Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's that torture thing again

Here's the logical, lucid and amusing Jonah Goldberg tackling the torture question, and the moral lines we need to cross (or not):

Who gets tortured or, to use a less loaded term, 'coerced'? Everyone can agree that even minor coercion — shoving, verbal abuse, detention and so forth — is absolutely unacceptable if it is directed against law-abiding people who are under no suspicion of wrongdoing. All of these nasty things are perfectly legitimate, however, when used against a Jihadi nutter in the caves of Tora Bora. Similarly, I believe that torture is obviously and always wrong when employed simply for enjoyment or punishment. If you don't believe a detainee has truly useful information of a pressing nature, lock him up, but lay off him. Such distinctions are not good enough for some. Indeed, my friend Andrew Sullivan's moral absolutism has led him to make sweeping comparisons between captured al-Qaida terrorists and dissidents in totalitarian regimes. As if one Solzhenitsyn equals one Zarqawi. He writes, 'You cannot raise or lower the moral status of mass murderers with respect to torture.' This strikes me as nonsense. It is a moral crime of a very high order to throw a man in prison simply because of what he believes. It is a moral necessity of a very high order to throw a man in prison if what he does involves mass murder. Death or lifetime imprisonment for writing a novel is surely torture for the novelist. But society cannot call these measures 'torture,' for then they would be unavailable for mass murderers and the like.

Could they have reported it another way?

It's either genuine MSM bias, or I've gotten hypersensitive to the point of uselessness. I saw this picture: Since I knew Bush was speaking at the Naval Academy, I instantly assumed that the picture was intended to show that his speech had put the midshipmen to sleep. Reading the Reuters text accompanying the picture showed that my conclusion was wrong:

Midshipmen catch naps as they wait for more than an hour for U.S. President George W. Bush to deliver an address on the war in Iraq at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland November 30, 2005. Trying to counter critics of his war strategy, Bush vowed on Wednesday that U.S. forces will not cut and run from Iraq but said improvements in Iraqi security forces may clear the way for a reduction in U.S. troops.
In other words, it's a rather charming photo of some very sleepy students. Events proved that Bush was warmly received once he appeared and they woke up. Nevertheless, I still remain a bit disturbed by the photo's text. It's this bit that's the problem: "Trying to counter critics of his war strategy...." To my finely tuned legal ear (and we really do care about this type of nuance in legal writing), that opening strongly implies that he did not, could not, cannot, counter critics. More neutral phrasing might have been, "Rebutting critics...." or "Countering critics...." or "Addressing critics...." But to say that he was "trying to" counter those critics is a clear indication that the writer feels he is in fact not capable of doing so. UPDATE: Wizbang caught an AP story that displayed the same, shall we say, "carelessness" in sentence structure and terminology, this time about Alito.

Let the ignorance begin

It's not a surprise that this story came out of Boston:

Boston set off a furor this week when it officially renamed a giant tree erected in a city park a 'holiday tree' instead of a 'Christmas tree.' The move drew an angry response from Christian conservatives, including evangelist Jerry Falwell who heckled Boston officials and pressed the city to change the name back."
Nor is it a surprise that, while AP did not identify the city as "liberal Boston," AP has helpfully labeled those who oppose this whitewash as "conservative." Always good to know where you stand: there are normal people, who do the right thing; and there are conservatives, who do the evil thing. Can't tell the players without the scorecard, right? What I also found entirely silly is the ignorance behind the holiday tree. No other winter religious celebration (Hannukah, Kwanzaa) has a tree as its centerpiece. The only one that does is Christmas, which celebrates, yes, Christ's birth. That is, it's a Christian holiday. To take a tree whose only symbolism is manifestly Christian, and to pretend it's just a holiday tree when no other holidays include the tree is so ill-informed. Boston's response to the Christmas tree reminds me of those people who have stricken the word "niggardly" from their vocabularly because, through sheer ignorance, they think it's a bastardization of the N-word. In fact, niggardly is an ancient word, with an honorable lineage:
1366, nygart, of uncertain origin. The suffix suggests Fr. origin (cf. dastard), but the root word is probably related to O.N. hnøggr "stingy," from P.Gmc. *khnauwjaz (cf. Swed. njugg "close, careful," Ger. genau "precise, exact"), and to O.E. hneaw "stingy, niggardly," which did not survive in M.E.
If Boston wants to be truly ecumenical, instead of trying to whitewash a defenseless tree, it should add a Menorah and a Kwanzaa symbol and whatever other winter religious symbols it wants to the public forum. Indeed, to include outreach to atheists, Boston could even add the ritual Festivus aluminum pole. That enhances, rather than detracts from, the marketplace of ideas. UPDATE: At Wizbang, I've learned that the fine people in charge of Boston have already caved. The same post also has a nice rumination about what American Christian celebrations really are, as well as a reminder about the pagan roots behind Christmas' greenery.

"Chimpy Bush Hitler"

An astute friend of mine was checking out CNN immediately after the President gave his speech this morning, and noted that they'd chosen this photo to illustrate the story: While it's clear that Bush was waving, I wonder if it's a coincidence that CNN chose to run with a picture that has Bush, long known on the Left as a Nazi, making what could be construed as a Hitlerian salute. In this context, "Plan for Victory," suddenly takes on a Thousand Year Reich feeling. Nor was I entirely surprised when I checked out CNN at 10:30 P.S.T. myself to discover that this picture had vanished, to be replaced with a more content neutral picture: Maybe I've just got photos on the brain, though. This morning, Michelle Malkin had a story about how MoveOn.Org, in a ad about getting American troops home for Thanksgiving, managed to use a picture of British, not American troops. Not only that but, for reasons that are unclear, MoveOn then Photoshopped the image to put one of the British soldiers in some natty (American style?) shorts. I guess all of this is a reminder that things aren't always what they seem and that photos, while they can be used to vivid effect in way words never can, are also a tool for slanting information, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Taking the death penalty into their own hands

I blogged about Tookie Williams, the killer who has become the cause of the day for the radical chic culture vultures. Dennis Prager doesn't mention Tookie by name, but it's clear that he's talking about him in this article about the death penalty. Prager points out that, while the death penalty as envisioned might result in the death of an innocent man, the death penalty escape route, as practiced by the Left, has in fact resulted in the deaths of innocents. The most obvious example, and the one Prager points to, is Norman Mailer's successful effort to get Jack Abbott out of prison. Here's Prager's account of the story, and please take note of Mailer's own take on things:

Perhaps the most infamous case of a death penalty opponent directly causing the murder of an innocent is that of novelist Norman Mailer. In 1981, Mailer utilized his influence to obtain parole for a bank robber and murderer named Jack Abbott on the grounds that Abbott was a talented writer. Six weeks after being paroled, Abbott murdered Richard Adan, a 22-year-old newlywed, aspiring actor and playwright who was waiting tables at his father's restaurant. Mailer's reaction? "Culture is worth a little risk," he told the press. "I'm willing to gamble with a portion of society to save this man's talent." That in a nutshell is the attitude of the abolitionists. They are "willing to gamble with a portion of society" -- such as the lives of additional innocent victims -- in order to save the life of every murderer.
I'm ambivalent about the death penalty, since it has problems, but I'm sure not ambivalent about making sure killers don't kill again.

Quick pick for a must-read

Robert Spencer writes movingly about beleaguered Israel as the front line in the war against Islamic jihad.

Fisking fisk

In an incredibly good post at the already incredibly good Done With Mirrors, Callimachus fisks Fisk, does a general fisking of Katrina reporting, and then talks about how the Fisk doctrine -- "Who cares about the facts? I want to destroy the center? -- effectively destroys journalism:

There never was a golden age of American media, from an ethical point of view. Total objectivity is impossible -- Fisk is right that far. Only a god can see like that. But, like any moral virtue, it is meant as a goal, a steadfast purpose, a lodestar. Something you reach for, not a place where you claim to stand. You set your feet toward it, and it keeps you on the right path. There never was a golden age of American media. The newsies always embodied, more or less, the blind spots and passions of the wider society. But they did great work, and they wrote stories that did more than just eat away at truth like an acid. They could tell you a battle story, for instance, that included the grueling grunt work, the heroic moments, the tragedy of the carnage -- and the big picture. The purely negative reporter, a Fisk, obsessed with tearing down the powers that be and setting the world right to his vision, will never give you that final quality -- what was bought at the price of the sacrifice. For him, that's all a lie unless it serves his utopian ideal.
You should read the whole post. It's just excellent.

