Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our Reprimitivized Future
on: April 11, 2009, 09:16:45 PM
April 11, 2009, 2:30 p.m.
Our Reprimitivized Future
When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all.
By Mark Steyn
The Reuters headline put it this way: “Pirates Pose Annoying Distraction For Obama.”
So many distractions, aren’t there? Only a week ago, the North Korean missile test was an “annoying distraction” from Barack Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons and his pledge that America would lead the way in disarming. And only a couple of days earlier the president insisted Iraq was a “distraction” — from what, I forget: The cooing press coverage of Michelle’s wardrobe? No doubt when the Iranians nuke Israel, that, too, will be an unwelcome distraction from the administration’s plans for federally subsidized daycare, just as Pearl Harbor was an annoying distraction from the New Deal, and the First World War was an annoying distraction from the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s dinner plans.
If the incompetent management driving the New York Times from junk status to oblivion wished to decelerate their terminal decline, they might usefully amend their motto to “All the News That’s Fit to Distract.” Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the last 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and “distractions,” as opposed to about 800 “distractions” for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: “First North Korea, Iran — now Somali pirates.”
Er, okay. So the North Korean test is a “distraction,” the Iranian nuclear program is a “distraction,” and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a “distraction.” Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled “Distractions.” Oh, to be sure, you could still have occasional oases of presidential photo-opportunities — Buckingham Palace, that square in Prague — but with the land beyond the edge of the Queen’s gardens ominously marked “Here be distractions . . . ”
As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction, but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. In my book America Alone, I quote Robert D. Kaplan referring to the lawless fringes of the map as “Indian Territory.” It’s a droll jest but a misleading one, since the very phrase presumes that the badlands will one day be brought within the bounds of the ordered world. In fact, a lot of today’s badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition.
It’s also a low-risk one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it’s all more complicated. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be “brought to justice” by the U.S. “I’m not sure exactly what would happen next,” declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world’s superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eyepatched peglegged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates’ cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. constitution and that their peglegs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress.
In a world of legalisms, resistance is futile. The Royal Navy sailors kidnapped by Iran two years ago and humiliated by the mullahs on TV were operating under rules of engagement that call for “de-escalation” in the event of a confrontation. Which is to say, their rules of engagement are rules of non-engagement. Likewise, merchant vessels equipped with cannon in the 18th century now sail unarmed. They contract with expensive private security firms, but those security teams do not carry guns: When the MV Biscaglia was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden last year, the Indian and Bangladeshi crew were taken hostage but the three unarmed guards from “Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions” in London “escaped by jumping into the water.” Some solution. When you make a lucrative activity low-risk, you get more of it.
As my colleague Andrew McCarthy wrote, “Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.” Very true. Somalia, Iran, and North Korea are all less “civilized” than they were a couple of generations ago. And yet in one sense they have made undeniable progress: They have globalized their pathologies. Somali pirates seize vessels the size of aircraft carriers flying the ensigns of the great powers. Iranian proxies run Gaza and much of Lebanon. North Korea’s impoverished prison state provides nuclear technology to Damascus and Tehran. Unlovely as it is, Pyongyang nevertheless has friends on the Security Council. Powerful states protect one-man psycho states. One-man psycho states provide delivery systems to apocalyptic ideological states. Apocalyptic ideological states fund non-state actors around the world. And in Somalia and elsewhere non-state actors are constrained only by their ever increasing capabilities.
When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all. Most wealthy nations lack the means to defend themselves. Those few that do, lack the will. Meanwhile, basket-case jurisdictions send out ever-bolder freelance marauders to prey on the civilized world with impunity. Don’t be surprised if “the civilized world” shrivels and retreats in the face of state-of-the-art reprimitivization. From piracy to nukes to the limp response of the hyperpower, this is not a “distraction” but a portent of the future.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZWQwNTE2OWM2YjEwMWQzNTM4OTMzZGVhOWM0NDUxOGQ=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Community Organizers seize another boat, crew
on: April 11, 2009, 11:10:39 AM
|**Hey, Bush isn't president anymore. What's Obama going to do, talk smack on Leno? Open season on America and the west.*
Pirates seize U.S.-owned, Italy-flagged tugboat
11 Apr 2009 14:39:44 GMT
(Adds quote, NATO)
By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI, April 11 (Reuters) - Pirates seized a U.S.-owned and Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew on Saturday in the latest hijacking in the busy Gulf of Aden waterway, a regional maritime group said.
Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said the crew were believed to be unharmed on the tugboat, which he added was operated from the United Arab Emirates.
He said the tugboat was towing two barges at the time of capture but there were no details on their cargo.
"This incident shows the pirates are becoming more daring and violent," Mwangura told Reuters by phone.
NATO alliance officials on board the Portuguese warship NRB Corte-Real, which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden, said a distress call came from the MV Buccaneer tugboat but communications were lost six minutes later.
They said 10 of the tugboat's crew were Italian citizens.
Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in March after a lull at the start of 2009.
International interest has focused this week on the plight of an American hostage, Richard Phillips, held by four pirates on a lifeboat flanked by U.S. naval warships in a high seas standoff since Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi and Alison Bevege on the NRB Corte-Real)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting question
on: April 11, 2009, 10:33:45 AM
Choosy choicers choose back-alley abortions in China
POSTED AT 11:15 AM ON APRIL 11, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
Legal Insurrection notes an interesting contradiction at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In response to the demographic distortion that China’s one-child policy has produced, the CPR has called for an end to forced abortions and government imposition of reproductive policy. So far, so good; we can broadly agree on those goals. However, CPR also opposes gender-selective abortion, which is astoundingly hypocritical (emphases mine):
Our shadow letter underlined many areas of concern, including: harmful effects of the one-child policy such as forced abortion, coerced sterilization, and increased trafficking and abduction of women; limited access to infertility treatment; maternal mortality; sex-selective abortions; and deficiencies in sex education. The Committee, through its Concluding Observations, expressed concern over rights violations ensuing from these practices. It advised the Chinese government to investigate and prosecute instances of forced sterilization and abortion and to strengthen and enforce existing laws outlawing sex-selective abortion and female infanticide.
First, why not just protest infanticide in general? Is it only a problem when female infants are killed through direct action or purposeful neglect? I understand that the problem in China is focused on female infants, but if infanticide’s the problem, then we shouldn’t have to get gender-specific about the objection. Their objection looks specifically outcome-based rather than principled.
It seems CPR has a problem with choice that disproportionately disfavors females. They don’t object to abortion, unless the woman chooses to abort in order to avoid giving birth to a female. But how is that choice any less legitimate than any other reason to procure an abortion? For some, the gender relates to economic status and potential, criteria which in other contexts pro-abortion groups hail as rational considerations.
And doesn’t this negate the knee-jerk argument against outlawing abortions in general? If women want to abort because they carry female babies, then won’t they get back-alley abortions if CPR succeeds in keeping gender-specific abortions illegal? Shall we round up and arrest the mothers? The doctors? And if we can justify doing that for gender-specific abortions, why not do it for all abortions and stop the wholesale slaughter of human life altogether?
If one argues for a pro-choice position, then one would support all reasons for the choice. If CPR and its allies support abortion based on outcomes rather than the supposed ideal of choice, then it’s fair to argue what outcomes they’re really supporting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: April 11, 2009, 10:15:52 AM
April 09, 2009
The End of Fair Elections?
By Tom Hoffman
Anyone who believes Hugo Chavez's presidency is the result of a free and fair election should stop reading and go protest against global warming. For the rest of us, it may come as a surprise to some; we may have witnessed the last free and fair election in this country. How long ago that election was does not matter now; there will not be another one.
Remember when "B1 Bob" Dornan lost his House seat to a woman named Sanchez? The election was stolen by Hermandad Nacional Mexicana a group that made a concerted effort to register illegal aliens. Since then, the art of rigging the vote has been refined and perfected by the likes of ACORN and other community activist organizations.
The modus operandi is clear. First, there must be a team of lawyers to challenge any efforts to determine voter eligibility. What we end up with here in California is "motor voter" registration. This means DMV workers urge anyone getting a driver's license to go ahead and register to vote. Lawyers and Democratic state legislators have made it illegal to require documentation regarding immigration status; it's the honor system. If an illegal feels uncomfortable lying to a bureaucrat at the DMV, he or she can apply by mail and receive an absentee ballot. This way they need not even have to show up at the polling place; just mail it in.
It's just too easy to cheat. Of course, at the polling place there is no need to prove who you claim to be; honor system again. Sign in and vote with no questions asked. The lawyers and legislators paved the way for the "undocumented worker" to vote like a native born citizen by doing away with need to document anything, let alone citizenship. All that is necessary is a mailing address; and, no kidding, the same culprits are busy doing away with that so the "homeless" can now register.
Registering as many fraudulent votes as possible and making it as difficult as possible to disqualify voters is only front end of the strategy. Once an election has been made close enough to allow for disputes and recounts, whole new machinery has been put in place. Here is where the big money comes into play. The secretaries of state, whose duty it is to oversee the election process, must be beholden to the community activists. Large campaign donations to the secretary of state candidates assure the community organizers a voice in all "recounts". Their squads of well-trained lawyers will likely get sympathetic rulings in their efforts to disqualify eligible voters and qualify the ineligible.
Is it any wonder that, as the rules get watered down again and again, the number of "get out the vote" organizations has multiplied? There has always been some fraud in our electoral system: but until recently, the scale has not been sufficient to succeed in stealing a national election. We've passed that line. Once passed, the line can never be redrawn.
ACORN is but one instance of a well financed nationwide effort to institute voter fraud. It is the financing of the likes of George Soros and the organizing skills of the likes of Bill Ayers that assures us of rigged elections from now on. Take the recent U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. The community activists registered thousands of new voters. Given that ACORN has already admitted to voter fraud (by mistake of course), it is certain a fair number of these were fraudulent. It is also certain that nearly all were Democrat votes. The Republican still managed to win by a few hundred votes on the initial count. The margin was too close to rule out a recount; mission accomplished for ACORN and their ilk. In come the lawyers to disqualify Republicans. With the full sympathy of the secretary of state, the radicals manage to turn the tide in favor of the Democrat; game, set, match.
With a proven game plan and large numbers of "community activist" organizations spread out across the country, all that is necessary to rig state and national elections from now on is a large and reliable source of funding. That has already been assured in the "Stimulus" bill. George Soros will now be helped by the U.S. Taxpayer; helped big time. Community activist organizations will find themselves flush with taxpayer cash. They are the grass roots agencies in charge of "neighborhood stabilization." I suppose we could get Jimmy Carter to certify the fairness of the 2010 elections.
Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/04/the_end_of_fair_elections.html
at April 11, 2009 - 11:13:29 AM EDT
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: April 11, 2009, 09:41:27 AM
|Ok, it appears not to be law, but California's policy interpreting federal law. I'm looking for where CA DMV has issued a policy forbidding DMV clerks from asking about citizenship prior to registering voters.http://www.heritage.org/Research/Legalissues/lm28.cfm
This problem has been exacerbated by many states' interpretation of a HAVA provision that requires a citizenship question on the federal mail-in voter registration form. The provision, in 42 U.S.C. § 15483, requires the following question: "Are you a citizen of the United States of America?" If an applicant fails to answer this question, HAVA provides that the local election official must notify the applicant of the failure and "provide the appli cant with an opportunity to complete the form in a timely manner to allow for the completion of the registration form" prior to the election. Under the threat of lawsuits by organizations like the Ameri can Civil Liberties Union, states such as Ohio, Iowa, and South Dakota will register an individual even if he fails to answer the citizenship question. The Justice Department so far has failed to sue these states to force compliance with HAVA.
HAVA also imposes an identification require ment for first-time voters who register by mail. Many states, including California, have interpreted this provision to apply only to registration forms received through the U.S. mail, so the requirement is easily avoided by turning in the registration form directly to election officials. Additionally, docu ments named in the law as acceptable forms of identification for voter registration, such as utility bills and bank statements, are easily obtained by non-citizens. HAVA also requires applicants to pro vide a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number but allows an indi vidual to register even if he has neither number.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 11, 2009, 09:19:13 AM
The Pirates Challenge Obama's Pre-9/11 Mentality
Distinctions between lawful and unlawful combatants go back to Roman times.
By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
When Somali pirates hijacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama this week and took 20 Americans hostage, President Barack Obama refused to comment. It seems that our new president is desperate to do everything he can to distance himself from his predecessor, which is why his team has launched a campaign to rebrand the War on Terror. The results are mystifying. "Overseas contingency operations" is the new name for the war, while "man-caused disasters" is a euphemism for terrorist attacks.
In this new rhetorical regime, the administration criticizes President George W. Bush for his "illegal" policies with respect to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and claims that the treatment of the detainees themselves constitutes "torture."
But while they've certainly made cosmetic changes, many claim the Obama administration has left the substance of Bush's approach intact.
Attorney General Eric Holder added to this perception when, after visiting Guantanamo, he acknowledged that the facility is very well run and that implementing Mr. Obama's promise to close it down will be difficult. While renouncing the term "enemy combatant," the Obama administration acknowledges the reality that no matter what we call those detained at Guantanamo, the detainees are still not entitled to prisoner-of-war status because they have violated the laws of war by killing civilians and fighting out of uniform. Instead of calling the detainees enemy combatants, the administration has opted to refer to them as "individuals captured in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations," or "members of enemy forces," or "persons who [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for the September 11 attacks."
Though these changes might seem superficial, unfortunately, they represent a substantive shift. They signal a return to the policy mindset that existed before 9/11, and the consequence will be material harm to U.S. security.
First, in holding that the president's power to indefinitely detain without legal charges is derived from Congress's authorization for the Use of Military Force Act (passed in the aftermath of 9/11), the Justice Department has undercut the president's own war power under the Constitution. This is an inherent executive power that has been recognized since at least the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
As Lincoln wrote to James Conkling in August 1863, "I think the Constitution invests its commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war." In addition to the commander-in-chief clause of Article II, Lincoln found his war power in his presidential oath "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Second, the various new substitutes for "unlawful enemy combatant" abolish an important distinction in traditional international law. As the eminent military historian Sir Michael Howard argued shortly after 9/11, the status of al Qaeda terrorists is to be found in a distinction first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval and early modern European jurisprudence. According to Mr. Howard, the Romans distinguished between bellum (war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy) and guerra (war against latrunculi, pirates, robbers, brigands and outlaws).
Bellum became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions were meant to apply. They do not apply to guerra. Indeed, punishment for latrunculi, "the common enemies of mankind," traditionally has been summary execution.
