Sunday, December 24, 2006

Conversation with a 10 yr old (with an interjection from the 5 yr old), 4

On the way home from a Christmas Eve visit...

Her: (A cry of consternation from the back of the van, some noises of exasperation, and then the exclammation...) Everytime I'm feeling happy, fate plays me a dirty trick!!

Mom and Dad: (Suppressed laughter.) What's the matter?

Her: I've dropped a puzzle piece from my activity book. It's in between the seat and the side of the van, and I can't get to it with my hand.

Dad: Is that puzzle piece essential for your happiness right now? It can't wait until we get home?

Her: No, I want it now.

Dad: Mom, you have to pull this van over. It's Christmas Eve, and my little girl is unhappy. This can't be.

(Mom finds a gas station and pulls in. Dad hops out, pops open the back of the van, and retrieves the puzzle piece, trading it for a kiss from his daughter.)

Dad: (Getting back into van...) Is your fate all better now?

Her: Yeah.

Mom: Except it wasn't fate, it was Dad.

Dad: That just goes to show that you can make your own fate.

Him: I'm going to make mine into a fireplace!!

Mom and Dad: Ooookay...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Conversation with a 10 yr old (and a 5 yr old interloper), 3

Took my daughter to the eye doctor today. My son was along for the ride, as usual. After 15 minutes waiting in the lobby, and a 30 minute exam by the nurse practioner, we were told the doctor would be in to see us in a few minutes. Ten minutes later, the natives were restless and not behaving very well. My daughter makes up a song using the doctor's name:

Dr. Beggs, we beg you,
Please hurry up.

Just those two lines repeated over and over. Their attempts to entertain themselves were wearing on my nerves, but when I called a halt to it, I elicited the well known child's lament:

Her: I want the doctor to come now! There's nothing to do!

Me: Hey, I know! Why don't you fuss and complain a bunch, and entertain yourself by bugging the heck out of me? Oh wait... you're already doing that!

Him: Heeheeheehee! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conversations with a 10 yr old, 2

Her: Can I tell you about the book I've been reading, Esemeralda and the Enchanted Pond?

Me: (Debating whether I want to be the audience for an hour-long monologue.) Umm...

Her: I'll sum it up...

Me: Didn't you tell me about that one yesterday?

Her: I wanted to add more detail.

Me: That wouldn't be summing up, then, would it?

Her: Please...

Me: (Inwardly sighing.) Okay.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Conversations With a 5 Year Old, 2

Him: (A sudden question inserted into the middle of a long, wearying, stream of consciousness monologue concerning aliens, or transporters, or some such.) Do you want to know something?

Me: Not really. I prefer not knowing anything. Ignorance is bliss they say.

Him: (Continues dissertation as if I hadn't said a word.)

Update: Continuing on, two hours later, we have turned to the subject of bacteria and viruses, which he proceeds to tie back into the alien discussion via War of the Worlds (the old version).

Him: Why did God cause the Martians to die?

Me: God? There's no such person.

Him: You just can't see him.

Me: (Laughing too hard to explain to him what's wrong with that argument.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election 2006

I haven't posted on the election this year, because my thoughts on it have been very confused. There's been a pretty intense debate on HBL regarding whether to vote Democratic or Republican. The debate centered around a recommendation made by Leonard Peikoff that Objectivists ought to vote for the Democrats, because the Republican Party represents the empowerment of a philosophical trend towards religion and theocracy. Peikoff maintains that socialism is a spent ideology, and that the Democrats lack the intellectual vitality to advance their own policies while in office. Voting Democratic is, therefore, the best way to slow down the advance of religion into the US political system.

A number of people were not impressed by Peikoff's missive, which does not develop his full argument on this subject. For that, one would have to listen to the recent lecture series that he presented at an Objectivist conference(registration required). They do not acknowledge an impending threat of theocracy from the right. Others, while recognizing the argument's accuracy in identifying the long-term trend towards theocracy, believe that the necessity of fighting the War on Terrorism, and the Democrats' thoroughly limp-wristed response to the war, trumps the danger of the religious right. They believe that, although Bush's conduct of the war has been half-hearted, it has been preferable to not fighting at all.

Those who agree with Peikoff have argued the exact opposite: that fighting half a war is worse than fighting no war at all, because it sacrifices the lives of our soldiers, uses up material resource, and wastes taxpayer dollars, and the only result is that our enemies are encouraged to believe that we will not wage an effective war against them. Whatever advantage we enjoyed by the illusion that we are a sleeping giant is erradicated by seeing the giant wake up, and fight like a wimp. Further, in domestic policy, Bush has advanced the cause of statism far more than any Democrat would have been allowed, with his Prescription Drug Plan, No Child Left Behind, and the Faith-Based Initiative.

The problem with the Republicans, as both sides agree, is that they are mired in the morality of altruism. They say they favor capitalism, but they are morally incapable of supporting "selfishness", i.e., the right of an individual to exist for his own sake, and pursue his own ends. They say they want to defend the US, but not if it means ignoring the disapproval of the international community by fighting purely for our own self-defense. That is why the War on Terror must be re-envisioned as the Forward Strategy of Freedom--an altruistic scheme by which American lives are sacrificed to bring freedom to the benighted parts of the globe in the hope that the people living there will suddenly transform into liberalized freedom-lovers. That is why we are rebuilding Iraq and turning its defense over to a popularly elected government without having first achieved victory in the war there. Like all self-sacrificing schemes, it is ultimately suicidal.

One of the leading proponents of voting Republican, Robert Tracinski, understands all of the above, but believes that victory can be achieved under less than optimal circumstances. That our leaders lack the moral courage to pursue victory without compunction is evident, but our enemy has its problems as well, and he believes that the US can muddle its way to victory. He also believes that it is vital for us to win the war.

Those arguing against voting Republican see zero chance that Bush will alter his tactics to win the war, or do anything to stop Iran's nuclear buildup. The only possibility they see under Bush's leadership is an eventual withdrawal from Iraq that will provide the jihadis with a moral victory, and strengthen Iran's power in the region. Most of them argue that the moral thing to do, given that fact, is withdraw sooner rather than later. They do not believe we should sacrifice anymore soldiers in an effort to stave off the inevitable.

I hope I have summarized the two positions accurately. I invite anyone who has followed the debate to provide a better summary.

My problem has been that I think both arguments have merit, and I have had an extremely difficult time choosing between them. I have begun to lean towards the anti-Republican position, although I find it hard to accept that I should vote against all Republicans on the basis that some have a theocratic agenda.

Fortunately, the choice in my own Congressional race was easy enough to make. The House seat was not up for re-election this year, so I did not have to make a choice there. In the Senate Race, it was Bill Nelson, a fairly innocuous conservative Southern Democrat vs. Katherine "the Separation Between Church and State Is a Lie" Harris. That was a no-brainer. I also voted for the Democrat candidate for Governor, Jim Davis, over the Republican, Charlie Crist. Crist will surely win, though, in as much as Jesus has already declared it so. So have the polls, which place Crist well ahead of Davis, but Jesus said it first. Anti-Crist that I am, I couldn't help but vote for the other guy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Conversations with a 5 yr old... (Updated)

Him: (Referring to the blanket he named Fuzz when he was two.) Dad, how do I know this blanket is really Fuzz?

Me: (Trying to get ready to leave the house.) That's either a totally inane question, or it's so philosophically profound that I don't have time to answer it right now.

Update: Conversations with the 10 yr old go more like this:

(After a brief discussion in which I informed her that getting two out of ten questions correct on her history quiz meant that she was going to have to reread the chapter, find the correct answers to the ones she missed, and write down the page numbers where she found them...)

Her: Why are you being so horrible to me?

Me: I'm not being horrible, I'm being strict.

Her: You ARE being horrible!

Me: I'm not, I'm being strict.

Her: You ARE!

Me: Baby...

Her: Don't call me BABY!! Cause I'm NOT your BABY!!!!

Update 2: This just in... I've been handed a note explaining her position.

It's like you're feeding me sour cream cheese.* And acting like a brat.** I try to get done. I try to read the chapter, and I do the test, but am I free?


