Wednesday, March 31, 2004

From the Daily Telegraph comes good news:

Britain's most prominent Muslim leader last night demanded a crackdown on "rogue" Islamic preachers, blaming them for brainwashing young men with sermons promoting holy war against the West.

Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was backed by the families of some of the eight men arrested in Tuesday's anti-terrorism raids in south-east England.


Mr Sacranie said he had been urging the Government for some time to introduce an offence of incitement to religious hatred.

People such as Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun, which campaigns for an Islamic state in Britain, brought "much harm to the Muslim community".

He said: "These elements are preaching a message of hatred and violence that is against the Koran.

"They have nothing to do with Islam. There are more than a thousand mosques in Britain. We are not aware of this sort of activity in more than one or two."
Fantastic to hear this kind of thing! Let's hope for more.

[HatTip to Tim Blair.]
The Last Piece...

...I'll do on the Clarke kerfuffle - because this, aside from everything else, settles it.

If President Bush had followed every last letter of Richard Clarke's recommendations starting Inauguration Day, it still would not have prevented 9/11. How do we know this? Richard Clarke says so.

Here's how the disgruntled National Security Council veteran put it last week in an exchange with Slade Gorton, a member of the 9/11 Commission and former Washington Senator:
Mr. Gorton: "Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25 of 2001 . . . including aid to the Northern Alliance which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted, say, on January 26, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?"

Mr. Clarke: "No."

[W]hen pressed on that point under oath, Mr. Clarke was forced to concede that the impression he'd created, the very reason anyone was paying any attention to him, was false. As long as Mr. Clarke is in the apology business, can we have one for wasting a week of the Administration's precious antiterror time?
Yes, please - and post-haste. Goodbye, Mr. Clarke. And good riddance.

[HatTip to Tim Blair.]
Steyn On Passion

Mark Steyn's review of the Passion of the Christ is now available online. As per usual, he nails it on the issues surrounding the film.

That's the real argument over The Passion Of The Christ. It's not between Christians and Jews, but between believing Christians and the broader post-Christian culture, a term that covers a large swathe from the media to your average Anglican vicar. Some in this post-Christian culture don't believe anything, some are riddled with doubts, but even the ones with only a vague residual memory of the fluffier Sunday School stories are agreed that there's little harm in a Jesus figure who's a "gentle teacher". In this world, if Jesus were alive today he'd most likely be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally-friendly car with an "Arms Are For Hugging" sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams. If that's your boy, Mel Gibson's movie is not for you.

Indeed, though Mel is Catholic, his Passion is a hit thanks to evangelical Protestants - those who believe the Bible is the literal truth and not a "useful narrative" culminating in what the Bishop of Durham called a "conjuring trick with bones". Instead of Jesus the wimp, Mel gives us Jesus the Redeemer. He died for our sins - ie, the "violent end" is the critical bit, not just an unfortunate misunderstanding cruelly cutting short a promising career in gentle teaching. The followers of Wimp Jesus seem to believe He died to license our sins - Jesus loves us for who we are so whatever's your bag is cool with Him.
Go read the whole thing.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Am I A Revolutionary?

Apparently so.

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active

Now hands up, who's surprised? Anyone? Anyone?
Modernism v. Post-

Bill Whittle has posted his latest in a series on metaphorical maps, and he makes some fantastic observations:

Intellectualism, as it is practiced today, is a trap.

It is not a palatial hall of great minds looking for answers and then testing them in the real world; it is a basement in your parents house filled with lazy and filthy hippies eating your leftovers and drinking the last of your milk. Intellectualism is certainly not the same as intelligence, and more and more, it is becoming antithetical to intelligence. When well-off people who call themselves intellectuals drive their SUV's to march in support of Marxism, you can see the chasm between intellectualism and intelligence in full flower. When elitists who fancy themselves brighter and more compassionate than the rest of us choose to support the Taliban, with its stoning of women and execution of homosexuals in football stadiums before mandatory audiences, over a representative democracy with unparalleled structural protections of minorities and freedoms of expression; then self-styled intellectuals have abandoned intelligence altogether, as well as morality, reason, compassion and indeed sanity.

Likewise, when coffee-house intellectuals dictate their worldview according to non-existent pipelines or supposed theft of oil revenues where no evidence of such theft can be produced but deposits into Iraqi national accounts can, then one has to ask one's self if this intellectual badge is worth the mud it's printed on.
His entire point is that, as he puts it in his extended metaphor, we need to get out of the bilge water of intellectual squabbling, go up on deck, and look around to find out what's really going on.

Earlier in the chapter, he mentions the danger of reliance upon authority [emphasis in original]:
How many students today believe what they believe because they met someone who knew a guy whose girlfriend turned him on to an article by Noam Chomsky? Noam Chomsky predicted, in his even, intellectual, authoritarian, tenured manner, that if the US went to war in Afghanistan after 9/11 the result would be 3 million Afghan casualties. How many of these students who worship St. Noam independently ask themselves why he has, to date, come up 2,999,500 bodies short? Noam is not wrong by a fact of one or two; Noam is not wrong by an order of magnitude. Noam is not wrong by a factor of a hundred to one. Noam is wrong by more than three orders of magnitude. Noam is wrong by a factor of 6,000 to one. Noam says the reef is ten feet off the port bow; when in fact it is more than three miles away. That?s six thousand to one. Noam says the ocean is six thousand feet deep when in fact the keel has been ripped out and is sitting on the sandbar back yonder: that's a 6,000-to-one error. Extrapolating this accuracy rate, if Noam writes 6,000 pages on the evil of the United States, how many pages of truth might there be in such a twenty-volume set?

Does this mean that everything Noam Chomsky writes is nonsense? Not at all. He is a professor of Linguistics. I am not qualified to say how accurate the work in his field of expertise is. I can however make a stab at how accurate he is in the field of US foreign policy, and if you have a handheld calculator at home, you can make the same comparison and achieve the same results.
Whittle is really arguing (it seems to me) for a kind of modernism in the face of post-modernism. For intelligence in the face of intellectualism (as he puts it). He is outlining the dangers of post-modern thinking, the traps to which it leads, and arguing that it needs to be exchanged, post-haste, for something more in touch with reality.

I'm inclined to agree. There are aspects of post-modernist thinking that I like - the acknowledgement that science cannot see all, the notion that there may be something outside what we can touch and feel - but there are parts that I find greatly disturbing. The idea that the terms 'right' and 'wrong' have no place in today's culture is an example of a very post-modern thought. The idea that 'whatever works for you is good' is frightening in its implications. For all the progress made, we seem to have regressed again, even further back from where we started.

Whittle ends with a call for action that sums up the arguement nicely [emphasis in original]:
Socialist intellectuals will tell you that Cuba is a model nation: universal free health care, near total literacy, and essentially no gap whatsoever between the rich and the poor. They call it an island paradise where brotherhood and compassion reign in stark contrast to the brutal inequalities of the heartless and racist capitalist monster to the North, ruled by it's Imperial Nazi King, who is the devious mastermind of all manner of Conspiratorial Wheels and also a moron.

Capitalist intellectuals - and there are not many, since most of these people have jobs - argue that Cuba is a squalid, corrupt, poverty-ridden basket case, a land of oppression and secret police and torture chambers run by a megalomaniac who practices the most idiotic, inhuman and degrading economic system ever invented.

So here we sit in the chartroom, with our competing maps. What to think?

Well, we can agree that the act of giving up your home, your friends and your family must be traumatic, especially since you will face prison, or worse, if you are caught trying to vote with your feet. And I think all can agree that placing your infant daughter and your aged mother on a raft of inner tubes would be a trifle more traumatic and horrifying than not getting enough whole cane sugar in your grande frappucino at Starbucks.

So, is Socialism a better way to live, or is Capitalism? Leave the armies of experts and intellectuals down in the bilge where they belong.