Though they don't often employ the term, many legal experts agree that al Qaeda fighters are latrunculi -- hardly distinguishable by their actions from pirates and the like. Robert Kogod Goldman, an American University law professor has commented: "I think under any standard, the captured al Qaeda fighters simply do not meet the minimum standards set out to be considered prisoners of war." And according to Marc Cogen, a professor of international law at Ghent University in Belgium, "no 'terrorist organization' thus far has been deemed a combatant under the laws of armed conflict." Thus al Qaeda members "can be punished for all hostile acts, including the killing of soldiers, because they have no right to participate directly in hostilities." But the Obama administration is about to extend legal rights -- intended to protect civilians -- to the very latrunculi who want to blow them up by considering the possibility of trying them in U.S. courts. Indeed, Attorney General Holder did not rule out trying the Somali pirates.
Some in Congress want to go further than the Obama team. Rather than focusing their attention on the terrorists, these politicians wish to criminalize the behavior of Bush administration officials for actions they took to protect Americans, and that fell well short of those taken by Lincoln in suppressing the Rebellion of 1861. Thus Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), aided and abetted by my own Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I), have begun hearings on Mr. Leahy's proposal for a "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation policies.
The mantra of Bush critics has been that the previous administration "tortured" detainees. But this is nonsense. At issue is the CIA's waterboarding of three high-ranking latrunculi who had been instrumental in planning and executing attacks that killed thousands of Americans. These individuals had been trained to resist conventional interrogation methods and were thought to have information about impending attacks.
What makes the Leahy-Whitehouse show trials most appalling -- and hypocritical -- is that Congress was briefed on the enhanced interrogation methods in September 2002. At the time, according to the Washington Post, members of Congress from both parties -- including current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- wanted to ensure that the interrogations were tough enough to get the necessary intelligence from the captured terrorists. As the Post reported, "there was no objecting, no hand-wringing," and according to a U.S. official present during the briefings, "the attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.'" But of course, according to a source looking back on that period, "the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic."
And therein lies the problem. Too many of our leaders have forgotten that we are at war with latrunculi who wish to destroy us. Anyone who doubts this need only read the recent statement by the five detainees at Guantanamo charged with planning the 9/11 attacks in which they describe the charge that they murdered Americans very clearly -- as a "badge of honor."
Mr. Owens is a professor at the Naval War College and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: April 10, 2009, 11:01:38 PM
America The Patsy?
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, April 08, 2009 4:20 PM PT
National Security: Russia tells the U.S. not to worry about a nuclear Iran and not to punish nuclear North Korea. Fidel Castro wants to help the president, Russia's "new comrade." Are we being set up?
Some of the most obvious threats to life and liberty in the historical record were, at the time they were happening, vehemently denied by those in positions of decision-making.
Isolationists and pacifists believed that Hitler's imperialism could be appeased by territorial gains. During the early Cold War, American Soviet spy Alger Hiss' integrity was vouched for by U.S. officials reaching a level as high as future Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Those, such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, suggesting that Hiss was only one of a massive group of Communist spies within the U.S. government were targeted (in McCarthy's case literally targeted for elimination by the CIA, as noted in Pulitzer-winning journalist Tim Weiner's book "Legacy of Ashes"), marginalized, even ruined.
M. Stanton Evans' 2007 book "Blacklisted by History" convincingly and meticulously exonerated McCarthy on most counts, but in other such episodes scholarly review has been unnecessary. Three decades of the ugly reality of Islamist revolution in Iran, for instance, have indelibly discredited the belief in 1979 by Andrew Young, the Carter administration's United Nations ambassador, that the Ayatollah Khomeini was "some kind of a saint."
Today, it takes willful blindness not to recognize Iran as the greatest threat to life and freedom in the world. Tehran is apparently now on the verge of announcing that it has mastered the final, most technically challenging stage of nuclear fuel production: the industrial-scale enrichment of uranium, which allows nuclear fuel to be generated in large quantities.
The Islamofascist regime in Iran has denied inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency access to its Arak heavy water reactor, which could be geared to produce plutonium from spent uranium fuel rods.
Yet we heard soothing words this week from Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.
"I don't see any threat to the United States coming from Iran anytime soon," he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — ironically, the organization Hiss was president of when Whittaker Chambers testified in 1948 that he and Hiss committed espionage together.
In a similar vein, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "any threat of sanction" against North Korea in response to its Sunday launch of a multistage rocket over Japan, a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, "would be counterproductive."
More talk for a regime possessing as many as eight nuclear warheads after it sends up a missile reaching twice as far as anything it has launched previously?
Clearly, Russia wants to lull us into complacency regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among hostile regimes. Do Moscow and other adversaries of the free world sense an uncommon opportunity in the year 2009?
With an unprecedented financial crisis battering the West's economic system, and a man of the left in the White House, is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's description of Barack Obama as "my new comrade" more than a clever sound bite?
Ailing Cuban dictator Castro, having granted an audience to members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday, seemed to share Medvedev's sentiment, asking, "How can we help President Obama?"
When longtime foes of the world's lone superpower behave in such fashion, it isn't because they've been converted to the cause of world peace; it is because they see a chance to change the dangerous global power game in their favor — and at our expense.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, always unguarded in expressing himself, claimed this week on a visit to Beijing that "the power of the U.S. empire has collapsed."
"Every day, the new poles of world power are becoming stronger: Beijing, Tokyo, Tehran," he said. "It's moving toward the East and toward the South."
Toward danger and away from security would be a more accurate description.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Pantywaist
on: April 10, 2009, 12:06:10 PM
POSTED AT 12:55 PM ON APRIL 10, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
Charles Krauthammer and Gerald Warner take up where Jackson Diehl left off in analyzing Barack Obama’s Grand Tour this month. Both men sound warning alarms over Obama’s tendency to surrender large swaths of the American agenda in return for getting nothing at all. And while Krauthammer wonders whether Obama has a sense of his own American identity, Warner wonders whether Obama has any sense at all.
Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.
And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.
He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.
From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.
And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One! (Sadly, he’ll have to leave his swim buddy behind.) The Austrians said they would take none. As Interior Minister Maria Fekter explained with impeccable Germanic logic, if they’re not dangerous, why not just keep them in America?
When Austria is mocking you, you’re having a bad week. Yet who can blame Frau Fekter, considering the disdain Obama showed his own country while on foreign soil, acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating between his renegade homeland and an otherwise warm and welcoming world?
I thought that would win the Scorn Award for the week, but that’s just a warm-up for Warner. The British columnist for the Telegraph has a new name for Obama — well, two, actually:
So The One retired triumphant, having secured a massive contribution of 5,000 extra troops - all of them non-combatant, of course - which must really have put the wind up the Taliban, at the prospect of 5,000 more infidel cooks and bottle-washers swarming into the less hazardous regions of Afghanistan.
Then came the dramatic bit, the authentic West Wing script, with the President wakened in the middle of the night in Prague to be told that Kim Jong-il had just launched a Taepodong-2 missile. America had Aegis destroyers tracking the missile and could have shot it down. But Uncle Sam had a sterner reprisal in store for l’il ole Kim (as Dame Edna might call him): a multi-megaton strike of Obama hot air. …
President Pantywaist is hopping mad and he has a strategy to cut Kim down to size: he is going to slice $1.4bn off America’s missile defence programme, presumably on the calculation that Kim would feel it unsporting to hit a sitting duck, so that will spoil his fun.
Watch out, France and Co, there is a new surrender monkey on the block and, over the next four years, he will spectacularly sell out the interests of the West with every kind of liberal-delusionist initiative on nuclear disarmament and sitting down to negotiate with any power freak who wants to buy time to get a good ICBM fix on San Francisco, or wherever. If you thought the world was a tad unsafe with Dubya around, just wait until President Pantywaist gets into his stride.
The White House says it will take more than a few days for Obama’s impact to be felt, but I think they’re underestimating their President. Obama’s impact was plain to see. He drew great crowds for his American Humility Tour, and it played well — as bowing and scraping always does to those whom one bows and scrapes. Europe might like the whiff of surrender coming from Obama, but they made it plain that it would result in no movement on the American agenda. Actually, that’s not entirely true; as Diehl points out, Obama mostly neglected to even mention the American agenda.
John Kennedy had the insight to realize that he blew his performance with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. Newt Gingrich allowed for the possibility that Obama might come to the same realization after this disaster of a foreign tour. Will President Pantywaist recover, a la Kennedy, or wallow in the self-delusional spin his White House provided this week, a la Jimmy Carter? Let’s hope it’s the former, because the world is far too dangerous a place for America to have a President Pantywaist.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Obama boot-licking tour
on: April 08, 2009, 03:25:53 PM
O'S AMATEUR HOUR
By RALPH PETERS
April 8, 2009 --
THE real climax of President Obama's Spring Apologies Tour wasn't his photo op with our troops in Baghdad or even his "American Guilt" concerts in Western Europe.
While fans in the press cheered wildly at every venue, the real performance came in Turkey. And it was a turkey.
Obama means well. Just as Jimmy Carter, his policy godfather, meant well. But the road to embassy takeovers and strategic humiliation is paved with good intentions -- coupled with distressing naivete.
On every stage, Obama draped Lady Liberty in sackcloth and ashes, drawing plentiful applause but no serious economic or security cooperation in return. Then, in Turkey, he surrendered our national pride, undercut our interests and interfered in matters that aren't his business.
On the latter point: Suppose the European Union president went to Cuba and insisted that the world's sunniest concentration camp should be welcomed into NAFTA? That's the equivalent of what our president did in Ankara on Monday when he declared that he supports Turkey's bid for EU membership.
The Europeans don't want Turkey in their club. Because Turkey isn't a European state, nor is its culture European. And it isn't our business to press Europe to embrace a huge, truculent Muslim country suffering a creeping Islamist coup.
The Europeans were appalled by Turkey's neo-Taliban tantrum on-stage at last week's NATO summit. The Turks fought to derail the appointment of a great Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as the new NATO secretary general. Why? Because he didn't stone to death the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Mohammed.
Which brings us to the even bigger problem: Obama has no idea what's going on in Turkey. By going to Ankara on his knees, he gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government bent on overturning Mustapha Kemal's legacy of the separation of mosque and state.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, means headscarves, Korans, censorship and stacked elections. The country's alarmed middle class opposes the effort to turn the country into an Islamic state. Obama's gushing praise for the AKP's bosses left them aghast.
Obama's embrace of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now orchestrating show trials of his opponents) was one step short of going to Tehran and smooching President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
What was Obama thinking? He wasn't. He relied on advice from State Department appeasement artists who understand neither Turkey, Islam nor the crises raging between the Bosporus and the Indus. State's answer is always "More love, more humility, more aid."
Well, I, for one, don't think our country has anything to apologize for, either to Turkey or to Europe.
Insisting that America's always guilty, Obama omitted any mention of Turkey's wartime betrayals of our troops, its continuing oppression of its Kurd minority or the AKP's determination to turn a state with a secular constitution into a Wahhabi playground.
When it came to the Armenian genocide, Obama bravely ducked: He never dared use the g-word.
And Obama's disdainful remarks about President Bush were just shabby.
After those overpriced tour T-shirts have shrunk in the wash (trust me -- they will), what will we have gained from Obama's superstar act?
He told the Europeans that the global economic crisis is all our fault. No mention of European greed, overleveraged governments, destructive Euro-loans or Chinese currency manipulation. We did it. Whip us, please.
In return, the Europeans gave him . . . nothing.
Even though Obama was right when he said that Europe faces a greater terror threat than we do, the entire continent only ponied up 2,500 short-term non-combat troops for Afghanistan. The Europeans know we'll do the heavy lifting.
He gave the Russians yet another blank check, too. (Meanwhile, in Moscow, Putin's thugs beat an aging pro-democracy dissident to a pulp.) In return, the Russians promised to . . . well, actually, they didn't promise anything.
Then Obama went to Turkey, undercut secular political parties, infuriated the Europeans -- and disclaimed our country's Judeo-Christian heritage. (Did Turkey's leaders respond by denying Islam's importance to them? Naw.)
In Turkey, Obama got . . . nothing we didn't already have.
Then he went to Iraq and told its prime minister that Iraq would get nothing.
I believe that our president wants to do the right thing. But he doesn't have a clue how. For now, he's enraptured by the applause. But he hasn't tried to charge his fans for their tickets. And they've already made up their minds they won't have to pay.
Ralph Peters is Fox News' strategic analyst and the author of "Looking for Trouble."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: April 08, 2009, 02:28:53 PM
Hero Pittsburgh Police Officer Speaks
Posted: April 8th, 2009 12:45 PM GMT-05:00
Story by thepittsburghchannel.com
The city of Pittsburgh is mourning for three police officers, killed by a gunman in Stanton Heights.
On Wednesday, one of the police officers who tried to save one of the fallen spoke for the first time.
"He started firing again with much more firepower than I even could begin to put out," said Officer Timothy McManaway, who spoke on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday morning.
Officers Paul Sciullo II and Stephen Mayhle were shot responding to a domestic call on Fairfield Street. The officers were responding to a call about a domestic dispute on Saturday. When they entered the home of Richard Poplawski, Poplawski opened fire, police said, killing both men.
Officer Eric Kelly was on his way home when he stopped to help. He too was shot. McManaway said he saw the shooting and tried to help.
"He just raised his arm when I was up there. I noticed he was alive, so I figured there was a chance," McManaway said.
Timeline according to police statements: Shortly after 7 a.m. - Two officers respond to Stanton Heights domestic call. Sciullo enters house; is shot and killed. Mayhle backs him up; is shot and killed. On way home, Kelly decides to help; is shot and killed. McManaway shot in hand trying to help Kelly. Jones tries to secure back of house, jumps fence, breaks leg. SWAT arrives, comes under fire. Poplawski continues firing out of bedroom window. Negotiators convince Poplawski to surrender. Poplawski taken into custody; charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault.
Running into the line of fire, McManaway was shot in the hand. But he pulled his fellow officer behind a car to try to save his life. McManaway said Kelly asked him to deliver a message to his family.
"He wanted me to give a message to his wife and kids. I told him I wasn't going to deliver the message, he has to do it himself," McManaway said. But Kelly was too badly wounded.
"The injuries went way beyond anything I could have done to get him to stick around," McManaway said.
Another officer, Brian Jones, was also injured while trying to secure the scene.
The memorials for the fallen officers continue in Pittsburgh.
A viewing at the City-County Building will be held for law enforcement only from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday. Starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, continuously until 10 a.m. Thursday, the public is welcome to pay their respects at the City-County Building.
Poplawski, 22, is charged with three counts of criminal homicide.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: April 06, 2009, 10:51:25 AM
Gitmo May Be One of the Toughest Prisons on the Planet--for the Guards
The Washington Post story (linked below) declares that Guantanamo is "one of the toughest prisons on the planet."
