s so ingrained into some people, that they don’t even notice the hypocrisy and immaturity such behavior reflects. I also noticed that not one of the most vocal and angry critics of NFL officiating claimed to have served as an official at any level. That figures, but it reminds me that it needs discussion as well.

I was an official at one time or another in Texas UIL and various leagues of Basketball, Football, Baseball, Wrestling, and occasionally in Volleyball, between 1982 and 2001. I gave it up when my job hours changed, and to spend more time with my family, but I started because of what officiating offers. Officials do not do the job to get rich; as my wife can attest, sometimes you lose money making long trips, getting tired and dirty, and sometimes getting stiffed on your game fees by the School District or Athletic Association. Officials do not do the job in order to show how important they are; an official who wants attention is not going to last long, or get serious assignments. But a true official knows he/she can make a difference in safety, in fair play, and in sportsmanship, and he can have a real impact in helping young athletes develop leadership and responsibility. That comes with a cost, of course. There are always a few coaches or players who cannot obey the rules, who find it preferable to cheat if they think they can get away with it, and who blame any bad turn of events on the ref. Also, there are innumerable fans who, rather than congratulate a fine performance by their team by respecting a better effort by their opponents when they lose, insist on blaming the officials just for doing their job.

But I loved the game. I had a job where I worked 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM, which let me off early enough to get to HISD games by 3:30, and I could work games as far away as Katy or even El Campo if they didn’t start until 5:00 PM. That’s because you have to arrive in time to suit up and have a decent pregame, and any decent ref knew two or three ways to get to the school/field on time.

Some officials are good enough to work Varsity High School, but not all. And some are good enough to work College ball. Then there are the pros, where a whole new reality gets involved. Since we’re focusing here on the Superbowl, I will just talk now about the National Football League.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking the NFL is just a bigger and faster and stronger version of the NCAA. Don’t you believe it!! The National Football League, more than anything else, is a business, and their product is not the game so much as it is the exhibition of the game. That means that everything is controlled to produce the maximum results in terms of revenue, audience, and name recognition. And that means anything or anyone can be and is sacrificed in service to that objective. A prime example is former crew chief Phil Luckett, who was falsely demonized for “blowing” a coin toss call in a Thanksgiving game between Detroit and Pittsburgh in 1998. Jerome Bettis tried an old trick, calling “hea-tails” as the coin was in the air, hoping to either win the toss of get another try. Luckett knew the NFL rule however, which committed a player calling the toss to the first “indication” of his choice, meaning that when the coin landed tails up, the Lions properly won the toss and Bettis lost. According to Referee magazine, not only did the NFL agree that Luckett made the correct call, but it actually made a training video for referees showing the incident as the “right” way to handle just such a situation. Referee magazine even included a quote from CBS, alleging that a boom mike during the commercial break caught Bettis admitting to sideline coaches “he caught me”, meaning that not only did Luckett make the correct technical call, but had properly prevented a deliberate attempt to cheat. Yet to this day the NFL refuses to publicly defend Luckett. As a result, Luckett, who was the target of insults and even death threats for doing his job right, gave up the white hat of a crew chief and settled for being a Back Judge. This is a serious injustice in my opinion, if for no reason besides the fact that many of the best officials in football would never consider working for the NFL, because the league has no interest in putting the best officials on the field, nor of defending these professionals when some moron insults them without the first idea of what he’s talking about.

So, why kind of man would make it in the NFL as a referee? First off, you have to be relatively young, tall, and strong, financially secure and sure enough of yourself that you can stand the jackals insulting you all year long. Ed Hochuli is a good example. The 56 year old Hochuli is well over six feet tall, works out and weightlifts regularly, to the point that his biceps compare favorably to many linemen. He is a private attorney, with a steady income and control of his schedule. The NFL loves this sort of image; sadly the days of “Red” Cashion are gone. But that’s just the beginning.