Go up on deck, get out the telescope, and answer one simple question for me and for yourself:

Which way are the rafts headed?
Monday, March 29, 2004
The All-Important Military

Mark Steyn uses Germany to explain how anti-Americanism-as-government-policy leads to national ruin:

Germany, like much of Europe, has a psychological investment in longer holidays, free healthcare, early retirement, unsustainable welfare programmes, decrepit military: the fact that these policies spell national suicide is less important than that they distinguish Europe from the less enlightened Americans.
As pointed out by Steyn, the US is preparing to remove their military presence in Germany, and Europe as a whole, assuming Bush wins a second term. This has Germans alarmed, for -
The so-called "free world" was, for most of its members, a free ride. Absolving wealthy nations of the need to maintain credible armies softens them: they decay, almost inevitably, into a semi-non-aligned status.
It's been said before, but I'll say it again. True sovereignty, as is shown throughout the course of history, is attained and held by one, and only one, method: securing and maintaining a strong, functioning military. Even when you have no 'enemies' (as my left-leaning friends were so fond of pointing out during my high school years). Why? Because the only way you are taken seriously on the world's stage is if you have the might to back up your mouth.

But it's nearly too late for Old Europe to make up the slack they've developed in their military machines. Their respective populaces have all decided that they enjoy being pampered by their governing bodies too much to be troubled with little things like defense. 'Let the Americans take care of it,' they say, 'We'll go relax on our two-month vacations.' Well guess what, ladies and gentlemen? Your extended trips to the Riviera are destroying your nations.

One is reminded of Aesop's ant and grasshopper. Like the grasshopper, Europe can neglect their military until it crumbles to the ground if they like - they have that right, as do we all. But the ant isn't going to take too kindly to their complaining when they realize where this kind of national policy leads.

Victor Davis Hanson, eminent historian and classicist, expounds upon the question of when the West should drop it's support of Israel, and gives a list of actions that Israel must take:

[W]e should no longer support Israel, when...
  • Mr. Sharon suspends all elections and plans a decade of unquestioned rule.

  • Mr. Sharon suspends all investigation about fiscal impropriety as his family members spend millions of Israeli aid money in Paris.

  • All Israeli television and newspapers are censored by the Likud party.

  • Israeli hit teams enter the West Bank with the precise intention of targeting and blowing up Arab women and children.

  • Preteen Israeli children are apprehended with bombs under their shirts on their way to the West Bank to murder Palestinian families.

  • Israeli crowds rush into the street to dip their hands into the blood of their dead and march en masse chanting mass murder to the Palestinians.

  • Rabbis give public sermons in which they characterize Palestinians as the children of pigs and monkeys.

  • Israeli school textbooks state that Arabs engage in blood sacrifice and ritual murders.

  • Mainstream Israeli politicians, without public rebuke, call for the destruction of Palestinians on the West Bank and the end to Arab society there.

  • Likud party members routinely lynch and execute their opponents without trial.

  • Jewish fundamentalists execute with impunity women found guilty of adultery on grounds that they are impugning the "honor" of the family.

  • Israeli mobs with impunity tear apart Palestinian policemen held in detention.

  • Israeli television broadcasts - to the tune of patriotic music - the last taped messages of Jewish suicide bombers who have slaughtered dozens of Arabs.

  • Jewish marchers parade in the streets with their children dressed up as suicide bombers, replete with plastic suicide-bombing vests.

  • New Yorkers post $25,000 bounties for every Palestinian blown up by Israeli murderers.

  • Israeli militants murder a Jew by accident and then apologize on grounds that they though he was an Arab - to the silence of Israeli society.

  • Jews enter Arab villages in Israel to machine gun women and children.

  • Israeli public figures routinely threaten the United States with terror attacks.

  • Bin Laden is a folk hero in Tel Aviv.

  • Jewish assassins murder American diplomats and are given de facto sanctuary by Israeli society.

  • Israeli citizens celebrate on news that 3,000 Americans have been murdered.

  • Israeli citizens express support for Saddam Hussein's supporters in Iraq in their efforts to kill Americans.
Of course, the whole point is that Palestinians have done all of those things (and continue to engage in similar activities to this day). There are great gulfs of difference between Israel's behavior and that of the Palestinians; refusing to acknowledge that fact, and refusing to hold them to the same standards to which we hold Israel, reeks of a deep-seated racism - not against Jews, but against Palestinians.

If we truly believe they are human beings (as I hope all readers of this site do), then we must believe that they have the same capacities as the rest of us. That is, that they are fully able to live up to ethical standards and moral codes - and further, that they are able to live up to the same Western morality to which they so often appeal. When they do not live up to those standards, then, it is unbecoming of us to make excuses - 'they don't know any better,' or 'we can't expect as much from them.' Aside from being sickeningly racist, that condescension undermines all real hope for peace in the region. If you want to talk about moral equivalence between these two peoples, then you must truly talk about full 'equivalence': you must hold all human beings to the same standard - and that includes the Palestinian people.
Democrats In Decline [UPDATED]

I know, I know: I just linked to a slew of posts by PowerLine last night, and now I'm going to send you to one more; but hey, can I help it if these guys do good work?

Reprinted in Front Page Magazine Online, John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker's examination of certain "BUSH LIED1!!1!" claims provides us with yet more depressing news about the Democratic Party.

To an extent that, in my judgment, has no precedent in American history, the contemporary Democratic party has defined itself as a party of hate. The current frenzy over the self-contradictory and in some instances patently false claims of Richard Clarke has shown the Democrats at their most vituperative.

A case in point is Paul Begala's hysterical attack on Condoleezza Rice yesterday on CNN's Crossfire...


Some will defend Begala on the ground that he is mentally unbalanced, and argue that his type of fanaticism does not typify the Democratic Party. But I cannot agree. Begala seems to me to be typical of the modern Democratic Party--a party that makes Joe McCarthy look calm, reasonable and scrupulous.
Begala and his Democratic co-host James Carville were the two primary political strategists that Bill Clinton worked with to secure his two Presidential terms. Before now, though I have disagreed with him on the issues, I have always viewed him as a reasonable, intelligent foil for Tucker Carlson and Robert Novak. His record on and approaches to the issues have convinced me that Mr. Begala is politically nowhere near the 'fringe.'

Liberals often discount and deride conservatives (and vice versa) for 'using the lunatic fringe to discredit the reasonable moderates.' While I won't deny that some have done this in the past (and continue to do so in the present), as I read the evidence, I am becoming more and more convinced that the 'lunatic fringe' and the 'moderate Democrats' aren't so far apart. Begala certainly doesn't classify as an extremist, and given that he was influential in the Clinton adminstration (which really, politically, was full of rather centrist positions), I'd be hard pressed to classify him as anything other than a 'moderate.'

Evan Coyne Maloney, over at Brain Terminal, has gone out among the throngs of protestors - many of whom refer to themselves as moderate - and has video-recorded his interviews. For those who claim that the Left isn't represented by 'crazy protestors,' his footage provides startling evidence to the contrary.

Why is this depressing? Because, like every good democracy, we need a reasonable alternative. Though I may disagree with the theoretical positions of those who are more Left-leaning than I, I recognize the vital role they fill (as I hope they recognize the vital role people sharing my opinions fill). A system run without debate is a system prone to dreadful mistakes. So yes, I fervently wish that the Democrats would 'snap out of it,' and get back to their moderate roots; not because I agree with them, but because we need reasoned, rational debate on the issues, in order to get them right.

It's getting more and more crowded out there 'on the fringe' of late, and that is not a good thing.

[NOTE: The article is also printed at Real Clear Politics, and was originally posted here -- Ed.]

Ron Rosenbaum of the New York Observer explains why he "said goodbye" to the Left two years ago, and provides analysis as to what's wrong [emphasis in original]:
[German philosopher Martin] Heidegger's peculiar neutrality-slash-denial about Nazism and the Holocaust after the facts had come out, and the contemporary Left's curious neutrality-slash-denial after the facts had come out about Marxist genocides - in Russia, in China, in Cambodia, after 20 million, 50 million, who knows how many millions had been slaughtered. Not all of the Left; many were honorable opponents. But for many others, it just hasn't registered, it just hasn't been incorporated into their "analysis" of history and human nature; it just hasn't been factored in. America is still the one and only evil empire. The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on America's alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at America's deplorable "Cold War mentality" - none of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitler's, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesn't need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there. The judgment that McCarthyism was the chief crime of the Cold War era doesn't need a bit of a rethink, even when put up against the mass murder of dissidents by Marxist states.

The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively.