Last May, in an attempt to put to rest some of this nonsense about Gitmo, Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, then commander of Joint Task for Guantanamo, explained the difference between "the Guantanamo that exists in ... pop culture and the media and most people's minds" and the "Guantanamo that exists here, the one that I see every day".
Our Camp 5 and Camp 6, which is where 75 percent of our population -- detainee population lives, those two buildings are actually models of a facility in Indiana -- a prison in Indiana and a prison in Michigan that were brought down here and built, so that the very same conditions that U.S. Bureau of Prisons prisoners live in are what our detainees live in, in terms of their place of incarceration.
Every detainee, no matter what their compliancy status is -- in other words, how well they behave and everything else -- they all get at least two hours of outdoor recreation with other people every day, every single day. They also get a shower every single day, which is actually more than the Bureau of Prisons offers their high-security folks. For those other 25 percent that are in highly compliant status -- in other words, they behave very well and follow the camp rules -- they are in a place called Camp 4, which is a very open-air, communal sort of facility, where they live in groups of six in a bunk room, if you will. And they have access to recreation about 22 hours a day, including group recreation and group prayer and all that sort of thing.
So to say that our conditions are especially arduous or different than ... what a normal prisoner might find in the Bureau of Prisons systems ... I think is probably twisting the truth quite a bit.
So life in Gitmo doesn't seem too hard for detainees, especially considering that most of them are accused of fighting with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Life for the guards, however, is not so easy. See this detainee activity report from last April. Just a few statistics on what the Gitmo guards endured in 2007:
135 physical assaults
132 assaults with bodily fluids
1,734 incidents of failure to comply with orders
That means there was about one assault against the guards for every detainee held in Gitmo. Contrast that with New York state prisons. Erik Kriss, a spokesman for New York's Department of Correctional Services, tells me that in 2008 the rate of inmate assaults against staff throughout the state was 9 for every 1,000 inmates. So the assault rate is 100 times higher at Gitmo than the New York prisons.
Posted by John McCormack on February 23, 2009 04:30 P
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama: Loser
on: April 05, 2009, 10:23:13 PM
SUNDAY, APRIL 05, 2009
And the Winner Is....
Maybe it's the influence of sports in our lives.
Or that human desire to measure everything in terms of who came out on top, and who got left behind.
Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that life, love and international relations are often defined in terms of winners and losers. And, with that in mind, we're pleased to announce the world leader who emerged triumphant at this weekend's EU summit in the Czech Republic.
May we have the envelope, please? (drumroll)
Taking top honors without so much as showing up, the top prize for grabbing global attention--and embarrassing the U.S. in the process--goes to Kim Jong-il of North Korea.
Think about it. With today's launch of a Tapeodong-2 long-range missile, Mr. Kim achieved a slew of political goals in less that 15 minutes--the time required for his rocket to fly from North Korea, to splashdown in the Pacific.
First, the DPRK dictator once again thumbed his nose at international convention. Virtually everyone from President Obama to Kim's Asian neighbors warned him against the missile test, but the TD-2 went off as scheduled. Did we mention that many of these same leaders still favor diplomacy as the preferred method of engaging Pyongyang?
In fact, the new U.S. envoy to the Six Party talks--aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program--has suggested that Washington may be prepared to "overlook" the missile test, if Mr. Kim will return to the bargaining table. Fire off a long-range missile and get Washington to beg for a resumption of negotiations? That's a win-win by any one's standards.
But it gets even better. Not only did Kim Jong-il put his regime back in the global spotlight (and score an impressive propaganda victory to boot), but there's virtually no chance he'll be punished for his actions. While Mr. Obama is talking about additional sanctions, North Korea's friends on the U.N. Security Council--China and Russia--have veto power over any measures, and both are urging "restraint" in any new resolution against Pyongyang.
That means the likely "punishment" for the DPRK is another meaningless diplomatic warning. They haven't deterred North Korea in the past, and this time is no different.
While the diplomats haggle over language, Pyongyang will press on with its missile and nuclear weapons efforts. An Iranian delegation was present for today's launch, and the ICBM technology being developed in North Korea will quickly find its way to the Middle East.
By some accounts, at least one stage of the TD-2 is built in Iran, another testament to Mr. Kim's worldwide proliferation program. From Damascus to Caracas, there is no shortage of willing customers for North Korean weapons technology, including petro-states who will underwrite his development efforts.
Not bad for a guy who was supposedly on his death bed just a few months ago. You know, the same, two-bit dictator who has been written off time and time again. As we've noted before, various experts in the State Department and the intelligence community have been predicting the demise of North Korea for decades. Clearly, the DPRK's economic and political models are unsustainable. But it's naive to believe that Pyongyang will disappear anytime soon, or make significant concessions on its most important issues.
Obviously, if Kim Jong-il was the big winner this weekend, then there had to be a loser of equal proportions. Our vote goes to President Obama, who has been ignoring or downplaying the North Korean issue for more than a month. Refusing to use missile defenses to shoot down the TD-2, Mr. Obama then expressed surprise and outrage over the test. His response? Get the U.N. to pass another, empty resolution.
We would imagine that Mr. Kim is genuinely looking forward to the next four years. His country is bankrupt and millions of his citizens are starving, but suddenly, North Korea's global prospects seem particularly bright.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nasty!
on: April 05, 2009, 09:28:52 AM
April 04, 2009, 7:00 a.m.
Feel Like Getting Nasty?
The G20 wants international regulation that will export their mistakes to the entire planet.
By Mark Steyn
During the Obama administration’s foray to London this last week, officials provided a special telephone number to journalists interested in discussing foreign-policy issues in an “on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones.”
Unfortunately, as part of the curious run of bad luck currently afflicting our new Secretary of State, upon dialing the number the gentlemen of the press were greeted by a honey-voiced seductress, presumably not Secretary Clinton, offering them “phone sex” and seeking their credit-card number if they “feel like getting nasty.”
No, it’s not a White House April Fool’s gag. This was April 2nd.
Alas, what with the collapse of the newspaper industry and major metro dailies filing for bankruptcy every 20 minutes, sticking phone sex on your expense tab isn’t as easy as it once was. So many of these big-shot correspondents were forced to hang up, call the White House Press Office, get given the correct number, and listen to Hillary droning on about the NATO summit for half an hour. The deputy press secretary, Bill Burton, insisted that the White House handing out sex-line numbers was no big deal and only Fox News would make a fuss about “a corrected phone number.”
I’m not sure why the White House needed to correct it. It’s the perfect radio ad for the administration. Call 1-900-OBAMA and Timothy Geithner will demand your credit-card number and ask whether you feel like getting nasty, because he certainly does. He’ll be wearing a steel-tipped basque, and the squeals in the background will be an AIG executive or the former CEO of General Motors hanging upside down in the Treasury Department basement while he feels the firm lash of government “regulation” from Barney Frank and Mistress Pelosi.
Well, we all hate “the rich,” don’t we? Last week, David Paterson, the governor of New York, said that if he’d known his latest tax increase would persuade Rush Limbaugh to sell his Manhattan apartment and leave the city, he’d have raised taxes earlier. Ha-ha. Very funny. In New York City, as Mayor Bloomberg has pointed out, the wealthiest 1 percent contribute 50 percent of municipal revenue. How tiny a number of people does Governor Paterson have to drive out before it causes significant shortfalls in the public coffers?
On the other hand, the rich can only be driven out if they’ve got somewhere to be driven to. At the ludicrous G20 summit in London last week, the official communiqué crowed over a “clampdown” on tax havens — those British colonies in the Caribbean and a few other offshore pinpricks in the map. “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the G20 proclaimed.
Does anyone seriously think a Swiss bank account or a post office box in the Turks and Caicos are responsible for the global meltdown?
No, but the world’s governments have decided to focus on irrelevant scapegoats. In the current crisis, Japan, Germany, and Italy (plus Russia) are in net population decline that’s only going to accelerate in the years ahead. So, unlike the U.S., they can’t run up the national debt and stick it to their kids and grandkids, because they don’t have any kids and grandkids to stick it to. If New York is running out of rich people, Germany is running out of people, period. The Chinese and other buyers of Western debt know that. If you’re an investor and you’re not tracking GDP versus median age in the world’s major economies, you’re going to lose a lot of money.
If government has a role in this crisis, it ought to be to reverse the combination of unaffordable social programs and deathbed demographics that make a restoration of real GDP growth all but impossible in many European nations. But that would involve telling the citizenry unpleasant truths, and Continental politicians who wish to remain electorally viable aren’t willing to do that. President Sarkozy, the Times of London reported, “said that the summit provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience.” What he means by “a conscience” is a global regulatory regime that ensures there’s nowhere to move to. If you’re France, which has a sluggish, uncompetitive, protectionist, high-unemployment business environment whose best and brightest abandon the country in ever-greater droves, it obviously makes sense to force the entire planet to submit to the same growth-killing measures that have done wonders for your own economy. But it’s not good news for the rest of the world. The building blocks for a global regulatory regime and even a global central bank with an embryo global currency (the IMF and the enhanced role of “Special Drawing Rights”) are an ominous development.
Let it be said that in recent years in America, the United Kingdom, and certain other countries the “financial sector” grew too big. In The Atlantic, Simon Johnson points out that, between 1973 and 1985, it was responsible for about 16 percent of U.S. corporate profits. By this decade, it was up to 41 percent. That’s higher than healthy, but it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near that high if government didn’t annex so much of your wealth — through everything from income tax to small-business regulation — that it’s become increasingly difficult to improve your lot by working hard, making stuff, and selling it. Instead, in order to fund a more comfortable retirement and much else, large numbers of people became “investors” — albeit not as the term is traditionally understood: Instead, you work for some company and they put some money on your behalf in some sort of account that somebody on the 12th floor pools together with all the others and gives to somebody else in New York to disperse among various corporations hither and yon. You’ve no idea what you’re “investing” in, but it keeps going up, so why do you care? That’s not like a 19th-century chappie saying he’s starting a rubber plantation in Malaya and, with the faster shipping routes out of Singapore, it may be worth your while owning 25 percent of it. Or a guy in 1929 barking “Buy this!” and “Sell that!” at his broker every morning. Instead, an exaggerated return on mediocre assets became accepted as a permanent feature of life.
It’s not, and it can never be. Especially given the long-term structural defects in many Western nations. A serious G20 summit would have seen France commit to the liberalization of its economy; Germany to serious natalist incentives; Britain to a reduction of the near-Soviet size of state spending in Scotland and Northern Ireland; and the United States to allowing its citizens to keep more of their hard-earned money and thus reduce both the dependency on ludicrous asset inflation as the only route to socio-economic improvement, and the risk of a Euro-style decline in birthrate caused by the unaffordability of kids.
Instead, the great powers are erecting a global regulatory regime to export their worst mistakes to the entire planet.
As they say on the State Department phone-sex line, it’s going to get nasty.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YTNlZjcxOGZmMjA0YjU2OTE5ZjJmN2FkNmYyYzI3MjQ=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 08:05:49 PM
Islam's doctrines of deception
by Raymond Ibrahim
Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst
To better understand Islam, one must appreciate the thoroughly legalistic nature of the religion. According to sharia (Islamic law) every conceivable human act is categorised as being either forbidden, discouraged, permissible, recommended, or obligatory.
"Common sense" or "universal opinion" has little to do with Islam's notions of right and wrong. Only what Allah (through the Quran) and his prophet Muhammad (through the Hadith) have to say about any given issue matters; and how Islam's greatest theologians and jurists – collectively known as the ulema, literally, "they who know" – have articulated it.
According to sharia, in certain situations, deception – also known as 'taqiyya', based on Quranic terminology, – is not only permitted but sometimes obligatory. For instance, contrary to early Christian history, Muslims who must choose between either recanting Islam or being put to death are not only permitted to lie by pretending to have apostatised, but many jurists have decreed that, according to Quran 4:29, Muslims are obligated to lie in such instances.
Origins of taqiyya
As a doctrine, taqiyya was first codified by Shia Muslims, primarily as a result of their historical experience. Long insisting that the caliphate rightly belonged to the prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali (and subsequently his descendents), the Shia were a vocal and powerful branch of Islam that emerged following Muhammad's death. After the internal Islamic Fitna wars from the years 656 AD to 661 AD, however, the Shia became a minority branch, persecuted by mainstream Muslims or Sunnis – so-called because they follow the example or 'sunna' of Muhammad and his companions. Taqiyya became pivotal to Shia survival.
Interspersed among the much more numerous Sunnis, who currently make up approximately 90 per cent of the Islamic world, the Shia often performed taqiyya by pretending to be Sunnis externally, while maintaining Shia beliefs internally, as permitted by Quranic verse 16:106. Even today, especially in those Muslim states where there is little religious freedom, the Shia still practice taqiyya. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Shias are deemed by many of the Sunni majority to be heretics, traitors and infidels and like other non-Sunni Muslims they are often persecuted.
Several of Saudi Arabia's highest clerics have even issued fatwas sanctioning the killing of Shias. As a result, figures on the Arabian kingdom's Shia population vary wildly from as low as 1 per cent to nearly 20 per cent. Many Shias living there obviously choose to conceal their religious identity. As a result of some 1,400 years of Shia taqiyya, the Sunnis often accuse the Shias of being habitual liars, insisting that taqiyya is ingrained in Shia culture.
Conversely, the Sunnis have historically had little reason to dissemble or conceal any aspect of their faith, which would have been deemed dishonorable, especially when dealing with their historic competitors and enemies, the Christians. From the start, Islam burst out of Arabia subjugating much of the known world, and, throughout the Middle Ages, threatened to engulf all of Christendom. In a world where might made right, the Sunnis had nothing to apologise for, much less to hide from the 'infidel'.
Paradoxically, however, today many Sunnis are finding themselves in the Shias' place: living as minorities in Western countries surrounded and governed by their traditional foes. The primary difference is that, extremist Sunnis and Shia tend to reject each other outright, as evidenced by the ongoing Sunni-Shia struggle in Iraq, whereas, in the West, where freedom of religion is guaranteed, Sunnis need only dissemble over a few aspects of their faith.
Articulation of taqiyya
According to the authoritative Arabic text, Al-Taqiyya Fi Al-Islam: "Taqiyya [deception] is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it. We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream...Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era."
The primary Quranic verse sanctioning deception with respect to non-Muslims states: "Let believers not take for friends and allies infidels instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with Allah – unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions." (Quran 3:28; see also 2:173; 2:185; 4:29; 22:78; 40:28.)
