Monthly Archives: March 2008

Muslims Out Number Catholics Worldwide

The Vatican has just reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the largest faith in the world.  Apparently Muslims make up 19.2% of World population, while Catholics make up 17.4%.    This really should not be much of a surprise, I would have been more surprised if Catholicism was still ahead. 

I think there are a couple of key aspects that have been left out of the analysis in this report.  Sure, Catholicism is now outnumbered by Islam, but Catholicism only counts their own members, not members of break off sects (aka Protestantism) or other independent Christian faiths (aka Mormonism, JW, etc).   While it is likely that the number of Muslims includes all Muslims regardless of Sunni, Shiite, or any other affiliation. 

A more accurate comparison would have been to compare Catholicism with Sunni Islam while comparing Christianity as a whole with Islam as a whole.  If done in this way, Christianity makes up 33% of world population while Islam (still) makes up 19.2%.   A significant lead for Christianity.  

However, all is not necessarily well in Christendom.  The Western world, which contains a majority of Christians, have some of the lowest population growth rates in the world.  In some countries, there are nearly as many deaths as there are births in a given year.  Additionally, more and more people from Christian backgrounds are leaving religion altogether as they become more wealthy and have less of a need for religion. 

The growth rates of major Christian religions, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, etcetera has diminished to a crawl;  really the saving grace for Christianity are the newer religions and movements within the umbrella.  The evangelical movement has gone through a boom period and independent faiths such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s witness continue to have significant growth rates and are establishing a greater footprint in the community. 

But even the growth of those faiths and movements can’t keep up with Islam.  Undoubtedly, this 14% gap in population between Christianity and Islam will continue to shrink.  At some point in the not to distant future Islam will pass Christianity.  Islam continues to spread, they are essentially experiencing their own modern-day crusade (a topic for another article) and taking over countries as they go along.   Christianity cannot keep up with this.  It is a harsh reality that needs to be recognized and if the Christian world is concerned about there ought to be serious discussion about how to deal with it (and I don’t mean deal with it in terms of War or violence) and adjust.  It is a unique time for the world.  We are indeed witnessing the rise of the East, both the Near East and the Far East.  Could this century be the century of the East? Time will tell.

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Filed under Christian, Christianity, International Affairs, Islam, Politics, Race, Religion

4,000 Deaths

In the last day U.S. deaths in Iraq has reached a milestone mark of 4,000.   While any death of a U.S. person, soldier or otherwise, is sad and unfortunate, this number should be a sign of the incredible ability of our military.  When taken in context of previous wars and years in country, 4,000 is an extremely low number and is laudable. 

We invaded Iraq five years ago this month.  We are averaging about 800 deaths per year.   That is nothing in the scheme of things when one analyzes War on a macro and historical scale.  Now I need to interject here and recognize that this is not “nothing” to those whom have lost a son, daughter, friend, sibling, etc.   The death of one of their own is very personal and painful and my heart goes out to them.

Nevertheless, this number is not a sign of abject failure and destitution.  On the contrary, it is a sign of success and is demonstrative of the incredible quality and ability of our military and their medical staff.  War is an awful and terrible thing.  There is nothing to like about it, yet it is sometimes a necessary thing.  We can go back and forth arguing over the merits of this particular war and why we are there, but ultimately, what it now comes down to for the troops on the ground is protecting themselves and the soldier at their side and ensuring a measure of hope and freedom for the Iraqi people.  They are doing a great, great job and, if we stand by them, will ultimately stablize Iraq enough to leave without Iraq turning into another Somalia.

Undoubtedly, today and this week, all the news will be about the 4,000 deaths.  The President will be attacked, McCain will be attacked, the war will be criticized, Obama and Hillary will promise to bring the troops home immediately.   We Americans love to get riled up and react to every talking point in the most negative way possible without ever thinking things through and trying to understand what the issue actually is telling us.  So let’s give some context to 4,000 deaths:

  • 1968 was the deadliest year of the Vietnam war, they had 16,592 deaths.  Four times more than we have in this war in five years
  • In the 3 years of the Korean War, the United states lost 36,516
  • In June 1944 in the Battle of Normandy, WWII, the United States lost 1465 people.  About 1/3 the number we have lost in 5 years of Iraq.
  • In the Battle of Gettysburg there were about 8,000 dead in three days of fighting.