[A] year later, it seems that despite Mr. [Christopher] Hitchens and a few other voices, such as Todd Gitlin's, the blind-spot types have won out on the Left - the blind spot to Marxist genocide obscuring any evil but America's. You could see it at the Sheeps Meadow. You can see it in the hysterical seizure on Enron and other corporate scandals: See, we were right all along - corporations and businessmen are (surprise!) greedheads. This excuses averting their eyes from anti-American terrorism - from people and regimes preparing to kill Americans rather than merely diminish their 401(k)'s. Enron was the fig leaf many on the American Left needed to return to their customary hatred of America. Because America isn't perfect, it must be evil. Because Marxist regimes make claims of perfection, they must be good.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
The Guts Of The Thing [UPDATED]

I was asked by a friend earlier exactly why I don't like one Mr. Richard Clarke. Power Line has summed it up neatly (some of these are long, but everything is worth reading):

Starting back on the 21st - "Richard Clarke, Fraud"

Jumping ahead to the 23rd - "Dick Clarke's American Grandstand"

As a side note on the same day - "Sure To Be Overlooked..."

Later, a comparison - "Clarke Then And Now"

On the 24th - "Sinking Faster Than Paul O'Neill"

After that - "Clarke Takes A Beating"

The next day (25th), PowerLine comes out with - "Richard Clarke, Liar"

Same day, a little bit of clarification - "Shay's Rebellion"

Ending off the evening of the 25th, a reference to Ann Coulter - "Coulter Rips Clarke"

Early on the morning of the 26th - "Chutzpah Of The Year Award"

Later, we had - "A Question For Mr. Clarke"

And finally (bringing us up to date, at least) this afternoon - "The Duplicitous Mr. Clarke"

I told ya - lots of reading. And that's just one source. If you want more, I've got quite a few other pieces left over.

Just when I think I'm finished with a post, along comes Mark Steyn to add his own summarization and analysis.
I don't know how good Clarke was at counter-terrorism, but as a media performer he is a total dummy. He seemed to think that he could claim the lucrative star role of Lead Bush Basher without anybody noticing the huge paper trail of statements he has left contradicting the argument in his book.

The reality is that there is a Richard Clarke for everyone. If you are like me and reckon there was an Islamist angle to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, then Clarke's your guy: he supports the theory that al-Qa'eda operatives in the Philippines "taught Terry Nichols how to blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building".

On the other hand, if you're one of those Michael Moore-type conspirazoids who wants to know why Bush let his cronies in the House of Saud and the bin Laden family sneak out of America on September 11, then Clarke's also your guy: he is the official who gave the go-ahead for the bigshot Saudis with the embarrassing surnames to be hustled out of the country before they could be questioned.

Does this mean Clarke is Enron - an equal-opportunity scandal whose explicitly political aspects are too ambiguous to offer crude party advantage? Not quite. Although his book sets out to praise Clinton and bury Bush, he can't quite pull it off. Except for his suggestion to send in a team of "ninjas" to take out Osama, Clinton had virtually no interest in the subject.


In the 1990s when al-Qa'eda blew up American targets abroad, the FBI would fly in and work it as a "crime scene" - like a liquor-store hold-up in Cleveland. It doesn't address the problem. Sure, there are millions of disaffected young Muslim men, but, if they get the urge to blow up infidels, they need training and organisation. Somehow all those British Taliban knew that if you wanted a quick course in jihad studies Afghanistan was the place to go. Bush got it right: go to where the terrorists are, overthrow their sponsoring regimes, destroy their camps, kill their leaders.

Instead, all the Islamists who went to Afghanistan in the 1990s graduated from Camp Osama and were dispersed throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, where they lurk to this day. That's the Clarke-Clinton legacy. And, if it were mine, I wouldn't be going around boasting about it.
Friday, March 26, 2004
A Waste Of Time [UPDATED]

This morning's Wall Street Journal editorial neatly sums up where I stand on the 9/11 Commission.

[I]n her 9/11 testimony this week, Ms. Albright blamed the Bush Administration detentions at Guantanamo for creating more terrorists. "It is possible and perhaps probable that anger over these detentions has helped bin Laden succeed in recruiting more new operatives," she said. So the detention of Taliban fighters caught while fighting Americans and harboring terrorists will only help the terrorists? This is the same "mindset" that blocked strong U.S. action against al Qaeda for half a decade.

Or consider this episode from the 9/11 Commission's staff report on the U.S. response to news that terrorists linked to Iran had killed 19 Americans at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996:

"Albright emphasized to us, for example, that even if some individual Iranian officials were involved, this was not the same as proving that the Iranian government as a whole should be held responsible for the bombing. National Security Adviser Berger held a similar view. He stressed the need for a definitive intelligence judgment. The evidence might be challenged by foreign governments. The evidence might form a basis for going to war."

Yes, it might. But the failure to act without "definitive" evidence and "foreign" agreement might also encourage the terrorists to think that they can get away with it and so hit us again.

The idea that every President would have toppled the Taliban after 9/11 is also wishful thinking. The press at the time was full of hand-wringing about the dangers. The establishment consensus, even so soon after 9/11, was that the U.S. could end up bogged down in Kabul like the British and Soviets. President Bush is the one who took the risk of using force to rout the Taliban and the al Qaeda camps they were protecting.

All of this is what we ought to be debating this election year, not how selective Dick Clarke's memory is. Even if everything Mr. Clarke says is true--and he's already contradicted himself numerous times--it is beside the point. What matters is which strategy against terrorism the U.S. should pursue now and for the next four years.
As I wrote in the comments over at Mader Blog a few days ago:
The reversal in approach to terrorism was nearly absolute [after 9/11]. So why do we keep coming back to examine 'pre-attack' thinking? Whether the failure belongs to Bush, or Clinton, or Bush, or Reagan, or - heck, why not? - even Washington, its all irrelevant to the current situation.

Unless, of course, this 'who-do-we-blame game' is going to result in the shaking loose of the last pre-9/11 thinkers in the Intelligence field. But if we look at where the game is heading, we see it's aiming for the top, and not for the offending cogs. It's a worthless waste of time.
Like the WSJ editorial mentions, if Bush's opponents continue this line of questioning and criticism to its logical end, they are going to wind up supporting his moves in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are arguing for a streamlining of the administration so that intelligence failures don't happen again - weeding out thinkers like Richard Clarke, so that the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption against terror and its supporters can be more effective. Sounds good to me.

Meanwhile, democracy continues to spread.

Lileks has a fantastic examination of the media's handling of the Clarke fiasco, and he winds up sharing my opinion:
Look: to me that's ancient history. That's Flintstone time. If it weren't for these hearings I wouldn't give a tin fig for who didn't do what when and where. September Eleventh was the bright red gash that separated the Now from the La-la Then, and we've been living in the hot spiky Now ever since. I am interested in the Now and the What Next. I don't have much patience for people who believe that the salvation of Western Civilization depends on hiking the marginal tax rates to pre-2002 levels. But if you want to play Eight Years vs. Eight Months, fine. Just remember that before 9/11, the skies over Afghanistan were clear. After 9/11, they thrummed with the sound of B-52s until the job was done.

No small distinction.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
A Victorious Effort?

Jessica's Well has declared victory for the blogosphere in the Richard Clarke fiasco:

The total collapse of Richard Clarke.

Would it have happened without the blogosphere? Seriously, would the mainstream media have done any of the footwork necessary to find out about this guy and come up with instance after instance after instance of outright self-contradictions? I say no.

What is the past the mainstream media thought they could ignore blogs. Now I think they read them and heed them as a now very necessary self defense.
Indeed, it does appear so. Just take a look at the latest article from TIME.
Nowhere do we see the President pointing fingers at or even sounding particularly "vigorous" toward Clarke and his deputies. Despite Clarke's contention that Bush wanted proof of Iraqi involvement at any cost, it's just as possible that Bush wanted Clark to find disculpatory evidence in order to discredit the idea peddled by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Baghdad had a hand in 9/11. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush rejected Wolfowitz's attempts to make Iraq the first front in the war on terror. And if the President of the United States spoke "testily " 24 hours after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, well, can you blame him?