Al-Tabari's (838-923 AD) Tafsir, or Quranic exegeses, is essentially a standard reference in the entire Muslim world. Regarding 3:28, he wrote: "If you [Muslims] are under their [infidels'] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them, with your tongue, while harbouring inner animosity for them... Allah has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels in place of believers – except when infidels are above them [in authority]. In such a scenario, let them act friendly towards them."
Regarding 3:28, the Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir (1301-1373) wrote: "Whoever at any time or place fears their [infidels'] evil, may protect himself through outward show."
As proof of this, he quotes Muhammad's companions. Abu Darda said: "Let us smile to the face of some people while our hearts curse them." Al-Hassan said: "Doing taqiyya is acceptable till the day of judgment [in perpetuity]."
Other prominent ulema, such as al- Qurtubi , al-Razi, and al-Arabi have extended taqiyya to cover deeds. Muslims can behave like infidels – from bowing down and worshipping idols and crosses to even exposing fellow Muslims' "weak spots" to the infidel enemy – anything short of actually killing a fellow Muslim.
War is deceit
None of this should be surprising considering that Muhammad himself, whose example as the "most perfect human" is to be tenaciously followed, took an expedient view on the issue of deception. For instance, Muhammad permitted deceit in three situations: to reconcile two or more quarreling parties; husband to wife and vice-versa; and in war (See Sahih Muslim B32N6303, deemed an "authentic" hadith).
During the Battle of the Trench (627 AD), which pitted Muhammad and his followers against several non-Muslim tribes collectively known as "the Confederates", a Confederate called Naim bin Masud went to the Muslim camp and converted to Islam. When Muhammad discovered the Confederates were unaware of Masud's conversion, he counseled him to return and try somehow to get his tribesmen to abandon the siege. "For war is deceit," Muhammad assured him.
Masud returned to the Confederates without their knowledge that he had switched sides and began giving his former kin and allies bad advice. He also went to great lengths to instigate quarrels between the various tribes until, thoroughly distrusting each other, they disbanded and lifted the siege. According to this account, deceit saved Islam during its embryonic stage (see Al-Taqiyya Fi Al-Islam; also, Ibn Ishaq's Sira, the earliest biography of Muhammad).
More demonstrative of the legitimacy of deception with respect to non-Muslims is the following account. A poet, Kab bin al-Ashruf, had offended Muhammad by making derogatory verse about Muslim women. Muhammad exclaimed in front of his followers: "Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his prophet?"
A young Muslim named Muhammad bin Maslama volunteered, but with the caveat that, in order to get close enough to Kab to assassinate him, he be allowed to lie to the poet. Muhammad agreed.
Maslama traveled to Kab and began denigrating Islam and Muhammad, carrying on this way till his disaffection became convincing enough for Kab to take him into his confidences. Soon thereafter, Maslama appeared with another Muslim and, while Kab's guard was down, they assaulted and killed him. They ran to Muhammad with Kab's head, to which the latter cried: "Allahu akbar" or "God is great" (see the hadith accounts of Sahih Bukhari and Ibn Sad).
The entire sequence of Quranic revelations are a testimony to taqiyya and, since Allah is believed to be the revealer of these verses, he ultimately is seen as the perpetrator of deceit. This is not surprising since Allah himself is often described in the Quran as the "best deceiver" or "schemer." (see 3:54, 8:30, 10:21). This phenomenon revolves around the fact that the Quran contains both peaceful and tolerant verses, as well as violent and intolerant ones.
The ulema were uncertain which verses to codify into sharia's worldview. For instance, should they use the one that states there is no coercion in religion (2:256), or the ones that command believers to fight all non-Muslims until they either convert or at least submit to Islam (9:5, 9:29)? To solve this quandary, they developed the doctrine of abrogation – naskh, supported by Quran 2:105. This essentially states that verses "revealed" later in Muhammad's career take precedence over those revealed earlier whenever there is a discrepancy.
Why the contradiction in the first place? The standard answer has been that, because Muhammad and his community were far outnumbered by the infidels in the early years of Islam, a message of peace and co-existence was in order. However, after Muhammad migrated to Medina and grew in military strength and numbers, the militant or intolerant verses were revealed, urging Muslims to go on the offensive.
According to this standard view, circumstance dictates which verses are to be implemented. When Muslims are weak, they should preach and behave according to the Meccan verses; when strong, they should go on the offensive, according to the Medinan verses. Many Islamic books extensively deal with the doctrine of abrogation, or Al-Nasikh Wa Al-Mansukh.
War is eternal
The fact that Islam legitimises deceit during war cannot be all that surprising; strategist Sun Tzu (c. 722-221 BC), Italian political philosopher Machiavelli (1469-1527) and English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) all justified deceit in war.
However, according to all four recognised schools of Sunni jurisprudence, war against the infidel goes on in perpetuity, until "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah" (Quran 8:39). According to the definitive Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill Online edition): "The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorised. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict."
The concept of obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam's dichotomised worldview that pits Dar al Islam (House of Islam) against Dar al Harb (House of War or non-Muslims) until the former subsumes the latter. Muslim historian and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332- 1406), articulated this division by saying: "In the Muslim community, holy war [jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defence. But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations."
This concept is highlighted by the fact that, based on the ten-year treaty of Hudaibiya , ratified between Muhammad and his Quraish opponents in Mecca (628), ten years is theoretically the maximum amount of time Muslims can be at peace with infidels (as indicated earlier by the Encyclopaedia of Islam). Based on Muhammad's example of breaking the treaty after two years, by citing a Quraish infraction, the sole function of the "peace-treaty" (hudna) is to buy weakened Muslims time to regroup for a renewed offensive. Muhammad is quoted in the Hadith saying: "If I take an oath and later find something else better, I do what is better and break my oath (see Sahih Bukhari V7B67N427)."
This might be what former PLO leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasser Arafat meant when, after negotiating a peace treaty criticised by his opponents as conceding too much to Israel, he said in a mosque: "I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraish in Mecca."
On several occasions Hamas has made it clear that its ultimate aspiration is to see Israel destroyed. Under what context would it want to initiate a "temporary" peace with the Jewish state? When Osama bin Laden offered the US a truce, stressing that "we [Muslims] are a people that Allah has forbidden from double-crossing and lying," what was his ultimate intention?
Based on the above, these are instances of Muslim extremists feigning openness to the idea of peace simply in order to bide time.
If Islam must be in a constant state of war with the non-Muslim world – which need not be physical, as radicals among the ulema have classified several non-literal forms of jihad, such as "jihad-of-the-pen" (propaganda), and "money-jihad" (economic) – and if Muslims are permitted to lie and feign loyalty to the infidel to further their war efforts, offers of peace, tolerance or dialogue from extremist Muslim corners are called into question.
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001, a group of prominent Muslims wrote a letter to Americans saying that Islam is a tolerant religion that seeks to coexist with others.
Bin Laden castigated them, saying: "As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarised by the Most High's Word: 'We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us – till you believe in Allah alone' [Quran 60:4]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility – that is battle – ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [a dhimmi – a non-Muslim subject living as a "second-class" citizen in an Islamic state in accordance to Quran 9:29], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable [a circumstance under which taqiyya applies]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity and hatred, directed from the Muslim to the infidel, is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them."
This hostile world view is traceable to Islam's schools of jurisprudence. When addressing Western audiences, however, Bin Laden's tone significantly changes. He lists any number of grievances as reasons for fighting the West – from Israeli policies towards Palestinians to the Western exploitation of women and US failure to sign the Kyoto protocol – never alluding to fighting the US simply because it is an infidel entity that must be subjugated. He often initiates his messages to the West by saying: "Reciprocal treatment is part of justice."
This is a clear instance of taqiyya, as Bin Laden is not only waging a physical jihad, but one of propaganda. Convincing the West that the current conflict is entirely its fault garners him and his cause more sympathy. Conversely, he also knows that if his Western audiences were to realise that, all real or imagined political grievances aside, according to the Islamic worldview delineated earlier, which bin Laden does accept, nothing short of their submission to Islam can ever bring peace, his propaganda campaign would be compromised. As a result there is constant lying, "for war is deceit".
If Bin Laden's words and actions represent an individual case of taqiyya, they raise questions about Saudi Arabia's recent initiatives for "dialogue". Saudi Arabia closely follows sharia. For instance, the Saudi government will not allow the construction of churches or synagogues on its land; Bibles are banned and burned. Christians engaged in any kind of missionary activity are arrested, tortured, and sometimes killed. Muslim converts to Christianity can be put to death in the kingdom.
Despite such limitations on religious freedom, the Saudis have been pushing for more dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. At the most recent inter-faith conference in Madrid in July 2008, King Abdullah asserted: "Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance, a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of all religions."
Days later, it was revealed that Saudi children's textbooks still call Christians and Jews "infidels", "hated enemies" and "pigs and swine". A multiple-choice test in a book for fourth-graders asks: "Who is a 'true' Muslim?" The correct answer is not the man who prays and fasts, but rather: "A man who worships God alone, loves the believers and hates the infidels". These infidels are the same people the Saudis want dialogue with. This raises the question of whether, when Saudis call for dialogue, they are merely following Muhammad's companion Abu Darda's advice: "Let us smile to the face of some people while our hearts curse them"?
There is also a philosophical – more particularly, epistemological – problem with taqiyya. Anyone who truly believes that no less an authority than God justifies and, through his prophet's example, sometimes even encourages deception, will not experience any ethical qualms or dilemmas about lying. This is especially true if the human mind is indeed a tabula rasa shaped by environment and education. Deception becomes second nature.
Consider the case of former Al-Qaeda operative, Ali Mohammad. Despite being entrenched in the highest echelons of the terrorism network, Mohammed's confidence at dissembling enabled him to become a CIA agent and FBI informant for years. People who knew him regarded him "with fear and awe for his incredible self-confidence, his inability to be intimidated, absolute ruthless determination to destroy the enemies of Islam, and his zealous belief in the tenets of militant Islamic fundamentalism", according to Steven Emerson. Indeed, this sentiment sums it all up: for a zealous belief in Islam's tenets, which, as has been described above, legitimises deception, will certainly go a long way in creating incredible self-confidence when deceiving one's enemies.
Exposing a doctrine
All of the above is an exposition on doctrine and its various manifestations, not an assertion on the actual practices of the average Muslim. The deciding question is how literally any given Muslim follows sharia and its worldview.
So-called "moderate" Muslims – or, more specifically, secularised Muslims – do not closely adhere to sharia, and therefore have little to dissemble about. On the other hand, "radical" Muslims who closely observe sharia law, which splits the world into two perpetually warring halves, will always have a "divinely sanctioned" right to deceive, until "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah" (Quran 8:39).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 07:58:35 PM
Power Line Blog: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, Paul Mirengoff http://www.powerlineblog.com
Doing that wudu that they do so well
June 19, 2007 Posted by Scott at 6:08 AM
The Detroit News reports from Dearborn on the University of Michigan's plan to spend $25,000 for the installation of footbaths on campus: "Muslims won't fund footbaths." The article reports that "Muslim leaders in metro Detroit have decided not to raise private money to pay for two footbaths" on campus. For them, it clearly seems less to be about religious observance than about the submission of public authorities to their observance. If you've followed our series on wudu you know, to paraphrase Creedence Clearwater Revival, that there's a bad dhimmitude rising.
The Detroit News also reports that the ACLU finds nothing constitutionally objectionable in public support for the footbaths. Just in case you were wondering, Detroit ACLU director Kary Moss explains:
"We view it as an attempt to deal with a problem, not an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray," said Moss, who likened the plan to paying for added police during religious events with huge turnouts.
"There's no intent to promote religion."
The unholy alliance between the radical left and radical Islam continues unabated.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 31, 2009, 07:41:53 PM
June 9, 2007
Fitzgerald: No public funds for Islamic footbaths
DEARBORN -- The University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to spend $25,000 for foot-washing stations, making it easier for Muslim students to practice their religion but sparking questions about the separation of church and state.
The university claims the stations are needed to accommodate Muslim students, who must ritually wash their bodies -- including the feet -- up to five times each day before prayers. But critics hit conservative blogs and radio airwaves Monday to argue public money shouldn't cover the cost. -- from this article
I have been in airport bathrooms when someone will come up, paying no attention to right or left, and start performing his wudu, while water flies all over the place as that person places his feet, one after the other, in the sink and washes them. While these -- to many -- nauseating public ablutions take place, most people hasten away without going near even the empty sinks.
There is no god-given right to come to other countries and inflict one's behavior, in fulfilling some kind of faith-based mandate, in public places. The nurses who were arrested for singing Christmas carols behind closed doors, in their own apartments in Western apartment complexes, in Saudi Arabia, were not inflicting this on anyone: it was the religious police checking up, as they do everywhere they can. But, for example, the slitting of a sheep's throat, and letting it bleed to death on the street, can and should be banned -- whether or not this is considered "part of Islam."
If Muslim students wish to have foot-washing sinks available, then they can certainly pay for them. After all, there is hardly a mosque or a madrasa in this country that does not receive, when it needs it, all kinds of financial support from those who, across the seas, batten on the unmerited oil trillions, and by this point have used, collectively, more than one hundred billion of it (the estimate for Saudi Arabia alone) to pay for mosques, madrasas, armies of Western hirelings, and propaganda of every sort.
A mere $25,000 shouldn't faze the Saudis. And you might argue that $25,000 is so little -- why not spend it ourselves? But it is a symbolic act, an act that will be, and is, taken by Muslims not as a kind act, an act of accommodation (as those behind it might naturally think, for they think in terms of sweet reason, and compromise, and all that), but instead is taken in quite a different spirit, as one more indication (see the postings at Jihad Watch of the commenter who calls herself “Naseem,” passim) that Islam Is On the March, that here and there, little by little, the Infidels are yielding. It is of great symbolic value to Muslims. And it will not result in gratitude, but merely in a swelling of the sense that obstacles, one by one, to the spread of Islam are being removed. And that, after all, is what Jihad is partly about: the removing of those obstacles, and of obstacles of all kinds wherever they are, so that Islam may spread and dominate, and eventually Muslims come to rule. The dismissal of this as merely an alarmist fantasy shows that the dismisser has not been paying attention -- not to the tenets of Islam, not to 1350 years of Islamic history and the subjugation of non-Muslims, and certainly not to what has happened, over just the last 2-3 decades, in the lands of Western Europe.