The only war we have had with less casualties was the the Gulf War in 1991.  That spoiled us and set our expectations way too high as a people and caused us to have unrealistic expectations for the military and caused us to forget the realities of war. 

I recognize that the way we fight war today is different from the past, nevertheless, the numbers are telling.  It tells us that the money we spend developing new and smart weaponry, protecting our soldiers, and investing in continued R&D is paying off.  It tells us that our soldiers are more sophisticated and skilled with better leadership than at anytime in our history. 

All in all, things are not great in Iraq, but they are not dire either.  And regardless of what we all may think of why we went to war or the justness of it, it would be evil and disgusting if we pulled our troops out now only to allow Iraq to fall into utter chaos, ruled by vicious gangs and tribes – basically allowing Al Qaeda in Iraq to run rampant.  Instead of complaining and attacking our government and military for 4,000 deaths in five years, we should be remorsely impressed that there has ONLY been 4,000 deaths in this war, a war that consisted of invading a foreign country and occupying hostile territory for five years.  That is an impressive feat.  I applaud our Military, of which I am part, for their bravery, patriotism, and dedication to duty.

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Filed under Election 2008, International Affairs, Iraq, John McCain, Military, Politics, Republicans, War

African Countries Better Than Zimbabwe

In an interview that was released last week, a Western reporter had the rare fortune to interview Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe.  While defending his country and his record he said something along the line of “Aside from South Africa, name me one African country that is better off economically than Zimbabwe?”  Sadly, but for reasons I understand, the reporter didn’t take the bait.  So I will do so here, if only to point out that Zimbabwe is about on par with Somalia in terms of livable countries and is a rat hole. (Data from CIA World Factbook, 2008)

Stats are in the order of: GDP Real Growth Rate (RGR), GDP Per Capita (PPP), Unemployment (UE), Poverty (P), Life Expectancy (LE), and AIDS Prevalence (AIDS)- Bold indicates significant stats.

Zimbabwe– RGR: -6%, PPP: $500, UE: 80%, P: 68%, LE: 39.5 yrs, AIDS: 24.6%

Botswana– RGR: 4.7%, PPP: $14,700, UE: 23.8%, P: 30.3%, LE: 50.5 yrs, AIDS: 37.3%
Zambia– RGR: 6%, PPP: $1,400, UE: 50%, P: 86%, LE: 38.44 yrs, AIDS: 16.5%
Namibia– RGR: 4.5%, PPP: $5,200, UE: 5.3% (is that right?), P: NA, LE: 43.11 yrs, AIDS: 21.3%
Mozambique– RGR: 7.5% PPP: $900, UE: 21%, P: 70%, LE: 40.9 yrs, AIDS:12.2%
Rwanda– RGR: 6%, PPP: $1,000, UE: NA, P: 60%, LE: 48.99, AIDS: 12.2%

Looking at this data, it can be difficult to separate Zimbabwe from some of their neighbors, however the most telling statistic is Zimbabwe’s -6% growth rate for 2007, while all of her immediate neighbors are growing at at least 4.5 % annually.  Additionally, one statistic that is not included above due to its lack of inclusion in the World Factbook is inflation rate.  Zimbabwe currently has the worlds highest inflation, upwards of 100,000%.  (Note, I included Rwanda in list above to show a country that was in the midst of Genocide just about 10 years ago to demonstrate how some are rising, while Zimbabwe is falling).