Clarke's liberties with the text don't stop there. On 60 Minutes he said that after submitting to the White House a joint-agency report discounting the possibility of Iraqi complicity in 9/11, the memo "got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer.'" The actual response from Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, shown later in the program, read "Please update and resubmit." On 60 Minutes, Clarke went further, saying that Bush's deputies never showed the President the joint-agency review, because "I don't think he sees memos that he wouldn't like the answer." This is pure, reckless speculation. Contrast that with the more straightforward account in Against All Enemies: after his team found no evidence of Iraqi involvement, Clarke writes that "a memorandum to that effect was sent up to the President, and there was never any indication that it reached him."

In a few other instances, Clarke's televised comments seem designed to disparage the President and his aides at all cost, omitting any of the inconvenient details - some of which appear in the pages of his book - that might suggest the White House took al-Qaeda seriously before Sept. 11.
To echo InstaPundit: is Karl Rove paying these guys?

More from the mainstream media on the collapse of Richard Clarke may be found here.

[A Great Many HatTips to the BlogFather.]
The Nature Of Islam

Unbelievable. Robert Spencer has spent more than twenty years examining and studying Islam and its followers. Recently, he has come under attack for the things he has observed. The results are just...mindboggling.

Here is a personal attack on me and on Jihad Watch from Amir, a Muslim in Britain. (Thanks to Harry.) I get attacked all the time, and ordinarily wouldn't bore you with the details, but this one is interesting. Look at why this guy is angry:
AoA. I hope there isn't a Muslim in the whole world who stumbles across "Jihad Watch" and falls for the crap Robert Spencer is pumping out. Him and his loyal band of anti-Islamics (who flood his article comments with Islamaphobic preaching) have dedicated time and effort to make an influential impression on people, mainly Muslims, to re-write the meaning of Jihaad and make people believe it. Mainly Muslims.

Spencer hasn't necessarily studied Islam for the purpose of calling people away from it, he isn't a fanatical enough of a Christian to be doing that, he's instead studied Islam for the purpose of convincing Muslims to adopt incorrect Islamic concepts -- namely on the issue of jihaad. From the Muslim perspective it's not as bad as apostasy, but still pretty damn bad.
Leaving aside his characterization of my own religious faith, look at what he says about jihad. In his view, evidently, violent jihad - warfare against unbelievers - is the correct Islamic concept, and when I call upon Muslims to reject it I am asking them to veer close to apostasy.
It's just stunning - his opponents are quite literally demonstrating that his positions and observations are correct. Further, they are angry at him not because he has observed their positions, but because he is actively trying to discourage people from taking them. "Don't you dare try to dissuade people from killing in the name of Islam!"


[HatTip to Little Green Footballs.]

To turn my view from American to Canadian politics for a moment, Andrew Coyne reports that newly-elected Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has fired a broadside into the sinking Liberal ship. (Full speech available here).

Mr. Speaker, this is the tenth budget of this tired, old and corrupt Liberal regime. The first eight budgets were delivered, as Canadians know, by the current prime minister. Before turning my attention to today's budget, I want to take a small detour through some of those earlier budgets.


In his 1995 budget speech, the current prime minister said the following:

The government has just introduced a new and much tighter system to manage its spending...
For the first time, departments will have to prepare business plans for three years forward...that transparency and that accountability will mark a major departure from the past. ...
Individual ministers are being asked to alter their funding approach accordingly. They will be held accountable for their decisions and those decisions will be reviewed annually.
Reviewed annually, one can only assume, by the minister of finance, or at least by Treasury Board, on which the minister of finance was the vice chair.

The year 1995 is significant. That is the year in which the Liberal government nearly lost the country. That was also the year in which the Liberal government decided to create a sponsorship program.

Allow me to rephrase that:

The year that the Liberals created the Sponsorship Program was also the year in which the current prime minister put in place "a new and much tighter system to manage its spending."
There's a lot more there, and it just keeps getting worse and worse for the Liberal Party.

But let me take this moment to say: Mr. Harper, welcome back to Parliament Hill.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
The Truth Comes Out [UPDATED x2]

It has been revealed that Mr. Richard Clarke is yet another political opportunist, saying whatever he thinks will best benefit his personal aspirations. Check him out in an interview with FoxNews in 2002 [emphasis added]:

RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent. And the point is, while this big review was going on, [they] were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect.

The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda...


JIM ANGLE [of FoxNews]: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.


ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no ? one, there was no [Clinton] plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?

CLARKE: You got it. That's right.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the destruction of Richard Clarke's credibility.

[HatTip to PowerLine]

Hindrocket, over at PowerLine, has expanded on deacon's earlier remarks.
[During his testimony today,] Clarke apparently couldn't deny that what he says in his book is completely different from what he had previously testified to. Clarke attributed his changing story to his outrage over the Iraq war.

The Richard Clarke saga will be an interesting test of the power of the blogosphere and talk radio. Sophisticated news consumers know that Clarke is a fraud and a shill for the Kerry campaign. The mainstream press will try to keep this fact a secret from the vast majority of the population that relies on newspapers and television for their information. It will be interesting to see whether the blackout can succeed.
Indeed it will - let's see if we can get the truth out.

Instapundit, as usual, has ongoing updates.

Instapundit has more to say on the subject...
This guy's working for Rove. By the time he's done imploding, Bush will have discredited the media and all his critics. It's the only thing that makes sense.

The other possibility is that Clarke held an important national security job for years while being dumb as a post, so dumb that he would write a book making explosive accusations against the White House while knowing -- or forgetting? -- that all sorts of contradictory evidence was on the record and bound to come out. Otherwise, wouldn't he at least have tried to explain this stuff up front?

As I've said before, I think there's a lot to complain about regarding pre-9/11 antiterror policy, by both Clinton and Bush...And a lot of people probably should have been fired. But Clarke is now saying that his real problem is with the invasion of Iraq, even as he focuses on pre-9/11 events.

A useful critique would be nice, but Clarke seems to be producing incoherent grandstanding.
...and links to a Reason article by Michael Young that is well worth the read.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Being Informed [UPDATED]

Debbye at Being American In T.O. takes David Brooks' latest column and does some expansion:

[H]ow can people who lack a spiritual nature nourished by God truly comprehend the murderous nature of those who believe they are the divine instruments of Allah? How can people who have no beliefs understand that there are fanatics who are consumed by their beliefs?

Equally true is the fact that those who acknowledge their own spiritual natures are capable of recognizing the spiritual nature of others as it manifests in the others' religions. However much Americans are mocked because we have retained our religious sensibilities, the existence of those sensibilities enables us to truly respect Muslims rather than patronize them.
To truly understand what's going on in the spiritual areas of life, one must be plugged into those areas in one's own existence. It's similar to the 'inside/outside' problem in sociological approaches to religion. An observer from the 'outside' cannot fully grasp or understand what is happening on the 'inside.' As a result, any response made by those who don't have that spiritual connection (or who don't respond to it) will be (naturally) uninformed.

As I think is evident, acting without knowledge is behavior that needs discouraging. So why are the secular forces of this world so disposed not only to acting without knowledge, but also to rejecting out-of-hand any possibility of gaining that knowledge?

Trudeaupia points out the patronizing nature of those who don't connect with spiritual aspects of life:
People like Cherie Blair react to suicide bombers in buses with a patronizing, condescending sympathy. Such things can only be caused by some kind of grievance, a reaction against unjust colonialist legacies. Rejection of Kyoto or inadequate foreign aid. Rigged WTO rules. There just has to be something. It is a patronizing view where people are less than fully human and they just can't be blamed for how they react to western countries.
This point can be roughly reduced to the conflict between the 'personal responsibility' and 'group responsibility' worldviews - who do we hold accountable? The idea has been elaborated upon at length by the incredible Bill Whittle, and his essay is a must-read primer for the subject.
Combating Palestinian Terror

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal examines the effects of Israel's 'targeted assassination' policy [emphasis added]:

After [the terrorist massacre at Netanya in 2002], Israel invaded the West Bank and began to target terrorist leaders more aggressively.

The results, in terms of lives saved, were dramatic. In 2003, the number of Israeli terrorist fatalities declined by more than 50% from the previous year, to 213 from 451. The overall number of attacks also declined, to 3,823 in 2003 from 5,301 in 2002, a drop of 30%. In the spring of 2003, Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations, including a failed attempt on Yassin's deputy, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Wise heads said Israel had done nothing except incite the Palestinians to greater violence. Instead, Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups agreed unilaterally to a cease-fire.