Every concession, every misuse of public funds, every Muslim employee of city or state government who has been permitted undiscovered or unpunished to be relentlessly pushing for special deals in order to promote Islam or to make sure that fellow Muslims are hired here, and here, and here -- all of this, every single act, needs to be noisily (and also quietly) opposed. (See that Boston Redevelopment Authority employee, working to get city-owned land sold in a sweetheart deal for a mosque, and see what else that employee did on his still-unexplained trip or trips to Saudi Arabia.) "We must fight them over here so we don't have to fight them over there" would be an apter description of what needs to be done, although in truth there is no place where such "fighting" (not necessarily of the conventional, military variety) will not have to take place.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: March 28, 2009, 10:33:15 AM
From The Times
March 28, 2009
One billion souls to save
Christianity in China is booming. With 100 million believers, far more than the 74 million-member communist party, Jesus is a force to be reckoned with in the People’s Republic. We talk to the new faithful who love China – but love God more
A murmur of “Amen” echoes softly down a corridor in a luxury Beijing hotel. Dozens of young Chinese are gathered in a beige-carpeted conference room to listen to the word of God. After helping themselves to hot water or tea at the back of the room, they find a seat and chatter with friends. They tuck Louis Vuitton and Prada handbags under their seats, switch their mobile phones to silent and turn to listen to a young woman who takes the microphone to ask for silence and recite a prayer.
A casually dressed, grey-haired Chinese man takes to the podium. “Let us begin with a look at the Gospel of Saint John.” There is a rustling of pages as converts and curious open their Bibles. Almost everyone in the room is scarcely a day over 30. Most look as if they are in their early twenties. They are fashionably dressed – girls with high-heeled boots, men sporting trendy knitted hats. This is Friday night Bible class in Beijing. And it is a weekend venue of choice for growing numbers of well-off middle-class city sophisticates.
The fact that this class is technically illegal, run by pastors lacking approval from the state-sanctioned Protestant church, is not the attraction. These are not young people seeking a frisson of excitement from some underground activity. They are at the forefront of a movement sweeping China – the search for spiritual satisfaction now that Marx is démodé.
No attempt is made to conceal what is, in effect, an underground religious gathering. A sign in Chinese outside the conference room reads: “Hill of Golgotha Church meeting”. A board outside the hotel lift directs visitors to Hall 5. There is not a nod towards secrecy or even discretion. There is no sense of anxiety, let alone fear, that officials could burst in to break up this illegal assembly even though police do still frequently raid house churches run by underground Protestant pastors.
A spectacular success
In fact, across China religion is undergoing a defiant and extraordinary revival. Millions of Chinese are turning to familiar traditional faiths such as Buddhism and Taoism – a mystical belief with about 400 million adherents that is China’s only indigenous creed. Taoist believers, like Buddhists, visit temples across the country to burn incense, present offerings and request readings from fortune tellers. Others are finding comfort in Confucius, but it is Christianity that is leading the battle for China’s 1.3 billion souls.
Many regard religion as a new force, unaware that missionaries – Protestant for the most part but also Roman Catholics – tried to spread Christianity across China in the 19th century and met with fierce opposition during the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s. But it was former leader Deng Xiaoping, who effectively endorsed freedom of worship, and gave Christianity the chance to take hold, with his sweeping market reforms in 1978.
Today, two Christian faiths are allowed to operate within carefully prescribed limits: the Catholics, who must worship in churches run by the State’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and number about six million, and the Protestants, who operate under the aegis of their government-sanctioned religious body, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement – standing for self-governing, self-teaching and self-supporting. Their numbers are estimated at 21 million – about the population of Australia. All other Christian associations are illegal.
Those who participate in non-sanctioned churches run the risk of police raids, a beating or even jail. The situation is more fraught for the underground Catholic churches than it is for the Protestant get-togethers. An unknown number of Catholic priests, and even bishops, languish in jail, serving lengthy prison terms for their temerity in preaching allegiance to Rome. Beijing’s Communist Party rulers are wary of an organisation that is so well organised and also headed by a leader – the Pope – who can command the loyalty of millions.
But that doesn’t seem to put off the growing congregations. Indeed, official numbers fall far short of the actual total. Recent surveys calculate the number of Christians worshipping independently of the State churches in China to be as high as 100 million. That means that almost one in every ten Chinese may now be a Christian, making Christianity bigger than the 74 million-member Communist Party.
Bring Christianity into the conversation and everyone seems to know someone who is a convert. I heard how many of the executive staff at one smallish Beijing hotel were keen Christians. A manager at an international bank mentioned that many of his employees shared a common faith.
Visiting an elderly woman who had been taken as a child to serve as a “comfort woman” to soldiers of the invading Japanese army in the Second World War, I was astonished to see a cross hanging on the wall of the simple home she shared with her son just across the road from the local Communist Party offices. Without embarrassment or fear, her son explained how each Sunday he attends services in a house church nearby. He proudly pulled out his hymnal and sang for me, while curious neighbours peered through the window.
I learnt of the Communist Party secretary of a village not far from Qufu, the home town of Confucius, who sleeps with a crucifix above his bed. His wife, he explained, was a Christian, as were his sons. Indeed, he went on, pretty much everyone in the village of about 3,000 was a believer. Almost all, it seems, belong to illegal house churches, small congregations that come together in private homes in cities, towns and villages across China.
Why Christianity has such a hold remains something of an enigma. Many Chinese are looking to fill the chasm left by the collapse in Marxist ideology’s credibility in the wake of the disastrous ultra-leftist 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It’s also possible that a religion from the West holds a particular attraction for Chinese looking for a more modern faith to complement the stunning success of capitalist-style economic reforms. But the sense of belonging may be the best way to explain why Christianity has been such a spectacular success story in China in the past few years.
Finding a family far from home
Pastor Ezra Jin heads the Protestant Zion Church, based above a karaoke club in one of the thousands of faceless apartment blocks that populate the suburbs of Beijing.
He prefers not to see Zion as an illegal underground Church but rather as private and independent, and in the two years since its inception, the church has never suffered a police raid. “Our Church offers people a feeling of belonging to a family,” explains Pastor Jin. “There are more and more contradictions in our society as different interest groups emerge and gaps open up between regions and between social groups. Christianity can help by providing comfort and spiritual strength.”
Dressed in a sharply cut dark suit with a white shirt and gold silk tie, Pastor Jin could be just another successful executive. Instead he runs a house church so large he conducts at least three services every Sunday in a room brimming with 300 to 400 people. Toddlers play in a glassed-off crèche while their parents stand to sing hymns and to pray. A choir in hot-pink robes leads the singing and a little band with an electric organ and two guitar players keeps the congregation in tune.
Liu Huan has been playing the guitar in church for nine years. The slight computer engineer in his thirties beams with delight at being asked to explain why he attends a house church. Although in this case sprawling, neon-lit office might be more appropriate. Apart from the main hall, the Zion Church seems to occupy most of the floor of the building with smaller offices and store rooms. “My wife introduced me to God and coming here gives me strength.” He fits one of the models that Pastor Jin described: the out-of-town worker who has found a place in a new community far from home through Christianity.
With his spiky haircut and a single earring, Wang Ye cuts a dashing figure in the congregation. The 21-year-old is a student graduating in online business who hails from the northern coal-mining province of Shanxi. His mother, who had moved to Beijing in search of a better job and was lonely, found comfort when friends introduced her to the church. “She brought me as well. Many of us have family problems and we find warmth here.” He strolls over to join a group of friends gossiping about their plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
“The future of Christianity in China is very different from in the West,” believes Pastor Jin. “In the West, Christianity is in retreat, especially in Europe, but in China it is growing by leaps and bounds.” He cites the stability the church offers to a population buffeted by decades of wrenching political change as one of most appealing aspects of the faith.
The first hymn on a wintry Sunday at his Zion Church echoes that refrain. A lay preacher leads the congregation. Projected on a screen on the wall behind him the words scroll down against a background of plum blossoms. Voices are raised in song. “There are many things I don’t know in the future. But I know who will hold my hand and who will be in charge.”
As readings from the Bible and prayers follow more hymns, the atmosphere in the room is charged. A verse reaches a crescendo, women in the congregation one after another raise their arms above their heads and sway. One or two sob quietly. The lay preacher leads a prayer. Each time he mentions “Our Lord”, a chorus of “Amen” swells up from the crowd. Nothing is allowed to disturb their evangelical reverie and there is little sense among these worshippers that they risk arrest.
Pastor Jin believes the most difficult times for house churches such as his may soon be over. He recently took part in the first meeting between government officials and leaders of the banned underground Protestant faith.
It was the most significant step towards reconciliation in decades, and could mark a turning point in the Party’s attitudes.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “It was clear to me that sooner or later God would bring us to this.” In addition, the size of the underground Protestant church has now reached such proportions that it is an increasing challenge for the authorities or the police to control. “China is a very big country so there will still be examples of persecution, but the overall direction is gradually changing.”
He says the talks could be a sign that the Communist authorities have come to recognise that the Protestant church at least can be a force for harmony – the watchword of the administration of President Hu Jintao, the current head of the Party. It was President Hu himself who told an unprecedented Politburo study session on religion in late 2007 that “the knowledge of religious people must be harnessed to build a prosperous society”.
“The Government is anxious to work out the way to go forward,” believes Pastor Jin. “They have understood that the Protestant Church is not an opposition force but a force for stability.”
A constant fugitive
But there are others who would disagree. Pastor Jin may operate in effect outside the law, but he is grudgingly tolerated. Arranging to meet him required little more than a couple of telephone calls. He chatted happily in public over a lunch of spicy Sichuan food in his local restaurant across an alley from the building housing his church.
Pastor Zhang Mingxuan falls into quite another category. Expelled from Beijing before the Olympic Games last August, he is persona non grata in the capital. He attracts police attention wherever he goes and his telephone is constantly tapped. On his first return visit to the capital since his eviction, he got off the overnight train from his home in central Henan province and met me behind a department store near the railway station.
A short, blockish man dressed in a shiny suit and with a tie embroidered with crosses, his first order of business was practical. “We’ve been on an overnight train and we’re hungry. Let’s have lunch.” No sooner had he sat down, intoned grace over the food and gulped down a glass of hot Coca-Cola to counter the bitter chill on one of the coldest days of the winter than he launched into an account of his confrontations with the police. Zhang, who describes himself as a lay pastor, heads what he calls the Chinese House Church Alliance, bringing together a number of diverse congregations. Any form of organisation is anathema to the ruling Communist Party, jealous of any rival power. Beyond the pale is a grouping of illegal underground churches that could challenge its supremacy.
It is small wonder then that he recounts a convoluted tale of eviction from his Beijing flat, from the homes of friends, suburban hotels, even from guesthouses in the province that abuts the capital. Everywhere he tries to lay his head, the police track him in their dozens, moving him out of their jurisdiction. Zhang is undeterred. “My head is here. Let them take it if they want it. But God is in Heaven and he won’t allow them to take my head.”
A poorly educated barber and the product of an atheist Communist system, he had little time for the Christianity in which his wife believed. Or at least that was until a business deal went wrong in 1986 and a failed court case left him deeply in debt. He heard his brother-in-law recite Psalm 38: “They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.” The words cut to the heart. “I fell on my knees and in less than five minutes, I became a Christian.”
He was an enthusiastic convert. He does not hide his conviction that his mission now is to spread the word of God far and wide in China. His fervour contrasts with the measured tones of Pastor Jin. Leaping to his feet, he rolls up his trousers and points to scars on one leg. “Look! I was run over and I have two metal pins in my leg. But after 15 days I could walk again because of the Lord.” He spreads his arms wide and gestures to his stocky frame. “When they arrested me I fasted for 25 days. Nothing happened to me because God was with me.”
He does not bother to hide his contempt for the Communist Party. Fuelled with passion, his voice rises. “They hate me but I don’t hate them.” God, he says, is on his side and he will win. That passion must trigger anxiety among officials who for 30 years have guaranteed freedom of worship – but not worship conducted by unofficial ministers like Zhang.
The demolition three years ago of an illegally built Protestant church near the southern city of Hangzhou draws Zhang’s wrath. The building had been constructed on land intended for a commercial centre, and several hundred faithful in the town that is home to tens of thousands of Christians tried to stand in the way of the razing of the building. Secretly filmed video of the incident shows scuffles between worshippers defending their church and the police, with at least four people reportedly suffering broken bones as police wielding batons pushed back the crowd. Several were arrested and eight people were jailed for terms of up to three and a half years. For Zhang, such actions are evidence of the Communist Party’s fear.
“China is a land that has been chosen by God. If the government did not interfere then many more Chinese would become followers. Our hearts are thirsty.” Disturbed to learn that my Chinese colleague remains firmly atheist, Zhang leans forward across the table and tries to persuade her. “You should find faith as soon as possible so that we can all be brothers and sisters in God. God will save you. He makes so many miracles. He will protect you.” A day later, he was picked up by the Beijing police and shipped back to Henan province.
An understanding with the jailers Pastor Shen Quan was trained at an officially approved seminary – as was Pastor Jin – but he too left the government-sanctioned church in search of greater spiritual freedom. It has been more than two years since police last carried out a raid on one his services, during which members of his congregation were intimidated and warned not to attend, while he was taken away and questioned. He is not as optimistic as Pastor Jin that the recent inauguration of tentative talks between government and house church luminaries heralds an end to the persecution. “This is just not possible. As long as the house churches exist, the government must want to try to control them.”
But government raids on house churches have proved somewhat counterproductive. Underground Christians say that as soon as one house church is closed, its members split up and found their own small congregations, further multiplying the numbers.
One of the attractions of these churches is the personal care that a pastor gives to his flock, which is a world away from the more rigid approach of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Church. One such – the Kuanjie Church – was full by 9am for a Saturday morning service. A far higher proportion of the congregation were middle-aged or elderly and one woman made it her duty to patrol the aisles making sure that everyone, including curious first-time visitors, fell to their knees on specially provided foam cushions during the lengthy prayers. Even in this church, the tone was evangelical. Two women with microphones on poles moved between the pews, ensuring worshippers had a chance to offer aloud their prayers and to share with the rest of the congregation their stories of individual communion with God.
But such official churches lack the personal touch found in the small house churches, and perhaps because of that are growing more slowly. The challenge now for the government is to determine how it will handle the breakneck spread of the underground churches.
Zhao Xiao is a prominent economist, a professor of the University of Science and Technology and a one-time Communist Party member. He is also a Christian and something of an optimist. He sees the recent groundbreaking talks between the two sides as inevitable. As the Christian population has grown, the Party has recognised that Protestants are making no attempt to form an alternative organisation and are not questioning the rule of the party, he says.
This may have given the leadership greater confidence to liaise with them. It is also common knowledge that huge numbers of the volunteers who raced to help with the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake in southwest China were Christians. Many are still there, helping the survivors and, sometimes, preaching.