The Factbook also ranks countries based on various stats, let’s look at how some African Countries rate on the economic indicators above: (Where the country stands in World Rankings is the number given)

GDP Real Growth Rate
Best in Africa: Angola – #4
Botswana: #118
Zimbabwe: #217
Worst in Africa: Zimbabwe (Only Gaza and the West Bank are worse in the World)

GDP Per Capita
Best in Africa: Equitorial Guinea- #12 ($44,100, Gotta love that Oil!)
Botswana: #74
Zimbabwe: #229 (2nd to last in the World)
Worst in Africa: Congo, Democratic Republic of, #230

Unemployment
Best in Africa: Namibia, #63
Botswana: #170
Zimbabwe: #197 (3rd from last in the world)
Worst in Africa: Liberia, #198

So, Mr. Mugabe, it is pretty clear that you have completely destroyed your country over the last ten years. A country that was once the bread basket of Africa is now worse than Somalia and Sudan on nearly every level. What a mightly fall Zimbabwe has taken.

Robert Mugabe is among the worst people in the world, yet he refuses to recognize his own ineptitude and the realities that his country faces. Right next door in Botswana is Africa’s new shining star. They certainly have their own issues, like dealing with AIDS, but they are improving. Mugabe and the rest of Africa would do well to look at the Botswana model and apply it themselves.

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Filed under Africa, International Affairs, Politics

Open Thread: Who’s Our Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington?

One of my favorite books is John Adams by David McCullough.  Last night on HBO a multi-part series began based on this book and the life of John Adams.   Whenever I study American history and the revolutionary period I am awe struck by the passion most of these men appear to have had for freedom and liberty; for doing what was best for the American people and not necessarily for themselves. 

This really struck home as I watched the show last night when the King of England decreed that any one in remote open rebellion against the crown would tried for treason and hung.  Each of the men in the continental congress knew this applied to them.  There was a somber and reflective mood amongst them as it sunk in that they were officially outlaws and traitors.  Yet rather than dispanding and sinking back into line with the British, they became united and the push for independence became stronger.

This got me to think about how fortunate we were to have such men at that time in our country.  I have no doubt that they were ordained by God from before the foundations of the world to be born when and where they were and to play such an important role.  Then I began to think about our situation today and compare our current crop of politicians and leaders with those whom I call the “big-4”.  The big-4 consists of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.  These four people set themselves apart from the rest as the key players in America’s independence. 

Sadly,  when I look at our prospects todayI only see one leader that I would call a modern-day (insert-name here), and that is Gen. Petraeus.    He could arguably be our modern-day Washington.  Not that he will go down with the same acclaim or has accomplished as great a work as Washington, but he is innovative, a strong leader, honest, and rescued our military from what seemed to be a hopless situation.

However on the political front, I see little of note.  It disgusts me that our current choices for the next President are McCain, Clinton, and Obama.  We have a guy who has a terrible temper, drops f-bombs on capital hill interns regularly, and dumped his first wife to marry into money.  We have a lady who can’t be trusted, has been in more scandals than can be counted, and is as dirty as mud.  And a no-experience senator who refuses to take a stand on any issue really and rarely votes;  when he does it is usually after everyone else to see what side is going to win.  Really, I am extremely disappointed with the options we are presented and see no reason for optimism for the next 4 years. 

One  of the reasons I was such an ardent supporter of Romney is that I really believed that he wanted to help the country, it wasn’t a quest for power or money.   This is a country that needs fixing bad, especially with the economy, and Romney was the guy to do it. Not only that, but he is a good person, honest and a man of integrity.  However, now we are stuck with a bunch of candidates that are terrible really. 

Nevertheless, to find a silver lining, I would like all of you to propose which modern-leaders would you put into the category of an Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington?  Why?    These leaders can and should be from both parties as no one party has the exclusive right to good leadership or, conversely, scandal. 

So I will begin and the first one I can think of is Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona.  Here is a guy who is principled and determined.  He does not sway with opinion polls and seems to genuinely care about the path our country is taking as opposed to lining his own coffers.   He may never become more prominent than a congressman, but I sure hope he does.    So who do you like?