In this context, it bears notice that between 2002 and 2003 the number of Palestinian fatalities also declined significantly, from 1,000 to about 700. The reason here is obvious: As the leaders of Palestinian terror groups were picked off and their operations were disrupted, they were unable to carry out the kind of frequent, large-scale attacks that had provoked Israel's large-scale reprisals. Terrorism is a top-down business, not vice versa. Targeted assassinations not only got rid of the most guilty but diminished the risk of open combat between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian foot soldiers.
The bold phrase is, I think, the crux of the situation (not coincidentally, it's also the crux of the article). The 'wise heads' that predict doom every time Israel goes after one of the terrorist leaders don't understand - if you take out their leadership, you provide a convincing argument for peace.

Even some of the media say this, though they don't realize it. I was watching CTV news last night, and the reporter on the ground was giving her eulogy for Yassin - a 'spiritual leader' providing warm and fuzzy 'guidance to the Palestinian people' who 'cannot be replaced' because these kind of 'spiritual figures' don't just spring up out of the ground. It made me sick just listening to it. I wanted to snap her back into reality - "He's a terrorist, who is singly responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries!" Reflecting this morning, however, I realize that the reporter was right, but not in a way she could ever have dreamed. Yassin is not replaceable, at least not immediately (perhaps not ever). When you take out the leadership of this kind of organization, you take out the direction as well as the driving force. For it is not the 'important' members of Hamas who take to the streets as suicide bombers. Neither is it their own children. The 'courage' displayed by terrorist leaders is exhibited through the pariahs, the ones deemed 'expendable':
[W]hen one looks closely at just who the suicide bombers are (or were), often they turn out to be society's outcasts. Take Reem Salah al-Rahashi, a mother of two, who in January murdered four Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint on the Gaza-Israel border. In a prerecorded video, Rahashi said becoming a shaheed was her lifelong dream. Later it emerged she'd been caught in an extramarital affair, and that her husband and lover had arranged her "martyrdom operation" as an honorable way to settle the matter. It is with such people, not with themselves, that Palestinian leaders attempt to demonstrate their own fearlessness.
So what happens when the terrorists stop encouraging people to go and blow themselves up? The Palestinians are human - they care about their own lives, and the lives of their children. You'd have a difficult time, were you not a 'spiritual' terrorist leader, convincing them to go die in your stead.

If you remove the head of a snake, the body will die. It may spasm a few times before its synapses finally stop firing, but its death is inevitable, for a headless snake cannot help but perish. The Israeli government understands this, and they are acting on that knowledge.
You Really Should... this insightful essay on the reshaping of politics, by Professor Frank Furedi of the University of Kent.

The other day my eight-year-old son came home, took off his jacket and announced 'Daddy, I really hate Bush!' Until that point, this child had strong views on the subject of football (which he loves), school dinners (which he dislikes) and mobile phones (which he desperately desires). But this was his first statement of political preference. Why did he feel so strongly about the American president? 'Because he's so stupid', my son replied.

As a proud father, I would like to boast that my young son and his classmates have developed a precocious interest in political affairs. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Children are no more curious about political life than their elders. Rather, political life in the Western world has become so infantilised that even eight-year-olds can share its brilliant insights.


In the USA, demonstrating how much you hate Bush has animated discussion during the Democratic Party primary elections. Howard Dean, who has perfected the art of being very angry, managed to mobilise tens of thousands of young people to join his vociferous campaign - before it failed.

It appears that how you feel, rather than what you believe in, has become the defining feature of political protest.
It's late, and I'm not at my optimum writing/thinking levels, so I'll just forego any attempts at segue into the next quote:
[M]ore importantly, protest has become a strikingly personal matter. It is about the protester as an individual, and says more about how he feels about himself than what he thinks of the issue at stake. That is why it is difficult to define today's acts of protest as constituting a political movement. On the contrary: they are the product of a profound mood of political disengagement that afflicts most Western societies.
This piece needs to be read from top to bottom.

[HatTip to The Braden Files for the link.]
Monday, March 22, 2004
Things Could Get Very Interesting [UPDATED]

Israel struck a huge blow against Hamas last night/this morning, killing their founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

"The state of Israel today hit the first and foremost head of Palestinian terrorism. His ideological basis was the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel," Sharon said.

"The war on terror is not over, and will take place every day and in every place. It is the natural right of the Jewish nation, as it is the right of any peoples, to hunt down those who wish to exterminate them," Sharon added.
Others have discussed this already, and have made interesting points, so there's not a lot for me to add, other than my own personal reaction: "Wow. Hope they have their security up to snuff."

Of course, Israel does. And David Bernstein seems to think my concerns are a bit misplaced:
In the center, there are concerns about reprisals. I think these concerns are misplaced. All indications are that Hamas has been gearing up for a major terrorist campaign to promote the view that any full or partial withdrawal from Gaza is its doing. This campaign is receiving logistical and financial support from Hizbollah and tactical support from the Al Asqa wing of Fatah. Much better to go on the offensive against Hamas, keeping its leadership in hiding and on the run, than to sit back and wait for Hamas to go after Israel.
I agree that going on the offensive against one's already aggressive enemies is a preferable strategy; and honestly, how is this rhetoric - "Sharon, start preparing your body bags because (Hamas's) Qassam Brigades will put Israeli houses in mourning and make a funeral in every Israeli street," and "Islamic Jihad vowed 'to wage war, war, war on the sons of Zion' in response." - any different from what was already going on? Weren't they already 'pulling out all the stops' against Israel?

An evil man has died, and his evil organization is gasping for breath. But this is not over. I still suggest they batten down their hatches over there.

Damian Penny comments. Mader Blog agrees with me, and David Frum notes the shortcomings of European response:
If the European allies cannot accept the killing of the head of Hamas, who has already murdered hundreds of people, it is very hard to imagine that those same European allies would have accepted the assassination of Osama bin Laden before 9/11. And since the defining idea of American liberal Democrats is the paramount need for European approval of major American actions (see below) - then there's really no mystery at all about why the Clintonites behaved as they did before 9/11. They didn't want to upset anyone. So they did nothing. And now they're engaged in the one foreign-policy activity at which they are truly expert: blame-shifting.
Command Post has a summary of world-wide opinion. Trudeaupia points out that Canada's response is less-than-adequate.
Perhaps [Canadian Foreign Minister] Bill Graham, idiot du jour, would note that Palestinians were supposed to actually combat terrorists, not laud them as martyrs. In the absence of the Palestinians policing themselves Israel is left with the unpleasant chore of defending itself. The Palestinians could put an end to this state of affairs any time they choose to. Perhaps Bill Graham, idiot du jour, should encourage the Palestinians to consider their international legal obligations, which frown on blowing up buses and pizza parlours.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
The Reason [UPDATED]

Steven Den Beste gets it:

If we refuse to face the real root cause of this war and refuse to work on correcting it, then eventually we'll face the stark choice of either committing genocide or being victims of it.

The problem won't go away simply because we ignore it or refuse to admit that it exists.

And that is why the invasion of Iraq was necessary. The invasion had very little to do with WMDs, even though that was the core of the public debate in the UN. The real reason we needed to invade Iraq was because we needed to take control of one core Arab nation so we could establish something like a western liberal government and society there, with equal rights for the women, with a truly free press, with the right of free speech and free assembly and free exercise of religion, and a government which served the people rather than trying to rule them. If we are even partially successful in doing that, it will seed those ideas into the entire region, and bring about reforms elsewhere more indirectly.
Den Beste's back in form (ie. long), but needs to be read. Reading this, strangely enough, was a comfort to me - it is reassuring that other people see this, too.

Noting an important side point, TMLutas responds:
Steven Den Beste's recent post on whether Iraq was a distraction featured a single sentence that I believe is very important to provide amplification [of:] "The invasion had very little to do with WMDs, even though that was the core of the public debate in the UN." The question naturally arises why didn't we debate the real questions and instead created some sort of shadow puppet debate that created confusion where there should, ideally, be clarity.
His answer needs to be read by everyone, but particularly, I found this quote quite enjoyable:
The UN, crys out much of Western Europe, is largely a US created institution. Why doesn't the US just work within the UN framework? The answer is simple. If you're going to blow up bedrock, one thing you absolutely must do is before you hit the detonator switch is to stop standing on it.
Overarching idea? 'The UN is a big part of the problem.'