Just another day at the office...

*Yeah, I have no clue what that's about.

**That she thought to scratch that part out shows real progress. She doesn't usually edit those thoughts.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Terrorist Attack on the US!!!

But wait, I think we might just be in danger of watering down the definition of terrorist attack here.

LITTLE ROCK - A man who allegedly shot a crossbow at a motorist after being on the receiving end of an obscene gesture has been charged with committing a terroristic act.

Wayne Allen Dierks, Jr. 26, was arrested Sunday and is also charged with possession of an instrument of crime, driving while intoxicated and driving with a suspended driver's license.

The incident began when a motorist cut in front of Dierks' sport utility vehicle. Steve Gilgenbach, the motorist, said that Dierks then began pursuing him in his SUV, yelling and cursing at him and then fired the crossbow, shattering Gilgenbach's rear window.

It looks like anti-terrorism laws are going to join hate crime laws and the RICO Act as a way to increase the penalties on criminal acts that have nothing to do with the rationale for the law. Nevermind the absurdity of making it against the law to carry out an act of war on the US.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


A powerful video montage put together by Michelle Malkin a few months ago has been banned on YouTube. The video, entitled First They Came..., shows different scenes illustrating the violent goals of the Islamists interspersed with text. Malkin has posted a response to YouTube's action on her blog, complete with video in which she takes them to task for going dhimmi. Watch the video.

(H/T Instapundit.)

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys

The French have moved quickly from abject surrender to collaboration.

The south Lebanese village of Merwahin was the stage Thursday, Sept 28 of the first near-showdown between UN and Israeli forces. DEBKAfile publishes here the first photo of an encounter between 4 French Leclerc and at least 5 Israeli Merkava tanks in that Lebanese village.

Despite the photographic evidence, Israel officially denies the incident. DEBKAfile reports the French force sought to prevent the Israeli unit from combing through the Hizballah-dominated village in search of the raiders who crossed into Israel and broke into the IDF’s Kibbutz Shomera arms store last week. They made off with a large quantity of side-arms, anti-tank weapons, LAU rockets and hundreds of combat grenades, which the Israeli force was determined to recover.

Back when the French were waffling on whether to send troops to Lebannon, I started a blogpost on the subject but discarded it. I was waffling myself on whether a) the French were being hypocrites for advocating a UN-guaranteed cease fire while refusing to send the troops they promised, or b) were being smart for wanting to ensure their troops would not be under the byzantine bureaucratic UN command structure. In the back of my mind lurked the question of whether we even wanted French troops there. That question has been answered.

Meanwhile, an Iranian official has floated a suggestion that seems likely to be picked up by the French as a way to resolve the stand off over Iran's nuclear weapon ambitions.

PARIS — Iran has proposed that France create a consortium to enrich Tehran's uranium, saying that could satisfy international demands for outside oversight of the nuclear program.

Mohammad Saeedi, deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, made the proposal in an interview with French radio in Tehran, suggesting two French nuclear manufacturers as possible partners in the consortium.

"To be able to arrive at a solution, we have just had an idea. We propose that France create a consortium for the production in Iran of enriched uranium," Saeedi told France-Info in the interview broadcast Tuesday.

Once the French were in the country, then they would provide a shield for Iran's clandestine activities. It would be impossible for the US to respond to Iran's continued development of a nuclear weapon without coming into conflict with France.

No one believes that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear bomb. Any agreement with the Iranian government that depends on them keeping their word is doomed to fail. They will simply carry on their development activities in secret, and will have obtained a nuclear capability within 2-5 years. That is unacceptable. If Bush does not act soon, though, he's going to find that the French have resolved the situation in favor of the Iranians, acting, as they did for Hizbollah, as human shields for evil.

(H/T to TIADaily for both stories.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

An Imaginary Conversation with God...

I got into a discussion on the existence of God over at Protein Wisdom. Jeff started it, sort of. He was responding to something I had said in another thread dismissing agnosticism in favor of atheism. After starting the thread, though, he disappeared and the discussion devolved into atheism vs. theism. That's nearly always a waste of time, but once I was involved in the discussion, it was difficult to resist going back. I finally got a visit from the Guy Upstairs, who convinced me to stop banging my head against a wall:

Me: (Typing.)

God: (Pops in and begins reading over my shoulder.)

God: Do you really think you're going to convince anyone?

Me: It could happen.

God: Has it ever worked before?

Me: There was that one guy…


Me: (Typing.)

God: Wasn't he gay?

Me: Well, yeah, as it turned out, he was, but what does that--

God: Leviticus.

Me: What do you mean?

God: The whole stoning thing.

Me: Wouldn't that just make him alter his behavior?

God: You might think so, but it doesn't work that way. People find the morality that works for them, and then they look for a justification. That's where I come in--or not.

Me: So you're saying that the people who believe in you only do so because you give them a reason to live the way they think is right?

God: Sure. Well, that and because they're afraid of dying. Believing they're going to be with me afterwards means they don't have to worry about that. They sleep better.

Me: So, what? Are you saying I'm a bad person because I'm trying to get them to face reality?

God: No, I'm saying that you're pissing into the wind.

Me: Oh.

Me: You know, it's not like you're doing them any favors. I mean, the first half of the Bible is devoted to the violent history of a bunch of religious fanatics, and the second half is devoted to the sad history of a guy whose example teaches people that dying for the sins of others is the most noble thing they can do.

God: What, you don't think I wrote that, do you? The slaughters, the stonings, letting my kid get nailed to a cross...?

Me: That's not yours? Which book did you write then?

God: I wrote a book of poetry once, but I couldn't get anyone to publish it.

Me: Oh.

God: You want to hear some of it?

Me: Umm, well… I was going to finish typing this post.

God: Not giving up yet?

Me: No. There was that one guy…

God: Yeah…

Me: (Typing.)

God: Didn't he become a radical subjectivist?

Me: *Sigh* (*right click *select all *delete)

God: Want to go get a beer?

Me: Sure.

God: Cool.

Me: Hey, did you use the word "pissing"?

God: I invented pissing. Get over it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Judiciary Ethics 102

The (farcical and pointless, imo) trial of Saddam Hussein is back in the news. The chief judge of the tribunal presiding over his trial has been fired for telling Saddam that he was not a dictator. The WaPo article on the firing contains the following lesson on judicial ethics from a member of Human Rights Watch:

"This is Judicial Ethics 101: You don't remove a judge just because you don't like what he says," said Nehal Bhuta, a lawyer with the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, an observer of the tribunal. "This suggests to me that the government of Nouri al-Maliki doesn't have a basic grasp of the independence of the judiciary."

If Nehal had gone on to Judicial Ethics 102, he might have learned that impartial judges do not commiserate with defendants during the trial, and they do not pronounce judgment on significant findings of fact before the trial is concluded. To tell Saddam that he was not a dictator is to essentially exonerate him of wrongdoing. If he was acting as a legitimate head of state, then what does he stand accused of? Putting down rebellions against the state? How could that have been against the law? As Saddam has already asked, "Where is the crime?"

As I have said before, Saddam could not have broken the law. He was the law. He was guilty of being a dictator, but there is no legal authority over and above the law of a dictator under which he can be accused and tried. When a dictator is overthrown, therefore, the only proper way to treat him is to stand him against a wall and shoot him.

Given that this judge has demonstrated his prejudice towards the defendant in the courtroom, the government is obliged to remove him. If the judiciary is going to be independent, it must also be impartial. If it is not impartial, then it must be checked by the other branches of government.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Real Path to 9/11

Steven Brokerman at American Renaissance has posted a timeline of events leading up to 9/11. He places the events in a much wider perspective, and provides the moral context necessary for understanding the continued existence of Islamic terrorism. My previous post on the Road to Dhimmitude should be read as a footnote to this timeline.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

GW: "Read My Lips... No State Sponsors of Terrorism."

Newt Gingrich has the featured article in today's OpinionJournal in which he offers his prescription for winning the war. Here's a small taste:

The current hopelessly slow and inefficient interagency system should be replaced by a new metrics-based and ruthlessly disciplined integrated system of accountability, with clear timetables and clear responsibilities.