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business, but you’d never know it by how they pay their officials. As an example, a magazine reported in 2001 that “an NFL official with five years in the league made $27,105 last year. That compares with salaries of $128,000 in the NBA, $139,000 in the NHL and $141,000 in major-league baseball for officials with commensurate experience" (note – I think that number climbed a bit after 2001, but not hardly to the levels of the other sports, to say nothing of the pay handed out to League office suits). Also, unlike the NBA and Major League Baseball, the NFL does not treat officials as full-time employees, but as contractors. This is to avoid benefits, of course, like health insurance or any kind of pension plan.

And then there are the working conditions. First off, an NFL official is considered a “part time” guy by the NFL, but he is required to be available for drug testing year-round. In addition, he must allow the NFL to review all of his banking transactions, again throughout the year. And an NFL official is barred from traveling to any city or location within 75 miles of a casino or gambling establishment, without prior written approval from the league, again no matter what time of year. Got a brother getting married in Vegas? Tough luck. You won a trip to Monte Carlo? Denied. Your mother in Atlantic City died? See if you can get them to bury her in Scranton.

And then there’s the actual football-related job. First off, an NFL official is expected to keep himself in shape, costs for health club not reimbursed by the League. The official is expected to attend certain officiating clinics, again not reimbursed by the NFL. The NFL official has to work at some training camps, as well as a number of pre-season games.

Ahhhh, but at least after that it’s the gravy of the NFL regular season, right? How’s this hypothetical schedule for fun:

Bart, we’ll call him, lives in Houston, which means he will never be allowed to work Texans games, is a Head Linesman on his crew. It’s 7 PM in Seattle, and he’s just finished working the Seahawks afternoon home game. Bart and his crew-mates will finish up their paperwork on fouls called and explanations, along with any incidents they need to discuss, and also hold a postgame discussion about what went right during the game, and things to work on. After that, having showered and changed, the referee crew will leave, each official heading back to his home town. Bart arrives back in Houston around 11 PM, because he has to schedule his flights late in case of Overtime or another complication. As soon as he arrives home, Bart pulls the game tape from his Tivo, and NFL Sunday Ticket, which is mandatory for all officials to subscribe to and use. If for any reason the game tape is not viewable or did not record, Bart must notify the League office immediately. He also prepares his written reports to be mailed off to the League office, although the originals are also sent in by the crew chief.

Monday, Bart reviews his game all over again, and in every situation where he did or could have made a call, he writes down a report of his actions, a critique of whether he made the right call, and if not, what he should have done in that situation. This report must arrive at the League office by noon Wednesday, where it will be compared to a report made by another official who did not work the game. A grade will be prepared, which will not immediately be revealed to Bart.

Wednesday, Bart takes part in a phone conference with his crew, to discuss the next upcoming game, especially what to look for and be aware of. This means the crew will have watched the two upcoming teams in their last game, as well as review some thoughts on the weather and field conditions, the coaches, and anything else likely to affect the working conditions on Sunday. They also discuss their review of the tape, and anything they noticed on tape that they missed during the actual game.

Thursday, Bart packs for the upcoming game. He’s laundered his uniform and checked his gear for game condition. He also packs a briefcase with all the forms he will need, from foul reports to game incident reports, and assorted pads, pencils and pens he will need (the pens stay in the briefcase, by the way – a broken pencil is no big deal, but a broken pen, let’s just say you don’t need that during a game). He checks his Tivo and his tickets for the flight, along with his answering machine and all the things a guy has to do when he has to travel often. As of noon Thursday, Bart is prohibited from any alcohol, because officials are not allowed to drink for 72 hours before a game, or for 24 hours afterward.

Early Saturday, Bart take the flight to Atlanta for the next game, this time the Falcons at home, but not against either of the two teams he worked last week – the League tries very hard to avoid the appearance, however slight, of impropriety on the part of its officials. Bart has to be in Atlanta 24 hours ahead of game time, by League rule. Bart settles for tucking his kids into bed Saturday night by phone, just as he did the previous Sunday.