The decent Danish

The Danish went above and beyond ordinary decency during WWII, and they're being decent now with regards to Afghanistan:

The Danish government has found broad backing in parliament for its plans to meet a NATO request to increase its number of troops in Afghanistan, national broadcaster DR reported on Tuesday The additional soldiers have been requested to help patrol the southern Hemland Province, an area that has been described as a 'unsafe and complex', and would more than double the Danish contribution to NATO's Afghanistan contingent. Defence Minister Søren Gade confirmed the possibility that troops would be sent, but kept further details under wraps. 'The government has received a request from NATO, which we are willing to meet. Now we are discussing the matter with the other parties in parliament,' Gade said. 'Any troops we send would be under British command, but how many we send is still not decided.' The government has allegedly proposed to send as many as 290 additional soldiers, increasing the total number of Danish forces in Afghanistan to 360. Both the government's supporters and the opposition said they supported sending more troops. 'The Danish People's Party can support the mission, since it's already agreed on in the new defence agreement,' said Søren Espersen, the Danish People's Party's spokesman on foreign affairs. 'In contrast to Iraq, there has never been any debate about Afghanistan, so we expect there will be broad backing for the mission. It's logical to send more soldiers since NATO asks for it and we are already stationed there.' The opposition's Social Democrats said they agreed. 'We would even support sending more troops than the government proposes,' said Per Kaalund, defence issues spokesman for the Social Democrats. 'Basically, we feel that it's time to withdraw troops from Iraq, but it's the government's responsibility to make sure that there are enough troops to cover both areas.' Denmark's 173 soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan are primarily responsible for coordinating cargo flights. Another contingent has been responsible air traffic control at Kabul's main airport. [Emphasis mine.]
What I find especially striking is the political unanimity on this point. I think I would drop dead on the spot if the Democrats put partisan positioning aside and agreed with the Administration on troop deployment. The weird thing is that, rather than lowering the Dems in most people's estimation, I think that kind of humane and realistic response to the war would garner the Dems more support. At least, it would garner them support in the broad center, which is infinitely more important than the support they would inevitably lose on the wacko fringes. UPDATE: Welcome, LGF readers! If you find this post interesting, I encourage you to look around my blog some more. UPDATE II: Welcome, Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler readers! I'd be delighted if you'd take a minute to look around.

Judging the judges

Judges are not my favorite people. I've had the pleasure of appearing before 2 or 3 good ones, but that's not a very exciting number over the course of an 18 year long legal career. To my mind, most judges distinguish themselves by believing that, once they become judges, not only are they no longer obligated to apply the law to others (they just do what they think is "right"), they often think they're no longer obliged to apply the law to themselves. One of the worst embezzlers I've come across in my career was a former judge. Because of his "special expertise" in Probate, when he retired he made a second career as a special administrator for estates tied up in litigation. Also because of this same "special expertise," he deftly absconded with millions from these many estates. I was therefore entirely unsurprised to read at Wizbang about a Massachusetts judge would couldn't keep his pants zipped. That's disgraceful enough, but what's really disgusting is how the state Judicial Conduct Commission handled the matter:

1) The judge had been on paid leave since January. Because they're such nice guys, they let him keep his $112,777 salary he'd already collected for this year. 2) They did give him a year's suspension, but to show they really are unhappy, they made it unpaid this time. 3) They fined him $50,000 as well. Let's do the math: Judge Tongue gets about 22 months vacation, about 4.5 of it essentially paid, then gets to return to his cushy job. The state, in return, saves about $163,000 in pay for the judge, but that still leaves it about $87,000 in the hole because of this guy's ego. And in about a year or so, he'll be back on the bench with it all behind him.
Wizbang's tag is "Yup. Gotta be in Massachusetts." Mine would be, "Yup. Gotta be judges."

Honest news about our military

Frankly, I don't have any problems with the paradigm pushed by the Left that the U.S. military is made up of kids escaping poverty (although the Left also likes to imply that these kids are stupid enough to be easily duped by the military as part of the escape package*). True poverty -- not the NY Times variety of "I'll have to cut back on some cappucinos" -- is vile. If the military offers an escape, if it offers education and skills, if it offers stability and discipline, that's fantastic. My father ended up in the military that way. He was well-educated through 16 years at the Jewish school in Berlin, but he was lucky enough to have left Berlin in 1935, when he was 16. He then spent a few years helping found a kibbutz, which was killing labor and very dangerous, both from disease and hostile Arabs. My Dad was a bit of a malcontent, however, so kibbutz life didn't work well for him. He ended up starving on the streets of Tel Aviv. And then war started. The next day, my Dad showed up at the RAF recruitment office in Tel Aviv. As a Jew, he would inevitably have joined anyway to fight the Nazis, but his speed in enlisting was to get food. My Dad loved the RAF. True, he faced some of the most horrible experiences the war had to offer, at Crete, at El-Alamein, and elsewhere. But what he found was stability, comraderie, adventure, money, food, and useful skills (which he took into the Israeli Army). It was not a dead end job for a dead ender. It was a useful, exciting, important job (with the attendant risk of death) for an intelligent person whose life had hit a dead end. Of course, all of my ruminations are idle here, because the MSM (no surprise) has it wrong. The American military is anything but a dead end job for dead enders. Instead, it is filled with lots of affluent American men and women who are grateful for the benefits that have flowed to them in this country, and who have the patriotism and bravery to step forward and defend America:

According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
The modern military also follows the historic trend of having large numbers of recruits from rural areas:
Yes, rural areas and the South produced more soldiers than their percentage of the population would suggest in 2003. Indeed, four rural states - Montana, Alaska, Wyoming and Maine - rank 1-2-3-4 in proportion of their 18-24 populations enlisted in the military. But this isn't news. Enlistees have always come from rural areas. Yet a new study, reported in The Washington Post earlier this month, suggests that higher enlistment rates in rural counties are new, implying a poorer military. They err by drawing conclusions from a non-random sample of a few counties, a statistically cloaked anecdote. The only accurate way to assess military demographics is to consider all recruits. If, for example, we consider the education of every recruit, 98% joined with high-school diplomas or better. By comparison, 75% of the general population meets that standard. Among all three-digit ZIP code areas in the USA in 2003 (one can study larger areas by isolating just the first three digits of ZIP codes), not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among its recruits. In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.
So I'll say what I've said before: to those in our American military, rich or poor, academically oriented or not, male or female, of whatever race, color, or creed -- Thank you! *An aside here is the constant theme running through the Left that kids, minorities, poor people, etc., are stupid and need the help of a Leftist government to protect them from the twin evils of capitalism and a conservative government. In connection with military recruitment, I've blogged about this point here and here.

It's not what you do, it's what you say

Even in my pre-Republican conversion days, I applauded Bush's decision to get out of the Kyoto Treaty. No matter how much the reporters at NPR dressed that Treaty up, and castigated Bush for reneging on it, it was clear that it was a poor deal for the U.S. Here's Mark Steyn on the same subject:

I notice, for example, that signatories to the Kyoto treaty are meeting in Montreal this week - maybe in the unused Olympic stadium - to discuss 'progress' on 'meeting' their 'goals'. Canada remains fully committed to its obligation to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by six per cent of its 1990 figure by 2008. That's great to know, isn't it? So how's it going so far? Well, by the end of 2003, Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions were up 24.2 per cent. Meanwhile, how are things looking in the United States? As you'll recall, in a typically 'pig-headed and blinkered' (Independent) act that could lead to the entire planet becoming 'uninhabitable' (Michael Meacher), 'Polluter Bush' (Daily Express), 'this ignorant, short-sighted and blinkered politician' (Friends of the Earth), rejected the Kyoto treaty. Yet somehow the 'Toxic Texan' (everybody) has managed to outperform Canada on almost every measure of eco-virtue. How did that happen? Actually, it's not difficult. Signing Kyoto is nothing to do with reducing 'global warming' so much as advertising one's transnational moral virtue. America could reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 87 per cent and Canada could increase them by 673 per cent and the latter would still be a 'good citizen of the world' (in the Prime Minister's phrase) while 'Polluter Bush' would still be in the dog house, albeit a solar-powered one.