I am fairly certain that the phrase "metrics-based system" uttered in a discussion of war policy instantly emasculates the speaker. That *plop* you just heard was Gingrich's testicles hitting the floor. Is he running for commander-in-chief, or aide-de-camp?

The most enraging part of the article, for me, was the following:

We should put Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia on notice that any help going to the enemies of the Iraqi people will be considered hostile acts by the U.S.

I'm pretty sure they already know that. In fact, I think Bush might've mentioned it in one of his speeches, something about "you're either with us, or against us." The problem isn't that they don't know it, it's that they've become convinced that we're not going to do anything about it. I submitted the following as a reader response, and OpinionJournal printed it:

"We should put Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia on notice that any help going to the enemies of the Iraqi people will be considered hostile acts by the U.S."

No! We should declare war on them, and raze them to the ground. Enough talk already! The Bush administration has already proven it knows how to talk. It should prove that it knows how to fight a war. A whole war, not half of a war.

George W: "Read my lips... no state sponsors of terrorism."

I think we heard something like that before.

And that's really the problem. Bush is an apple that fell too close to the tree. He's fought half of a war, just like his father; and he's shown that he can read a good speech with apparent conviction, but when it comes to acting on his words, he goes all wobbly. It's time to end the state sponsors of terrorism, in particular Iran, and he needs to find some backbone.

Friday, March 24, 2006

With Moderates Like these...

who needs the Taliban?

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.

(Full article.)

Is this what our soldiers fought and died for? The article quotes Condaleeza Rice:

"There is no more fundamental issue for the United States than freedom of religion and religious conscience," she said. "This country was founded on that basis, and it is at the heart of democracy."

Someone needs to explain to the Bush administration that the US is not a democracy. Democracy is mob rule. It is the imposition of the will of the majority on the rest of the country. If the majority believes that converting to Christianity should be punishable by death, then under a democracy, they have the power to enforce that. The US is a constitutional republic that guarantees protection for individual rights. That is why we have freedom of conscience. If Afghanistan does not respect that fundamental right, then they are our enemy, not our ally.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Objectivist Periodical & Must-Read Article

The first issue of The Objective Standard is in the mail. I haven't received my copy yet, but an email from Craig Biddle this afternoon alerted me to a couple of articles from the issue that are available online to the general public. "Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein is a must read. Here's a short teaser:

Whenever President Bush wants to defend the morality of the wars we have fought, he insists that we fight for reasons “larger than our nation’s defense.” When Bush refers to our “good intentions” in Iraq, as he frequently does, he speaks not of our intention to defend ourselves, but of the intentions of American citizens to pay and of American soldiers to die so that Iraqis can hold a mob vote.

An injunction to go to war with altruistic intentions, seeking an altruistic outcome, is in direct contradiction to the requirements of self-defense; it forbids the very essence of self-defense in the context of war: identifying and defeating enemy nations.

To identify a nation as an enemy is to recognize it as a committed initiator of force that threatens one’s own life, that forfeits its right to exist, and that in justice deserves whatever is necessary to end the threat it poses. By Just War Theory’s moral standards, however, there is no such thing as an enemy nation. Even when a nation initiates aggression, it is not regarded as the proper object of retaliation, but as a haven of “others” to be served. (This notion is, unsurprisingly, rooted in Augustine’s religion, Christianity, which countenances us to love everyone—especially, as proof of extreme virtue, to “love thine enemy.”)

Observe that America has not gone to war with one nation since September 11. In each war, President Bush has made clear that we are in Afghanistan or Iraq to aid the “Afghan people” or the “Iraqi people,” and that we oppose only their current leaders. In the case of Iraq, he has made the well-being of the Iraqis, including the satisfaction of their religious and political desires, the overriding purpose of the war.

When I read Yaron Brook, I realize fully just how far the current war is from what we ought to be doing. It's rather depressing, but it's something that must be said over and over again and I'm glad he's saying it. The war we are fighting is primarily against ourselves. Our enemy is an expert in taking advantage of America's pervasive altruism. As I've noted before, his relative weakness prevents us from striking him with all our might. When we abandon that perverse moral code, the weakness of the enemy will no longer serve to shield him from us.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Media's Civil War, Part 1: Background

After the February 22nd bombing of the Askariya shrine the media reported that 120 mosques had been in attacked in reprisals, 1300 civilians had been killed in sectarian fighting, and that Iraq was descending into civil war. This version of events was so universally accepted that even certain paleocons felt safe enough to ride the tide by declaring the War in Iraq a failure.

On March 2, ten days after the attack, the commander of US forces in Iraq, General George Casey, gave a press briefing in which he attempted to counter some of the reports that had appeared in print. He brought the number of mosques attacked down to 30 with only ten of them taking moderate damage, and only a few of them suffering severe damage. He brought the number of civilian deaths down to 350, which he noted was unacceptable but far lower than the 1300 reported. He also noted that the Iraqi army and police force had performed well, though not uniformly so, that the government had remained united and had taken steps to calm the situation, and that the country was not descending into a civil war at this time.

The media reported on his briefing, but the Washington Post did not abandon its original figure of 1300 civilian deaths, reporting instead the counter claims of an "international official" who said that morgue officials in Baghdad had been pressured to reduce their numbers.

On March 7, the Washington Post reported on a poll they had conducted which showed that 80% of Americans believe that a civil war in Iraq is likely.

An overwhelming majority of the public believe fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq will lead to civil war and half say the U.S. should begin withdrawing its forces from that violence-torn country, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The survey found that 80 percent believed that recent sectarian violence made civil war in Iraq likely, and more than a third said such a conflict was "very likely" to occur. Expectations for an all-out sectarian war in Iraq extended beyond party lines. More than seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Democrats and political independents believe civil war was likely.

In the face of the continuing violence, fully half--52 percent--of those surveyed said the United States should begin withdrawing forces. But only one in six favored immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq.

The claim that half of the people believe that the US should begin withdrawing forces is inaccurate. The question asked whether troop numbers should be increased or decreased. While 52% said that the numbers should be decreased, only 17% favored immediate withdrawal, while 35% said that the troops should be decreased but not all withdrawn immediately. One can favor a decrease in the number of troops without favoring a complete withdrawal. Meanwhile, 11% favored increasing the number of troops while 34% favored keeping the levels the same.

Still, the poll can be read as a measurement of the success that the mainstream media has had in painting a bleak picture of sectarian strife in Iraq after the bombing in Sammara. That is how it was presented in the article in which it was reported, and that is how it was read in many quarters.

That same day, Rumsfield gave a press briefing in which he dwelt at some length on the exaggerations that appeared in the press after the bombing, and pointed out that they all tended in the same direction.

From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation, according to General Casey. The number of attacks on mosques, as he pointed out, had been exaggerated. The number of Iraqi deaths had been exaggerated. The behavior of the Iraqi security forces had been mischaracterized in some instances. And I guess that is to say nothing of the apparently inaccurate and harmful reports of U.S. military conduct in connection with a bus filled with passengers in Iraq.

Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn't as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.

And then I notice today that there's been a public opinion poll reporting that the readers of these exaggerations believe Iraq is in a civil war -- a majority do, which I suppose is little wonder that the reports we've seen have had that effect on the American people.

Rumsfield's statement is slightly inaccurate though. Looking at the poll numbers, only 1% of the respondents believed that Iraq is currently in a civil war. Of the 80% who believe that a civil war is likely, only 34% believe that it is very likely with 1% saying it definitely will happen, and another 1% saying it is already happening. The other 44% described it as somewhat likely, which at best can be interpreted as meaning that there's a better than 50-50 chance of it happening. The question does not give a time frame, so respondents could be projecting Since we have heard from the very beginning of the war about how much the Sunnis and Shia hate each other, it is not surprising that many people would ascribe greater than even odds to the possibility of a civil war in Iraq at some point in the future.

