Saturday, October 30, 2004

Beyond the Echo Chamber, No. 1

We need to get away from all these liberals --- I mean, labels.
(John F. Kennedy, Jr. - 1988 Democratic Convention)

What do these things have in common?

1. Democrats deny the existence of liberal media bias.
2. Walter Cronkite casually suggests that Karl Rove planned the Osama bin Laden video.
3. John Kerry refuses to call himself a liberal (incurring the criticism of, among others, Walter Cronkite).
4. The current election is accompanied by unprecedented levels of fraud, mistrust, intolerance, and outright violence.

These things are, I submit, the rotten fruit of the peculiar Echo Chamber that has dominated public discourse for the last fifty years at least, thanks to the establishment media (commonly called the MSM these days). This Echo Chamber is entering into its final crisis. The crisis is profound because the Echo Chamber has long sustained a kind of fabricated reality that has gotten too far out of line with political reality and public opinion to survive any longer, and the MSM must reluctantly make a turbulent transition to the larger world - or face extinction at the hands of its vigorous new competitors. However, the Echo Chamber has created an alienated culture that is not prepared to make that transition, and that culture is nearing open rebellion. If it's not there already.

The Echo Chamber was never a conspiracy in any rigorous sense of the word. It was just a set of rules, which defined the boundaries of political reporting, maintained its lexicon and vocabulary, and enforced certain assumptions about American politics and its players.

The Echo Chamber did not champion political "liberalism" in a positive sense. Its proponents did not establish "liberalism" as an affirmative agenda, competing against less desirable agendas, and ask people to rise to it. They may have lacked the power or the courage to do so. Or they may have just been just wise enough to know that Americans don't like to be preached at by their alleged betters - though they were not wise enough to know that Americans would see through an attempt to disguise preaching as objectivity.

So the MSM did not say, "Liberalism is good, conservatism is bad." Instead, they re-defined liberalism to be a kind of nameless centrism; a default position. The so-called "mainstream", as they saw it, was created. This "mainstream" was not something that people adopted or aspired to. It was just assumed to be what normal, decent people naturally believed. Far from getting credit, the very word "liberal" was virtually disowned. The respectable MSM uttered it rarely, and almost always in a negative sense: "Senator Kennedy's critics accuse him of being too liberal" was a common formula. To say "Senator Kennedy is a liberal", though, was a clear violation of the rules.

So the MSM acted as if "liberalism" were a shameful kind of thing, even though everyone knew that this was not what they believed. But they dodged the word as if it were death itself. In the Echo Chamber, only liberalism's opponents (conservatives, arch-conservatives, ultra-conservatives!) had names and agendas. Conservatives wore the pants all the time. They were invariably portrayed as the active, aggressive, partisan force in America - the people who were trying to get other people to believe things, and to do (or not do) things. The "mainstream", on the other hand, was presented as being passive and inert. The "mainstream" of normal, decent folks was not an affirmative force in politics, it was mostly just the hapless victim of politics.

This was the picture of America that the MSM drew, under the rules of "objectivity": an anonymous "mainstream" mass, whose principles and beliefs were described only in the vaguest terms, arrayed against a menacing and politically-charged conservatism. Conservatism was imagined to be be hopelessly extremist and marginal, yet it seemed to have the playing field all to itself.

It's arguable how well this scenario has served liberalism, or liberalism's parade float: the Democratic Party. It certainly did well enough to have survived for many decades, passed down to new generations of MSM journalists like folk lore. But it has been the cause of many obvious disasters, which became critical when the "ultra-conservative" Ronald Reagan rose up to challenge Jimmy Carter, the king of those who dare not speak their own name.

For many years now, the MSM has sat on top of public debate like an embarrassingly ugly and inappropriate hat. They are no longer able to conceal their active partisanship, and they are still notoriously unable to talk about it. Their portrayal of political reality is generally recognized as not only biased, but absurd. These obvious characteristics have given them an odor of hypocrisy and dishonesty, and has caused an explosion of popular non-MSM media.