Familiarity, Professor Zhao believes, is another important factor. “It has taken many years to reach this point. Many meetings have taken place over the years between imprisoned pastors and their police jailers and this has bred a closer understanding. Those changes in attitude meant this day could come.” He adds: “I think that one day the Communist Party will even allow Christians to become members.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: March 28, 2009, 09:47:52 AM
Funny enough, I narrowly avoided being seriously injured or killed yesterday trying to assist stranded motorists and direct traffic. The smallest of margins and it would have been my chief and a police chaplain at my door to awaken my wife instead of me.
The ritual of the police funeral has an importance that may not be understood by those outside the uniformed services world. Yes, we come together to grieve someone we may have never met, but in the grieving spouse, we see ours. But for the grace of god go we. A reminder that it could be us under the flag. We celebrate who they were and what they did. As it says on the nat'l law enforcement officer's memorial in DC, "It's not how that died that made them heroes, but how they lived".
The most important element to me, is seeing the public response to the fallen officers. The jobs burns you, and takes pieces of your soul. It's easy to become callous, cynical and jaded. To a degree, you have to just to survive in the job. It's easy to see the public you serve in the worst possible terms. No one calls the police when their life is good. Very few people bother to call to praise an officer, but those who wish to complain always seem to follow through.
When you see the vast numbers of the public that go out of their way to demonstrate their support, it recharges your soul.
A friend of a friend was murdered by a career felon several years ago. I attended the funeral in a large metropolitan area. The service was on one side of the metro area, the fallen detective was to be laid to rest in a cemetary on the other side of the city. I was dumbfounded to see citizens lining almost all of the route. Waving flags, holding signs of support, young and old.
They didn't have to be there. The escort to the burial started late and took a long time as the procession of police vehicles stretched for miles. And yet they stood there, saluted and waved for all of us.
A reminder there are a lot of good and decent people out there. So they can sleep peacefully, we gear up and go out into the darkness and they recognize and respect that. It gives us the strength to continue on.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 26, 2009, 08:39:48 PM
May 5, 2004
Irshad Manji: Islam's marked woman
Irshad Manji is a lesbian Muslim who says her religion is stuck in the Middle Ages. The outspoken author tells Johann Hari how she became a target for assassination
The death threats began six months ago. One morning,Irshad Manji opened her e-mail and read the first ofmany pledges to kill her. "It contained some prettyconcrete details that showed a lot of thought had beenput into the death-threat," she explains now,unblinking. She can't say how many she's received -"The police tell me not to talk about this stuff" -but she admits that "they are becoming pretty up-closeand personal."
"One story that I can tell you," she says, "a storythat I have the permission from the police to tellyou, is that I was in an airport in North Americarecently and somebody at the airport recognised me. Ihad a conversation with them. While I was engaged inconversation with a very portly, very sweetfifty-something man and his wife, an Arab guy came upto my travel companion and said, 'You are luckier thanyour friend.' As a nice polite Canadian she asked,'What do you mean?' and he didn't say anything. Heturned his hand in to the shape of a gun and he pulledthe make-believe trigger towards my head. She didn'tknow what to make of this, so she asked him to clarifyhis intentions. He said 'Not now, you will find outlater,' and then he was gone."
Sitting with Irshad in a London boardroom, it would behard for anybody to guess that she is the starattraction on jihadist death-lists. She has the small,slender body of a ballet-dancer, and a Concorde-speedCanadian voice that makes her sound more like acharacter in a Woody Allen movie than an enemy ofOsama Bin Laden's. So what has she done to earn abullet in the head?
Irshad is a key figure in the civil war withintwenty-first century Islam. She is the Saladin ofprogressive Muslims, an out-rider for the notion thatyou can be both a faithful Muslim and a mouthy,fiercely democratic Canadian lesbian. As one Americanjournalist put it, "Irshad Manji does not drinkalcohol and she does not eat pork. In every otherrespect, she is Osama Bin Laden's worst nightmare."
"What I want is an Islamic reformation," she says,leaning forward, her palms open. "Christianity did itin the sixteenth century. Now we are long overdue. Ifthere was ever a moment for our reformation, it's now,when Muslim countries are in poverty and despair. Forthe love of God, what are we doing about it?"
We are all going to have to learn about this battlefor an Islamic reformation, because it will be raging- and occasionally blasting its way onto our citystreets - for the rest of our lives. Manji'sbest-selling book, 'The Trouble With Islam - a Wake-UpCall For Honesty and Change', is both a crash coursein its terminology and a manifesto for the progressiveside. The core concept in Maji's thought - and that ofall progressive Muslims - is 'itjihad'. It's a simpleidea, and devastatingly powerful. Itjihad is theapplication of reason and reinterpretation to themessage of the Koran. It allows every Muslim toreconsider the message of the Koran for the changedcircumstances of the twenty-first century. "What wastrue for ninth century Mecca and Medina may not be thebest interpretation of Allah's message today", Irshadexplains.
This seems obvious to post-religious European ears,but it is (literally) heresy to conservative and evenmost mainstream Muslims. "At this stage, reform isn'tabout telling ordinary Muslims what not to think. It'sabout giving them permission to think. We can't beafraid to ask: what if the Koran isn't perfect? Whatif it's not a completely God-authored book? What ifit's riddled with human biases?"
"We Muslims have to understand our own history," shesays. "Itjihad isn't some wacky new idea. When Muslimswere at their most prosperous, their most innovative,their most respected, it was when we practiseditjihad, in Islam's golden age from 750 to 1250 CE.The greatest Muslim philosopher, Ibn Rushd, championedthe freedom to reason."
"It was the closing of the gates of itjihad that ledto disaster for Muslims, not the Crusdaers or the Westor anything else. Sure, they were all bad, but thedecline started with us," Irshad says. "It's therefusal to believe in independent reason that hascontributed to a totalitarian culture in the Muslimworld. Of course if Muslims can't reason forthemselves, they become dependent on Mullahs andoutside authorities. Of course if you think all truthis contained in one book and all you have to do isreturn to it - a belief I call 'foundationalism' -then you won't be dynamic and seek new solutions fornew problems. Others have responsibilities as well,but we Muslims closed the gates of itjihad onourselves. We need to take responsibility for that,and turn it around."
It was in the twelfth century that Baghdad scholars"formed a consensus to freeze debate within Islam,"she explains, and "we live with the consequences ofthis thousand-year old strategy. They did it to keepthe Islamic empire from imploding - they thought allthis dissent and disagreement would lead us to fallapart. But I've got news for you: The Islamic empireno longer exists, and our minds still remain closed."
In case this sounds cerebral - how could this aridintellectual debate have such a drastic effect on theworld? - Irshad is quick to underline its practicaleffects. From the mass-murder of democrats in Algeriato the uprising of students against the Mullahs inIran, from the mosques of Finsbury Park to the ethniccleansing being perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalistsin Sudan, "this is the fight between progressive Islamand the Islamofascists."
Irshad does not just rant against Islamicfundamentalism. She offers a constructive long-termprogramme for undermining it, which she dubs'Operation Itjihad.' The solution lies with Muslimwomen. "At the moment, half the resources of Muslimsocieties - the women - are squandered. Yet investingin women makes amazing sense. Educate a Muslim boy andyou've educated a boy. Educate a Muslim woman andyou've educated a whole family. The multiplier effectof helping Muslim women is amazing."
So 'Operation Itjihad' would require us to redeploy alarge chunk of our aid and national security budgetsto small business loans for Muslim women."Micro-lending has an extraordinary 30year-track-record. For example, in Bangladesh theGrameen ('Village') Bank loans tiny amounts of moneyto people whom standard lenders consider untouchable -especially landless women. They have helped 31million people, and they have a staggering repaymentrate of 98%. Helping women achieve financialindependence en masse butresses their existing, oftenunderground, attempts to become literate. They won'tneed the oracles of the big boys if they can reachtheir own conclusions about what the Koran says.
"Empowering women is the way to awaken the Muslimworld," she continues. "If you are serious aboutundermining the culture that created al-Quaeda, thisis the way to do it. When women have money they haveearned themselves, they are far more likely to beginthe crucial task of questioning their lot. It willtransform a culture of hate and stagnation." Thisfeminism shouldn't be alien to good Muslims, she adds."Mohammed's beloved first wife Khadija was a self-mademerchant for whom the Prophet worked for many years. Isometimes point out to Muslim men that if they areserious about emulating the Prophet, then they shouldgo work for their wives." What do they say? "There isa dour, sour silence."
"Then I remind them that it was Ibn Rushd who said -way ahead of any European feminists - that the reasoncivilisations are poor is that they do not know yet,the ability, the full ability, of their women," shecontinues. So how did Islam get so entwined with amisogynist culture? "I think you have to distinguishbetween Islam and the Arabic culture of the ninth andtenth centuries that very quickly became entwined withit. We have to disentangle Islam from the norms of thedesert. Desert Islam was always opposed to thepluralistic, haggling life of the el-haraa - the urbanalleyway bazaars. It is fanatic. Islam was meant tomove the Arabs beyond tribe. Instead, tribe has movedthe Arabs beyond Islam."
Irshad is needlingly, constantly aware that she couldnot even begin to enjoy the freedom she currentlyenjoys in any Muslim society. Her family were refugeesfrom Idi Amin's West African tyranny, and the familywashed up in Canada when Irshad was four years old. "Iam also aware it wasn't Islam that fostered my beliefin the dignity of every individual. It was thedemocratic environment to which I and my familymigrated. In this part of the world, as a Muslimwoman, I have the freedom to express myself withoutfear of being maimed or tortured or raped or murderedat the hands of the state. You know, as corny as thismay sound, as a refugee to the West, I wake up everyday, thanking God that I wound up here."
She grew up with "a miserable father who despised joy"and exhibited the worst of the Mullah mentality. Thenin her local mosque - as an inquisitive, open-mindedgirl - she became aware of an attempt to "close mymind. It was a 'shut up and believe' mentality," shesays. "Even in a free society where nobody was goingto challenge us or hurt us for asking questions, eventhen our minds were still slammed shut. A crude, cruelstrain within Islam continues to exist in even themost cosmopolitan of cities. That shows it isn't justexternal evil influences that have done this. We have- I repeat - done it to ourselves."
Irshad knows that she is dragging into the open anargument many Western Muslims have confined to theirown minds for a very long time. She is critical ofthe "reflexive identification some Muslims in the Westunthinkingly offer to groups like Hamas or theTaliban. I met one person [like that] at OxfordUniversity last night. I asked, 'Do these womenrealise that the very groups and individuals whom theyare defending are the very people who, if they were inpower here, would frankly their daughters particularlyof their right to be at Oxford at all?'"
She is frustrated that more moderate Muslims do notfight. "At all of the public events I've done topromote this book, not once have I seen a moderateMuslim stand up and look an extremist in the eye andsay, 'I'm Muslim too. I disagree with yourperspective. Now let's hash it out publicly.' Yes,after the event people tip-toe up to me and say,'Thank you for what you are doing.' And there aretimes when I really want to say, 'Where was yoursupport when it mattered? Not for my ego. But to showthe extremists that they are not going to walk awaywith the show.'"
"It's insane that I get sometimes accused of'Islamophobia', or offering comfort to people who hateIslam," she quickly adds, anticipating my nextquestion. "I like to respond to that by talking aboutMatthew Shepherd [a young gay man who was recentcrucified and burned to death in Texas]. I say to mygood-hearted liberal friends, would you have let theseyahoos get away with insisting that gay-bashing ispart of their culture and as a result they deserveimmunity from scrutiny on that front? Well, why ismisogyny and homophobia in Saudi Arabia any different?No, it's up to us Muslims in the West to dropreactionary charges of racism against thewhistleblowers of Islam - people like me and yourheroic colleague Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - and lead thecharge for change."
She believes we are falling for a false kind of moralequivalence between democratic societies andtyrannies. "For example, the next time you hear anIslamo-fetishist, an imam of the ninth-century school,wax eloquent that Muslim societies today have theirown forms of democracy thank you very much, we don'tneed to take any lessons, right there, ask him a fewquestions. What rights do women and religiousminorities actually exercise in these democracies? Notin theory, but in actuality. Don't tell me what theKoran says, because the Koran, like every other holybook, is all over the map, ok. No, tell me what ishappening on the ground."
She continues, her voice hard and rhythmic, "Tell mewhen your people vote in free elections. Tell me howmany free uncensored newspapers there are in your'democracy'. There is I believe, such a thing as thesoft racism of low expectations. And I believe thatthere is more virtue in expecting Muslims like anybodyelse, to rise above low expectations, because you knowwhat? We're capable of it."
It will not ultimately be Western bombs or Westernmarkets that defeat Islamic fundamentalism. It will bewomen like Irshad, refusing to allow their religion tobe dominated by fanatics. But there are a lot ofpeople who want to stop her. "I actually don't live mylife in fear, no not at all," she says, not entirelyconvincingly. "In fact I'll tell you right now, Ideliberately did not bring my bodyguard to Britainwith me against the better judgement of many peoplewho want to see me alive."
"If I am going to convince young Muslims in particularthat it is possible to dissent, and live, I can't besending the mixed message of having the bodyguardshadowing me wherever I go," she says, her voice nowuncharacteristically low and soft. "Even if somethingterrible happens, I stand by the decision, because Ithink at this stage it is far more important to giveyoung people hope, to give them a sense of realoptimism that there is room to be unorthodox."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 25, 2009, 11:25:57 PM
I'm not sure. I think GM makes a good point about "those that go public tend to be killed or ...."
However, on the second point, let's substitute Christianity and Jesus. If "Jesus" is the final prophet (son of God) and is the perfect embodiment of humanity and the "Bible" is the
direct word of God, then how do you ignore verses commanding that the non "Christians" be forced to submit to.... God.
**The old testament had the Israelites waging war in a specific place and time. There is no part of the torah that Jewish theologians interpret as commanding Jews to wage war forever. The same with Christian theology and the old and new testaments. Not one endorses eternal war against non-believers. Jesus absolutely refused to be a political leader and taught "Render unto Caesar...."**
The Bible, especially the old testament is full of versus stating in essence, kill the infidels.
Not much different than a jihad.
**Very different, as I previously pointed out.**
Yet, on another post (I forget by whom) it was mentioned that Christianity has "evolved". I and I think most people will agree. So isn't this possible for Islam? And as BbyG pointed out, how do we "encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation?"
Well, to start we protect free speech. Unfortunately, the left allies it's self with jihadists to use "hate speech" laws to silence those that would scrutinize islam in the same way judaism and christianity are deconstructed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 25, 2009, 10:08:29 AM
BbG said, "I think our response needs to be two pronged: take on the zealots and encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation. The last thing we need to be is as myopic as our opponent."