That's important because it actually suggests the opposite of what one might expect. Even though the media went through a major campaign to present a picture of Iraq torn by civil war, the public didn't buy it. Practically no one thinks that Iraq is currently experiencing a civil war. Lots of people are pessimistic about the long term prospects of avoiding one, but it's an open question whether they think it will happen while our troops are still there, or at some point after the US has withdrawn from Iraq.

Still, Rumsfield obviously believes that the media is presenting a distorted picture of the war, and that the distortions are having an effect on the American public's determination to continue the war until victory is achieved. There has been a debate in the blogosphere about whether this is the case, and in my next post I will talk more about that.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Is that Cricket?

Gateway Pundit has pictures and links to news about President Bush's visit to Pakistan (h/t Instapundit). Apparently, he found time for a little cricket. This was my favorite pic:

Here's an excerpt from an* interview Brit Hume did with Bush:

Hume: Yeah. Now, I notice this here, you've got this cricket bat here...
Bush: Yes.
Hume: Do you play?
Bush: No, I carry this partly of, uh, I don't know some sort of, uh, I suppose what's the word...uh....
Hume: Affectation?
Bush: Yes, I mean it's, it's, a it's a kind of totemestic thing you know, but to be quite frank with you, it's come in useful in a couple of situations. Certainly in the topsy, turvy world of [politics], having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is quite often...useful.**


Friday, March 03, 2006

Propaganda in the Classroom

Long before I knew a philosophical reason for being an atheist, I was turned against religion by the manner in which many preachers preach. Rather than appealing to a person's mind, they shout, stamp their feet, wave their arms and carry on like madmen. For a young person to see an adult behaving in such a way, not really understanding what he's talking about, and unable to judge whether he is right or wrong in what he's saying, is very scary. It's even more so when he proclaims that his listener's are sinful and doomed to burn in hell for eternity unless they live as he says they ought to.

If a person wants to convince another person of something, he has to respect the context of that person's mind. He has to begin from what the person already knows, and present facts in a dispassionate manner, and, instead of forcing the conclusion on the person, allow that person to draw the conclusion himself. As Frederic Bastiat said, "a mind never fully accepts a conclusion that it has not reached by its own effort."

That is the ideal way to teach, which is what makes this so disturbing (h/t Instapundit, via Michelle Malkin). Most of you have probably already seen the story, but to recap, it is about World Geography teacher Jay Bennish of Overland High School in Denver, Co., using his classroom as a bully pullpit from which to disseminate his personal view of American politics.

Ignore for the moment the exact content of his views. That's really unimportant, except for being the impetus for all the publicity. He is committing grievous errors in teaching methods here.

First, his entire demeanor is strident, confrontational and intimidating. Judging from the tape, few of the students have the nerve to express a dissenting opinion. Given his reaction to the one student who did, it is no wonder. He blasts the student with a barrage of disconnected assertions designed to overwhelm the student's ability to process and still remain focused on the central issue. The student who did respond did an admirable job of coming back to the main point each time, but that is probably because he lacked sufficient knowledge to even attempt to counter the teacher's other points.

His second error is discussing issues which the children do not yet have sufficient knowledge to judge for themselves. He constantly tells them, in between brow-beatings, that he just wants them to think about those issues for themselves, but what exactly is a 16 yr old supposed to think regarding issues about which he lacks any independent information? How many books would the average high schooler have read about US foreign policy and Cuba? It's obvious that he wants them to agree with him, or he wouldn't be pushing his viewpoint so hard. He wants his evaluations to acquire the status of facts in their minds. Instead brow-beating them, he ought to be providing them with the basic information they would need to draw their own conclusions.

His third error, is that he has veered completely off the subject matter of his class in order to propagandize. A World Geography class should be about world geography, not about current events. A dictionary definition of capitalism might be necessary to identify which countries have such a system, but a diatribe about the evils of such a system is beyond the scope of his course. One might get into evaluating economic systems in a world history class in order to explain why events unfolded the way they did, but not in a world geography class.

Jay Bennish is the kind of teacher that makes me glad I'm homeschooling.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I was born 50 miles east of Birmingham, but fortunately my parents moved away 3 months later. I often tell people that Alabama is a really good place to be from. Some of the folks there seem bent on proving it.

(h/t Instapundit.)

"Where is the crime?"

A Washington Post story today continues the coverage of Saddam's trial under the title, Saddam asks: "Where is the crime?"

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein told judges Wednesday that he ordered the trials of Shiites who eventually were executed in the 1980s and said their lands should be confiscated, but he insisted that those actions were not criminal.

The former Iraqi leader also said his co-defendants should be freed, and he alone should be tried for the crackdown in southern Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam. He said the men simply were following orders.

"Where is the crime?" Saddam asked the court. "Is referring a defendant who opened fire at a head of state, no matter what his name is, a crime?

"If there is a law issued by Revolutionary Command Council that calls for confiscating land, then try the chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. He is present," said Saddam, who was the head of the council, a main institution of his regime.

Saddam's argument is: the government passed a law, and these men obeyed the law, therefore, they cannot be found guilty of committing a crime. Implied also in his argument is that the people he had executed were complicit in an attempt to assassinate the leader of their country, and were therefore guilty of a capital crime.

It's a perfectly sensible argument, if we leave out the part about him being a dictator who, with the help of his followers, seized control of the government by force. That was his crime. All his other crimes flowed directly from it. A dictator can only hold onto power by killing those who oppose him, so of course he killed people.

For that matter, any government must be willing to jail and/or execute those who attempt to overthrow the government by force. Whether the government's actions in protecting itself are just depends primarily on whether the government itself is just, i.e., whether it is a government that protects the rights of individuals.

Protecting individual rights was never on Saddam's list of things to do. He was a bloody-handed dictator. Anyone had a right to depose or assassinate him, and he had no right to defend his murderous regime. He still has no right to defend himself on any grounds whatsoever, least of all on the need he had to protect and perpetuate his rule. As I have argued before, he was a tyrant, and, once deposed, the only proper thing to do with a tyrant is shoot him.

Update: Adding to my argument above, this trial, by assuming a legal framework for trying Saddam, is actually giving legitimacy to the Ba'athist regime. To argue that crimes were committed they must say that he broke the laws which existed at that time. Saddam responds that he did not, and then the argument is suddenly over whether he followed correct procedures in executing people, rather than whether he was a murderous thug. Hence, in a Reuters article we find the following quote:

"What we saw today was not Saddam admitting guilt, but admitting to the fact that he acted in accordance with his official duties and powers," said Nehal Bhuta, a legal expert from Human Rights Watch who has been monitoring the case.

And he did. He acted in complete accord with his official duties and powers as the tyrant of Iraq.

This is a complete travesty. Shoot him already.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

South Korean Businessmen Purchase Slave Labor From North Korean Government

How is this for nauseating? South Korean companies are building an industrial park in North Korea to provide jobs for impoverished members of that dictatorship. The first page of the article speaks in glowing terms about North-South cooperation, and the prospects this project offers for future reunification. If you're like me, you'll be incredulously asking yourself, "What? Is Kim Jong Il dead!?" Because there's no way in hell he's giving up his half of Korea to the South, and hopefully, there aren't any plans to give South Korea to him.

So what is the project really about, if it's not about reunification? Well, reading page 2, it appears that the goal is to take money from the South Korean people in the form of taxes, and bestow it upon certain unethical South Korean companies, who will use it to purchase forced labor from Kim Jong Il's slave state. Let's look...

While conceding they are here to promote North-South ties, South Korean executives also say the project makes economic sense. The companies, which have received low-interest loans and security guarantees from the South Korean government, are paying most North Korean workers a fixed salary of $57.50 a month. That is about 20 times less than the pay of a South Korean worker of the same skill level, but it is a welcome sum in North Korea.

Security guarantees? Presumably, this means that the government has insured them against losses in the operation, but how does one go lose money while paying 1/20th the normal wage for labor? Readers who don't suffer from short term memory loss, will recall that on page one it was stated that the per capita income for a South Korean is 10 times as large as for a North Korean, so the company is paying half of the adjusted per capita wage for that particular skill set.

Still, that's money in the worker's pocket, right? Well, no...

