Category Archives: Highlights

Israel: Precedence for Oppression

Israel’s invasion of Gaza appears to be one final attempt to weaken Hamas and assassinate specific leaders before Obama comes into office and restarts the peace process.  The wisdom of this strategy will be fodder for much analysis in the future but both recent history and biblical prophecy indicate this course of action is unwise.

Lessons from Lebanon
The Lebanon War of 2006 should have taught Israel two lessons.  First, destroying Hezzbollah would require an unacceptable amount of civilian casualties.  Second, it is militarily impossible for Israel to prevent Hezzbollah from launching missiles into Israeli territory.  For now, Hezzbollah’s rockets aren’t capable of causing extensive destruction, but within a decade their rockets could accurately target population centers, essential infrastructure and even be armed with nuclear warheads.  Indeed, it’s clear that global trends such as nuclear proliferation, weapon miniaturization and the increasing sophistication of terror networks are making it more likely that a weapon of mass destruction is detonated in Palestine.  Unless we want to go through a very unpleasant ‘end of the world’ experience, we need to focus on reversing those trends.  One of the most important places to start that work is Gaza.

Hamas in Peril
Even before Israel’s recent offensive, Hamas was in peril.  When Hamas took control over Gaza, and Fatah over the West Bank, the two territories began down different paths.  Gaza became more belligerent towards Israel has suffered economic isolation and a collapsing security situation.  The West Bank, on the other hand, became less belligerent and has seen economic and security benefits.  The people of Gaza want their quality of life to improve like their West Bank brethren and, slowly but surely, have been applying pressure on their leaders to deliver results.  This places Hamas between a rock and a hard place: peace, prosperity and hypocrisy or war, famine and authenticity.  No doubt, savvy politicians within the Gaza ruling class understood this calculus and were preparing for a variety of contingencies, some of which included a more peaceful relationship with Israel.  Unfortunately, Israel’s invasion has sent everyone back to battle stations.

Israeli Objectives
The only way Israel can make sure Hamas doesn’t launch more rockets into Israel is the extermination of Hamas.  That effort would require a lengthy occupation and genocidal tactics.  The vast majority of Israelis are not interested in operating a 1.5 million person prison in Gaza, nor are they interested in employing the same ghastly practices used against their own during World War Two.  Thus, Israel’s objectives are more limited and more simple: they wanted to modify the situation in Gaza before the next attempt at peace.  The Jewish people are destined to pursue peace in the Holy Land.

A Very Brief History of the Jewish People
Many different African peoples were enslaved in America, creating a collective African-American identity that flourished after emancipation. Likewise, many different peoples of Middle Eastern descent were enslaved by the Ancient Egyptians and, of those slave, the ones who liberated themselves during Exodus collectively identified as Jews.  (The percentage of those slave who were descendants of Abraham should be directed towards a geneticists.)  Great leadership, cultural synergies, strategic location and (possibly) a unique ability to schmooze, allowed the Jewish people to spread across the Mediterranean world and flourish.  Their dream of a homeland, however, has never been realized for very long.  Since Exodus, Palestine has been hotly contested and larger rivals such as the Persians, Greeks and Romans to name a few, kept the Jewish people circulating around the world.  Many Jews who made their homes in foreign lands lived as merchants operating important trade routes.  Trade creates wealth, peace and tolerance, making the Jewish diaspora an essential agents of peaceful human integration.  Thus, it seems only fitting, perhaps even Biblical, that the Jewish people, having acquired a homeland after surviving an industrialized genocide, are asked to share their nation with one of the only peoples in the world still without one.  The Jewish people cannot reject the Palestinians; sharing the land is not just the right thing to do, but also destiny as described by the prophecies within Revelations.  (Seriously: is there a better arbiter of destiny than Revelations?)

Reevaluating Revelations
A simple interpretation of revelations is that all the Jews must return to the Land of Israel.  Since it seems unlikely that an evangelical theocracy emerges to forcibly emigrate all the world’s Jews into Israel, there is only one other option: everyone must become a Jew and everywhere must become the Land of Israel.  Globalization has been advancing this goal for centuries and the realization of this prophecy is finally upon us.

