Spies like us

It’s a cold war redux as the government of Belarus cries “spy”:

Belarus on Monday accused the United States of recruiting citizens into a spy ring aimed at undermining the ex-Soviet republic.

The U.S. State Department said the allegation was “just ridiculous” and that the department was considering whether to close its embassy in Minsk.

Tension has been building between Washington and the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, and most U.S. Embassy employees have been expelled in recent months.

Valery Nadtachayev, a spokesman for the main security agency, the KGB, told Belarusian television on Monday that the U.S. Embassy had hired 10 local citizens to take photographs of police officials, airports and villages near the state border.

For an administration that still calls its state security agency the KGB, this isn’t a surprise. Just last week the U.S. talked of closing its embassy due to diplomatic shenanigans which, although revived in the past months, have roots that go back more than a decade.

When I lived in Minsk in 1998-99, the U.S. ambassador was absent much of the time because Lukashenko evicted him along with emissaries from other countries because their houses were too close to his own. Basically, they were in the same neighborhood, and he wanted them out.

Ten years later, Lukashenko still seeks to evict (or suppress) anyone who criticizes his authoritarian style government.

Could it be that U.S. operatives are snapping nefarious photos around the countryside, exposing weaknesses in preparation for invasion? It’s highly doubtful, but in Lukashenko’s world, anything is possible — anything except a few people taking pictures.

Also-ran for president: Jack Grimes

2008 contender Jack Grimes

If you prefer a little more emperor in your 2008 presidential candidates, then Jack Grimes is your man.

Grimes, who is the United Fascist Union’s candidate for ’08, lists as one of his priority issues to “establish a global government, similar to the Roman Empire built upon an Axis of economic trade to raise the standard of living everywhere on the planet.”

Oh yes, there does exist a United Fascist Union. It’s unclear the size of the Union’s membership, but it is clear that they employ stealth methods to hide their numbers. Why else would the group’s website URL [http://joanne21921.tripod.com] be so cryptically pedestrian?

When choosing his political heroes, Grimes doesn’t pick from the standard lot of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington. A candidate who wants to win must choose his heroes from history’s winners — that’s why Grimes looks to none other than Benito Mussolini and Sadaam Hussein as role models.

He claims to admire Mussolini because:

…he created an entirely new form of socialism that could bring about economic equality and create social justice for all men.

For Grimes, Hussein holds the key to America’s economic success:

We would like to restructure the American economy, bridging the gap between classes by instituting a form of socialism called Corporate Statism. Take America off of a metallic standard establishing instead a Work Point Standard like Mussolini did in Italy. We also favor abolishing paper money & the creation of a system of electronic credit & debit revolving around Transferable Work Point Cards.It is vital that we revive America’s heavy industry. The United Fascist Union could acheive this objective by replicating what Mussolini & Hussein have already achieved respectively in Italy & Iraq.

Take a successful model and build upon it — that’s the Grimes way. After all, he’s the only candidate to have portrayed Adolf Hitler on Star Trek. What more qualifications could the President of the United States need?

Will Grimes’ trains be running on time in November? Only time will tell.

[This post is fourth in a series on the other 2008 presidential candidates called “Parade of the also-rans.” See the whole series here.]

Politics and the Prophet

[Editor’s note: In light of today being Earth Day, I thought I would do my green duty and recycle a post from June 2005 that is remarkably still relevant today.]

The pregnancy of Britney Spears and the trial of Michael Jackson notwithstanding, the hottest topic in the news today has to do with the intersection between politics and religion. Following the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the topic has become a “we’ve arrived!” bellwether for many people of faith — and a panic button for many secularists.

Evangelicals have gained much influence in the political arena. While the left constantly cries theocracy, evangelical ideas have made modest gains in the public square. With the possibility of high court justices being secured for a long time in favor of evangelical ideas, things are looking up for Christians in America. The way things stand now, a time of great prosperity for American evangelicalism would seem imminent.

Or would it?

Is political superiority the key for the advancement of the people of God? Not always, if Jeremiah 27 is in any way indicative of how God might intervene in the political sphere. It’s a bizarre passage that elicits a much deserved double-take, because when read in light of conventional wisdom, it appears to make little sense.

Ever the unpopular preacher, Jeremiah delivers the news that Yahweh is putting everyone under control of the pagan Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar:

It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.

Lest Israel, God’s chosen people, think that they were excepted, Jeremiah informs them that they too—just like all the other nations—are losing their own autonomy:

To Zedekiah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live. Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

The leaders and false prophets must have thought of Jeremiah as an ancient–day Howard Dean, speaking such nonsense. Why should the chosen people of God stand for serving a foreign, pagan leader? Such a notion was appalling to their sensibilities.