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Filed under American History, Barack Obama, Congress, Democracy, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, History, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Politics

Ruh-Roh Obama

This should throw yet another red-flag for everyone who supports Obama. I recognize that Obama’s preacher’s views are not necessarily his own, and I was a Romney guy so I am inclined to allow Religion to go by the way-side, but considering Obama has attended this particular congregation for twenty years and the preacher speaking in the video below married he and his wife. Watch and consider, let me know what you think.

There is some pretty crazy stuff in there. Now I don’t think that Obama believe much if any of what his preacher said in that video, but if he does, that should concern everyone.  Another thing that I know is that if a White candidate had a white preacher who said such things about both America and switched the White comments in the video for Black, there would massive outrage and indignation.  That candidate would either be laughed off the stage or forcibly removed due to shame.  The double-standard in our society is ridiculous, but I suppose that that is the way it is.

Anyway, I would highly encourage all of you who support Obama, but don’t really know much about what he stands for, to research and consider his stances.  They are not good, they are far more socialist than Hillary’s and are dangerous for our country.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Candidates, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Uncategorized

Oh Please, Oh Please Go to Convention

Last night was a great night for American politics.  Over the last month, all we have been hearing is that Barack has it all but locked up and Hillary should drop out, despite the fact that results in Ohio and Texas looked positive for her and win in each of those could sway momentum massively.   Indeed, that is what occurred;  in one night the Democratic race went from blow-out to a neck and neck race, and this is great for we Americans.  Especially for people like me who like to witness historical events and new things that I may never get to experience again.

Last year in the NFL season I rooted for the Pats to win the Super Bowl just so that I could witness a team go undefeated, I cheered as Bonds hit number 756 because it was historical (partially because I am a die hard Giants fan), and I was enthralled with Kosovo declaring independence.   These events and many like it captivated me because of the historical nature both of the event and, in some instances, the circumstances surrounding it.  

In this same way I am praying that the Democratic race go to convention without a candidate.  I would love to witness a convention being played out in the way they are intended to, in a chess game of strategy and smoke-filled back room deals.  Sure, those kinds of things are shady and unfortunate, but the sheer excitement and historical nature of the whole idea of a brokered convention would be great entertainment and fun to watch. 

Sure, many of you will say, “Swint, this is serious stuff, Politics is not for your own personal entertainment”.  I agree with you, however, as long as Hillary or Barack come out of the convention with the nomination, the Democrats will have a legitimate nominee who is capable and has the support a solid chunk of the American electorate.  In other words, “no harm, no foul”.  On the other hand, the worst thing that could occur is if someone other than those two came out of the convention with the nomination, this would be devastating and unfortunate.  However there is no chance that will happen.  So why not enjoy this political season for the historical nature that it is?  Let’s keep it going.  The only way this could be better is if the GOP went to convention and Mitt came out on top, but that possibility dead, so I must settle on the hope that the Democratic voters will continue to split their vote. 

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership will likely never allow this to go all the way to convention. The convention is just too close to the general election.  So sometime in June after all the states have voted and if no one candidate has secured the nom, a back-room deal will be hashed out.  (And let me say, if it get’s to that, Hillary will be the nominee based upon the age of Barack.  Barack will be told that no matter what he will have the backing of the Party in the next go around).  That will be disappointing, but what can we do?  Anyway, here’s to hoping that we get to witness some history this Summer; besides the only way I spend more than thirty seconds caring about the Democratic convention is if it is brokered. 

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Filed under Barack Obama, Candidates, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, Politics

Part II-War, National Interest, and Iraq

Last week I wrote about the first part of the following quote.  In the piece, I discussed reasons we went to War in Iraq, why we are still there, so on and so forth.  It came to my attention that it was really long and so with Part II today, I will attempt to keep it considerably shorter.  Now let’s address the 2nd sentence of the comment below. 

I guess my problem is I can’t honestly justify attacking a country for its oil when there are so many worse countries and regimes around the world. The situation in Darfur is much worse than it ever was in Iraq, and we don’t do something about it why?