It has been awhile
but I agree with you. A lot of time and discussion has been spent "taking on the zealots" and I too support aggressive measures towards zealots, but what do you suggest or what have you read that is interesting and persuasive that will "encourage moderates to take the path toward reformation." I think it was GM who commented about the noted silence of these "good" Muslims assuming GM believes there are any "good" muslims
He has a point; I too noted their silence. So what can be done to encourage that moderates take the path toward reformation?
Those that wish to reform islam tend to hide as those that go public tend to be killed or live under police protection from their fellow muslims.
Aside from that, the core theological issue preventing the islamic reformation is changing the words and conduct of Muhammad. If he is the final prophet of allah and the perfect embodiment of humanity and the qu'aran is the direct word of allah, then how do you ignore the verses commanding that non-muslims be forced to submit to islam via jihad?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More foreign policy brilliance!
on: March 24, 2009, 03:33:57 AM
- Faster, Please! - http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen
The I’s Had It
Posted By Michael Ledeen On March 22, 2009 @ 2:22 pm In Uncategorized | 28 Comments
President Obama has devoted a lot of time to foreign policy this past week, focusing like a laser beam on three countries that begin with the letter “I.” He gave star billing in Washington to the prime minister of Ireland (who was treated a lot better than British Prime Minister Gordon Brown), during the course of which each read the other’s prepared text, perhaps a new departure in international diplomacy. He also sent a letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (a member of the now defunct Communist Party), expressing confidence that the United States and Italy would work together “to overcome the current global political and economic hardships and build a safer world.” The only problem with the letter was that the Italian president does not make policy; that power resides with the prime minister and his cabinet. Perhaps the White House czars have issued an ukaz stipulating that the American president writes only to his peers, and thus instead of addressing himself to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama wrote to a man who holds an almost entirely ceremonial position.
This imprecision produced the predictable kerfluffle in Rome, as the leftist media and intellectuals pondered the event and concluded that Obama had deliberately stiffed Berlusconi. The Italian prime minister thus joins his British counterpart in wondering what hope they are supposed to find in the recent change in diplomatic protocol in Washington.
Then the president turned his charm on the Iranian mullahs, releasing a video message to everyone celebrating Persian New Year, Norooz (or Nowrooz). He began by explaining the holiday to the Iranians:
“This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.”
If he was trying to make nice to the mullahs, he should have omitted the “ancient ritual” reference, since that ritual–featuring bonfires (symbols from the ancient Zoroastrian faith) through which people leap and around which they dance–is banned in Iran, and anyone who engages in the ancient ritual is subject to beatings, arrest, and torture. So, rather like the unfortunate “overcharge” button that Secretary of State Clinton gave the Russian foreign minister, the hoped-for change in our “relationship” with Iran got off to an unfortunate start.
The president continued with warm words for the Iranian people:
“Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. “
True enough, but the whole idea of the Message to Iran was political, and he might have mentioned the long tradition of great and celebrated Persian political thought. After all, the first known human rights “document” came from Cyrus the Great, and its message is daily rejected by the regime of the Islamic Republic.
Then he provided his vision of the Iranian peoples’ belief in hope and change. “You will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays,” he earnestly intoned, “by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.”
NOT. Most Iranians look to the future with a deepening mood of despair. The mullahs have long since wrecked the economy, and things are getting worse now, what with the price of oil at one-third its recent highs. The single word that best describes the state of the Iranian people–to whom Obama explicitly directed these words–is “degradation.” The drop in Iranian birth rates during the reign of the mullahs is the most dramatic in the history of fertility statistics, and is now below replacement. The level of opiate addiction is five times that of China at the time of the Opium Wars. Any Iranian hearing the American president talk of renewed hope, would wonder if he was thinking of the Iranians in Beverly Hills, who rule the place.
To the country’s leaders, Obama offered still more hope for change: “We seek…engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.” I don’t know exactly what that means, except that the “conflict management” crowd insists that Iranian leaders want to be respected. My own view is that they want to be feared, but let’s move on.
“The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right…and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”
The mullahs no doubt loved the first sentence, not because of the happy thought about the “community of nations,” in which Iran’s leaders most assuredly do not believe (they want Islamic domination of the whole thing), but because you can read the phrase as a coded message that means “we’re not going to try to change the nature of the regime.” If so, it was a foolish concession, both because it condemns the Iranian people to continued oppression and misery, and because the very existence of America threatens the Islamic Republic. The Iranians would rather live like Americans, and despite thirty years of pathetic fecklessness from one president after the next, they still hope that the day will come when we rescue them–or at least help them rescue themselves–from the hated mullahcracy.
As for the president’s call for “peaceful actions,” it jars with the reality the mullahs have created. Nobody pays much attention to Iraq any more, but Coalition forces have arrested a considerable number of (Iranian) Quds Force officers there. Their mission was to kill as many Iraqis and Americans as possible, as they routinely confess to their interrogators. Incredibly, these killers are routinely released in a year or less, whereupon, like the terrorists at Guantanamo, they resume their murderous activities. They are now sponsoring a new tactic: exploding motorcycles. We’ve seen two already in recent weeks, and there will be more. And they’re fueling both Shi’ite and Sunni terrorists in Afghanistan.
So for Obama to say that Iran will only take its place as a major player if they embrace peace and abandon “terror or arms,” is nonsense. They have become a major player, at least on the American agenda, precisely because of terror and (nuclear) arms.
I suppose it’s possible that Obama thought that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad would end the Islamic Republic’s thirty-year war against America, and sit down with him to define the details of Iran’s new status in world affairs. But they aren’t interested. The supreme leader gave Obama the back of his one good hand, starting with an important question: who is in charge in Obama’s Washington?
“We don’t know who is the real decision maker in America,” Khamenei wickedly responded, “the President or the Congress. But we underlined that the Iranians decide on the basis of definite calculations not on emotions.” And then, for the umpteenth time, he laid down the conditions for improved relations:
“Has your enmity with the Iranian nation ended? Have you released the Iranian assets or cut the sanctions? Have you quit negative propaganda against Iran? Have you ended your absolute support to the Zionist regime?” He even advised Obama to have his words translated, but not by “Zionist translators.”
In other words, Obama has to shut up about Iranian-supported terrorism, drop sanctions, release the Iranian money blocked in this country, and abandon Israel (oddly, this last condition does not seem to have been reported either in the New York Times–which ran an AP story–or the Washington Post. Probably they assumed we knew it already, so there was no reason to spend precious pennies on extra ink and newsprint). Happy New Year.
The most interesting part of Khamenei’s speech had to do with Iran, not the United States. More than half the speech dealt with internal matters, not international affairs. He warned darkly that the country was facing a severe internal crisis. He called for a campaign against “economic and social corruption,” and exhorted Iranians to fight the “disease of wasting,” stating, rather shockingly, that one-third of bread and one-fifth of water was currently being wasted. Thus, it is necessary to change the “pattern of consumption,” which Khamenei defined as both a religious and rational issue.
All of which brought him to the upcoming (June 12th) elections. Everybody must vote, he said (most Iranians have boycotted recent elections as a sign of contempt for the regime and its pretense of fair elections). He went out of his way to say that he would not endorse a single candidate, and that it was up to the people, not to him, to elect the next president. Then he added that, while he had felt it necessary to publicly support the government (meaning Ahmadi-Nezhad) on occasion, this should not be taken as an endorsement.
If I were Ahmadi-Nezhad, I would see this as a vote of no confidence from my boss. And you can be sure that many Iranians will see it the same way. The most interesting candidate is Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister (under Khomeini, during the Iran-Iraq War) who has been largely out of politics for twenty years. An artist and architect, Mousavi is an old “new face.” The Iranian version of Hope and Change, I suppose. Khamenei seems to like him (otherwise he’d endorse someone else), and perhaps, against all the odds, the internal situation is seen as so grave that even the supreme leader is willing to contemplate real change, and some small degree of freedom for the people.
One thing is for sure: having failed to gain Khamenei’s endorsement, Ahmadi-Nezhad’s best hope is support from Washington; that Obama makes unilateral concessions, thus demonstrating that the current Iranian policies are the right ones. The best American tactic at the moment is probably to shut up about “respect,” keep the Iranian terrorists in jail, step up the tempo of financial sanctions (Obama smartly renewed the existing ones a few days ago), and strike against the terror bases where the jihadis are trained and armed. That would further discredit Ahmadi-Nezhad, demonstrate that Obama’s velvet glove covers a mailed fist, and give hope for change to the Iranian people.
UPDATE: Jamie Kirchik at The New Republic has produced  the video Obama should have. And Ron Radosh delivers another  stern lesson to Roger Cohen, the New York Times’s candidate for the Walter Duranty 2009 award, bestowed on the journalist who has done most to advance the cause of tyranny.
Update 2: Obama won’t take no for an answer: “The President believes it’s time for that change, and regardless of any response, the President is hopeful that the Iranian leadership will work to change the way that they do business.”
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URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2009/03/22/the-is-had-it/
URLs in this post:
 the video: http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2009/03/20/tnrtv-kirchick-s-new-year-greeting-for-i
 stern lesson: http://pajamasmedia.com/ronradosh/2009/03/23/roger-cohens-continuing-nonsense-is-he-making-barack-ob
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: March 24, 2009, 02:49:40 AM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
Obama’s Amateur Hour on 60 Minutes
Posted By John Hawkins On March 23, 2009 @ 1:30 am In . Feature 01, Media, Politics | 144 Comments
Many of us, at certain times during our lives, have believed we could do a better job than the president of the United States, just as we thought we’d do a better job than the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the network executive who greenlighted  Real Chance of Love.
The problem tends to be that what looks so crystal clear from the outside, usually in hindsight, appears confusing, muddled, and difficult to fathom when you’re actually going through it.
That’s why experience matters, particularly executive experience, and it’s a big part of the reason why Barack Obama has done such a mediocre job so far.
Obama is a silver-tongued political novice who has managed to be in the right place at the right time.
Now, if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And if you’re a politician like Barack Obama, who has gotten everything he has in life by being slick and sounding confident, every problem looks like something that can just be talked away.
That tendency was on display in his 60 Minutes interview, a “grilling” which would be considered a softball interview for a Republican (”Wow, that’s a great swing set for your kids to play on. How are they liking the White House so far?”) but was still probably tougher than any interrogation Obama has received since he entered the White House. (After all, he even admitted that he gets lost in the White House “repeatedly.”)
Each time Obama got a tough question, he did what sociopathic politicians have done for decades: he lied, dodged, and talked out of both sides of his mouth. The best example of that was near the beginning of the interview when Steve Kroft asked Obama about the AIG bonuses.
Was Obama surprised by the hostility to the AIG bonuses. His answer?
I wasn’t surprised by it. Our team wasn’t surprised by it.
Well, that begs the question: if the Obama administration wasn’t surprised by the furor, why did they  work with Chris Dodd to safeguard the bonuses that were in the bill? It just makes no sense. What does Obama expect us to believe? That he thought it would be cathartic for Americans to yell in outrage at his incompetence, so his administration made sure the bonuses, the same ones he later criticized, were included in the stimulus for that reason? These are the sort of very obvious bald-faced lies that Democrats like Barack Obama are perpetually allowed to get away with by sympathetic liberal reporters who don’t want to make “their side” look bad.
Another telling exchange, if you know what to look for, was Kroft’s question about the constitutionality of the attempt to tax away the bonuses of the AIG executives and Obama’s answer:
Kroft: I mean, you’re a constitutional law professor. Do you think this bill is constitutional?
Obama: Well, I think that as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You want to pass laws that have some broad applicability. And, as a general proposition, you don’t want to use the tax code to punish people. I think that you’ve got a pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. So, let’s see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that uphold our basic principles of fairness, but don’t hamper us from getting the banking system back on track.
Now at first glance, that might seem to be a thoughtful answer. However, when you delve down into it, what you find is that is like many of Barack Obama’s comments, it’s utterly divorced from what he intends to do, while giving people on both sides of the case the impression that he agrees with them.
What’s really going on? Barack Obama’s administration, along with Chris Dodd, put a provision in the stimulus bill allowing companies like AIG to collect bonuses. After it became known and the public got angry, the same Democrats who supported that provision pretended to be outraged and whipped up a fury. Now, they’ve come up with a “ bill of attainder” that clearly violates the Constitution and Mr. “Constitutional Law Professor” fully intends to sign it if it makes it to his desk. Is any of that communicated in his answer? No — and that’s why listening to Barack Obama actually tells us very little about what he intends to do.
However, there were a couple of instructive moments in the interview when one was able to get a sense of the instinctual leftism that is guiding Barack Obama, now that he’s so far out of his depth that he can’t even see the surface.
The first was when Kroft noted that a lot of people in the banking industry are not going to stay in New York and work for $250,000 a year if they can make more money elsewhere — so does Obama really want to set salary caps for them? Obama’s condescending response, which sounded like something that should be in Mao’s Little Red Book, Volume 2, was as follows:
What I’ve told them directly, because I have heard some of this, is they need to spend a little time outside of New York. Because if you go to North Dakota or you go to Iowa or if you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making $75,000 a year without a bonus, then I think they’d get a sense of why people are frustrated. I think we have to understand the severity of the crisis that we’re in right now. The fact is, because of bad bets made on Wall Street, there have been enormous losses. There were a whole bunch of folks who, on paper, if you looked at quarterly reports, were wildly successful selling derivatives that turned out to be completely worthless.
First of all, it’s worth noting that Obama earned  2.5 million dollars from his book sales in 2008 and brings home a cool $400,000 a year for being president. What do you think the folks down in North Dakota, Iowa, and Arkansas think of that? Why is Barack Obama more deserving of that money than someone who works at a bank? If you say they’re taking the public’s money, well — newsflash — every government employee, including Barack Obama, is taking the public’s money. Setting those sort of arbitrary salary limits for bank employees — driven not by the market, but by what some economically illiterate politician thinks is “fair” — is practically guaranteed to have adverse consequences down the line.
Beyond that, it’s extraordinarily troubling, given our current situation, that Obama is trying to pawn this entire crisis off on Wall Street when  Congress created the whole mess by forcing banks to give loans to people who were bad risks. That’s not to say irresponsible people on Wall Street are completely blameless, but “bad bets on Wall Street” certainly weren’t at the root of this economic downturn.
So, here’s where we are: the same government that created this crisis with their incompetence is now blaming it all on Wall Street and promising to fix it. No wonder the American people are terrified that we’re about to slip into a long-term depression.
The other illuminating moment in the interview came when Kroft brought up Dick Cheney’s criticism of closing Guantanamo Bay. Again, the unbearable lightness of Barack Obama came shining through like a beacon. Here is the first key quote from Obama’s response,
After all these years, how many convictions came out of Guantanamo? How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn’t made us safer.