The irony, however, was that Israel had been serving foreign gods all along—it was only fitting that they should now serve a foreign king. Now, in an unseeming reversal, Israel would only see prosperity if they relinquished their own political sovereignty. Only after they had endured captivity would their land be restored to them.

In this strange passage, Yahweh showed that he doesn’t need the political structures of his people to verify his sovereignty. He is indeed the Maker, and only his kingdom has ultimate authority.

What relation does this ancient story have to do with our modern political climate? Should evangelical Christians relinquish what little political clout they have gained that they might prosper under a leftist government?

Just as the governance of Israel under the Davidic kingship remained the ideal (ultimately fulfilled in Christ!), evangelicals should continue to be wary of campaigning for the left. What Jeremiah 27 does do is to remind us who is really in charge, and who holds each political administration in his hands—even the bad ones. Evangelicals should continue to influence the political scene for the better, but let us not forget who is really on the throne.

Mysterious, yet strangely sovereign are his ways.

Parade of the also-rans: Mike Gravel

What do you do when you get trounced by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries? If you’re Senator Mike Gravel, you see if you can beat them as an independent.

What’s that you say? You forgot that the former senator from Alaska even ran as a Democrat? The next thing you’ll be telling me is that you didn’t even know that Alaska had a former senator named Mike Gravel.

What’s unique about Gravel? He’s the only candidate (that I know of) with the boldness to sport an upside-down apostrophe in his logo:

Mike Gravel's upside-down apostrophe

Hovering under the radar as a stealth candidate (he wasn’t even invited to many of the Democratic debates), Gravel apparently wanted a party with a winning tradition — so naturally, he switched last month and threw in his hat with the Libertarians.

Who knows? The man who starred in what can only be called the most bizarre campaign ad ever made could be the last man standing in November…

[This post is third in a series on the other 2008 presidential candidates called “Parade of the also-rans.” See the whole series here.]

Politics and the Olympic Games

The news of protest and calls for boycotts (of various flavors) of the 2008 Olympic games raises the perennial question of whether or not politics should have any bearing upon sport. It’s really not a new issue at all. Think of the 1936 Nazi Olympics where Jesse Owens embarrassingly upset what was supposed to be Hitler’s Aryan showcase games. Think also of Munich, Moscow, and Los Angeles — Olympic games marked by political terror, propaganda, and absence.

On the one hand, there is a legitimate political stage to make certain reasonable political statements. After all, it is nation-states who sponsor and recognize the competitors. Athletes compete not on behalf of themselves (or of a shoe company), but on behalf of a country — a distinct political unity.

On the other hand, you have athletes who train for many years only to be bandied about by the whim of bureaucrats. Athletic competition does operate, at least in some respects, on a level outside the political sphere. It can give the tiniest nation parity with superpowers. While we live in nation-states, the nation-state does not comprise our whole being.

Make no mistake, the modern Olympics — with all its hokey mythologizing — gives itself more credit than is due. Citius, altius, fortius, indeed — but not without billions of dollars from official sponsors and licensing fees. The Olympics serve not only as a competition, but as a giant marketing platform for the host city and country. To be chosen for the Olympic Games is to be given legitimacy among a nation’s peers in the world.

Getting back to the news of the day, is it at all appropriate to protest the Games in part or whole for the misbehavior of a host country? Given the considerations I’ve mentioned above, I think so.

The Chinese govenrment’s human rights issues are legendary. From its population control policies that encourage (if not force) abortion, to its outright oppression of religious groups (be they Tibetan monks, Christian house churches, or Falun Gong adherents), the Chinese government evades answering to the world by brandishing its military and industrial might.

Like other conservative bloggers, I find myself in the strange company of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Hillary Clinton, who are calling for a boycott of the opening ceremonies. If there is no boycott on the national level, I think at the very least that athletes themselves should mount some sort of protest. Perhaps medal winners could turn their medals around to hang from their backs while on the podium? That would be difficult for the Chinese officials to police, and it would speak volumes.

Alas, a protest or boycott is only a first step. Real, tough stances need to be taken against the Chinese government against its human rights policies, lest we sell our souls for a mess of cheap discount store goods.

Parade of the also-rans: Cynthia McKinney

In a violent world, America needs a president who is ready to take on the enemy with their bare hands. Could Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney be the answer?

The former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia certainly has toughness in her background. Two years ago, she roughed up a Captiol police officer who accosted her for walking around security. if she’s this adept at slapping around Capitol Hill’s finest, image what she could do to al-Qaeda…

Strength in adversity? Not a problem for McKinney. What better way to challenge adversity after losing your congressional seat than to run for president?