The Jewish Destiny
All of the world’s people must transition away from an ethnocentric world view of racial/cultural/national difference and towards an inclusive human union.  The Jewish people have the honor of being the first to show others how it can be done.  We’re all part of a single, 200,000 year old human family that has fractured into smaller collective identities we call ‘nations.’  As the direct descendants of Abraham, the ‘father of nations,’ the Jewish people are compelled to facilitate the emergence of a single human nation by sharing their homeland with others.  Indeed, the forces of global union have aligned around Jerusalem.  The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians will only be resolved once an international government rules Jerusalem, allowing both peoples to live peacefully within it’s ancient walls.

Biblically Speaking
The emergence of international governance, first in the land of Israel and then throughout the world, is an ‘end of days’ scenario that could bring heavenly peace if human rights are cherished by a confederated ‘one-world’ government or hellish slavery if a central force is established with the capacity to oppress us all.  Only you can decide which scenario is advanced by the recent actions of the state of Israel.

Tomorrow’s Republican (or Yellow) Coalition

The “red” coalition that brought Reagan, Bush I and II to power has fractured under the weight of their success because they did not properly serve their constituents.  After 8 years of Bush, the traditionalists (Christian conservatives) are still upset about the lack of socially conservative progress, the nationalists (hawks and ‘security’ voters) are frustrated by an increasingly unpopular quagmire  and the libertarians (small government folks) have watched Bush and the Republicans continue the expansion of the Federal Government.  At the end of the day, the only people served by the GOP was the multinational corporations like Halliburton, Blackwater, Exxon-Mobile and other upstanding corporate citizens.  Now, the Republican party is in the uncomfortable position of having to chose which subgroups to serve, which to grow and which to drop.  In my opinion they don’t have many options if they want to remain relevant.

The Republican party has a dearth of leaders.  Let’s take a quick look at their current roster.

Sarah Palin is a beautiful maverick for whom the Lord has been providing open doors to a serious political career.  There are many questions surrounding her qualifications to lead her party, her family life and, most importantly, her political platform.  While she has the ability to garner support from traditionalists and nationalists, McCain’s defeat displayed how limited that coalition has become.  She needs to reengage the small government people by becoming more belligerent towards the mainstream media and going through an extensive education on some serious issues: (1) she needs to understand the Constitution and that it is a document wary of government.  Her principles must be rooted in that document and condemn the Patriot Act.

She needs to begin a national debate about monetary policy and advocate a radically different tax policy like the Fair Tax.  She must also stand up against the hawkish members of her party and advocate non-interventionism: hawks have no place in the next Republican party.  There is a lot of room to maneuver, but if she doesn’t appear genuinely concerned with the size of government and have a plan to radically reduce it, her coalition will crumble like a deer hit by 180 grain soft points.

Mike Huckabee has been replaced (at least temporarily) by Sarah Palin as the defacto leader of the traditionalists-nationalists coalition.  Like Palin, he needs to stand firmly against big government conservatism and corruption.  He has already publicly advocated the Fair Tax and I think that’s an ingenious move.  If he and Palin can tone down the culture war and imperialist rhetoric and adopt principled small government policies, either (or both together) might have a chance in 2012.

Bobby Jindal, the Indian (subcontinent) governor of Louisiana is often cited as a possible leader of the Republican party.  His socially conservative Catholic doctrine might serve him well enough to make it to the mainstream GOP’s floor.  If the Republicans chose to become a follow the Democrats towards the center, he is a good choice, but I think that is a losing strategy.  Jindal has made a variety of socially conservative stands that turn off small government folks and aside from great anti-corruption rhetoric, he’s seemed too mainstream on tax and Constitution issues.

Mitt Romney was a perfect mainstream GOP candidate: a competent, pro-corporate hawk.  Unfortunately for his career, Obama is probably going to hold the purple center of American politics for many years to come.  This leaves Romney with an extremely weak coalition: some moderates, nationalists and portions of the traditionalists who don’t think Mormonism is blasphemous.  Not a winning coalition.

Ron Paul is the future of the Republican party because the internet is the future of politics.  Howard Dean’s unlikely rise to the top of the Democratic establishment (DNC chairman) was built upon his campaign’s use of the netroots.  Tens of millions of Americans connected by the internet and engaged with politics.  The netroots allowed Barack Obama to defeat the Clinton political machine and the John McCain campaign.

Ron Paul didn’t know much about the internet when he ran for the Republican nomination this year but his supporters did and they created a decentralized network of websites and online support communities that raised over $30 million.  This launched him into the national spotlight, albeit a dim one.  The energy from his campaign has transformed into the formation of a web-powered political coalition called the Campaign for Liberty.