It is unclear how much of that money actually goes to the North Korean workers. The dollar-denominated checks issued by the South Korean companies are paid to a North Korean government agency. Na Un Suk, director general of North Korea's Central Special Economic Zone Control Agency, said the government makes deductions for room and board provided to the employees before paying them varying amounts in North Korean currency.

"But it is clear that our workers are not doing this to make money," Na said. "They are doing it because it is their duty for the greater good of the nation."

That last quote is the most sickening part of the article. It's the voice of pure evil justifying itself in the bromides of altruist morality.

The South's justification for being party to this travesty is that it will ease some future reunification of the two Koreas. Even if we take reunification to be more than a pipe dream, this is an error. The North is incapable of sustaining economic development, because it is ruled by looters. The North Korean government survive only so long as it is able to draw loot from some quarter. It has reduced the North Korean people to the point where they have very little left to give. Now, on the pretext of increasing prosperity for the North Korean people, the South is providing a direct transfer of wealth from the people of South Korea to the North Korean government, prolonging the life of that government, and the suffering it inflicts on its people, indefinitely.

Iran Is Not (but probably is) Seeking Nuclear Weapons

Imagine my relief this morning when I saw the following Reuters headline: IAEA: Iran Not Seeking Nuclear Weapons (see update). After all the revelations and speculations about Iran's clandestine nuclear activities, it was good to know that that madman, Ahmadinejad, wasn't going to have his finger anywhere near a nuclear missile launch button.

Then I started reading the article...

TOKYO - A report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency shows there is no proof Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday in Japan.

"They could not find evidence which shows that Iran has diverted from its peaceful purposes of nuclear activities in Iran," said Manouchehr Mottaki, who was in Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

A confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report made available to The Associated Press Monday said that a more than three-year probe has not revealed "any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Hmm. Well, that didn't seem nearly as positive as the headline, but still, clearly the burden of proof is on those who assert that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. If the IAEA has done a thorough investigation, and nothing was found, then the conclusion has to be in favor of innocence on that score. But then I read the next paragraph:

But it also said that because of lack of sufficient cooperation from the Iranian side, the agency remains unable "to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran." The report suggested that unless Iran drastically increases its cooperation, the IAEA would not be able to establish whether past clandestine activities were focused on making nuclear arms.

Ah! So, the report actually says that the agency was unable to do a thorough investigation due to stonewalling by the Iranian government, and therefore, it cannot conclude that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons. It's fortunate for the Iranian government that they are not being investigated by the SEC or DOJ, because stonewalling an investigation is enough to get you jail time over here--and it's enough to prove your guilt on the original charge in the minds of the media and the public.

Well, but the headline writer for Yahoo News has decided that this lack of evidence due to a lack of cooperation is proof positive that Iran is NOT seeking nuclear weapons. Move along folks, nothing to see here. Whatever you do, don't read to the bottom of the article, not if you want to be able to sleep well at night...

But the IAEA report showed Iran pressing ahead with enrichment at home by going from testing a lone centrifuge — a machine that spins uranium gas into enriched uranium — to introducing the gas into 10 centrifuges and beginning enrichment between Feb. 11 and Feb 15.

Furthermore, said the report, Iran began final maintenance of an additional 20 centrifuges a week ago, reflecting determination to further expand enrichment.

That would leave Iran still far short of the thousands of centrifuges it needs to enrich substantial amounts of uranium. Still, it reflected the country's plans to forge ahead with domestic enrichment even as it talks with Moscow.

And just a few months down the road, "commencement of the installation of the first 3,000 ... (centrifuges) is planned for the fourth quarter of 2006," said the report.

Experts estimate that Iran already has enough black-market components in storage to build the 1,500 operating centrifuges it would need to make the 45 pounds of highly enriched uranium needed for one crude weapon.

The Iranians have been ranting for the past 27 yrs that we are the Great Satan, and calling for our destruction. They've put a madman in charge of their country who recently called for the destruction of Israel and swore that any Muslim nation that recognizes Israel's right to exist "will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury." If they are enriching weapons grade uranium, though, we should be unconcerned about that. We should recognize that a nation that's floating in oil has every right to develop nuclear technology to produce electricity, and not worry that they might be developing it for a more sinister purpose.

Like hell we should.

Update: It appears that the headline for the article cited above has now been changed to reflect the actual contents of the article. A small victory for objective news reporting. In addition, a new article is up on Yahoo News that emphasizes the fact that Iran is expanding its nuclear program (current headline: Report: Iran Aims to Expand Nuke Program.

I was able to get a screen capture of the original headline. Given that it was corrected so quickly, I will chalk this one up to incompetence rather than bias.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Angels in the Sky

The Washington Post has an interesting article today on women combat pilots in Iraq.

Female helicopter pilots like Piro are demonstrating their valor in Iraq in one of the few direct combat roles women are officially allowed to perform in the military. Their missions often put them at risk of being hit by enemy machine-gun fire and rockets, and require them to shoot back. Piro's unit, Outlaw Troop, lost three of its eight Kiowas after insurgents shot them down over Tall Afar, and four or five others were hit by enemy fire, U.S. officers said. On Piro's first tour in Iraq, her wingman hit a wire and crashed into the Euphrates River. She and Buckhouse made an emergency landing and jumped into the water to try to save the two aviators, but they had already perished.

For a fascinating article on the greatest woman pilot in history, and the pioneer of women's military aviation, visit Steve at American Renaissance.

World War II saw Jackie persuading General H. “Hap” Arnold to let her establish and organize the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD). During that time she recruited female pilots for the British Ferry Command, herself becoming the first female trans-Atlantic bomber pilot. A year later, Jackie Cochran was appointed leader of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots—the WASPS. Under Jackie, the WASPS, which included 1,000 women pilots, flew 60 million air miles and delivered 12, 650 planes to the European and Pacific theaters of war.

Friday, February 24, 2006

All We Want... (updated)

Is for Muslims to share the attitude of this man:

I asked Birzo if he found Baba Sheik’s comments about Islam and Muslims offensive.

“Of course not,” he said. “I understand his mentality and he understands mine. It’s okay. We are Kurds. Kurds don’t get upset about religion. We aren’t like Arabs. We believe in arguments based on reason, not emotion. If people don’t agree with me about something, I’m not going to get mad at them. We will just have different opinions.”

Read the whole article.

Michael Totten is doing some fantastic reporting. Be sure to look around his site, and hit his tip jar while you're there. You can't get this kind of journalism from a newspaper anymore.

Update: Okay, perhaps you can get something similar. This article at National Geographic looks very interesting (h/t Michael Yon), but you'll have to buy the magazine to read the whole thing. There's a one-page excerpt at the link. Here's a short blurb:

When I learned her age, it struck me that Mivan Majid was the Kurdish dream personified. She had never known a day under the rule of Baghdad. Suleimaniya, her hometown and the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan's eastern sector, has been under unbroken Kurdish control since 1992, the very year of her birth. She wanted to be an engineer, Mivan told me, "because they build such cool things: houses, roads, shopping centers. It's like, when you're an engineer you don't get hung up on our terrible history. You look ahead."

Here are our moderate Muslim allies. Let's hope our government does right by them.

Putting Things into Perspective

The value of political cartoons is how they are able to put issues into perspective with a single picture. The Danish cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban exactly captured the view that the West has of Islam, a view that was shaped by Muslims who resort to violence in order to force their fanatical religious views on the rest of the world.

In an update below I linked to a number of cartoons that have accurately captured our reaction to Muslim outrage over the cartoons, and these cartoons, drawn by Muslims, reveal the hypocrisy of that outrage in dramatic fashion when compared to the cartoons that inspired them to burn down foreign embassies and kill innocent Christians.

What prompted this line of thought, though, was a new cartoon by Cox and Forkum that accurately captures the spirit of Jimmy Carter, and his continued support of the murderers of Hamas.

Carter's attitude is hardly new though. As evidence I offer a passage from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. The passage is found after the discovery of Injun Joe's corpse inside McDougall's cave, and his subsequent burial near the mouth of the cave.