So why did we spend so much time on those infuriating WMDs?
We chose to act first, in part as a method of forcing the UN to confront how untenable its baseline assumptions are, in part because we couldn't sit around and argue out the paperwork before we acted. But we also chose not to completely break the system and humiliate the world but leave everybody a figleaf.

And that's why the UN discussed WMDs so much.
Answer: to allow the UN to save face.
The Real Zapatero [UPDATED]

David Frum takes us through what new Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said concerning the war on terror, and gives us his take on what it means. And what it means is not pleasant.

Note...that Zapatero did not limit his condemnation of "bombs" to Iraq alone. He was endorsing the emerging Euro leftist thesis that the very idea of fighting terrorism is an error. Romano Prodi, the chief of the European Commission, gave utterance to the new doctrine at the beginning of the week: "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists." Not "force alone." "Force." Zapatero and those like him are ready to paint their hands white and raise them in the air everywhere, and not just the Sunni Triangle.
Not only is Spain in full on 'surrender mode' - their choice, if a wrong one - but now our 'allies' are hoping to influence our elections:
[O]ne more thing Zapatero said in his radio interview. "I said during the campaign I hoped Spain and the Spaniards would be ahead of the Americans for once. First we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it, if things continue as they are in Kerry's favor."

Isn't this amazing? And doesn't it cast a new light on all those European complaints about American "arrogance" and "unilateralism"? Has any official of the United States ever expressed a preference for one party over another in a Spanish election - or indeed an election anywhere else in democratic Europe?

Zapatero helps us to understand what is really dividing the US from Europe. The problem is not that the two continents disagree - they have often disagreed before, without lasting harm to the trans-Atlantic alliance. The problem is much deeper.
Yes it is (go read the rest). But it is also rather clear to me that refering to Spain as an ally is a bit shaky, especially in light of my earlier thoughts. Yeah, they are in a Parliament, and yeah, there are still treaties; but this new government is acting like anything but an ally. Aren't there guidelines for this sort of thing? What does an ally have to do to lose its status?

Mader Blog has more questions.
As I mentioned before, this has got to be way out of bounds by more or less anyone's standards. What kind of treatment does Zapatero expect from a second Bush administration? The President knows well how to isolate an antagonistic 'friend', as Canadians know well.

Or is that the point? Is Zapatero so convinced of American error that he's willing to wreck Spanish-American relations in order to advance his career as champion of European anti-Americanism?
Monochromatic Thinking

Bob, over at Let It Bleed, has a devastating fisk of Salim Lone ("director of communications for the UN mission in Iraq") and his placing of the blame for the Madrid bombings.

This kind of thing really upsets me. (Not the fisking, the original statements). There are very few things that are certain in this world, but a few are becoming more and more apparent. One: terrorism is real, and it desires the death of Western civilization - not because we have personally or individually slighted them or harmed them, but because our very existence is insufferable. Two: the UN is worthless in combating this threat. Three: the widely Liberal 'international' community desires that we pre-emptively surrender to the terrorists - or at least that we hand off our defense to that corrupt and crooked body of the previous point, so that they can surrender to the terrorists.

And this makes me upset.

People have accused me of seeing things in black & white, of being unable to appreciate the gray areas that are always so prevalent in today's 'modern' society. But that's not true. I fully appreciate the gray areas of life - I live through and with them nearly every day. I have to constantly struggle to balance my thinking and my speech among a great many nuanced positions so that I don't make my friends into my enemies. I understand gray.

But do you know what else I understand?

I understand that, even though a lot of the world is gray, there are parts of it that are monochrome. Basic mathematics is a good example. One plus one does not, and will never, equal three, no matter how much we might want it to. It's simply an undeniable fact (and yes, I've read all about Gödel's work - I'm taking classes on him right now, thanks). The square root of four is always going to be two, even if we fervently wish it to be something else. Another example is that of survival, and my instinct to prolong it. If an attacker is coming at me with a weapon, I'm not going to sit and consider all the nuances of his position. I'm not going to ponder what the 'root causes' of his anger and malice are. I'm either going to defend myself, or I'm going to die. These are black and white situations, with right and wrong solutions, that can be quickly and easily answered.

Another is the current world situation. We are all under threat - from the smallest child to the oldest grandparent, from the most 'peaceful' beatnik to the most 'violent' rifleman - from a malicious force that wants to see us all either cowering before their 'god' or lying beneath their rubble. There is no nuance here. I can see it, plain as day; and just as easily as I can see the keyboard and mouse at my fingertips. But it seems this isn't the case for everyone. There are people so used to searching out areas of gray, who have spent so much of their thinking lives poring over every nuance they could find, that they can no longer step back and see the situation for what it is: life or death.

I'm not going to apologize for choosing life, and for choosing to fight for it in whatever way I can. There are quite a few gray areas in this world and in this life. But this is not one of them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
The Moral Vacuity Of The Guardian

Andrew Sullivan, of The New Republic, and I may not agree on everything, but there are some issues upon which we are indistinguishable. Namely, the utter lack of moral sense displayed by the Guardian in their latest editorial on the Madrid bombing:

The stunning aspect of this boilerplate is how utterly empty it is. The only constructive suggestion the Guardian proffers is an "international conference." No this is not, apparently, self-parody. While hundreds lie dead, the most important thing is to stick on your lapel name-labels, hurry down to the nearest Marriott lobby, and have a seminar. Above all, after an atrocity of this scale, it is vital that the perpetrators of such evil not "be hunted down and smoked out of their lairs." Heaven forbid such an action. That would be the American way, after all.

In Europe, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: If the Guardian cannot call these people "bad guys," then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies cannot qualify in this context as "good guys," then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence.
This is a large part of the reason Mark Steyn predicts the doom of 'Old Europe.' It just doesn't know right from wrong, and when confronted with true evil, it doesn't know how to respond.

Instapundit comments:
It's not complete moral nihilism, alas. It's not as if they show the same unwillingness to pass judgment where American actions are concerned.
...and so does Steven Den Beste:
Of course, the answer is obvious: America is the bad guys. Anyone who opposes America can't be bad guys, which is why the Madrid murderers can't be condemned.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Medical Care In America

Victor Davis Hanson (now added to my BlogRoll - I seem to be doing that a lot lately) takes a first-hand look at the state of medical care in the poorer areas of the US.

When I listened to Howard Dean, John Edwards, and John Kerry rail about "30 million Americans without health care" I assume they are talking about impoverished places like my hometown, not their own pricey digs around Burlington, Georgetown, or Beacon Hill.

Still, when I arrived there last week I was a little startled by the contrast between my cars and the others in the parking lot. My 1999 Mazda with the door badly dented and a weak battery was put to shame by brand new Chevy and Ford trucks that were lined up in front of the ER entrance. There were a couple of new Ford Rangers and some assorted late model Toyotas and Hondas.

In the cohort of waiting patients, I was the only one who seemed either to speak English or have health insurance. I waited my long turn, as the ER admirably ran simply on the basis of triaged first-come, first serve. Insurance, citizenship, or knowledge of English made absolutely no difference. There was no class, race, or even legal hierarchy that determined who saw the doctor first.

And what followed might have further impressed Ted Kennedy. None of the patients were turned away, although many of their apparent ailments that morning√£sniffles, a bad hangover, a sprained wrist, a turned ankle, and back pain√£seemed to me less urgent than my then swollen broken arm.
The whole thing deserves to be read (as does most anything written by VDH), but note especially his conclusion:
[W]e should perhaps remember that we are not heartless the next time some demagogue slurs the United States as an oppressive society that ignores its less fortunate. By any definition of classical poverty and neglect, the patients I sat with last week were neither terribly impoverished nor without care - nor worried in the least about how all the nurses, doctors, receptionists, and expensive machines and drugs that they took for granted would be at their service were going to be paid for.
Threats From The 'Left'

Alan Dershowitz recounts his recent brush with virulent anti-Semitism:

One sign carrier shouted that Jews who support Israel are worse than Nazis. Another demanded that I be tortured and killed. It wasn't only their words; it was the hatred in their eyes. If a dozen Boston police were not protecting me, I have little doubt I would have been physically attacked. Their eyes were ablaze with fanatical zeal.