It doesn't help just to throw money at kids

I was delighted to read, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, that the Texas Supreme Court has finally recognized two things all of us intuitively knew: (1) throwing money at schools (through the mediation of the teachers' unions) does not make for better education and (2) our schools would be better for some competition (read: "vouchers"). Thus, as part of a longer editorial (for subscribers), the WSJ has this to say:

The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court's unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding 'adequacy' requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court's declaration that 'more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students.' Think about that one for a second. To our knowledge, this is the first time anywhere in the country that the judiciary has flatly rejected the core doctrine of the education establishment that more dollars equal better classroom performance. And it is potentially very good news for students, especially those from the poorest neighborhoods, because it shifts the policy emphasis from money to achievement. Better send the paramedics to check for heart failure at National Education Association headquarters. Even more encouraging, the court endorsed more choices for parents and the state's 4.3 million school kids. It said flatly: 'Public education could benefit from more competition.' The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which provided much of the academic research for the court, looked at the Edgewood school district in San Antonio, where donors started a privately financed voucher program. The results indicate that not only have the kids with the vouchers benefited, but so have kids in the public schools that are now forced to compete for students.
To which I add: YES!!!

The orthodox lion

Showing that he has more courage than the rest of the government put together, Joe Lieberman articulates his strongly held belief that America cannot cut and run in Iraq:

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
There's some naivete (or political) opportunism in the article, because Lieberman praises the Palestinian elections -- often conducted at gunpoint -- as examples of Democracy in action, but overall, the tone of the article is more honest than one would expect from any politician, especially a Democrat. For one thing, Lieberman has the decency to praise praise the incredible strides that have take place in Iraq and in the Middle East generally:
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress. There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it. *** Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.
Lieberman is putting principles ahead of party allegiances. Even in 2000 (before I crossed to the "dark side"), I had my doubts about Gore as President, but I never, never had doubts about Lieberman. Everything one hears of him demonstrates that he is an honorable, intelligent man. Even if I don't agree with all of his political beliefs, he is the old-fashioned kind of liberal I flatter myself I once was.

I can see the steam coming out of his ears

If you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, you'll definitely want to read Dick Armey's rip-roaring article about the Republican party's descent into being just another tax and spend party:

At the national level, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are presiding over the largest expansion of government since LBJ's Great Society, things are no better. Our political base expects elected leaders to cut both tax rates and spending, because they know that the real tax burden is reflected in the overall size of government. Instead, we have embarrassing spectacles like the 2005 highway bill. Costing $295 billion, it is 35% larger than the last transportation bill, fueled by 6,371 earmarks doled out to favored political constituencies. By comparison, the 1987 highway bill was vetoed by Ronald Reagan for containing relatively few (152) earmarks. Overall, even excluding defense and homeland security spending, the growth rate of discretionary spending adjusted for inflation is at a 40-year high.
I'm for security spending and I'm for road maintenance -- both of which I believe are appropriate government responsibilities -- but I am not for the greed with which the Republican government plunges its hands into my pockets. My husband and I work extraordinarily hard, and we spend our money carefully and wisely, and its just horrible to see the money go to the inefficiencies of government spending. The rest of the article is in the same vein -- it's all about the Republicans' spendthrift habits and their need to rein in those habits before they get booted out of office. Armey ends his column with a reminder that Republicans won as Republicans, and they're going to lose as faux Democrats: "One final Armey Axiom: When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose."

Monday, November 28, 2005

This is what I was afraid of

James Bowman has an article taking exception to the new Pride and Prejudice movie on the ground that it totally abandons Austen's morality, and substitutes in its place a modern sensibility. I wa afraid that might be the case from the trailers I saw and the reviews I've already read. I tend to be very stuffy about messing with the classics. One of my least favorite movies ever was Winona Ryder's much touted Little Women. It was a beautifully done movie -- costumes and settings were a delight to the eye. What drove me crazy, though, was how the movie completely abandoned the primary message in the book. Of course, that message isn't very palatable to the modern mind, but it's still the message: namely, that Jo achieves maturity only when she abandons her wild selfishness, and subordinates her needs to the greater needs of her family. Once she does that, she is rewarded with happiness and a husband. Before that, frustration is her lot. In the 1994 movie, Winona Ryder, as Jo, cheerfully assures Mr. Bhaer that her (fictional) father espouses a doctrine that involves doing what makes you happy. I'll be the first to admit that Bronson Alcott was a selfish nut, and probably one of the first hippies, but Louisa May Alcott loathed growing up like that, and her books explicitly rejected that self-serving message. To have it incorporated front and center into the movie probably had Miss Alcott spinning wildly in her grave. I'll take myself off with a friend to see Pride and Prejudice, 'cause it seems like a good chick-flick, but I am going to have to put my own prejudices aside. Instead, I'll just accept the movie as a "boy meets girl, girl hates boy, girl and boy fall in love" movie, devoid of Austen's elegant social commentary.

A beautiful photo montage

Gina, at Gee Dubya, always does the best photo montages, and she didn't fail us this Thanksgiving. Here she has an inspiring collection of photographs of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I always like coming back home

I haven't traveled out of the U.S. in about a decade, but in the 1980s and 1990s, I spent a lot of time abroad (including a year long stint living abroad). I've always been delighted in Europe -- and even more delighted to come back home to America, clean, polite, friendly, comfortable, and free. I was not surprised to see that Gail, at Crossing the Rubicon, shares my feelings

I like living here. People are nice. The food is good. I like my house. I like my computer. I like my books. I am happy. I've traveled around a bit, and I've discovered that the roads in the US are excellent. The signage and stoplights and speed limits are designed for safety. Roads in the US are kept well repaired. In Virginia where I live, people are incomparably polite. Every day at rush hour, when the traffic builds up and smaller roads deliver cars into the larger ones, each of the drivers on the main road voluntarily allows one car from a side road into the main artery. Even after living in VA for many years, I have never seen this free-willed politeness fail. And the people are generally all like this, in PTA meetings, scouting groups, soccer leagues, at the mall, or the doctor's office. Are there a few bad apples? Yes, of course. But that doesn't negate the fact that people here care about their community and their country. You can feel the patriotism here. There are many who fly flags year round, and others who will raise them for holidays. There are lots of soldiers' families who live here, so close to the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir. It's not uncommon to see yellow ribbons tied to mailboxes.

Understanding today's news

At American Future, Marc shares a great email he got, which offers the story of the Battle of Midway if today's MSM had been reporting it. Here's a sample:

June 7, 1942. The United States Navy suffered another blow in its attempt to stem the Japanese Fleet Goodwill Tour of the Pacific Ocean. Midway Island, perhaps the most vital U.S. outpost, was pummeled by Japanese Naval aviators. The defending U.S. forces, consisting primarily of antique Buffalo fighters, were completely wiped out while the Japanese attackers suffered few, if any, losses. In a nearby naval confrontation, the Japanese successfully attacked the Yorktown, which was later sunk by a Japanese submarine. A destroyer lashed to the Yorktown was also sunk. American forces claim to have sunk four Japanese carriers and the cruiser Mogami but those claims were vehemently denied by the Emperor’s spokesman. The American carriers lost an entire squadron of torpedo planes when they failed to link up with fighter escorts. The dive bombers had fighter escort even though they weren’t engaged by enemy fighters. The War Department refused to answer when asked why the fighters were assigned to the wrong attack groups.
I found this post especially interesting because, last night, I caught another barrage of anti-Bush nonsense from Mr. Bookworm, and was simply incapable of conveying to him that, as long as he's reading the slanted coverage from the MSM, there's no room in the middle for reasoned discussion. Since he reads stuff from only the "war is bad, war is lost" side, he -- like so many Americans -- is incapable of understanding that there is a different way of interpreting the same information. I'm not saying, by the way, that the MSM is always wrong. I'm just saying it's bias is so complete that one can't properly understand the world situation without at least seeking out other sources of information to round out the story or the slant.