Sunday morning, Bart is at the stadium by 8 AM, four hours ahead of game time, again by League rule. The pregame is pretty much no more than ritual, but the crew goes through everything anyway. Then comes the equipment check and field walk. This has to be done by 11 AM, but most crews working a natural turf field will do it early, so the groundskeeper has a decent chance to do any work that’s needed. Not since the Astrodome fiasco in 1995 has a field actually been ruled too dangerous to play, but officials know better than to leave anything to chance. Same for the footballs; the Back Judge may find it incredibly boring, but he will check the air pressure on every ball used during the game, and make his mark on the approved balls. The Back Judge and another official will also test their watches, since the on-field watches are the actual official time-keepers of the game. Other officials will test out other equipment, including the crew chief, who must make sure his microphone is in good order. The crew will also discuss game conditions with the television network, who make up the money end of the game for the most part, and therefore are the League’s most important customer to keep happy.

Finally, game time. One obvious thing that a lot of people don’t realize, is that the referees on the field each have different responsibilities and assigned territories. The crew chief, for example, focuses on the Quarteback and what happens to him and around him. Bart, our hypothetical Head Linesman, controls the Line-of-Scrimmage and Line-to-gain markers, and focuses his attention on the snap of the ball, line blocking during pass plays, action around the runner on running plays to his side, and follow-up action when the running play goes away from him. He also has principal responsibility for whether a Quarterback is beyond the line of scrimmage when he passes the ball. If he throws a flag, Bart will note on a small pad the basics of what happened (number, foul, time) and report the foul to the crew chief. An amazing number of people forget that while the crew chief signals the fouls to the press box, he does not usually throw the flag himself.

Officials know the rules, far better than the idiots who complain about them, but also their context. For example, if Bart sees the guard on his side hold the oncoming defensive lineman, and as a result the running back gets through for a gain, he will flag that hold, but usually he will not flag it if the hold has nothing to do with the play, say the running back going around to the other side away from where the hold happened. I mention this because good judgment is a critical component in a football official. Call everything that’s technically not clean and you will throw flags all day and get everyone upset, but don’t throw a flag when a player is doing something which is dangerous, gains an unfair advantage, or is just unsportsmanlike, and you let the game get out of control. That balance is very, very hard to achieve with players this fast, smart, and tough.

You will note that I have not criticized a single call by any NFL official. Do they make mistakes? Of course, but not nearly as often as people claim, and the guys who work the actual games are as good as the NFL could hope to get. And I have worked enough strange situations, that I never second-guess a call made by the one guy who was in position. Sorry, but a television does not really give you a better view of what really happened, because you are seeing an artificial perspective. No matter what the saying claims, the camera does lie. And by the time you get to the Playoffs, the crews are officials who have achieved the highest scores and the greatest respect from coaches. That’s one reason coaches don’t whine all that much about officials – they know what they are getting, and the coaches have a lot of say in that order. The only problem with Playoff crews, is that these are officials who have not worked all that often together, and it takes a little while to get them in sync. But I laugh scornfully at anyone who wants to pretend the Superbowl referees are anything but highly-trained and much-critiqued professionals, who have been hardened to work in conditions which would crack ordinary men. Just as it is stupid to mock any team good enough to win its League Championship to get to the Superbowl, it is grossly unfair to suggest that the officials aren’t up to the job. In my opinion, while everyone has the right to speak their mind, when people gripe about referees without the personal experience of being one, they only prove their own banality and boorish pique. The NFL officials who work the Superbowl have worked harder with less credit, longer with less pay, and accurately with less recognition than any comparable professional. Anyone who is not happy with them, is welcome to try to replace them. Of course, it will take you about two decades (if you make the fast track) to work your way through JV games, to a spot on a High School crew, to a minor college conference, to the I-A conferences, and then if you’re really good, really lucky, but also really humble, then you might get a chance to try out for one of the few open slots in the NFL’s officiating ranks. And if you do, you can count on the derision from people who have never bothered to look up a rule book, let alone take up the whistle.