The feminist writer Phyllis Chesler aptly described the hatred often directed against Israel and supporters of the Jewish state by some young people as eroticized. That is what I saw: passionate hatred, ecstatic hatred, orgasmic hatred. It was beyond mere differences of opinion. When I looked into their faces, I could imagine young Nazis in the 1930s in Hitler's Germany. They had no doubt that they were right and that I was pure evil for my support of the Jewish state, despite my public disagreement with some of Israel's policies and despite my support for Palestinian statehood. There was no place for nuance here. It was black and white, good versus evil, and any Jew who supported Israel was pure evil, deserving of torture, violence, and whatever fate Hitler and Goebbels deserved.
Note that these are the same people who are so quick to accuse others of racism and bigotry - the ones who throw around the term 'Nazi' so often as to make it meaningless. It strikes me as parallel to another earlier example of insanity that I saw a few months ago:
On January 15th, New Yorkers awoke to single-digit temperatures and a few inches of new snowfall. Al Gore chose the day to give a speech on global warming. The speech--delivered at the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan's Upper West Side--was sponsored by, a website-turned-political-action-committee that recently gained notoriety by hosting two political ads equating President Bush with Adolf Hitler. Although such comparisons were common at anti-war rallies, I still wasn't sure whether this mindset was now infecting the Democratic base--the sort of folks who'd brave the cold to hear Al Gore speak. To find out, I spent a few shivering hours outside the Beacon.
Watch the video, then come back. I'll wait.

Can we please agree to call these people what they really are now? Or at the very least take what they have to say with a large grain of salt?

The list of hypocrisy grows and grows - 'You guys are repealing Civil Rights! (But we support tyrannical dictators),' 'You guys are oppressing Palestinians (But we wish that Israel was obliterated),' 'You guys are losing to al-Qaeda (But we would surrender to them straight-away).'

I don't have the time and energy it takes to respond to these people, and that frustrates me even more - Dershowitz points out the end result:
As it turned out, I was not actually able to express any of my opinions, even in response to their outrageous mischaracterization of my views or their comparisons of me to the most evil men in the world. When I turned to answer one of the bigoted chants, the police officer in charge gently but firmly insisted that I walk directly to my car and not engage them. It was an order, reasonably calculated to assure my safety, and it was right. The officer got into my car with me and only got out a few blocks away. The intimidation had succeeded. I was silenced, and their horrible message went unanswered in the plaza near Faneuil Hall.
I fear that it will not be the 'Right' to lead us back into Germany of the 1930s, but the 'Left;' for all their protestations. Need more evidence? Go take a look at Brain-Terminal's video collection.
Capitulation & Acquiescence [UPDATED]

Mark Steyn sees the Spanish Elections 'living in infamy':

At the end of last week, American friends kept saying to me: '3/11 is Europe's 9/11. They get it now.' I expressed scepticism. And I very much doubt whether March 11 will be a day that will live in infamy. Rather, March 14 seems likely to be the date bequeathed to posterity, in the way we remember those grim markers on the road to conflagration through the 1930s, the tactical surrenders that made disaster inevitable. All those umbrellas in the rain at Friday's marches proved to be pretty pictures for the cameras, nothing more.
Steven Den Beste, in an uncharacteristically short post, agrees.
The people of Spain marched in the streets on Friday.

Then they crawled on their knees into their voting booths on Sunday.
My cautious optimism is under attack, and not only by the pundits, but also by the new Spanish government:
Having vanquished an ally of President Bush, Spain's newly elected prime minister announced Monday he will pull troops from an Iraq coalition that he described as a "disaster" for Iraq and its people.

"The war has been a disaster, the occupation continues to be a great disaster," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said. "It hasn't generated anything but more violence and hate."
(By the way, Zapatero has unequivocally backed John Kerry for President). This hurts, and has been bugging me all day. It's what has been putting me off. It's not the end of things - not by a long shot - but you hate to see this. It's not every day that a democratic government caves in to terrorism.

Bush is 'putting on a brave face,' but my first reaction to this news was "Get us out of Europe. Leave them all to their chosen fate. If they aren't going to fight for themselves, then let them die." It's a visceral feeling, one mixed with equal parts of anger and dismay.

We can't leave them to the Islamo-Fundamentalists, of course, any more than we could have left them to the Soviets. Or to the Germans. Twice. There is a very real issue of security that must take primacy here. But one is tempted to do as the US did to South Korea but a few months ago - 'You're growing to dislike us? You are protesting our presence? Very well, we shall withdraw our forces from your northern border.' Notice how quickly the South Korean government did an about-face on its positions when it appeared we might take them seriously?

Ugh. Thoughts are just coming out now - no real consideration behind them at all. It is obvious to me that we cannot leave our 'allies' to acquiesce to this world threat; but when they act as if they want to succumb, as if they are begging to surrender - well that just sickens me.

A clarification, then: my solidaridad is with the victims of terror in Spain (and worldwide), not with the cowards who have betrayed them.

Brian feels like I do about this, though he goes further and explores those feelings and their ramifications [emphasis in original]:
You know what my feelings are right about now, regarding the Spain debacle?

I'm thinking, Good. You see what you morons get.

Is that wrong of me? Does that make me a bad person?

I'll decide later whether I regret saying this. But right now, my gut's telling me something, and I'd better just get it out before it gives me heartburn. It's telling me that If Europe is determined to play this role, let 'em play it to the hilt. It makes things easier, and it might shorten the war.

Why? Well, here's what I'm thinking...
Monday, March 15, 2004
At Long Last...

Bill Whittle (who is now in my BlogRoll) has unveiled his latest treatise: And Then A Miracle Occurs...

There was a time, an age ago, where the differences between what we call the Left and the Right seemed more or less academic; maybe the distance from one high-rise tower to its twin - close enough to see the coffee mugs and family photos on the other side's desk.

Then something happened.

Now we peer across a divide so wide that we can no longer see the other side; where the residents of the opposing camps as not seen as having a difference of opinion so much as being considered insane.

Two worldviews this opposed cannot both be right (although they could both be wrong.) I was about to write that one of them must be closer to the truth, but I stopped myself, for often people will define truth as conforming to their ideology, rather than the reverse. But surely one of these positions, widely called "liberal" and "conservative," must conform better to reality, to the evidence, for anyone with an open mind to see?

Which one? And how do we tell? [Emphasis in original]
I feel like a heroin addict that has just had his fix. Ooh, yeah. Go read the whole thing, man...
Another Friend Blogs!

I've been a bit off today - I'm not sure exactly why, but I am not feeling particularly pleasant or flexible (perhaps I'm only too aware of the devastating blow Al Qaeda has struck against the War On Terror) - and as a result, I passed over a number of issues that have come to my attention. Most of those have disappeared into the ether, but one of the more important things I've seen recently is a new blog by a good friend of mine.

Jeff has been added to my 'Friends & Family' list. This is a man to whom you need to pay close attention - he's got something to say, and it's definitely worth your time.

The Decline Of Marriage [UPDATED]

Donald Sensing writes for the Wall Street Journal this morning, and sets the record straight on the state of marriage:

Sex, childbearing and marriage now have no necessary connection to one another, because the biological connection between sex and childbearing is controllable. The fundamental basis for marriage has thus been technologically obviated. Pair that development with rampant, easy divorce without social stigma, and talk in 2004 of 'saving marriage' is pretty specious. There's little there left to save. Men and women today who have successful, enduring marriages till death do them part do so in spite of society, not because of it.


I believe that this state of affairs is contrary to the will of God. But traditionalists, especially Christian traditionalists (in whose ranks I include myself) need to get a clue about what has really been going on and face the fact that same-sex marriage, if it comes about, will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it. [Emphasis in original]
I can't help but agree. Things got out of hand a long time ago, and society is hurting as a result. This is not to say I think that we should capitulate to SSM advocates - it is still wrong, and against the very nature of democracy, to impose social rules by fiat - and I'm not sure (as Rev. Sensing is) that "this fight is over," but we do need to wake up. The truth is that we started to lose this battle decades ago.