The radicals among us

As part of a column about John Daly, the illiterate linguistics professor who threatened a student, Mike Adams discusses PMS -- Paranoid Muslim Syndrome and Paranoid Marxist Syndrome, two radical ideologies that share some common bonds. He begins with Paranoid Muslim Syndrome:

[T]his syndrome can be found in abundance in the 21st century. The leader of Iran has it as do the leaders of the Palestinian Authority. And many have died from it including many “insurgents” in Iraq and the architects of the attacks of 9/11. And the bad news is that PMS has spread to another faction that shares two vital characteristics with these paranoid Muslim extremists: 1) a deep-seated hatred of America and 2) a proven track record of slaughtering innocent Jews. It appears that, without question, Professor Daly is suffering from Paranoid Marxist Syndrome, which is also known as PMS. For those who have never considered the similarities between radical Muslims and radical Marxists, it is time to take heed. While the attacks of the former have been well-documented over the last few years, insufficient attention has been paid to the attacks of the latter. Our college campuses have become the last safe haven of Marxists, largely because its adherents have never had to survive in the real world, much less in a communist dictatorship. Indeed, there are more communists teaching in the State of North Carolina than there are in the former Soviet Union. *** For the most part, academics are silent about the blood-letting that inevitably ensues once a nation is governed by radical Islam or by the principles of Marxism. And if anyone dares to state the obvious, the subsequent willingness to distort the “atrocities” of this nation knows no bounds. That is why colleges tolerate the likes of Professor Daly. At some point we must ask ourselves why it is that simultaneous sympathy for both radical Islam and radical Marxism is to be found almost solely on the campuses of the nation most responsible for the existence of Israel and the non-existence of the Berlin Wall. Few who listen to the words of radical Muslims and radical Marxists can find comfort in the fact that so many who belong in mental institutions reside comfortably in our institutions of higher learning. And that is really the problem. Very few are listening.
The bizarre nexus between the radical Left and radical Islam is frightening, because it exponentially increase each group's power. Their goal is to destroy the common enemies -- Israel, Jews, America. They'll save for resolution in their post-Apocalyptic world their areas of significant difference -- women and gays.

Do not panic. Repeat, do not panic.

Thanks to A Rose By Any Other Name, I know that they're doing changes a The Truth Laid Bear, but I can't tell if the ecosystem changes are permanent changes or not. If they are, I'm desolate. I've been at Adorable Rodent for a long time (with one halcyon week at Marauding Marsupial) and now, gasp, I'm a Crawly Amphibian. Sob. Quick, where's the chocolate? I need help here.

More on Tookie

I'd blogged about Tookie Williams, the Crips' founder on death row, here. Jack Dunphy does a much better job here. What specifically interested me in the Dunphy article is the details he included about Tookie's crimes, back up by a link to the Los Angeles district attorney web site detailing the evidence behind Tookie's conviction. The crimes of which Tookie stands accused are appalling, and the likelihood that he did them is about 99.9999%. Tookie's impending death came up during a dinner with friends. One proposed a straw poll, saying jokingly "Everyone who is always opposed to the death penalty, raise your hand," as her hand shot up into the air. I said to her that I recognized all the huge flaws in the death penalty (the risk of error, the racism and poverty-ism that characterizes it, the differing standards in differing communities, the expense, the moral dilemma, etc.). However, I also said that, when it comes to people who are known to be guilty and who are, I think, evil incarnate, I just can't make myself have a problem with the death penalty. My examples: Richard Allen Davis, Charles Manson and his crew, and Ted Bundy. If I'd gone to this web site, I could have had an even longer list. And you know what? My friend who is completely opposed the death penalty agreed that, well, she didn't really have a problem with those guys getting killed. And that's the problem with the death penalty -- no matter how bad and unfair and expensive it is, there are some people we all agree shouldn't live. UPDATE: Here's Michelle Malkin's excellent roundup of Tookie related info.

The darkness and the dawn

While reading David McCullough's 1776, I inevitably got the chance to refresh my recollection of Thomas Paine's The Crisis. Although written 230 years ago, I think the opening lines are timeless, and apply with remarkable accuracy to current events:

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
I especially like this line: "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country." Doesn't that remind you of the Democrats who enthusiastically supported the war when it looked like a politically smart move, and are now frantically scrabbling to escape the war because it's actually difficult and dangerous? Our troops understand the more important part of Paine's writing, so I'll repeat it again here for my own pleasure:
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Yes, there have been a lot of mistakes in how the Iraq war was conducted. Yes, the administration, while engaged in what I believe are appropriate geopolitical actions, has frequently stumbled or faltered. All true. But no war is an exercise in perfection, and no political process (absent a one person tyranny) just flows smoothly, unhindered by doubt or criticism. I don't think these errors change the fact, though, that Bush's overwhelming belief in freedom over tyranny is establishing him as the midwife of a new (and, I hope, better) world order.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Giving thanks where thanks are due

Someone at the WaPo (Jim Hoagland, in this case), is acknowledging Bush's role in the positive changes taking place in the Middle East: "[I]t is a Middle East in which those who believe in democracy and civil society are finally actors, even though we still face big obstacles,' says Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt's battle-scarred democratic activist. Ibrahim originally opposed the invasion of Iraq. But it 'has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon's 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives,' Ibrahim told me in Washington."This is what Mark Steyn has been saying all along: that the status quo political style that characterized the entire Cold War approach to the Middle East allowed the area to become stagnant and poisonous. Sometimes change, while brutal, purges tyranny.

A disuniting approach to multiculturalism threatens to destroy England

Those who know my writing know that multiculturalism is a big bee in my bonnet. I favor the treacley multiculturalism of the 1940s through early 1960s, which saw a huge emphasis on a united American culture, with a graceful nod to the various traditions immigrants brought to the country ("everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's day," "Merry Christmas, Mr. Goldberg," "Happy Cinco de Mayo, Sean" etc.) Private cultural and religious practices were never insulted or discouraged, but they were not elevated to a position greater than the dominant American culture. What I loathe is the kind of multiculturalism that contends that the dominant culture is an evil amalgam of "ist" and "phobic" ideologies (racist, sexist, and homophobic), built on an equally evil imperialist political structure that allows white males to embark on a worldwide project of implementing their "ist" and "phobic" ideologies. The flip side of this view, of course, is that everyone who isn't a Western white male occupies a practically sanctified position that cannot be criticized or ignored. And it's this kind of multiculturalism that is bringing England to its knees:

Britain is now a deeply divided land, where suspicion, intolerance, and aggression cast their shadow over urban areas. Only the other day, the government revealed that, in the last twelve months, the number of prosecutions for racial hate crimes had risen by 30 percent. In a courageous recent speech, Trevor Phillips, a black broadcaster who now serves as the chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, warned that the country is 'sleepwalking towards segregation,' with society ever more fragmented by ethnicity and religion. Using remarkably frank language, Phillips added that parts of some cities will soon be 'black holes into which no one goes without fear.' This sorry situation has been created by a deliberate act of public policy. For the last three decades, in response to waves of mass immigration, the civic institutions of Britain have eagerly implemented the ideology of multiculturalism. Instead of promoting a cohesive British identity, they have encouraged immigrant communities to cling to the customs, traditions, and language of their countries of origin. The emphasis is on upholding ethnic and cultural differences rather than achieving assimilation. This is in stark contrast to France, which has taken a color-blind approach to immigration, with newcomers expected to adapt to the culture of the host nation. The recently imposed ban on Muslim girls' wearing the hijab or headscarf in schools is a classic example of the French model. Britain has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Soon after the French hijab ban was implemented, a British Muslim teenager brought a successful legal action to win the right to wear in school full Islamic dress from head to toe. She was represented in her court case by Cherie Blair, the barrister wife of the prime minister. And Mrs. Blair's action was typical of the spirit of the Labour-led British ruling class, which has elevated dogmatic multiculturalism into a principle of governance."
As inevitably happens with this type of rabid multicuturalism, the dominant British culture, which bound all the disparate groups together, is being denigrated and abandoned:
Yet the diversity enthusiasts want to celebrate every culture but their own. In the self-flagellating climate of modern Britain, the nation's traditions are increasingly regarded as reactionary and prejudiced. Britishness has "systematic, largely unspoken racial connotations," declared the government's Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The commission's report, published in 2000, described the United Kingdom as "a community of communities" and called for British history to be "revised, rethought or jettisoned." The official mood of self-loathing, epitomized by the terror of giving offense to any ethnic group, has become even more pervasive in the last five years. In one typical instance, the English inspector of prisons stated that wardens should not wear badges or tie pins with the red cross of St. George, England's national flag, because this could be "misinterpreted as a racist symbol." Another extreme episode that was much discussed in the media five years ago illustrates how multiculturalism can undermine the management of social services. At Haringey Council in north London in February 2000, an 8-year-old child from Ivory Coast, Victoria Climbie, died after suffering a catalogue of cruelty, beatings, and neglect by her great-aunt, Marie-Thérèse Kouao, who claimed that Victoria was possessed by the devil. Social workers and the police, alerted repeatedly to Victoria's plight, were reluctant to intervene because they did not want to appear culturally insensitive to Kouao's beliefs or methods of discipline. Indeed, the prevailing mood in the Haringey social work office was one of perverted antiracism, where the woefully incompetent casework manager, Carole Baptiste, held meetings in the dark to discuss African witchcraft and spent much of her time talking about oppression of black women. "It is hard to say how mad it was," recalled one black social worker. "There were some black staff members who would not speak to white people. Aggressive racial politics permeated the office."
The dream of the multiculturalists was to see a harmonious patchwork quilt, with the various little squares hanging onto their own identity while joining together to make a useful object, pleasing to the eye. It's a nice idea, but like so many of the dreams from the Left, it's totally inconsistent with human nature. Humans are tribal creatures. If we encourage a big tribe (the United States, Britain), humans will respond with positive emotions to that big tribe. If we encourage Balkanization within the big tribe, we'll end up precisely as peaceful as, well, the long-suffering Balkans.