And to Mr. Leavy and his crew, well done gentlemen, it was a pleasure to watch you work together.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Islam and Jihadism - Part 1

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There is an old dictum, so hoary that many people forget the reason for its original emphasis: Know Your Enemy. While many people correctly understand this to mean guarding against being surprised by an enemy, it also warns against creating problems by attacking a non-belligerent, and so increasing your foes. The United States is walking a narrow and winding road in the Middle East, precisely because of that caution. A great many people incorrectly believe the War On Terror is against Islam, when in fact there is the potential to make Islam an ally against one of the great abominations of our day.

Islam counts more than a billion people as believers across the globe. They can be found in every major nation and city, and the emphatic public displays of their belief can lead people to consider Muslims rigid and intolerant. But it is not valid to label Islam an automatically violent faith, anymore than it would be to blame all of Christianity for the violence of the Irish Republican Army or Abortion Clinic bombers. While Islam must wrestle with its obligation to speak out against the evil in its midst, it must also be accorded the respect it deserves as a major religion. The extremists of Islam must be understood as the outcasts of their religion.

People do not generally understand Islam. That was fine when Islam was an exotic religion practiced by few people close to your home, and which was unlikely to ever impact your life directly. But in these days of a nuclear threat from Iran, uprisings in regions of Europe and Asia, as well as the threat of a prolonged conflict, both military and cultural, with Islamic nations around the globe, it becomes critical to learn the basics of both Islam and of Jihadism, and why they are not the same, but one must inevitably supplant the other.

Islam is a major religion, with over a billion adherents. Islam is growing faster than Christianity, and so poses the possible position of majority support within the entury, presuming present growth continues. Yet Islam is not monolithic, nor is it a unified faith as it is so often protrayed. A simple example is to look at the violence done in the name of Islam; if even one percent of all Muslims took up arms, the resulting army would be one of the largest in the world. With significant mathematical and scientific resources, Muslims could also quickly modernize a military force; certainly WMD are no obstacle. Indeed, most experts agree that Muslim countries likely all have CW stockpiles, with research in BW also likely since the 1980s, a nasty legacy of Saddam’s policies, which in turn spurred the creation and development of counter-weapons. Iran has well over a hundred missiles capable of reaching Israel right now, so the only questions are what they will put in the warheads, and what will stop them from launching. More on the Muslim-Israeli standoff in a little bit. For here, it is important to understand a bit of what drives the Muslim political machine, especially in the Middle East. The politics of Islam began with Mohammed himself, and developed through victory and defeat over more than a thousand years.

A thorough study of Islam would take a long time, so right here I will admit that this is a montage of snap shot concepts, and even then a brief one. Islam, of course,starts out with Mohammed, whose name is spelled a number of ways in the West because Arabic uses a different alphabet. That alone sets the stage for confusion, as it is not always posible to get a direct translation from Arabic to English; a certain amount of nuance is always there, and often gets lost. Imagine the literal translation of “What’s Up?” to someone unfamiliar with American idioms, and then apply it to a complex social issue. Even when language is not the issue, culture also throws up obstacles. Winston Churchill once quipped that America and England are two countries separated by a common language. So we should be very careful about assuming we understand the mindset of a land far different from our own in distance, history, perspective, and opportunity. And we should realize that it is very difficult for the Muslim world to understand the American ideal, even when they want to make the attempt. But one key issue, to start, is the founder. Jesus Christ was known for His gentle forgiveness and message of peace. Contrast that with Mohammed, who led a number of bloody fights to establish Islam, and then to give it control of key territory. But it would be unfair to leave it at that. Mohammed, after all, also wanted peace and stability, which was a prime reason for the establishment of Sharia - a common law to which all men would be subject. So it is also important to understand that Mohammed learned from the Christian Church. By his day, he had seen the power of the Church in Rome, how kings kneeled to the Pope, and how armies went where the Church commanded. Small wonder Mohammed took the trouble to copy that same strategy. Tie the Church and State together, and with Allah on your side you cannot lose. And that has not changed in the Muslim worldview.