If Obama believes that the purpose of Gitmo is to get “convictions” of terrorists, you have to question whether he has even the most basic understanding of the war on terror he’s currently in charge of fighting.
Gitmo is there to hold captured terrorists, to keep them from killing more Americans, and for interrogations that are designed to gain information for that same purpose. Obviously, terrorists held at Guantanamo can’t participate in new attacks, but even the limited amount of info that has been revealed publicly has shown that  we’ve gotten a lot of actionable intelligence from interrogations at Gitmo,
Interrogating Gitmoites yields priceless intelligence. Al-Qaeda bigwig Abu Zubaydah kept mum until interrogators played him the Red Hot Chili Peppers - at high volume. After they turned down the stereo, Zubaydah unmasked al Qaeda agents Omar al-Faruq, Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed switched from taciturn to talkative after a few minutes of unpleasant but non-fatal waterboarding. With his guidance, counter-terrorists nabbed accused butchers such as Majid Khan, Bali bomber Hambali, Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan, Yazid Suffat, Jose “Dirty Bomber” Padilla and Iyman Faris, who conspired to plunge the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River.
This is what we’re abandoning — but, for what? When Kroft asked Obama what comes next for the terrorists imprisoned at Gitmo, he didn’t seem to know,
Well, I think we’re going to have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they are not released on U.S. (inaudible), but do so in a way that is consistent both with our traditions, a sense of due process, and international law.
So Obama has announced we’re closing Gitmo, but he still hasn’t figured out what comes next? Isn’t that a bit of an issue, since we have these terrorists in hand, will presumably be capturing more, and even the New York Times is admitting that European nations are “ hedging” on helping us with Gitmo inmates? Shouldn’t Obama have thought this all the way through before he decided to close down Guantanamo Bay?
For people looking for signs of straight talk, competence, or substance from the glib teleprompter junky who inhabits the White House, sadly there was precious little of it in his 60 Minutes performance.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/obama%e2%80%99s-amateur-hour-on-sixty-minutes/
URLs in this post:
 Real Chance of Love.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_Chance_of_Love
 work with Chris Dodd to safeguard the bonuses: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/03/what_obama_doesnt_know_about_w.php
 bill of attainder: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/03/the_unconstitutional_aig_bonus.php
 2.5 million dollars: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/19/AR2009031903521.html
 Congress created the whole mess: http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2009/02/rwns_walter_williams_interview.php
 we’ve gotten a lot of actionable intelligence: http://www.nypost.com/seven/07062007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/lets_expand_gitmo_opedcolumnists_der
 hedging: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/world/16gitmo.html?partner=rss
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: March 23, 2009, 05:59:21 PM
Obama volunteers hunt budget support in Birmingham, Alabama grassroots campaign
Sunday, March 22, 2009
News staff writer
Volunteers fanned out across the Birmingham area and Alabama Saturday to pump up enthusiasm for President Barack Obama's budget proposal in much the same way they did to win over voters during the presidential campaign.
About 30 volunteers in Birmingham canvassed shopping areas and other high-traffic locations to talk about the need for health care reform, an education overhaul and environmentally friendly energy development.
"If we don't change these three things in the next 10 to 15 years, America is over as we know it," Chris DeHaven, told the group of volunteers before they went their separate ways.
Obama's plan faces criticism from Republicans and others who say it's too expensive. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report Friday saying Obama's agenda would cause huge budget deficits, forcing the country to borrow $9.3 trillion in the next decade.
Those who gathered at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham were urged to enlist others who share Obama's vision and to stay away from trying to convert naysayers."We're looking for supporters," said DeHaven of Hoover, one of the event's organizers. "We're not looking for a fight. That will come later, when we have an army."
The volunteers are part of Organizing for America, the same grassroots, national network credited in large part with Obama's quick rise from obscurity to president. Birmingham and 11 other sites statewide were part of a national push this weekend by Organizing for America to trumpet Obama's spending proposal.
Across the metro area, volunteers gave their opinions about why Obama's plan is good for the country's future. Then they asked those willing to sign a pledge of support for the budget. Supporters' e-mail addresses and other contact information were collected, to keep people engaged and to recruit more volunteers.
Leanne Townsend of Hoover also helped organize Saturday's event. She has been a member of the Obama grassroots network since March 2007.
"Our group in Birmingham has been very involved," Townsend said. "We're still very energetic. We all worked so hard during the campaign. We can't just stop."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: March 22, 2009, 07:59:25 PM
- Works and Days - http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson
Thoughts About Depressed Americans
Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On March 20, 2009 @ 11:43 pm In Uncategorized | 156 Comments
Why are so many Americans so depressed about things these days? It is perhaps not just the economy.
I think the answer is clear: all the accustomed referents, the sources of security, of knowledge and reassurance appear to be vanishing. Materially, we still enjoy a sumptuous lifestyle in comparison with past generations—and the world outside our borders. America remains the most sane and successful society on the planet.
But there is a strange foreboding, a deer-in-the-headlights look to us that we may be clueless Greeks in the age of Demosthenes, played-out Romans around AD 450, or give-up French in late 1939—with a sense it cannot go on. Why? Let us count the ways.
1) About Broke. The collective debt is simply staggering, $1.7 trillion in borrowing this year alone. $3.5 trillion is our annual budget, and by 2012 what we all owe will be well over $15-17 trillion. (No fears: the President promises to triple the Bush deficit, but by the end of his “first” term “halve” the deficit, as if tripling and then halving it is not increasing it.)
Today while President Obama railed against AIG bonuses (imagine damning the bonuses you signed into law to the execs from whom you took over $100,000 in campaign donations!)—the congressional budget office “found” another trillion or so dollars in anticipated deficits that Team Obama lost.
So after Obama, the next President will campaign on “I promise a $1 trillion annual surplus for eight years to pay off the last eight, so we can then start over paying off the old $11 trillion shortfall.”
The rub is not just that we are inflating—no, ruining—our currency. And the problem is still more than the fact that we are destroying the lives of the next generation, whose collective budgets will be consumed largely with health care for us baby-boomers, and interest payments on our debts. (If I get to be 87, can we keep asking 500 or so Chinese to put off false teeth to lend me their money for a hip replacement?)
I think instead the worst element is a sort of ill-feeling about ourselves, an unhappiness as we look in the mirror and see what we are doing to our dignity in this, the hour of our crisis.
We are starting to fathom that when times got iffy, we lacked the resilience of the proverbial Joads and the grit of that tough Depression-era generation, and certainly we seem different sorts from those who built and flew B-17s amid the Luftwaffe.
Instead, this generation has gone quite stark raving mad the last seven months, hysterical, and decided we would simply borrow, charge it, print money, blame, accuse—almost anything other than roll up our sleeves, take a cut in our standard of living, pay off what we owe, admit that we lived too high on the hog, and find a certain nobility in shared sacrifice.
So again, here we are reduced to begging the Chinese to subsidize our life-styles, while 500 million of their own poor make their American counterparts of the lower classes here seem like well-heeled grandees.
2) Fides? We have almost destroyed the concept of trust: we don’t think there is any accuracy in AIG statements; don’t really believe GM will make it on its own, or that Goldman-Sachs is honestly run.
All our icons—Ford, General Electric, Citibank, Bank of America—in a mere generation imploded by their own hands, and now we don’t have any real idea of what went wrong, and believe their captains don’t either.
When Barack Obama says the economy will soon grow at a 4.6 annual rate, I simply don’t believe him. I don’t believe Sec. Geithner’s reconstruction of when he knew about the AIG bonuses, or that he simply forgot to pay his payroll taxes.
If Chris Dodd were to say that gravity exists, I could be sure we would float into the stratosphere. If Barack Obama said he was against renditions, I’d assume he had merely renamed them “transfers.” I do know that as we run up more trillions in debt the next four years, Obama will be in perpetual campaign mode with the same tired mantra “The Bush deficit mess I inherited” to screaming and adoring crowds.
3.) A Certain Coarseness. We also are wearied by a certain crassness in American society in ways we have not seen before—or at least since the mid-19th century. Sorry, I don’t want my President joshing about the Special Olympics on Leno. I don’t want him on Leno at all in his perpetual PR mode. I don’t want him drawing out his picks for the final four on TV. I don’t want him paid for rewriting/revising/ condensing/whatever his earlier book while he’s supposed to be President, or ribbing Gordon Brown about his tennis game in patronizing fashion, or giving the British a pack of un-viewable DVDs after they, in exchange, offered a tasteful gift of historic importance.
I was always an advocate of informality, of casualness, but now when on a plane, in a restaurant, at Starbucks, I am struck by the rare well-dressed person who does not crowd. How odd the extra-polite woman, who conducts herself with charm and grace at the counter, or the gentleman who opens doors, says excuse me, and whose intelligent conversation I enjoy listening in on—like a dew drop to someone thirsting in the desert. In contrast, when the punk walks by, with radio blaring, mumbling obscenities, flashing the ‘I’ll kill you’ stare,” it all leaves me in depression.
Worse still, on the opposite end of the scale, is the master of the universe who elbows his way onto a plane while he blares on the telephone and blocks the aisle. I feel creepy after walking through an electronics store and seeing some of the video game titles and covers.
In short, I don’t want to hear any more Viagra or Cialis ads, no more douche commercials—please no more talking heads about penises that are enlarging, hardening, stimulated on the public air waves.
The sum of these foul parts is smothering us. I don’t want to know that there is a new sex clinic opening in Fresno, or hear another ad about how I can skip out on my credit card debt, or that some sort of food is stuck to my intestinal walls like spackle and paste unless I buy some gut cleansing product.
At some point, we need to say enough is enough, and try to find some sense of honor and decorum in these times of crisis. My god, the entire country has become some sort of Rousseauian nightmare, as if the Berkeley Free Speech Area circa 1970 is now the public domain, as if the culture of the Folsom cell block is now the national ethos.
4) What is good/bad? We are depressed and listless and angry also because I think that we fear we have lost all sense of calibration. We can’t tell what is good and what is god-awful. Where does a Paris Hilton or Britney Spears come from? What can they do? What determines a modern poem’s line break?
Is there any transcendence in the rap album of the month? A Marxist folk singer like old Peter Seeger always had more talent in his little finger than the sum total of Madonna. How did a modern-day Cleon like Barney Frank become the national spokesman of populist outrage against Wall Street.
One, just one, novel of a Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe even, is worth more than what has been written collectively in the last ten years. T. S. Eliot in a day could write better poetry than what has been composed in all the creative writing departments in the United States over the last twenty years—and we are going to give more billions under Obama to “education.”
At some point, again, we need to establish criteria of excellence, regardless of ideology, politics, or of fashion. We honor actors like De Niro and Pacino because we instinctively feel they are talented and are at least shadows of the old breed; a David Petraeus seems like a Matthew Ridgway come to save us in Korea.
We yearn for an ex-President Truman or Eisenhower—and instead get Jimmy Carter. David McCullough sells books because he is talented, can tell a story, is reliable, has a sense of what is the essence of history—and won’t lecture us about his own agenda at a conference on transvestites in the Union Army. I allow that a perpetual adolescent Sean Penn can act (sort of), but a Jack Palance or Richard Boone of the second-tier could exhibit more stage presence, more auctoritas in a split second of exposure than Penn could achieve in a month at the dais.
(5) Yes/No/Sorta/Maybe We sense we are trimmers and redistributors, and wouldn’t dare build a new dam a transcontinental railroad, a new 8 -lane freeway.
Instead we would sue, file reports, argue, quit, delay—anything other than conceive a majestic idea and finish it, sighing, “It is not perfect, but damn good enough and will do.” Instead, here in California we are simply destroying agriculture by drying up its sources of water-giving life—a once brilliant farming that was the sum total of millions of brave lives from 1880 to 2000 who took a desert and fed the world.
Instead, ensconced in the Berkeley Hills or Woodside, our elites demand of better others to save for them not people, but a smelt, a minnow, or a newt-like creature that must have the entire Kings or San Joaquin River as it dumps its precious cargo out to sea.
So as scare snow melts, it goes out to the ocean, gratifying a lawyer or professor in Palo Alto that rivers flow as they did in the 19th-century, as millions of acres go fallow, hundreds of thousands lose jobs, and we feel so morally superior to those of the past who really were our moral superiors.
It is easy to dismiss our ancestors as illiberal, or with the caveat “Oh, but if we were as poor as they were, we’d have to prove just as tough”, but we still sense they were different in the sense of far better. When I drive up to see those Sierra dams poured in the 1920s, one wonders how they made such things with only primitive machines, and in contrast, are amazed with our sophisticated tools, we do so much less.
This self-congratulatory generation can hardly, as we are learning, build a Bay Bridge again. Yet when we see on the Internet pictures of a new aircraft carrier we are stunned in amazement—we did that? We built such a powerful, sophisticated ship? We—at least someone— can actually still do things on rare occasion like that?
The American people are, to be frank, nauseated by the archetype of a John Edwards, who never created anything other than a legacy of bankrupting doctors in order to enrich himself. I’d prefer one gall bladder surgeon to fifty Botox experts, a good Perkins engine mechanic to 1,000 deconstructionists at the MLA, one competent chemist to fifty government attorneys.
For the present I think that we have enough social service bureaucrats, enough consultants, enough PhDs that will lecture how race/class/gender has made us, our air, our dogs even, so unfair. We simply are thirsty for the unapologetic doer, who never says he’s sorry for himself or his country or his ancestors, but instead thinks and plans how he can build something better and leave it for others–the age old agrarian commandment “make sure you leave a better farm than you inherit.” Where are they all, in the grave?
We all seem to stare at the rare genius under a semi, working on the transmission, or someone on a catwalk riveting a girder, or a teacher who can wade into an unruly class and say “damn it, we are going to learn calculus one way or another”.
My complaint against Hollywood actors is not that they are talentless, though many are; or that they talk in the same tones as women did sixty years ago, but that they have no imprint, no trademark of individuality. In short, to paraphrase Orwell, “If it paid better, they’d be fascists.”
I think we responded to Mickey Rourke’s brief renaissance, not because he survived while being drug-addled, or was punched out, or reckless, but because he showed, as a torn-cat, a certain dignity, a certain courage of being so very different from the norm. Yes, at this point we are so desperate for talent and singularity we will take eccentricity bordering on nihilism.
So there you have this rant.
Why are Americans hesitant, bewildered after the arrival of the Messiah?
Not for the reason our President attests about high unemployment or shaky GDP or the lack of national health care. We simply are ashamed of our profligacy; we don’t trust those who should be trusted; we put up with the crass and honor the mediocre and ugly; and we fight and bicker over the distribution, never over a share in the creation.
Hope and change, indeed.
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