The most interesting thing about the Campaign for Liberty and the Ron Paul phenomenon is that it has attracted some of the most ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ factions of American politics.  Indeed, Ralph Nader, the uber liberal, and Ron Paul, the uber conservative, agree with other third party candidates Bobb Barr (Libertarian candidate) and Cynthia McKinney (Green Party) on a number of issues: (1) a non-interventionist foreign policy, (2) the sanctity of America’s Constitutionally protected rights to privacy and due process, (3) balancing the federal budget and (4) a reevaluation of monetary policy and the role of the Federal Reserve System.  These four issues are the foundation of a winning coalition.

This coalition has many subgroups: Marxists liberals and right wing militias, libertarian intellectuals and anti-corporate activists, environmentalists and oilmen.  In my opinion the wide range of eclectic supporters of this coalition are calling for a more decentralized governing system like the ones Founding Father and Milton Freedman would fantasize about.  A government of layers, each of which is best adapted to the community it serves.  Local, regional, national, global ensuring peace within the community and it’s representation to the greater whole.  Social programs are not run from far away capitals, but within community partnerships between business and non-profit entities.  This fundamental decentralization is worthy of a political platform because it is the root of conservatism: it is Edmund Burke shifting his weight to balance the ship of society.

Barack Obama’s great innovation was his centrist approach to politics during a time of extreme political divisiveness.  The Republicans must figure out the next great innovation if they want to remain relevant.  That innovation is decentralization and it’s where the third parties are currently coalescing.  If the Republicans can’t brand Obama as a big government politician determined to centralize power and take away community’s rights, and then brand themselves as upholders of those rights, then some crafty people are going form another (Yellow?) party and take the Republican’s spot at the dance.

Evolution, Economics and Solar Power

Nothing I’ve ever read has effectively explained to me how evolution works.  I know there are mutations: the beneficial mutations lead to survival and reproduction while harmful mutations lead to death.  How, I’ve always wondered, can the amazing complexity and diversity of live arise from so many individual efforts of trial and error?  How many amazing traits have been lost because mutation #1 didn’t benefit it’s host and thus couldn’t be spread, even though it would have provided the perfect foundation for mutation #2?

I’d imagine that an Eastern answer would go something like this: evolution is a path and every step forward in that path leads to perfection while space/time (circumstance) creates impediments; but these impediments are only temporary, just like all things, and the correct mutations will be discovered and will spread.  A Western answer might go like this: some organizational force (God) has a plan and evolution is the unfolding of that plan.  The Western one naturally leads to the next question: how can I understand this plan?  Is the Pope going to tell me?  The bible?  Natural scientists?  My own Spirit?  I can more easy grasp the concept of a path than a plan, which is probably why I’ve been finding Eastern wisdom more effective than Western as of late.

The most effective wisdom tradition in explaining our world, in my opinion, is economics. I’d consider it a wisdom tradition because, like the others, it has it’s own concept of Ultimate Reality, Perfection, Oneness, etc: the free market.  If something bad happens in the world, it’s not because of a failure of the free market: it’s because the market wasn’t really free (and of course, can never be.)  The intersection of evolution and economics is playing out particularly obviously in the current quest for solar power.

The human organism is evolving an organ to create electricity out of the light from the sun.  At a trade show in San Diego hundreds of different designs, each financed by a deliberate amount of capital, are displayed to people with access to clients and/or more capital.  CNET took photos of their favorites. Take a look at these pictures and ask yourself if these don’t look like a bunch of different mutations; if this doesn’t look like evolution in action.  Some of these technologies (mutations) will prove beneficial and receive more capital (life) while others will die off.  We will evolve the ability to capture the sun’s energy.  The only questions are how soon and how much.

Graphing Democracy in 3D

We spend a lot of time talking about democracy but very little time actually defining it.  Democracy comes from the Greek words ‘demos’ (people) and ‘kratos’ (power.)  For many centuries after the collapse of the Athenian democracy and the Greek and Roman Republics, democracy (people power) was synonymous with mob rule, chaos and insecurity.  Many assumed that a majority rule democracy would oppress minorities.  This fear was one of the elements that encouraged America’s founding fathers to institute the electoral college and create the Senate.