OK, fast forward to the Renaissance. That happened in large part because the Church underwent a Reformation, but that was hardly a fast or peaceful process. No one denies Islam needs a similar Reformation, but no one wants a Muslim version of the Inquisition or a repeat of the Crusades, which began incidentally with the Muslim invasion of Europe. The Muslims basically lost the Crusades, and the Middle East was relegated to inconsequence, until oil became important to industry and economy. Oil became a factor by the latter half of the 19th Century, setting the stage for more than a century of greed, fervor, and fury. This is where we must begin to tie the threads of the religion, the politics, the regional culture, and economy of the Middle East.

Essentially, the Middle East of 1900 was not much different from the Middle East of 1500; the Muslims lacked the economic strength to support extensive military campaigns, and European trade with China had provided not only mercantaile success, but improvements in metallurgy, artillery, and cavalry tactics. Ironically, Europe had learned from its wars with the Hun, its member states, and of course, also from the Crusades. The Muslim world held a cultural disdain for failure, so losses were not carefully analyzed for corrections, and in any case the unity of Islam was never quite what Mohammed or Ali, or even Salazar, had hoped to create.

Many people are vaguely aware of the ‘Schism’ between Catholics and Protestants which was brought about by the Refomation, but few pay much attention to the much earlier split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In much the same way, early Muslims split on questions of leadership and proper doctrine between the Shia and Sunni sects.These also fractured and fragmented sheikdoms and sultanates, both in time of defeat and in times of victory. So it was that Islam could not agree on a number of key points, and each ruler approved the version of Sharia which suited his mind. Thus the popular legend of the Mahdi - that mythical Imam who would bring all Islam together once again. Ask historians about that name - Muslims rebelled in British-held Sudan in the 1880s, because a yahoo there declared himself the Mahdi. The original ‘Mahdi’, Tarikh-e Imamat, the first Fatimid Caliph who named his son al-Qaim to be the ‘12th Imam’ and 2nd Fatimid Caliph before his own death, would hardly have approved of Muhammad Ahmad, whose woeful logistics and tactical mistakes doomed his revolt, though not before thousands of errant Muslims and British troops died over a war that lasted eighteen years. Other ‘Mahdis’ rose from the crowd, usually in hopes of reforming Islam and establish a measure of Islamist influence in the state. Long before Ahmad, a 15th-Century Sultan named Mehmed II was distinctly open to European scholarship and faith and who codified Sharia during the creation of the Ottoman Empire, and also combined conquest (he invaded Bosnia and Constantinople) with teraties to avoid major escalation of his wars. Significantly, this Sultan was far more amenable to Christian leaders than he was of secular government; Mehmed put to death the entire ruling family of Karamania, because they were both secular and Turks. Mehmed II is popular known in Islamic history classes as “Mohammed II”. So Jihad, reform of Islam and Middle East governments, the ‘Mahdi’ myth, and the dream of conquering the world for Mohammed is a periodic, if inconstant, pursuit.

NEXT - Part 2, Nationalism and Industry

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dead-Blogging Superbowl XL


Live-blogging is all the rage. But because my initials sometimes ought to be ADD, and because I am not likely to be watching all the actual game on Sunday, I am instead offering an alternative recap, written in advance of the game by three days, of the game. Call it “dead blogging”.

Hey, it’s not as if I am the only one starting this early. It may surprise you to know that the “official” pregame for Superbowl XL started at 1:30 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, February 2.

February 2, 1:30 PM ET – OK, well it’s “pregame time”, according to the schedule. Looking around, I don’t seem to see the teams anywhere. Wait a minute, there’s ABC down on the field, interviewing … oh, the head groundskeeper.