I doubt SSM advocates will pick up on this column as a rallying cry. It would require an admission that their cause is but a further degenerative of the norm - and no one wants to be the person arguing 'hey, we've already fallen this far, what's a little more?' As C.S. Lewis said, (paraphrase) 'the only way to get back on the right path is to go back to the point you left it.' But here's the thing - we can't turn back the clock. Technology cannot be unmade (see: Nuclear Proliferation), and while court decisions and laws can be overturned, to do so regarding issues that have had the backing of the majority of society for so long a time requires a shift in social opinion so great that I don't know it will ever be accomplished.

What to do? I wish I knew. But let's be clear - the fact that we have fallen up until this point does not mean that we should continue to do so, even if reversing our direction appears impossible.

I doubt SSM advocates will pick up on this column as a rallying cry. It would require an admission that their cause is but a further degenerative of the norm - and no one wants to be the person arguing 'hey, we've already fallen this far, what's a little more?'

And yet, Andrew Sullivan has.
It's for these reasons that I find drawing the line at gay couples to be so morally troubling. Enforcing one rule for the majority and another rule for a tiny minority is so gratuitously unfair it runs the risk of being understood as pure prejudice.
Translation: 'it's immoral to fall so far, and yet not go all the way.'

Oh, good grief!
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Rudyard Kipling And Spain's Danes

Rudyard Kipling - the more I read, the more I appreciate his insight. Here, he elaborates in verse on what Spain seems to have just done:

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
     To call upon a neighbour and to say: -
"We invaded you last night - are quite prepared to fight,
     Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
     And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
     And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
     To puff and look important and to say: -
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
     We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
     But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
     You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
     For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
     You will find it better policy to say: -

"We never pay any one Dane-geld,
     No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
     And the nation that plays it is lost!"
Mader Blog elaborates.
The Spanish people today voted to pay the Danegeld. They do not want to fight against the terrorists, but instead are happy to comply with their demands. They will now run away from Iraq. And then? When they have done their best to appease the murderers? Will they then be safe?

Of course not. The enemy is not out to secure small concessions. Their goal is the destruction of Western civilization. They are not opposed to the war to liberate Iraq. They are opposed to freedom, to democracy, to rights for women, gays and other minorities.
I am disappointed for Spain, but there is still hope, for those of us who are optimistic. Perhaps the Socialists will follow through on their pledges to "beat all forms of terrorism." Perhaps they will set aside their previous position of withdrawing their support from the war on terror. Perhaps they will become a silent ally, but remain an ally nonetheless. Perhaps.

But whatever happens, that banner on the right-hand side is not coming down. It is not a sign of support for the Spanish government (whatever they may be), it is a sign of support for the Spanish people. And that support remains.
Friday, March 12, 2004
I've Seen This Elsewhere... [UPDATED x2]

...but I had to work it out myself to be sure. It's true: the attacks in Spain on 3/11 came 2 and 1/2 years, to the day, after 9/11; further, they came exactly 911 days after 9/11.

I'm not sure what to make of it, but it can't be denied.

[HatTip to Being American.]

Whoops! Actually, the attacks came 912 days after 9/11 - I forgot that we're in a leap year. It's still 2 and 1/2 years between attacks.

Well, there may have been something to those numbers after all. Turns out, I was just thinking about things the wrong way. Power Line reports:
Daniel Aronstein has been trying to work himself inside the mind of al Qaeda by treating it as a psychopathic serial killer. Aronstein originally alerted Hugh Hewitt to the 911 days between the 9/11 attack on America and the 3/11 Madrid massacre. He continues to analyze the numerological pattern behind al Qaeda attacks. Here's Aronstein's computation of the 911 days and related numerological analysis:
If one start the count on 9/12/01 (day one) then 3/10/04 was day 911, meaning there were 911 days BETWEEN the attacks.

365 days (2002)
+ 365 (2003)
+ 19 (remainder of sept 01)
+ 31 (oct 01)
+ 30 (nov 01)
+ 31 (dec 01)
+ 31 (jan 04)
+ 29 (feb 04)
+ 10 (days in march 04 w/no attck)
So I misunderstood. It's not 911 days from 9/11 to 3/11, it's 911 days inbetween the two dates. What this may mean is anyone's guess (and Power Line links to some discussion), but my earlier correction of my earlier post was correct, but I still didn't fully grasp what was being discussed. Ah well - assuming no further corrections, this is the way it is.
Go. Read. Lileks.


Thursday, March 11, 2004
If You Don't Have Religion... don't have a future. So sayeth Mark Steyn, and he's got the evidence to back it up [no direct link available]:

Maybe the collapse of the church and the looming demographic disaster facing Quebec and most of Catholic Europe is just another coincidence. But, for whatever reason, Europeans have less and less interest in God's first injunction, to "go forth and multiply". And, as a consequence, they'll enjoy their post-Christian EUtopia, but only for the two or three generations it lasts. Russia is headed for the same fate. China, where Christianity is booming, seems unlikely to make the same mistake.


In post-Christian Europe - where fertile women who not so long ago would have had three children by the age of 24 now have one designer child at 39, where social welfare programmes depend on a growing population, where the main source of immigration is from a culture that despises secularism as weak, short-sighted narcissism - societal "forgetfulness" isn't just a passing phase you can snap out of. In this situation, the Christian fundamentalists, Holy Rollers, born-again Bible Belters and Jesus freaks of America are the rationalists. It's the hyper-rationalists of secular Europe who are living on blind faith.
This feels similar to James Taranto's "Roe Effect" theory - the idea that, given past trends, liberal thinkers tend to non-breed themselves out of existence. The only trouble is, while they're about the business of dying off, will they ruin the world for the rest of us?
Spain's September 11 [UPDATED]

This is all over the 'net and the news, and I really don't having anything more to add. It appears that the ETA is responsible - we don't know just yet. If they were, they just made the biggest mistake they ever could have. They are now on the same level as Al-Qaeda, and gentlemen, that is not a playing field you want to be on.

Inside Europe, Back Seat Drivers, Secular Blasphemy, and Instapundit (as always) have more.

Command Post notes that CNN and FOX are reporting that al-Qaeda is taking credit for this morning's attacks.

United Press International gives some weight to the al-Qaeda claims:
First, ETA generally warns Spanish authorities moments before launching their attacks in which civilians are likely to be harmed. This, obviously, was not the case on Thursday.

Second, ETA traditionally targets representatives of the government or the administration, such as policemen, the military, magistrates or even journalists who oppose them.

Third, ETA customarily selects "symbolic" targets, such as military barracks and administrative buildings. Although ETA's largest attack to date was in 1987 against a supermarket in Barcelona that killed 21 people, this was the exception rather than the norm.

Fourth, ETA always claims its attacks. Following any ETA bombing, ETA militants call in a claim to Spanish authorities. This failed to happen this time.

Fifth, ETA has never in the past carried out multiple attacks. According to some sources, at least 10 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously on Thursday.

On the other hand, these murderous attacks bear the traditional hallmark of al-Qaida: multiple bombs detonating a few seconds apart and programmed to cause the largest possible number of human casualties.

Again, according to the World Observatory of Terrorism, several elements seem to point to the "International Jihad Movement."

The "multiple targeting," reports the WOT, is the standard operating procedure of the fundamentalist Islamist movement.
Also lending credibility is the discovery of a van outside of Madrid:
Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said authorities were investigating a van found in the town of Alcala de Henares, outside Madrid, with at least seven detonators and an Arabic tape with Koranic teachings.

The tape contained no threats and is a type available commercially. The van was stolen last month.
Obviously, more will emerge as time progresses.
An Interesting Sort Of Hypocrisy

Brian, over at Peeve Farm, explores Republican stereotypes [strong language warning]:

"Why shouldn't friends let friends vote Republican?" I'd ask, innocently, like a good brainwashed right-wing Pakled.


Republicans are racist! Sure, everybody knows that! All Republicans are secretly KKK members, or at the very least Pat Robertsonites, which is just as bad. Uh huh... never mind that it's the Democrats who were the party of the Confederacy, the Democrats who were the slaveholders, and the Democrats who fought hardest against desegregation and Civil Rights. Today, racism is but a shadow of its former self. Sure, there are the inevitable racist conservatives, who are roundly condemned by their fellow conservatives when they show their true colors. But let me tell you: I have never seen so much alarming, casual racism as I have from my tolerant, compassionate, multicultural liberal friends.
He covers several points, and creates a great primer for the defense of conservative viewpoints. RTWT (Read The Whole Thing).

A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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