Due to widespread overuse and misinterpretation, many political scientists prefer the term polyarchy, which means ‘many rule’ over the term democracy.  ‘Polyarchy’ is the title of a seminal political science book by Robert Dahl.  In this book, Dahl proposes that all governments have two variables – competitiveness and inclusiveness – and can be placed on a graph with those two axis.

Competitiveness asks who can compete for political office. Robert Dahl's polyarchy graph from 1971 America’s competitiveness is much lower than Israel’s because America’s two mainstream political parties effectively prevent people with diverse perspectives from running for office while Israel’s multi-party coalition system enables almost anyone to run.

Inclusiveness asks who can vote. America does much better than Israel here because all American citizens can vote while only Israeli citizens can vote – excluding the non-citizen Palestinians who live on Israeli occupied lands.

Dahl’s definition of polyarchy is good, but not complete.  His graph doesn’t account for the most powerful force in politics:  information distribution.  Those who control access to information have tremendous political power.  They can amplify certain elements within society and silence others.  They can create the illusion of competitiveness and inclusiveness, amplify certain social elements while silencing others, and create false narratives.  Information is power and it must be included in Dahl’s analysis, but how?

Three important questions arise when thinking about information: who can create it, how is it distributed and how can it be applied.  The first question is technical: does the population have access to information creation tools?  The second is technical/cultural: who has the technology to distribute it and the cultural capital  needed to get people to pay attention?  The third is entirely cultural: what can individuals, communities and organizations do with the information they process?

Transparency is the key component that addresses all of these questions as one.  Transparency requires everyone have the ability to create, distribute and use information.  There is no barrier between a totally transparent government and the society it serves.  In that instance, government and society become one.  Institutions are a third element in the transparency matrix.  Their existence ensures that a totally transparent government will never exist.  However, by intelligently using network technologies, we can get close.

When transparency is added as the third dimension to Dalh’s polyarchy graph,  the possibility a relationship between competitiveness and inclusiveness arises within a 3 dimensional space.  This possibility becomes reality in the graph z=x^3 + y^3.

3D Graph of Polyarchy (democracy)
3D Graph of Polyarchy (democracy)

In this graph, a positively transparent society is placed into the top left area of  polyarchy while a negatively transparent society (one in which information is used to create false realities) brings you towards the bottom right area of authoritarianism.  A society that is inclusive but not competitive has a negative transparency because a lot of people are supporting a poor selection of leaders so false realities is constructed to help people view this situation as acceptable.  A society that is competitive but not inclusive is highly transparent because each included individual receives an unusually high return on their vote.   In the real world, a highly inclusive but minimally competitive government like the Soviet Union had a vast propaganda machine while the highly competitive but relatively non-inclusive post-revolution America had a thriving, decentralized information distribution businesses.

The next step is clear: we need to solve for transparency.  Given two variables we could, theoretically, plot societies on the x^3+Y^3 plane and even watch as they move across it over time.  The implications for this would be tremendous.  Imagine if America adopted a foreign policy of transparency whose only mission was to facilitate the creation of transparent national governments.  I think this is precisely the type of metric we need to create a global coalition of friendly, democratic and free nations.

Darfur: A US-China Proxy Battle for Oil

Confirmed Oil Reserves, Pipeline and Conflict.

Summary: There is oil in Darfur. The Sudanese government is using the same tactics to evict millions of Darfuri as they used in the South a decade ago. They are using Chinese money to finance their operations. The US is attempting to create international pressure against the Al-Bashir government by calling Darfur a ‘genocide.’ The US is also financing the Chadian government to the west of Sudan. The Chadian government is financing Dafuri rebels. The Chinese and the US are fighting a proxy battle for Darfur, an area with potentially vast oil reserves, at the expense of millions of Darfuris.

In 2005, Reuters published an article entitled: Oil Discover adds new twist to Darfur.

“Sudan announced in April that its ABCO corporation… had begun drilling for oil in Darfur, where preliminary studies showed there were “abundant” quantities of oil. The news has prompted some humanitarian experts to wonder whether oil could be guiding Khartoum’s actions in Darfur, where a scorched-earth policy against rebels’ communities has left tens of thousands dead and forced at least 2 million from their homes.”

This is one of two mainstream media articles I found that mention Oil and Darfur in the same sentence. The other was in this BBC article. Once again, the mainstream press has neglected to inform us of WTF is going on. Darfur is, in fact, another narrative consistent with the rest of Sudanese oil history.