1:45 PM – Well, the weather’s pretty cloudy, with temperatures in the high 30’s. The schedule says there’s going to be the “National Anthem Press Conference”, so let’s go down and listen in:

“So once again, I remain in favor of playing the National Anthem at NFL games. Sorry, but the NFL does not see any value in the suggestion that we change the National Anthem, and while the NFL enjoys Kanye West as much as anyone, we must decline his suggestion that we change the lyrics to include references to ‘Chimpy’s Imperial War’. Thank you. ”

OK. Glad they got that worked out.

3:30 PM – “Halftime Show Press Conference” – I have to say that was unique, having Janet Jackson come in and do a “wardrobe malfunction” at the press conference, to sort of remove the jinx before the actual game. I’m sure the penguins will be all right. I mean, Michael Jackson’s hair grew back after his Pepsi commercial, right?

4:00 PM – “NFL Insider Radio Show” – yeah, sure. All you gotta know, is none of the guests has been inside an NFl player’s uniform for a long time. I did find the part with Mike Pereira interesting, although his choice for the Superbowl Officiating Crew Chief looks strangely familiar

February 3, 8:30 AM – “Bill Cowher Press Conference”

“Bill, what are your plans for Sunday?”

“I thought maybe I’d take the team out to the movies after lunch. For crying out loud, we’re going to kick ass, score touchdowns, and win the game. Next stupid question…”

“Bill, how do you plan to stop Seattle’s rushing attack?”

“I’ve heard good things about tackling. Next stupid question…”

“Bill, some people have been comparing your coaching style to Jack Bauer on ‘24’. Your response?”

“I don’t have time for that kind of thing. I know what I’m doing, you’ll have to trust me on that.”

9:30 AM – “Mike Holmgren Press Conference”

“Mike, the Seahawks are firing on all cylinders. How do you keep that intensity all the way through the 4th Quarter?”

“Ya gotta stay lean and hungry. Speaking of which, weren’t there supposed to be pastries at this thing?”

“Coach, the Steelers are a tough, physical team, while the Seahawks are thought of as more reliant on finesse. If the weather is rough, how will that affect your game plan?”

“Obviously, we have worked hard to be ready for all situations. I have to admit, the ‘umbrella on the helmet’ idea didn’t work out too well, but we’re still thinking. Hey, kolaches!”

“Mike, how often do people confuse you with Wilfred Brimley?”

“Actually, I am Wilfred. Mike wanted to sleep in today, but he promises he will be there at the game on Sunday!”

Sunday, February 5 4:00 PM ET – Oh good, another pregame show. First off, it appears Cindy Sheehan got herself arrested again. Seems she got confused between the State of the Union address, where she was going to advertise something, and the Superbowl, where she was trying to get signatures to start her drive to become a U.S. Senator. Unfortunately for Ms. Sheehan, she actually put out documents asking people to support giving her an NFL franchise, and the League frowns on that sort of thing. She’s locked up in the stadium jail with Snoop. Don’t ask.

4:15 PM – Sitting with me now is Shiekh Kill Evruwahn, of the Council for Reasonable Anti-Zionist Yahoos (CRAZY). I understand Sheikh, that you have a pick for today’s game?

“Yes, yankee pig dog, may you die soon and in great pain. We have heard how your Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, why you allow a woman to lead your diplomacy is an offense to Allah we cannot understand and will one day soon avenge, has promised that the Pittsburgh Steelers will win your accursed game.”

Yes, that’s true. So, you think Seattle will win?

“Of course not . As long as your lying pig-of-a-Zionist-friend Bushitler is in the so-called White House, no one can win, but only the tears of the martyrs can be heard. But yes, I must admit I hear good things about Hasselbeck, and no way Pittsburgh will stop Jerramy Stevens.

“Ahem, praise Allah.”