A tough campaigner, McKinney has been known for her unique campaign strategy of invisibility — a trait she’ll likely continue in her run for the Oval Office.

She wasn’t invisible when she was in the House, however. While other congressmen were piddling around with things like appropriations, funding for the troops, etc., Rep. McKinney was busy introducing Articles of Impeachment for President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary Rice.

If Cynthia McKinney wins, it won’t be with electronic voting machines:

And finally, her unique gift for oratory would eliminate the need for government funding of prescription sleep medication:

[This post is second in a series on the other 2008 presidential candidates called “Parade of the also-rans.” See the whole series here.]

Parade of the also-rans: Jonathan “The Impaler” Sharkey

Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey: Your Next President

It has often been said that character is a necessary qualification in a candidate for president. With that, let it never be said that Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey isn’t a character.

Sharkey is more than just an independent 2008 presidential candidate. In his own words:

To some, The Impaler is immortal. The Impaler is not just a warrior, a Sanguinary Satanic Vampyre, a Hecate Witch, a lover, but is above all – a “Real American.”

With such qualifications, who could ask for anything more? But there is—Sharkey boasts, among other things, a Ph.D. in Political Science, a past military career, and campaign experience—surprisingly, his 2006 Minnesota gubernatorial bid failed.

Don’t call him soft on crime, either. He has a plan to impale 20 people on the White House lawn the day of his inauguration (this has apparently increased since he commented on my blog in 2005 that he would impale 10). Some of his targets for impaling: Zacarias Moussaoui, Osama bin Laden, King George ‘Worthless’ Bush, Dick Chaney [sic], Fidel Castro, and Paris Hilton. This man does not play favorites.

Lest you think he’s in the pocket of the “Christian Right,” Sharkey wants to be clear:

Well, I am against Christian hypocrites, as well as Professional Christians. I intend on bringing peace and unity to America. I am a servant of Lucifer, and do process Demonic Powers along abilities, that most people don’t. So, for lack of a better word, I am the “Anti-Christ!”

There you have it.

Apparently, there’s also a movie in the works about him. Here’s the trailer:

Stay tuned here in November, where we’ll be up late tallying Sharkey’s electoral votes as they come in.

[This post is first in a series called “Parade of the also-rans.” See the whole series here.]

Parade of the also-rans: the “who else” in who’s running for president

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain. No doubt you’ve heard these three names more often than you’d like, and from now until November there will be no shortage of frontrunner coverage. If you’re as dissatisfied with the current crop of candidates as am I, you might be wondering: isn’t there anybody else running?

As it turns out, there is.

Third, fourth, and fifth-party candidates have been around as long as the tail on a bull-moose. Ours is a nation of alternatives, and given this repetitive state of election news, TruePravda will be examining some of the lesser-known presidential candidates. From the genuinely obscure to the obviously oddball, we’ll look at the oft-ignored third wheel of American politics.

Stay tuned.

This post will serve as a directory for the series, with also-rans added to the list below as they are posted.

The parade of the also-rans:

The lesser of two evils?

“I’m just gonna vote for the lesser of two evils.”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that phrase from evangelical Christians in recent weeks. Usually this has been in the context of Mitt Romney and John McCain. There’s a great problem in the statement, and it has little to do with McCain or Romney. Compare this ethic of adopting the “lesser of two evils” with the ethic presented us by the Apostle Paul:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. [Romans 12:9, ESV]

Abstain from every form of evil. [1 Thessalonians 5:22, ESV]

Christians are not called to do evil, but good. How then does this work out in such seemingly impossible situations as the voting booth? The simple answer is to do good by your vote. If at any point a Christian determines he is doing evil, he should refrain.

In the midst of difficult dilemmas, there may indeed be a “good” choice after all. It would be, for example, a good action to use deadly violence against a terrorist who is about to shoot up a shopping mall. The same thinking can be applied to Just War Theory, choosing from a cholesterol-laden menu, and yes, even the voting booth.

So, if you’re voting, don’t do evil.

If you’ve already voted, don’t vote again.

Super Tuesday Predictions

Since I missed my Super Bowl predictions, why not try something a little more safe, like Super Tuesday? I predict:

  • My trash will be picked up
  • D.C. traffic will be bad
  • I will have at least two meetings at work
  • Catholics everywhere will get fat

And you thought I was going to say that John McCain would win the bulk of Republican delegates and Hillary Clinton would upset Barack Obama in the Democratic race…