In 1974, Chevron was granted large oil concessions in southern Sudan. They discovered oil in that region in 1978 and began developing the fields. Unfortunately for Chevron and the ruling elite in Khartoum, the southern Sudanese weren’t willing to give away their oil wealth. In 1984, rebels from the south attacked a Chevron facility and the company suspended operations. This all happened within the context of a number of rebel groups in the south using violence to pressure the central government to give them more autonomy. In 1992, Chevron sold their oil operations to a Sudanese corporation.

The central government outsourced much of the conflict to militia groups in the south just as they have with the Janjaweed in Darfur. They financed a lot of this conflict with money from Chinese, Canadian and Swiss oil companies. Recently, the Chinese have purchased most of the oil rights in Sudan from other companies.

The Human Rights Watch report titled: Sudan: Oil Companies Complicit in Rights Abuses, published on November 25, 2003, explains the tactics used by the government in the south. The following is from a HRW press release publicizing that report:

“In addition to its regular army, the government has deployed militant Islamist militias to prosecute the war, and has armed southern factions in a policy of ethnic manipulation and destabilization… The Sudanese government has used the oil money in conducting scorched-earth campaigns to drive hundreds of thousands of farmers and pastoralists from their homes atop the oil fields. These civilians have not been compensated nor relocated peacefully-far from it. Instead, government forces have looted their cattle and grain, and destroyed their homes and villages, killed and injured their relatives, and even prevented emergency relief agencies from bringing any assistance to them.”

This is a report from Southern Sudan! Not Darfur! They are using the same tactics but no one is talking about why.

The probability of oil in the Darfur region is high because proven reserves exist immediately south and west of Darfur. Pipelines have also been built to bring oil from the region to the coast. The presence of oil in Darfur would also explain why the Sudanese government takes the risk of enraging the international community by utilizing difficult to control militias to terrorize their own people. America is mounting an international campaign to label Darfur a ‘genocide’ because they seek to oust the pro-China, Al-Bashir administration.

American relations with the the al-Bashir administration were doomed from the start because America had supported the former Sudanese administrations that had been overthrown by Al-Bashir in June of 1989. Al-Bashir strengthened the Islamic foundation of Sudan, enacting Sharia law and, over time, realigned Sudanese economic development behind Chinese rather than American interests. The State Department also alleges that the Sudanese government has a relationship with Al-Qaeda13 and other fundamentalist Islamic organizations so it is clear that al-Bashir’s administration will never be subservient to American interests.

The Bush administration wants regime change in Sudan more than they want peace in Darfur and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.

The US relationship with Chad to the west of Darfur is almost never reported by the mainstream media. The US supports the Chadian government (they have oil) and Chad is financing rebel groups in Darfur who are fighting all the way to Khartoum. In fact, on May 12, a rebel group called the JEM with connections to Chad invaded Khartoum. This is a massive story because its the first time Darfuri rebels brought the battle to the capital but since it doesn’t fit with the mainstream media narrative of defenseless Darfuris being targeted indiscriminately by Arabs, no one is talking much about it.

The Chinese and the US are fighting a proxy battle for oil at the expense of millions of Darfuris. If we want to stop the conflict in Darfur, we need to hear the real story. The mainstream media, once again, has created a circus out of Darfur instead of contextualizing the conflict.

For the best report I’ve even seen on Darfur, check out VBS TV’s report entitled Inside Sudan.

Inside Sudan from VBS

Oil Around Darfur

The following are my sources:
Rolandsen, Oystein W. African Guerillas: The Jajawiid and Government Militias. London: Lynne Rienner. 2007
UN Sudan NIG: The History And Origins Of The Current Conflict In Darfur
Washington Post: Moon, Dan Ki. A Climate Culprit In Darfur. Saturday, June 16, 2007; Page A15
Annan welcomes extension of African Union mission in Darfur
Reuters: Oil discovery adds new twist to Darfur tragedy
Vice Media
BBC: Head-to-head: Darfur situation
Human Rights Watch
New York Times: Scorched-Earth Strategy Returns to Darfur. Published: March 2, 2008.

Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1998 Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism
Washington Post: U.S. Calls Killings In Sudan Genocide: Khartoum and Arab Militias Are Responsible, Powell
Says. Friday, September 10, 2004; Page A01