Conservatives, of course, have been the natural beneficiaries of this. When Rush Limbaugh debuted on radio, he picked up a huge audience with ease. It was a freebie; all he had to do was plug into it. Cable news took some time to hit this stride. CNN ruled the market for many years, and it integrated itself into the Echo Chamber. But CNN is now dwarfed by Fox, which does not play by the MSM rulebook. The audience that has flocked to the non-MSM media mainly consists of those who feel that their views have been mischaracterized by the establishment media, and who have learned to take pride in their "conservative" identity from other sources. That identity has been weathered and hardened by decades of MSM disdain - conservatives are accustomed to defending themselves, and they take additional pride from that.

The Echo Chamber - quite inadvertently - has massively empowered conservatives over the years by casting them as the active force in American politics. The tendency of the MSM to treat conservatism in a manner that is either hostile or condescending (depending on how powerful conservatives are at the moment) has only empowered conservatism more.

"Liberalism", on the other hand, has been left in a hell of a state. Its principles, so far as anyone understands them anymore, are in a constant state of opportunistic flux. Liberalism has been used as a negative (by both liberals and conservatives) for so long that it's hardly strange that John Kerry dodges the word. By trying to make liberalism into everything, the MSM has made it into nothing. By trying to sneak liberalism into politics anonymously, they've made it a dirty word.

Old-fashioned liberals are disturbed by the unwillingness of politicians to call themselves liberal. They're disturbed by the fact that a shrinking portion of the electorate embraces the term "liberal". They're disturbed by the inability of "liberals" to duplicate the success of conservative talk radio. And they are disturbed by the fact that their children are chasing after the far left, or after loons like Michael Moore, instead of being good old solid liberals. This is nothing but the inevitable result of a lot of deception and cowardice. They tried to play the game from inside of a bunker, and they lost. Nobody wants to identify with a nameless mass of ordinary Americans (however decent and good) who do nothing but lose.

While the Echo Chamber has failed to make liberalism a good thing - indeed, failed to make it any kind of thing at all - it has succeeded in convincing many people that conservatism is a very, very bad thing. This has been picked up and intensified by the contemporary Left, in a way that the old codgers of the MSM did not fully intend, and can no longer control. Having pretended that the American politics consists of normal persons vs. conservatives, it follows that conservatives are abnormal. Not just abnormal, but evil, and bent on fantastic, conspiratorial programs of destruction.

Since conservatives have been increasingly successful in politics over the years, and are utterly evil, it follows that the political system itself is either evil or broken, and "America" itself is therefore the product of a tainted and illegitimate process. Those who follow this line of thinking see no reason why they should award any respect to their own country, or to the democratic process that serves it. They themselves do not embrace any kind of positive agenda - the Echo Chamber has taught them that, apart from conservatism, no such thing exists. "Labels" are bad, except for pejoratives hurled in a rightward direction. The only agenda that interests them is the annihilation of the exisiting order, and all of their "issues" are utterly subservient to this goal.

In the face of this, the old-line liberals (the ones who once proudly called themselves liberals) are beginning to lose their own sense of self. Thus is it possible for Walter Cronkite to effortlessly morph into Michael Moore. It's possible for the highest figures in the Democratic Party to rave about vast right-wing conspiracies, and to believe that Bush has Osama bin Laden stashed away in a Texas bunker. The leading "liberal" voices on the internet and the blogs are not liberal at all - they're leftist. Hard left or loony left, but not liberal.

The liberals (whoever they are) are out in the cold. They worked long and hard for many years to put themselves there. The Left is carrying the water in the Democratic Party now, but without any affirmative purpose, and without any reference to positive principles. Their fervor is a kind of messianic politics-as-salvation, loaded with anger and resentment, but not aimed at any realistic goal. They love nothing outside of politics, and they hate everyone except themselves - unless they hate themselves, too.

If liberalism still has a future, or even still exists, it resides now with the so-called 9/11 Democrats. They still know how to say the L-word, for one thing. And in standing up against the nihilist left, they may begin to rebuild its definition.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Osama bin Laden to be purged from voter rolls in Broward County

That following today's revelation that he is not dead. Congratulations to Dan Darling who threw a bucket of cold water on our pro-death speculations last week. Apparently, while the rest of us were running amok with our irresponsible conjectures, he had the good sense to e-mail Hell and just ask.