This funeral stopped the further outgrowth of one thing--the petition to the Governor for Injun Joe's pardon. The petition had been largely signed; many tearful and eloquent meetings had been held, and a committe of sappy women been appointed to go in deep mourning and wail around the Governor, and implore him to be a merciful ass and trample his duty under foot. Injun Joe was believed to have killed five citizens of the village, but what of that? If he had been Satan himself there would have been plenty of weaklings ready to scribble their names to a pardon petition, and drip a tear on it from their permanently impaired and leaky waterworks.

Jimmy Carter is the intellectual descendant of those "sappy women" caricatured by Twain. Let's just hope Bush doesn't decide to be a merciful ass. Again, I mean.

How to Fight a War

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has posted on a difference of opinion between Bill Ardolino at INDC and Rusty at the Jawa Report. The debate concerns whether or not we should consider ourselves to be at war with Islam. Rusty takes the positive position, pointing out that the doctrines of Islam constitute a political ideology. Bill disagrees, arguing that the political component of Islam is optional, and that we can't afford to alienate modern Muslims because we need their assistance in the war--to put it more strongly, he does not think we can win without their assistance.

I disagree emphatically with the latter. If it were true, I believe that would mean that we have lost the war already. I'll expand more on that below, but first my opinion on Islam and politics.

My opinion about religion is summed up in the title of my blog. I don't believe in God. Still, I recognize that not all religions are equal. I believe that Christians have an easier time accepting the separation of Church and State because Jesus explicitly denied having any political goals. His concern was with the next world, not this one. Mohammed was concerned with both, and he laid down a strict set of laws for Muslims to obey. In that, Islam is similar to Judaism. Moses gave the Israelites a set of laws to live by, and ancient Israel was a theocracy. Today, Jews treat the Law of Moses as personal rules of conduct rather than as laws which must be enforced through the government.

It is possible that Muslims could make a similar adjustment. Those who live in free countries already do, although not all of them have relinquished the goal of establishing Sharia as the law in their adopted countries, as we saw with the protestors in London who carried placards calling for the decapitation of the cartoonists and the destruction of Europe. They believe that their law was given to them by God, as recorded in the Koran, and that God wants them to enforce it. Not to do so is to break faith with Him. Mohammed himself set the precedent for conversion through conquest, and spreading the jurisdiction of Islamic law by the sword.

Of course, any holy book is subject to interpretation. Neither Jews nor Christians obey the Law of Moses by carrying out capital punishment for idolatry. It takes a lot for a people to reach the point where they decide that a reinterpretation is necessary, though. For Jews it was the Diaspora, in which they were expelled from the holy land by the Romans after numerous rebellions against the Roman occupation. Deprived of a state, they no longer had the power to enforce the Law of Moses except as a set of cultural norms that they carried with them to the regions where they settled.

For Christians the crisis was the Protestant Rebellion and the sectarian wars that resulted from it. In the wake of Luther's challenge of Church corruption, interpretation of the Bible splintered like the shards of a broken mirror. Where before a monolithic church had been able to suppress dissent through persecution, corruption had eroded the foundation of its moral authority. Initially the new sects were fully as intolerant as the church had been. In those places where they acquired power, the persecuted became the persecutors. Beginning with a few lone voices, though, the idea of religious toleration began to take hold. Eventually it had to be recognized that enforcing religious orthodoxy was not worth the cost in blood and destruction of wealth.

It took about three hundred years of slaughter to reach that point though--and this, even though Jesus explicitly said his kingdom was not of this world. How much more difficult will it be for those who worship a prophet who claimed to have established the kingdom of God on Earth?

In order for Muslims to reach the point where they feel it is necessary to reinterpret the Koran, they will have to see the philosophy of jihad fail utterly and completely. Only bitter experience can dislodge them from that long held religious doctrine. The war will not be won until the Muslim world has accepted the principle of religious toleration. Just as with Judaism and Christianity, Islam will not adopt that principle until Muslims realize that rejecting it only brings death and destruction. Since we are the target of their jihad, it has fallen to us to demonstrate the principle by prosecuting this war against them to the full extent of our power.

We cannot negotiate the terms under which we will live. We cannot give up one ounce of our freedom. To do so would be a defeat, and every defeat demonstrates that jihad can succeed. That is why we cannot engage moderate Muslims in debate. They know where we stand--we are not a mystery to each other. The reason we are at war is because their society has rejected our principles. Not just the governments, not just the radicals, but Muslim society in general. If there is to be an engagement, then they must move to us. They must distance themselves from the forces of intolerance unambiguously, and give us their wholehearted support. That has to be our fundamental principle in the ideological war. It can be summarized in the implacable words of our Forefathers: Live free, or die!

If it turns out that we cannot win this war without the help of Muslim "moderates", that is, if we cannot win without making some concession of principle, without muzzling ourselves, without accepting some diminution of freedom, then we cannot win at all. Any compromise of freedom is defeat, both in the short term and in the long term. If we need the moderates to win, then they become the brokers of our freedom. They get to set a price on our victory and make demands of us that we must meet or lose their support, and with their support the war.

But how could it be that the nation with the world's mightiest military, a nation armed to the teeth with nuclear warheads, cannot win this war without the help of people who, if they agree at all with us, must necessarily be powerless in their own countries? That claim rests on this foundation: the belief that we cannot use our full force in prosecuting this war. We cannot use nuclear weapons. We cannot destroy whole populations with bombs. We cannot level cities, as we did in WWII. We must proceed softly. Gently. We must finesse the war, because using the brute strength which we have in abundance won't succeed.

Why not?

The knee-jerk response is that we cannot kill 1.2 billion people. My response to that is, if killing 1.2 billion people is the only way we can survive as a free nation, then hell yes we can!

I do not know, militarily, what the requirements would be for our victory. There has never before been a war, though, in which one side had to totally wipe out the other side in order to win. Genocide has been carried out for the sake of racism and out of cruelty, but it has never been a necessary tool of war. I cannot predict, though, how many people would have to die in order for us to win. It seems to me that that figure will depend on how many of the enemy are willing to become martyrs in their attempt to subjugate us. Religious fanaticism encourages martyrdom, so the figure might be quite high. Whatever the figure is, we must not be held hostage by the body count.

Morality does not require us to accept dhimmitude rather than take on the responsibility of killing in our own self-defense. It demands the opposite! Those who would rather accept slavery or death than inflict casualties on the enemy have bought into one of the most monstrously evil notions of morality ever invented. It would make a slave of every human being on the Earth. We must reject it, and assert our moral right to kill in our self-defense.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Worm Curls Up (Updated)

I had thought of giving this column a good fisking, but then I found this quote today while rereading Twilight of the Idols, and I decided it says everything that needs to be said:

When it is trodden on a worm will curl up. That is prudent. It thereby reduces the chance of being trodden on again. In the language of morals: humility. --Nietzsche

Update: Jeff Jacoby reports on a group of worms who earn a higher status by being honest about their "prudence". To be completely fair, though, the lead should have been taken by the larger media outlets, like the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, CNN, Fox, New York Post, etc. Had those outlets published unexpurgated images of the cartoons, the smaller media outlets would have felt safe enough to follow suit. To date, I only know of three US papers that have published the cartoons: The New York Sun, the Rocky Mountain News and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Not to slight them, but none of them are referred to as the "Newspaper of Record." Maintaining such a designation, though, requires a commitment to fearless reporting, so it looks as though the title might be up for grabs.

Update II: Some cartoons targeting "Muslim rage".

A Time for War, and a Time for Propaganda

Wretchard at the Belmont Club has a discussion going concerning Rumsfield's complaint that we are being beaten by the Islamists in the propaganda war. I have participated in a number of discussions at BC in the past week, and have been attempting to press the point that what prevents us from fighting an all-out war is Christian altruism.