There are two ways to address this sentence about Darfur and that is to discuss why we don’t get involved in Darfur due to interests (or lack thereof) and also to address the utter hypocricy by those who use this as a counter argument for Iraq.

First, let’s answer the question.  The hard and cold truth is we aren’t going into Sudan militarily because we have no interests there and because Sudan poses no threat to the outside world.  If you think that justifying war in Iraq was difficult, wait until you have to justify war in Sudan.  The reality, as cold and sad as it may be, is that Iraq and the Middle-East is of great interest and value to us and to the civilized world.  First and foremost they provide the world’s energy needs.  That is the only reason we have any relationship of a significant value with that part of the world.  If they didn’t have oil or natural gas we would treat and view them no differently than we do Mali or Chad. 

Today, admitting the fact that oil is a national interest and adding that it should be draws the gasp of millions people.  But why shouldn’t it be, we need it, the world needs it, and the middle-east has it.  But, people say, we are exploiting those people and making their lives worse. B.S., they and their governments are what determines whether or not their lives suck; how that money is used and spent is entirely up to them. I don’t see the UAEers or Kuwaitis complaining.  But I digress.

I completely understand the desire some have for more action in Darfur.  I have a great fascination for Africa, it is my favorite region to study.  I wish so much that we had the means and justification to use force to end genocide and ethnic cleansing. I remember studying the Rwanda genocide and then watching Hotel Rwanda and just being so disgusted with the actions of the western World and the inaction of the UN.   As I pondered those things, I realized the catch-22 the United States is in.  On the one hand, we are the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation.  Our people enjoy immense freedom and partake of democracy, don’t we have an obligation to help and defend those who can’t help and defend themselves?  I wish the answer were ‘yes’ and in a perfect world, we would do so.  But unfortunately, we just can’t do it.  First, if we did start getting involved militarily, where does it end?  Are we going to attack Sudan, then Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, etc?  We would be involved everywhere and undoubtedly, both sides of the conflict would wish we would go home.

Second, we have limited resources, just because we have the largest military in the world, doesn’t mean we have the ability to fight multiple wars on multiple fronts.  Third, the entire world would be outraged and we would have no support.  We can’t force democracy through the barrell of a gun, no matter how much we may want to.  The sad reality is that there is only so much we have the ability to do and only so much we can legally do. 

This brings me to the hypocricy of those that make comments like this.  There are two hypocricies herein.  First, they imply the argument that that we should leave Iraq to go stop a genocide in Africa, they try to come across as so compassionate and caring about human rights, yet they they either fail to realize or blatantly ignore the fact that if we leave Iraq too soon, we would inevitably have a human rights crisis created in Iraq.  All of these people who say we need to get out of Iraq also claim to care about freedom and human life, yet are ok with us pulling out to make a political point and indicting Bush, all the while creating a major humanitarian crisis.  Fixing one humanitarian crisis while creating another one does not sound like a productive move to me.

The second hypocricy is that people who make comments like this want us to think they would actually support military action in Sudan.  This is utterly ridiculous.  These people will yell and scream for us to leave Iraq and say that we should be helping in Sudan, if we actually did it and sent our military in there, they would call us murderers, empirialists, etc.   Straight hypocricy. 

Finally, as I said earlier I have great affinity for Africa.  What is occurring in Sudan and other parts of that continent break my heart and is very sad.  The U.S. does need to do more, but we also need to do more smartly.  Throwing money at it won’t help.   I personally believe that this should be a EU and UN matter.  It was European countries who colonized that continent and they have a significant amount of blame on their shoulders.  The UN needs to allow their peacekeeping forces to use force when necessary, just minor force.  Peacekeepers are worthless if they can’t do anything to keep the peace.  We also need to put much more pressure on the African Union.  Most of the responsibility falls on the backs of those people and countries who surround Sudan. 

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Filed under Africa, Bush, Conservative, Democracy, Election 2008, Genocide, Iraq, Liberal, Liberalism, Military, People, Politics, Progress, Progressive, Race, Republicans