A fairly definitive torture analysis

It's always great when there's a knotty intellectual problem, and someone does the heavy mental lifting for you. Here, in a carefully reasoned analysis, Charles Krauthammer explains why torture is not always wrong, and why the U.S. is not violating the Geneva convention in its current handling of terrorists. I find the article persuasive, whether I look at it from a moral point of view, a political point of view, a security point of view, or a legal point of view.

Thank God these kids are opting out

Showing once again the "bravery" that characterizes kids of rich liberals, the fine students in Marin are boldly exercising their legal right (no potentially dangerous civil disobedience here) to stop their schools from sending their names to the military as potential enlistees. This is not real bravery, this is feel good stuff, entirely consistent with speech codes that blatantly violate the First Amendment in order that no one's feelings get hurt. Why do I say this? I don't. The heroic boys leading this charge (and persuading others to follow them), explain their motives:

"The government forcing schools to turn over that information is hypocritical because it makes students feel uncomfortable and a school has the duty to make their students feel safe," [Paul] Koch said. [Emphasis mine.]
There you have it. Some students might be uncomfortable if their government asked them (not ordered them, not coerced them, not forced them at gunpoint) to contemplate joining their own nation's military. Believe me, we should be thankful that these delicate flowers have saved the government the time and effort it would take to contact them. Can you imagine what would happen to our military if people like this entered it? While it might make these young men and women into useful people with spirit and backbone, it's equally possible that these people could injure our military irreparably.

When losing becomes a winning strategy

The Democrats got tremendous mileage out of losing the Vietnam war, so who cares about the millions of dead bodies in the wake of that "victory." And when you've got a winning strategy, you repeat it. So, as Ben Stein points out, the Demos are actively engaged in trying to replicate their past "victory":

I see a frightening pattern here: the Democrats wanted us out of Vietnam, and never mind the genocide that followed. The Democrats want us out of Iraq and never mind that the Baathists will fill the vacuum and all Iraq will be screaming in pain except the murderers, who will exult -- especially Osama bin Laden. Can it be that the Democrats really want to surrender to the same man who killed 3,000 civilians on 9/11 and laughed about it? Are we so weak that in only four years, after a war smaller in casualties than many unknown battles of the Civil War, we are already eager to surrender to the man who murdered women and children and made terrified couples hold hands and leap to their deaths from the World Trade Center? If so, there really is little hope for us as a people. My prayer is that careful reflection will convince the Democrats that while we are all unhappy about the war, war is hell, and surrender is far worse. Maybe the Copperheads in the Democrat party, like those who wanted appeasement of the slave owners one hundred and forty years ago, will be a minority, and those who want to keep up the fight for human decency will prevail even as the Neville Chamberlains speak of peace at any price.

Even BBC admits it has impartiality problems

In a post some time ago, I mentioned the fact that I believed the BBC supported Palestinian terrorism against Britain. One of my readers challenged that claim, and I responded with a gazillion links to articles analyzing the BBC's views regarding Israel and the Palestinians. I needn't have worked so hard. The BBC recently acknowledged that, on at least one occasion, it's own program violated impartial reporting norms.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sometimes Goliath is the good guy

I've been reading David McCullough's wonderful 1776, with its stirring description of how a small rag-tag army beat the mighty British Empire, possessor of the best trained, best equipped army in the world. It made me think of how some Liberals recently have likened the Iraqi insurgents (or, as I like to call them, paramilitary death squads) to the Minutemen. The most obvious examples of this way of thinking are Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan. There's definitely a trickle-down effect here, though, since many on the Left have fallen in love with the idea of "insurgents" as the new Founding Fathers. It occurred to me that Michael Moore and his compadres are not entirely to blame for this ignorant approach to the war now taking place. For thousands of years, most cultures have gloried in stories of the little guy (always good) defeating the big guy (always evil). After all, David (the good guy) slew Goliath (the bad guy). The Greek League defeated the might of the Persians in the Battle at the Hellespont. Roland (good guy) failed an Roncesvalles, but his rearguard action become the stuff of epic legend. As mentioned above, the American rebels (good guys) defeated the mighty British empire (bad guys). The same trend appears in fiction, too. Beowulf's mano-a-mano with Grendel is the stuff of a thousand English classes. Fairy tales delight in the stories of clever, brave heroes bringing down kingdoms. (The one that I keep thinking of in this context is "The Brave Little Tailor.") Even Narnia, which we all know and love, begins with the story of four mere children, with good on their side, defeating the White Witch's thousand year reign of evil. Given our culture, which delights in the David v. Goliath narrative, it's almost unsurprising that liberals would thrill to the idea of yet another small group (the insurgents) taking on the mightiest Army in the world. This is the stuff of epic legend. Pop culture tells us that, in these unequal battles, the little guy is always the good guy. This is the paradigm, and it's lasted intact in history and literature for thousands of years. The question then becomes whether we can get people to recognize that here, at least, evil comes in small packages. I have to admit that I'm somewhat doubtful about our ability to change this mindset. Considering how remarkably forgiving the Left has been of the fact that Insurgents embrace beheadings, whippings, kidnappings, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Semitism, I'm not sure that the Left is capable of looking beyond its blinkered view that good is always small and evil large. I guess all we can do is keep hammering home the reality that, in this case, just as America's Might (good) brought down Nazi Germany (bad), just as the more powerful non-slave North (good) brought down the slave South (bad), and just as American Might (good) ended once and for all the horrible stalemate that had become WWI, here America does represent virtue, packaged on a large scale.

Home grown Taliban

You remember how the Taliban started, don't you? They were hyper-religious thugs in Afghanistan, who used ever increasing terror to subdue their own community. Well, it seems as if Oakland California is seeing a radical Islamist sect that is trying to do the same thing to Oakland's Islamic community:

"A bunch of young African American men dressed in black suits, white shirts and bow ties -- consistent with the apparel of members of the Nation of Islam -- vandalized two stores," Jordan said, adding that investigators are taking steps to contact the group's hierarchy. "They told the owners not to sell alcohol in the African American community, and they began to vandalize the property." No one was hurt in either incident, Jordan said. Both liquor stores are in the same general neighborhood as a bakery and other businesses run by successors of the late Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey, a follower of the Nation of Islam. Three members of the group have been victims of violence since Bey died in 2003, including Bey's 23-year-old-son, Antar, who was shot to death last month in what police believe was an attempted carjacking. *** A surveillance video shows the intruders marching single-file through the front door of San Pablo Liquor, at San Pablo Avenue and 24th Street. An older man wearing a gray fedora talks to the manager -- the owner's teenage son -- over the counter as the others take positions throughout the store. Fists, feet and metal rods fly as the men sweep liquor bottles to the floor, smash display cases and turn over shelves. Jordan said the attacks could constitute a hate crime if the merchants were targeted because of their Middle Eastern background. *** San Pablo Liquor owner Abdul Saleh said $10,000 to $15,000 worth of merchandise was wrecked in the spree, which lasted a little over four minutes. "People thought they were customers," he said. "They said, 'If you're Muslim, why do you sell alcohol to the Arab community?' Then they started smashing the whole store with metal sticks." Saleh was outraged that the vandals acted the part of religious enforcers. "It's between you and God," said Saleh, who was born in Yemen and has raised a family in Oakland since the early 1980s. "If you go to heaven, you go to heaven by yourself. If you go to hell, you go to hell by yourself. You're not speaking for anybody."
The official Nation of Islam has announced that the vandals, caught clearly on video camera, are not members of their group. This claim is almost certainly true, since Bey's group has been in the news before as a radical fringe group. I doubt that this will go anywhere in terms of imposing a theocracy in Oakland, but it's still unnerving that a group would feel enough power or immunity to engage in this type of religiously motivated vandalism. I also find it ironic that American Black Muslims, who are a relatively new group in terms of the Islamic faith, would see fit to take it upon themselves to chastise Muslims who come from countries that have practiced the faith for centuries -- and who, presumably, thought they'd find religious freedom in America.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm feeling "weary, stale, flat and unprofitable," a fact that I think is creeping into my postings of late. They read to me as being shrill, without being particularly interesting or insightful. I think that it's time for a break, which I'll take for the rest of today and through Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, since it's devoid of gifts and glitz, and focuses instead on the tremendous bounty we in America are blessed to have. I am thankful for so many things, not the least of which is the intellectual outlet this blog gives me and the many friends I've made through it. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