The people who have responded to me generally maintain that the Bible does allow the Christian to take up the sword in self-defense. Most of their references have been to quotes from the Old Testament, but also a few quotes from the New Testament taken out of context. My response to the former is that whatever violent actions God is recorded to have commanded in the Old Testament apply only to the time and situation that obtained then. They were not given as principles to live by for all time. My response to the latter is that it is not even worth debating whether Jesus counseled pacifism. He is not called the Lamb of Peace for nothing. His commandment to love thy enemies and turn the other cheek are unequivocal.

Of course, Christians have long found it necessary to look for ways around Jesus's pacifism when faced with a choice between self-defense and death. I do not accuse them of hypocrisy for choosing life, but of hypocrisy for retaining an ideal which does not serve life. My purpose, though, has not been even to accuse, but to goad. If they have an exclusion clause in the commandment to turn the other cheek, then by all means let's invoke it and put an end to this war.

The danger in that is that a resurgent, militant Christianity will seek to impose its will on those at home while it is imposing its will on our enemies abroad. I've pointed out before that there are many who want to frame the war as a holy war. (It was, in fact, as a response to such arguments at the Belmont Club that I began this blog.)

The majority of posters at the Belmont Club, though, seem to think that what is needed in the war are better words. Like Rumsfield, they think we should be trying to win the hearts and minds of our enemies. To some, better words means arguing more convincingly for liberal society, to others it means addressing Muslims by making use of the Koran and Islamic history to make our points, and to others it means using theological arguments to counter what is a theologicial position. I posted what follows on the Belmont Club as a reply to that latter position, but it applies equally to any attempt to convince Muslims that we are right and they are wrong.

I don't think it's our job to figure out how to reconcile their beliefs with liberalism. It's up to them to either modify or abandon their beliefs. All we can do is motivate the change by showing them that their current beliefs will lead to extinction.

We are too focused on talk. There is a time for talk, and there is a time for war. Once the shooting starts, you don't stop to talk until one side is ready to surrender. Are we ready to negotiate the terms of our surrender? No? Then back to shooting. When they are ready to talk, then there might be something to talk about.

Here is a point I have been pushing, it's not a military option, but the moral basis for the military option we probably agree on: the West is liberal, but it is also Christian. Even those who claim to be secular cannot imagine an ethical system that is not consistent with the Sermon on the Mount. For that reason, they shrink in fear from what has to be done in order to win this war. We do not lack the means to win, but we lack the will. We are a six-and-a-half foot tall linebacker being beaten on by a five foot tall, dried up little shrimp. We can stop the beating anytime we want to, but we're afraid to use our full strength. Blessed are the weak, because they never have to question their moral right to pummel those stronger than them.

If we were locked into a deadly struggle with an adversary nearly our equal, if our casualty reports were roughly equal to the casualties we inflicted, then Americans would be desperate to fight this war with every weapon available to them. But given that we could wipe out hundreds of thousands of our enemies in a 24-hr period without losing a single man, Americans shrink in horror from the thought of it. How can they endorse such a merciless slaughter? "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Well, we won't find mercy, not from our enemies. They know our weakness, and they are determined to exploit it. They have been exploiting it for the past 37 years. The only thing able to trigger a strong reaction from us was the merciless slaughter of 3000 civilians. That was enough for some of us to say goodbye to mercy, but we're a small minority as yet. Let the jihadists take out an American city, and then our Christian conscience will take a nap while we return the slaughter.

When we cease to be Christian, the jihadists will cease to be. They will either be dead, or they will have discovered a previously overlooked passage in the Koran that suggests they should live in peace with all people, especially those with large bombs.

Update: More on the same theme from Onkar Ghate at Captialism Magazine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Twelve cartoons we'd like to see...

on the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

Steven Brockerman at American Renaissance has posted twelve cartoons from the Muslim world in order to give them equal time here in the West. These are cartoons everyone should read, as they provide important context for evaluating the cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten, and present the Muslim viewpoint on freedom of expression.*

*Essentially, I.N.N.A.--Ifidels need not apply.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Robert Tracinski on the Cartoon Jihad

This column by Robert Tracinski is a must-read. He begins by pointing out that the issue here is freedom of speech, something most of us already know--but not all, and not even everyone on the right. A lot of people, including those at the State Department, have felt a compulsion to nod in the direction of the hurt feelings of the jihadists. To my knowledge, only two newspapers in the US have published the cartoons: The New York Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Tracinski states that every newspaper in the US should publish the cartoons--not simply as a symbolic show of support, and not because of their newsworthiness, but for a much more important reason:

This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship—especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanatics—is effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger.
What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads "Behead those who insult Islam." What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders—that everyone else will be too
cowardly to stick their necks out.
The answer, for publishers, is to tell the Muslim fanatics that they can't single out any one author, or artist, or publication. The answer is to show that we're all united in defying the
That's what it means to show "solidarity" by re-publishing the
cartoons. The message we need to send is: if you want to kill anyone who publishes those cartoons, or anyone who makes cartoons of Mohammed, then you're going to have to kill us all. If you make war on one independent mind, you're making war on all of us. And we'll fight back.

He goes on to highlight the different reactions of those on the right and left. While the left has fallen over itself to submit to the jihadists, the right has done a much better job, but has its own problems with standing against religious authority in the name of freedom.
The weakness of the conservatives is that they think the essence of the West is our religion, our "Judeo-Christian tradition"—rather than our Enlightenment legacy of individual rights and unfettered reason. Conservatives try to evade the clash between religious authority and freedom of thought by claiming that
religion provides the moral basis for liberty. But the clash cannot be avoided, and conservatives are forced to choose where they will draw the line: where respect for religious prohibitions, in their view, takes precedence over respect
for the individual mind. On this issue—involving a religion alien to American traditions—most conservatives have had no problem drawing the line in favor of freedom. But will they draw a different line when their own religious dogmas are

Read the whole thing.

The Trial of Saddam Hussein

The trial of Saddam continues at its snail's pace and the former dictator continues to make use of the proceedings to deliver his harangues. I strongly suspect that he will die of old age before the Iraqi government gets around to shooting him. This op-ed from the Ayn Rand Institute argues that he should have been shot immediately following his capture, or once any needed information was gotten from him. That is my opinion also.

What law is Saddam on trial for breaking? He was a dictator--he was the law. If he gave a command to have someone executed, or to gas a village, it was 'legal' in the sense of not being against the laws that governed Iraq at that time. His word was law. That's what it means to be a dictator.

And being a dictator is what Saddam is guilty of. He was a murdering tyrant. One does not try tyrants though. After overthrowing them, the only rational thing to do is execute them. It's ridiculous to go through all that trouble to get rid of a tyrant, and then hold a trial where the judges are obliged to pretend that maybe it was all just a big mistake and he wasn't really a tyrant after all. It makes a mockery of justice, and it mocks the lives of the people he murdered.

Overthrowing a tyrant makes it, ex post facto, a capital crime to be a tyrant. Since everyone in the country knew the name and identity of the tyrant, the only pertinent question that could be put to the defendant is: are you Saddam Hussein?

Yes? Then stand next to this wall, please.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Road to Dhimmitude

Continuing thoughts from my last post...

Here is a partial list of terrorist attacks originating in Muslim countries that have been carried out against the US and US citizens from March of 1973 to September 11, 2001:

March 2
U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo A. Noel and other diplomats were assassinated at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum by members of the Black September organization.

November 4
Iranian radicals seize the US Embassy in Tehran, taking sixty-six American diplomats hostage. The crisis continues until 20 January 1981 when the hostages are released by diplomatic means.

April 18
Sixty three people, including the CIA's Middle East Director, are killed and 120 injured in a 400 lb. suicide truck bomb attack on the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The driver is killed. Responsibility is claimed by Islamic Jihad.
October 23
Simultaneous suicide truck bombs on American and French compounds in Beirut, Lebanon. A 12,000 lb bomb destroys a US Marine Corps base killing two hundred and forty one Americans; another fifty eight Frenchmen are killed when a 400 lb device destroys one of their bases. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility.
December 12
US Embassy in Kuwait targeted by Iraqi Shia terrorists who attempted to destroy the building with a truck bomb. The attack was foiled by guards and the device exploded in the Embassy fore-court killing five people.