6:00 PM ET – Game time, baby. OK, here come the officials. Ohhh, this could be a problem. Head Linesman Dean, Umpire Kennedy, Field Judge Ginsburg, the Clintons as Line Judge and Back Judge, Jesse Jackson as Side Judge, and McCain as Crew Chief. Hoooboy.

6:18 PM - OK, coin toss. The Lions won the toss? Ah, the guys upstairs have called Referee McPain. They’re arguing.

6:23 PM - Still arguing.

6:27 PM - McLame just told the officials upstairs to do something, which I do not think is physically possible. But at least they’ve sorted out the call. Steelers won the toss and want the ball, the Seahawks say they want some Starbucks.

6:34 PM - Touchdown Steelers. 17-yard end around by Willie Parker. 7-0 First Quarter.

6:40 PM - Seahawks face 4th and 28, and – wait, Referee McFinance Reform has awarded Seattle a “Fairness” touchdown. Hmm.

7:28 PM – Steelers score touchdown, 37-yard strike Roethlisberger to Heath Miller. McWannabe denies extra point, says it would “lack compassion” for Seattle. 13-7 Steelers.

7:50 PM – Seahawks face 4th and 15 after incomplete pass, Crew Chief McLame orders “do-over”. Hasselbeck gets 1st down on QB keeper.

8:25 PM – After six more “do-overs”, Seattle gets a 28-yard Field Goal. 13-10 Steelers.

8:26 PM – Duce Staley returns KO 98 yards to Seattle 2-yard line. McLousy throws flag on play, calls “excessive athleticism”, brings ball back to Pittsburgh 10-yard line.

8:30 PM Halftime. Time for the commercials.

The Burger King stuff is totally creepy. Like Michael Myers from ‘Halloween’ went commercial – ‘buy my burger or I will find you late at night, alone’. Wonder if he’s working as an agent for McDonald’s? Anyway, now they got dancing condiments.

American Homehealth, huh. Advertising a new disinfectant. Yawn.

Pepsi has ads with Jackie Chan (old, but kind of funny) and P Diddy (just ollllllld).

Oh, heeeey, Mastercard has an ad with “MacGyver”. Oh please spare us national ad campaigns based on the preferences of Selma Bouvier.

annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd Ford features an ad with Kermit the Frog. After what happened to their trucks recently, I’m not surprised they’re having trouble getting real people to ride in them.

Fabio? Isn’t he dead?

The Escalade sucks this year, if that commercial is any indicator.

Well, there’s always the Bud ads. I need a beer after seeing Mr. Spock plug Aleve.

9:38 PM – Seattle gets Kickoff, returns ball only to 12-yard line. McLoony awards additional 90 yards for “style”. Sehawks lead for first time, 17-13.

9:59 PM – McRINO awards another TD to Seahawk, “because it feels right”. 24-13 Seahawks. Mike Pereira gets up, says he has to “make a call.”

10:18 PM – McMuffin flags Steeler linebacker Joey Porter for “getting in my way”, Seahawks awarded yet another touchdown, lead 31-13.

10:30 PM – Start of 4th Quarter. Mike Pereira stops game, replaces officiating crew. New crew:

Bill Leavy, Referee

Garth DeFelice, Umpire

Mark Hittner, Head Linesman

Mark Perlman, Line Judge

Steve Zimmer, Field Judge

Tom Hill, Side Judge

Bob Waggoner, back Judge

Tony Corrente, Referee
Undrey Wash, Umpire
Tom Stabile, Head Linesman

10:34 PM – Roethlisberger 48-yard strike to Antwaan Randle, Steeler touchdown, 2-point EP good. 31-21 Seahawks.

10:38 PM – Willie Parker 72-yard reverse for Steeler touchdown. 31-28 Seahawks

10:42 PM – Roethlisberger 88-yard pass complete to Hines Ward, Steeler touchdown, 35-31 Steelers.

10:46 PM – Hasselbeck fumble, scooped up by Larry Foote, Steeler touchdown. 42-31 Steelers FINAL.