The record changes

In an extraordinary feat, Marc Shulman, of American Future, waded through a decade's worth of New York Times editorials to chart the significant change in viewpoint at the self-described "newspaper of record":

A war can be lost because public opinion turns against its continued prosecution. The New York Times – the self-described “newspaper of record” – is among the world’s most influential opinion leaders. As shown by the cited quotations, the newspaper’s stance on Iraq underwent a complete transformation during the decade separating 1993 and 2003. While its editors never lost their fear of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their prescription for countering the threat posed by the weapons was altered beyond recognition. In 1993, by arguing that cease-fire violations nullified U.N. protection, the Times affirmed the right of a victorious party to resume hostilities at its sole discretion if the party it defeated did not abide by the terms of the agreement to which it affixed its signature. Ten years later, the Times reversed its stance, asserting that the United States should not go to war without the approval of the United Nations. In so doing, the Times implicitly argued that going to war with the approval of a multilateral institution took precedence over the use of military force to expeditiously eliminate the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD.
This link will lead you to the first of three posts containing editorials from the New York Times. The change is manifest and undeniable. What's intriguing, of course, is what occurred at the NY Times to cause these changes. Was it easy to demand action when there was a President who almost certainly wouldn't take that action? Perhaps the change occurred because, in 1997, Arthur ("Pinch") Sulzberger, Jr. took over at the helm of the New York Times, dragging the company to the left? Or could it just be that the Times' fanatical hatred of the Bush administration will always drive it to take a contrary position -- even if that means turning its back on its own decade long stance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Does the IAEA know? Does it care?

If someone says he's going to kill you, take him seriously. And if a country makes it patently clear that it intends to build and hide nuclear weapons, shouldn't someone be worried about now?

An Iranian exile who opposes his country's Islamic government said Monday that Iran's military is building a series of secret tunnels to hide equipment for missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Alireza Jafarzadeh, who helped expose nuclear facilities in Iran in the past, told a news conference in September that tunnels were under construction mainly in an area called Parchin. But on Monday he said the secret construction of missiles extends well beyond that location. He said that on orders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the Iranian defense ministry has taken over an area in eastern and southern regions of Tehran. North Korean experts have cooperated with Iran in the design and building of the complex, producing blueprints, for instance, the dissident said. A leading Iranian aerospace group, Hemmat Industries, is located in the area and is building three versions of Shahab and Ghadar missiles, Jafarzadeh said. The Shahab 3 has a range of 1,300 to 1,900 kilometers and Ghadar, still in the production stage, 2,500 to 3,000 kilometers, he said. Some of the tunnels are located in Kahk Sefid Mountain, he said, pointing to a map. In an interview, Jafarzadeh said the most significant development was that Iran was concentrating its work on missiles and nuclear warheads all together in tunnels underground in the Tehran area.

The killer in the burkha

Something new to worry about

Increasingly, however, Muslim women are taking on the role of martyr, though no one is rethinking the profile just yet. To be sure, Muslim women are a long way from fitting the profile of the suicide bomber, which is still predominantly young, Muslim and male. But the Department of Homeland Security issued warnings to law enforcement to be on the lookout for suspicious Muslim women after Chechen terrorists used young Muslim women as suicide bombers to attack Russian targets a couple of years ago. And they are on alert again after al Qaeda, in an effort to lower its male profile and bypass security, apparently enlisted an older Muslim woman to help carry out the recent bloody attacks on American hotels in Jordan. According to Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who has interviewed bin Laden, there is a ready supply of female jihadists in his country alone who would be thrilled to help al Qaeda. 'Our women are more extremist than the men,' he said in a recent magazine interview. 'There are hundreds here.'

Today's morality lesson

This is just the beginning of an excellent Dennis Prager column distinguishing between unfairness (and, as I always say to my kids, "life isn't fair") and actual evil:

If you want to understand the Left, most of what you need to know can be summarized thus: The Left hates inequality, not evil. As one raised as a New York Jew (who, moreover, attended an Ivy League university) and therefore liberal – it took me a while to recognize this fatal moral characteristic of the Left. But the moment I realized it, it became immoral not to oppose leftist values. It is neither possible nor virtuous to be devoid of hatred. Even those who think it is always wrong to hate must hate hatred. The question therefore is not whether one hates but what (or whom) one hates. For example, on the basis of the value system that I hold (Judeo-Christian) I try to confine my hating to evil. By evil I mean the deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on the undeserving; cruelty is the best example of such evil.
The rest of the column is just as good. It also goes a long way, I think, to explaining why those of us who embraced conservatism later in life are such zealots. First of all, converts are often zealots (perhaps because you really have to get your engines revving to make a big ideological leap). Second, I think we're zealots because of the tremendous relief we feel when we no longer have to validate evil on fairness grounds. Evil is evil, wrong is wrong, stuck on stupid is stuck on stupid. Once you figure out a few moral absolutes, there's a certain clarity. Of course, it's this same clarity the Left hates because the Left fears that this is the same clarity that led the Nazis to create the gas chambers. As to that, though, I don't think it's too much to accept that there is a difference between a clarity based on recognizing and rejecting evil, and a clarity based on embracing evil. UPDATE: Kathryn, at Suitable for Mixed Company, linked to my post as part of an interesting discussion about people who have moved from Left to right. In the comments section, she and another addressed by point about "embracing evil." I'm not arguing that all liberals are evil or embrace evil, or that the history of liberalism is the history of evil. I think the liberals should be justly proud of the civil rights and women's rights movements. However, I think there has always been a movement in liberalism to embrace anything that is hostile to American interests -- even if that hostility arises from evil impulses, not good ones. This article about Ramsey Clark perfectly captures that kind of liberal "embrace of evil."

A man redeemed or a con artist?

Last night, my husband was late coming home because of a traffic jam around San Quentin. This morning, my eight year old daughter crept up to me and asked "What do you think of the death penalty"? Stanley "Tookie" Williams has come into my life. Have you heard of him? He was a committed Crips member in the 1970s. In 1979, he was convicted, and sentenced to death, for murdering four people in two different robberies. He's been on Death Row at San Quentin since then. The big hoo-ha is because he has become another Death Row celebrity. He's written children's books and he's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times (and we know what kind of quality people win that prize). Debate swirls about whether he's still a Crips member, with his celebrity handlers claiming he isn't, and the San Quentin officials claiming he is. Oh, I didn't mention the celebrity handlers? He's got lots of them:

The campaign to win a pardon for convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams continued Monday when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger visited him at San Quentin State Prison. *** Jagger, former wife of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, is a representative of the Council of Europe, an anti-death penalty organization. Jackson and Jagger are the latest celebrities to visit the prison in a campaign for a pardon from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rapper Snoop Dogg headlined a rally Saturday morning that drew more than 1,000 people.
The defense now asserted on Tookie's behalf is that he was convicted simply because he was an admitted gang member, not because there was solid evidence that he committed the murders for which he was on trial. That may well be true. Despite the safeguards we try to build into our system, innocent men have been convicted before -- especially poor, black men. Still, I find it hard to believe that a hard core, long-time Crips member didn't have blood on his hands . . . but that's just my biases speaking, I guess. My daughter's question -- "what do you think of the death penalty?" -- was a biggie, and I spent all of breakfast talking with my kids about it. A little history -- All societies, at all times in history, have punished murder with death. A little confusion -- Not all murders are punishable by death. We talked about murderers who are insane and about self-defense. A little problem with the system -- Poor people are disproportionately affected by the death penalty and blacks, amongst the poor, are most disproportionately affected by the death penalty. It's unclear whether that means innocent blacks are given the death penalty more often, or that guilty whites are given it less often, or just that guilty whites get the death penalty less often than guilty blacks (or all of the above) but there's clearly a discrepancy. Problems with freeing convicted killers -- We talked about Norman Mailer's successful campaign to free Jack Abbott. And about how Jack Abbott immediately murdered another person. (Incidentally, this article on Mailer and Abbott also talks about the "radical chic" that made killers so popular on the Left in the 1960s and 1970s.) Silent voices -- We talked about the fact that the four people who died (perhaps at Tookie's hands) aren't here to talk for themselves. They didn't get to go on to write books, to plead their case, to eat food, breath air, have children. They're gone, and they died in fear before an implicable man (Tookie?) who made himself judge, jury and executioner. I gave my daughter and son a lot of information, probably too much for little kids, but, as I said to my daughter, "There's no simple answer. This is complicated." My feeling is that Tookie did it and that Tookie is now being used to advance the 21st Century version of radical chic. And my feeling is that, while it's great if Tookie has used his time in prison to improve himself and become an object lesson for others, that should not obviate the punishment imposed upon him by law for cruelly depriving four innocents of life.

The will to lose

In the same article in which he pointed out that Al Qaeda may be at the end of the line, Mark Steyn points out that the U.S. may be beating it to the bottom. I didn't want to bury these sane words in my previous Mark Steyn post, so I'm giving them their own pride of place:

Happily for Mr Zarqawi, no matter how desperate the head-hackers get, the Western defeatists can always top them. A Democrat Congressman, Jack Murtha, has called for immediate US withdrawal from Iraq. He's a Vietnam veteran, so naturally the media are insisting that his views warrant special deference, military experience in a war America lost being the only military experience the Democrats and the press value these days. Hence, the demand for the President to come up with an "exit strategy". In war, there are usually only two exit strategies: victory or defeat. The latter's easier. Just say, whoa, we're the world's pre-eminent power but we can't handle an unprecedently low level of casualties, so if you don't mind we'd just as soon get off at the next stop. Demonstrating the will to lose as clearly as America did in Vietnam wasn't such a smart move, but since the media can't seem to get beyond this ancient jungle war it may be worth underlining the principal difference: Osama is not Ho Chi Minh, and al-Qa'eda are not the Viet Cong. If you exit, they'll follow. And Americans will die - in foreign embassies, barracks, warships, as they did through the Nineties, and eventually on the streets of US cities, too.

Epitaph for al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda

Let's hope the often prescient Mark Steyn is correct:

I don't know what Islamist Suicide-Bombing For Dummies defines as a 'soft target' but a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding in the public area of an hotel in a Muslim country with no infidel troops must come pretty close to the softest target of all time. Even more revealing, look at who Zarqawi dispatched to blow up his brother Muslims: why would he send Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to die in an operation requiring practically no skill? Well, by definition it's hard to get suicide bombers with experience. But Mr Shamari's presence suggests at the very least that the 'insurgency' is having a hard time meeting its recruitment targets. Though it's much admired in the salons of the West, armchair insurgents such as Michael Moore seem to have no desire to walk the walk. Mr Moore compared the Zarqawi crowd to the 'Minutemen' of America's revolution, pledged to take to the field of battle at a minute's notice. Alas, the concept of self-destructing Minutemen depends on the often misplaced optimism of the London bus stop: there'll be another one along in a minute. Mrs Shamari's brother, Thamir al-Rashawi, Zarqawi's right-hand man and the 'Emir of al-Anbar' (i.e., the Sunni Triangle), was killed by US troops in Fallujah last year. Her other two brothers and her brother-in-law all died in engagements with the enemy this year. Sending a surviving member of your rapidly dwindling inner circle to blow up a Palestinian wedding is not a sign of strength.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On taking responsibility in the world

Mark Steyn

Any great power -- never mind the preeminent power of the age -- should be engaged with the world. That means, among other things, that it has a presence in those parts of the globe that are critical to its interest. For two years, the Democrats have assiduously peddled the line that Bush 'lied' about Iraq. A slightly less contemptible class of critic has sneered that the administration never had any plans for postwar Iraq, hadn't a clue what it was getting into, couldn't tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shia and a Kurd if they were painted different colors and had neon signs flashing off the top of their heads. If there's anything to this feeble second-guessing, it's that the U.S. government simply didn't know enough about Iraq -- and, in a crude sense, they're right. U.S. taxpayers would be justified, for example, in feeling they're not getting their $44 billion worth from the intelligence community. But the only way to know the country is to be there on the ground, in some form or other. I'm all for 'Iraqification' -- though those Democrats urgently demanding everything be done by the locals will be the first to shriek in horror once the Iraqis start serious score-settling with the foreign insurgents. But, even with full-scale Iraqification, America would be grossly irresponsible if not clinically insane not to maintain some sort of small residual military presence somewhere in the western desert. Sorry, but that's part of the deal of being the world's hyperpower. To pretend otherwise is an exit strategy from reality. If you're worried about the ''cost,'' stop garrisoning your wealthiest allies -- Germany, Japan et al. -- and thereby absolving them from stepping up to the traditional responsibilities of nationhood.


I went today with my mother to look at a retirement community that she's very seriously considering. It was an uplifting and sad experience. Uplifting, because it was a beautiful building, in a lovely setting, with charming people (both residents and employees), delicious food, and very nice (albeit small) rooms. I could imagine living there, in that beautiful building, with delicious food (that I don't have to cook), surrounded by kind and interesting people. Except that this is an end of the line community. All the residents showed the inexorable ravages of great age (I don't think anyone there is younger that 75). Nevertheless, aged or not, I was impressed by their joie de vivre, by their courage, by their lust for life. Of course, since the alternative is dying young . . . well, maybe it's not so sad after all.

Western culture stops at the skin

Unsurprisingly, Mark Steyn has a good point about the Islamist undertones of the French riots

For the last couple of weeks, most of the Western media have been as overheated as a Renault 5 in Clichy-sous-Bois in their insistence that these riots have nothing to do with Islam. 'The mayhem has yet to take on any ideological or religious overtones,' the New York Times assured us. 'This has nothing to do with religion,' a Muslim told the Washington Post. Never mind the cries of 'Allahu Akbar!,' never mind the invocation of 'jihad' by at least some of the 'youths,' never mind the particular care given to the incineration of Jewish targets, never mind the fact that the French government itself turned to various bigshot imams in an attempt to pacify les banlieues. Instead, the move-along-folks-no-jihad-to-see-here crowd points to the rioters' fondness for drugs, caterwauling rappers, casual sex, and hideous Western leisurewear as evidence of how culturally assimilated they are. Why, they threatened their victims with baseball bats! Hold it right there for a minute. That's how we define 'assimilating' into Western society at the dawn of the 21st century? If a fellow deals a little coke while wearing pants with a gusset located at calf height while singing along to the remix of 'Slap Up My B**ch,' we say, hey, he seems to be fitting in very nicely? No need to worry about his getting any wacky ideas down at the madrassah, he's an impeccably secular pluralist Peugeot-torcher. It's true that the rioters look rather less foreign than, say, the stern young men in the mosques of Peshawar or the training camps outside Jalalabad. But, on the other hand, so did Mohamed Atta and his 18 confreres. They were very well 'assimilated' by Clichy-sous-Bois standards. If you recall, in the days after 9/11 a flurry of all-American cocktail waitresses, lap-dancers, and prostitutes popped up to say they remembered Mohamed and Marwan and Majed and the rest of the gang chugging vodkas, groping strippers, renting porn videos — just like fully assimilated citizens of advanced Western democracies.
You have to pay $20 for an online subscription to National Review to read the rest of this article -- but then you get to read 11 more "exclusive to National Review" Mark Steyn articles throughout the year, and that alone is worth $20.00.

Advice wanted

My new dog is charming and sweet in every way but one -- when I put her in her crate because I have to leave the house, she invariably pees. This is bass-ackward, because conventional wisdom is that crates are the one place in which a dog won't pee. She also sleeps in the crate at night, and doesn't soil it then. She only does so when I leave her alone in the house. This holds true despite the fact that I walk her before I crate her, and I seldom leave her in the crate for more than an hour or two. I can't decide if she's over-excited, stressed or vindictive. Any advice for dealing with this problem?