March 16
CIA station chief in Beirut, Lebanon, William Buckley, was kidnapped by the Iranian backed Islamic Jihad. He was tortured and then executed by his captors.
September 20
Suicide bomb attack on US Embassy in East Beirut kills twenty three people and injures twenty one others. The US and British ambassadors were slightly injured in the explosion which was attributed to the Iranian backed Hezbollah group.

March 16
US journalist Terry Anderson is kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon, by Iranian backed Islamic radicals. He is released in December 1991.
June 9
US academic, Thomas Sutherland, at the American University, Beirut, Lebanon kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and held until November 18, 1991. June 14
A Trans World Airlines flight was hijacked en route to Rome from Athens by two Lebanese Hizballah terrorists and forced to fly to Beirut. The eight crew members and 145 passengers were held for 17 days, during which one American hostage, a U.S. Navy diver, was murdered. After being flown twice to Algiers, the aircraft was returned to Beirut after Israel released 435 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
September 12
US academic at the American University in Beirut, Joseph Cicippio, seized in Beirut by Iranian backed Islamic terrorists. He is released on December 1, 1991.
October 7
Four Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists seized an Italian cruise liner in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, taking more than 700 hostages. One U.S. passenger was murdered before the Egyptian Government offered the terrorists safe haven in return for the hostages' freedom.
October 21
American businessman Edward Tracy kidnapped in Lebanon by Islamic terrorists and held for almost five years until August 11, 1991.

March 30
A Palestinian splinter group detonated a bomb as TWA Flight 840 approached Athens Airport, killing four U.S. citizens.
April 5
Two U.S. soldiers were killed, and 79 American servicemen were injured in a Libyan bomb attack on a nightclub in West Berlin, West Germany.

January 24
American citizens Jesse Turner and Alann Steen were seized in Beirut by Islamic terrorists. Turner was held until October 22, 1991 and Steen is released on 3 December 3, 1991.

February 17
US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel W. Higgens, kidnapped and murdered by the Iranian backed Hezbollah while serving with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation in southern Lebanon.
April 14
The Organization of Jihad Brigades exploded a car bomb outside a USO Club in Naples, Italy, killing one U.S. sailor.
August 8
Pakistan president Zia Al Haq and US ambassador are killed, along with thirty seven other people, when a bomb explodes on a C-130 Hercules aircraft just after take off from Bahawalpu, Pakistan.
December 21
Pan Am Boeing 747 blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, by a bomb believed to have been placed on the aircraft at Frankfurt Airport, Germany. All 259 people on the aircraft were killed by the blast.

February 26
World Trade Center in New York, USA, attacked by a massive bomb planted by Islamic terrorists.
April 14
Iraqi intelligence service attempt to assassinate former US President, George Bush, during a visit to Kuwait.

March 8
Two unidentified gunmen killed two U.S. diplomats and wounded a third in Karachi, Pakistan.
July 4
In India, six foreigners, including two U.S. citizens, were taken hostage by Al-Faran, a Kashmiri separatist group. One non-U.S. hostage was later found beheaded.
August 21
Hamas claimed responsibility for the detonation of a bomb in Jerusalem that killed six and injured over 100 persons, including several U.S. citizens.
November 13
Seven foreigners, including a number of US servicemen, are killed in bomb attack on National Guard training centre at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

June 25
Islamic radical terrorists opposed to the western military presence in the Gulf region, explode a truck bomb next to a USAF housing area at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and 385 injuring more.

February 23
A Palestinian gunman opened fire on tourists at an observation deck atop the Empire State Building in New York City, killing a Danish national and wounding visitors from the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, and France before turning the gun on himself. A handwritten note carried by the gunman claimed this was a punishment attack against the "enemies of Palestine."
November 12
Two unidentified gunmen shot to death four U.S. auditors from Union Texas Petroleum Corporation and their Pakistani driver after they drove away from the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi. The Islami Inqilabi Council, or Islamic Revolutionary Council, claimed responsibility in a call to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. In a letter to Pakistani newspapers, the Aimal Khufia Action Committee also claimed responsibility.

August 7
US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salem, Tanzania, heavily damaged by massive bomb attacks. US intelligence blames Islamic groups linked to Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden.
December 28
Yemini militants kidnap a group of western tourists, including 12 Britons, 2 Americans, and 2 Australians on the main road to Aden. Four victims were killed during a rescue attempt the next day.

August 12
In the Kara-Su Valley, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan took four U.S. citizens hostage. The Americans escaped on August 12.October 12In Aden, Yemen, a small dingy carrying explosives rammed the destroyer U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. Supporters of Usama Bin Ladin were suspected.
December 30
A bomb exploded in a plaza across the street from the U.S. embassy in Manila, injuring nine persons. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is allegedly responsible.

September 11
Two hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon thereafter, the Pentagon was struck by a third hijacked plane. A fourth hijacked plane, suspected to be bound for a high-profile target in Washington, crashed into a field in southern Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 U.S. citizens and other nationals were killed. President Bush and Cabinet officials indicated that Usama Bin Laden was the prime suspect and that they considered the United States in a state of war with international terrorism.


The current war is supposed to be the long-awaited military response to this series of attacks, but looking down the list one sees that most of the attacks were directed by organizations funded by Iran, not Iraq. That is not to say that Iraq had nothing at all to do with terrorism, nor that Saddam didn't need to be deposed, but unless Iraq is intended as a jumping off point for an invasion of Iran, then the war will be a failure. Iran is currently funneling money to Shi'a groups in Iraq, and manufacturing hi-tech IED bombs for the insurgents. They are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a Shi'ite government in Iraq controlled from Teheran. And they are working hard to acquire nuclear missiles to guarantee their domination of the region, and their ability to issue more demands to the West. The cartoon riots spreading across the mideast are a means of rallying support for Iran (and Syria) in an attempt to ward off imminent sanctions by the UN for Iran's violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The West's capitulation over the cartoons is one more step along the road to dhimmitude.

Paying the Danegeld

Gateway pundit has this post regarding a march for peace by 700 Danes. I posted the following comment there in response to another commenter's use of the term "dangelt".

The comment about Danegeld inspired some thoughts:

Danegeld, of course, was money paid to the Danes by the Christianized Anglo-Saxons back when the Danes were raiding the coast of England. That was in the days when a common prayer among Christian monks was, "from the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord!" Where is the fury of the Northmen now? Why are they now praying, "from the fury of the Mohemmedan deliver us, O Lord," rather than fighting to defend themselves?

There is a very good explanation, of course, and one only has to look at their flag to comprehend it. Christianity, as exemplified by Christ, excels at producing martyrs. It is a philosophy of pacifism in the face of violence and persecution. In the Dark Ages, faced with imminent destruction by barbarians from the north and east, and Mohammedans from the south, Christianity had to become self-assertive. As a personal religion, Christianity could counsel self-abnegation, pacifism, and martyrdom, but as the religion of a people, it had to give its blessing to whatever it took for those people to surivive, or risk extinction. In order to become self-assertive, Christianity had to militarize, and in doing so, it compromised its core principles. While exalting the crucified, it gave its blessing to the crucifier.

This internal contradiction manifested itself in the corruption of the Church, which brought about the crisis of the Protestant Rebellion. The splintering of the Church could only be resolved by a mutual non-aggression treaty in which all sides relinquished control of the state. Christianity became, once again, a personal religion instead of a state religion. As such, it was free again to counsel pacifism and martyrdom in the face of violence. As long as the majority of people in a country were willing to turn a deaf ear to religion when self-defense was required, rather than turning the other cheek, the people and the state would survive. What would happen, though, if the majority became completely consistent in their practice of Christian ethics? We are about to find out in Europe.


In point of fact, we've been paying danegeld to Muslim countries for years, sending them foreign aid and contributing money to the Palestinian cause in an effort to buy them off. But worst of all, we have abstained from responding with effective violence when attacked by them on numerous occasions. (I don't count blowing up empty tents with cruise missiles as effective, nor even dropping a few bombs on Libya.) Our tribute and our pacificism have bought us nothing but more hatred. As Kipling noted, once you've paid the danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.