Out of the mouths of . . . English teachers

Mike Adams shares in his column a letter that an English professor at Warren County Community College sent to a student when she had the temerity to invite an Iraq war hero to speak on campus. The letter is an astounding piece of ignorance and poor writing. Read it and weep when you think that this is the product of a man who stands up and teaches our children. Adams, of course, has exactly the right thing to say about it:

Some people reading the above diatribe will ask why a college would allow a professor to use such harsh language while addressing a student. But I disagree with any implication that Professor Daly had no right to say what he said so poorly. In fact, I would fight to the death to protect his right to very bad free speech. That is not because I am a principled person. I just enjoy watching liberals make asses out of themselves. To me, it is a cheap form of entertainment not unlike the CBS Evening News.
Going from good to better, Adams spends the rest of his excellent column dissecting Daly's approach to education. Hat tip: PalmTree Pundit UPDATE: Patrick, at the Paragraph Farmer, very thoughtfully wrote back to Prof. Daly. Read it -- it's a hoot.

The teacher at the wrong end of the lash

If you would like detailed information about Muhammad al-Harbi's Case the Saudi high school teacher who ran afoul of Islamic authorites, and was sentenced to almost three and a half years in prison and 750 lashes for charges ranging from praising Jews and Christians to witchcraft, you should check out this blog, which was

made by Saudi citizens feeling for Mohammed and whole-heartedly supporting his cause for a peaceful world. Muhammad al-Harbi does not know about his website and we voluntarily dedicate this space to him, his family, and all who support him. We are praying that Mohammed's innocence will prevail and that those who falsely accused him will be punished.
It's a little unclear whether the blog's creators agree with the Saudi perspective, and simply believe al-Harbi was falsely accused, or if they agree with al-Harbi's humanistic outlook, and view the Saudi's action as tyrannical. If the latter is the case, perhaps, just as al-Zarqawi went too far blowing up a Jordanian wedding, the Saudi religious authorities may have gone too far with their attack on al-Harbi. Certainly, my thoughts and best wishes are with him as he goes through the appeal process.

It's not about indoctrination; it's about bad education

Michelle Malkin has a post about another 9th Circuit ruling involving education. (You remember the last one, which said that a school district can ask children sexually explicit and instrusive questions, not for educational purposes, but for the school's own agenda.) This one said that it's okay for a history class to have students in the class pretend for three weeks that they are Muslims. The students apparently don't learn religious doctrine; instead, they just go learn rituals ("enter tent with right foot," "wipe bottom with left hand" kind of stuff). Two Christian families challenged this as religious indoctrination, only to have the Court say that it wasn't. I have to say that, for once, I agree with the Ninth Circuit. The curriculum Michelle Malkin makes available on her blog shows that what the students were doing has about as much to do with Islam as watching the Disney movie Aladdin does. The "study" is about ritual, utterly devoid of religious content. It's more an indictment of the stupid way in which children are taught in school today, than an example of a school district trying to indoctrinate students in a single religion. Actually teaching the children would have involved studying paganism in the Arabian peninsula before Mohammed, learning about his religious ideas, comparing them to then existing ideas (Judaism, Christianity, paganism), examining their development over time, learning about the nexus between religion and the state, etc. Instead, the type of "educational" role-playing in which the students engaged is just the type of demeaning time-waster that characterizes American education today. After all, why acquire actual information when you can spend time pretending that you're engaged in rituals that are utterly unrelated to real religious doctrine or thinking. If I were a Christian family, I'd be thanking my lucky stars that our school districts are not involved in religious education (thank you, Founding Fathers, for the wisdom you showed in enacting the First Amendment). Our traditional approach to education is so watered down, so disrespectful of the students' intellect, so afraid of anything approaching ideas or critical thinking, that all that the schools would be capable of teaching would be a faded simulacrum of the real thing. Let the schools stick with their environmental indoctrination, and their cartoon-like games, and be grateful they're keeping their hands off the real thing.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Unreliable algorithm

I get a fair amount of my headline news from this Yahoo! News site, which advertises itself as presenting "the most popular news stories." It makes it sound as if the search engine trolls the entire internet for news. I have grave doubts, though. Aside from picking reported news only from Reuters, AP and AFP, when it has "opinion," it only has stuff from the Left [corrected from "right"]. Ted Rall shows up a lot. Also, from the day of its rather pathetic launching, the Huffington site has shown up. There are never stories, though, from any conservative news sites, and I just don't think that's because of low readership, low emailing level, or something else low. I think Yahoo has excluded those sites from its radar. Tsk, tsk, tsk. UPDATE: I made a correction, above, thanks to Patrick's comment. You know, you'd think I would have learned by now that I simply cannot post intelligently when my family is around. The repeated cries of "Mommy, Mommy, Bookworm, Mommy" just seem to addle my brain completely. As I've mentioned before, this is the downside of being the most important person in the world.

How embarrassing -- Jewish liberals are at it again

The headline makes it sound as if American Jews are at war with American Christians: "Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right'." The story reveals, however, that this is not a religious war, but a culture war. The head of the most liberal arm of American Judaism (which is remarkably divorced from religion, a la the liberal Episcopalians) is making an attack against conservative norms:

[Rabbi Eric] Yoffie [president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism] did not mention evangelical Christians directly, using the term "religious right" instead. In a separate interview, he said the phrase encompassed conservative activists of all faiths, including within the Jewish community. He used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children. "We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry." The Union for Reform Judaism represents about 900 synagogues in North America with an estimated membership of 1.5 million people. Of the three major streams of U.S. Judaism — Orthodox and Conservative are the others — it is the only one that sanctions gay ordination and supports civil marriage for same-gender couples. Yoffie said liberals and conservatives share some concerns, such as the potential damage to children from violent or highly sexual TV shows and other popular media. But he said, overall, conservatives too narrowly define family values, making a "frozen embryo in a fertility clinic" more important than a child, and ignoring poverty and other social ills.
This is the Jewish equivalent of that "Jesus was a liberal" bumpersticker. It has nothing to do with religion or religious doctrine, and everything to do with spreading a political agenda.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Welcome, American Thinker readers!

It's an all family all the time weekend, which has precluded any blogging (so far). Still, I'd like to extend a welcome to those of you who came on over from American Thinker.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Creepy, sad, depressing, sscary

This was a sad, creepy, depressing, pathetic and scary story:

Remember Michael Berg? He was a proto-Sheehanoid, the father of Nick Berg, whom al Qaeda terrorists beheaded in Iraq last year. In May 2004, the elder Berg penned an op-ed for Britain's left-wing Guardian, attacking President Bush while excusing his son's murderers:
People ask me why I focus on putting the blame for my son's tragic and atrocious end on the Bush administration. They ask: 'Don't you blame the five men who killed him?' I have answered that I blame them no more or less than the Bush administration, but I am wrong: I am sure, knowing my son, that somewhere during their association with him these men became aware of what an extraordinary man my son was. I take comfort that when they did the awful thing they did, they weren't quite as in to [sic] it as they might have been. I am sure that they came to admire him.
Today's New York Times reports from Milan on Islamist reaction to the scene of Nick Berg's murder:
Playing an Internet video one evening last year, an Egyptian radical living in Milan reveled as the head of an American, Nicholas Berg, was sawed off by his Iraqi captors. 'Go to hell, enemy of God!' shouted the man, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, as Mr. Berg's screams were broadcast. 'Kill him! Kill him! Yes, like that! Cut his throat properly. Cut his head off! If I had been there, I would have burned him to make him already feel what hell was like. Cut off his head! God is great! God is great!' Yahia Ragheh, the Egyptian would-be suicide bomber sitting by Mr. Ahmed's side, clearly felt uncomfortable. 'Isn't it a sin?' he asked. 'Who said that?' Mr. Ahmed shot back. 'It is never a sin!' He added: 'We hope that even their parents will come to the same end. Dogs, all of them, all of them. You simply need to be convinced when you make the decision.'
But it's all Bush's fault! Oh, and al Qaeda has nothing to do with Iraq!"
Nick Berg's death was a horror and a tragedy. It's desperately sad that his father seems to have found consolation on the fringes, and beyond frightening that there are still people in the world who get orgasmic pleasure from the images.