Still waiting for an official statement from chief Democratic Ayatollah, Barbra Streisand. On Tuesday, she drank a whole quart of Old Crow for lunch and broke the Caps Lock key on her computer:
Of course, al-Zarqawi is "running free" (for the moment) in Iraq, not the imaginary country of "Afghannistan". It is central to the Democrats' entire vision of the War on Terror to insist that there is no connection whatsover between Iraq and that other what-do-you-call-it place, so it doesn't help when one of their leading intellectuals confounds the two.

And alleged Kerry supporter Andrew Sullivan gets all demoralized: "Bummer. I'd hoped he was buried under rubble. What to make of the rant? The parroting of idiotic Michael Moore points was a little pathetic for an alleged spiritual mastermind."

Charles Johnson is having none of that defeatism, though:
After being so certain for the past three years that Osama bin Laden had been atomized by the blast of a daisy cutter in Tora Bora, I admit to some disappointment that he’s still consuming oxygen and frightening small children.

But look on the bright side. Instead of never knowing the truth, now we may get to see this creature captured or killed for good and all ... If Bush is reelected.

I can add no more at this point, except to reprise the Christmas song I wrote for Osama bin Laden three years ago.

(To the tune of "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas") --- cue Burl Ives:

Oh, the Taliban will miss you,
For the end is coming fast;
Way down below, where martyrs go,
They'll ship your sorry ass.
The Great Satan's mighty pissed off,
So light out for the hills,
'Neath vapor trails and deadly hails
Of everything that kills.

Oh, no, the missiles go
Screaming overhead;
Special Forces search for you,
Satan wants you dead.
'Cause Allah thinks you're worthless,
And Jesus hates you, too,
So why not bomb you, make atomic Islamic pastrami of you?

Say hello to Adolf Hitler,
You'll be the best of friends.
Way down below, you'll shovel coal
And lament your tragic ends.
Say hello to Josef Stalin,
You'll be his latest bitch;
It's maggot stew and Spam for you
And a bath of burning pitch.

"Oh no!" the peaceniks moan,
"This is genocide!"
Nobody listens, though,
So kiss your ass good-bye.
'Cause Uncle Sam's a major hard-on,
And God's an angry Jew,
So why not bomb you, make atomic Islamic pastrami ... of you?

UPDATE: OSAMA BIN LADEN, MOORE-ON. Dan Darling adds at Winds of Change: "The talking points likely seemed Michael Moore-ish because that was their likely point of origin. The merits or lack thereof of Fahrenheit 9/11 aside, the film has received wide distribution abroad and it is quite possible that bin Laden saw it and adapted some of the criticisms in it to suit his own twisted ends."

Well, he was right before.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Elevating Public Discourse, No. 2: Let's Improve our Pro-Kerry Reflexes

A number of respected bloggers have recently endorsed John Kerry, after some of the most painful and protracted public displays since my dog passed a peach pit.

My message to them: However agonizing the process has been - however shameful, dirty, and exhausted you may feel at the moment - you are Kerry supporters now, and you are expected to conduct yourselves as such.

If Kerry should be elected President of the United States, it is YOU who will bear moral responsibility over the next 4-8 years for defending his honor in the blogosphere. As serious persons who have endorsed Kerry, it is YOU we will look to for explanations and apologetics when your man appalls us. Not to the predictable cyber-donks like Kos and Atrios, but to YOU. Are you up to the task? Will you mount this hotly disputed barricade, and defend it faithfully? Or will you desert Kerry's cause after six months to save your own butts, only to trot out the same creaky rationalizations and the same feigned loyalty next time around, when you endorse another New Improved Democrat?

So far I'm unimpressed. Gazing over your ranks, I see a lot of puffy white flesh, sagging buttocks, and inadequate knee-jerk reflexes; a flabby Kerryism shot through with hesitation and cellulite, hardly suitable for the long haul ahead. Your enthusiasm (if I may call it such) is not contagious. Your martial ardor is suspect, at best. Frankly, it smells pretty French to me.

It's in everyone's interest to maintain a robust level of discourse in the blogosphere. Therefore, in the event of a Kerry Presidency, it is vital that Kerry's banners be carried by responsible persons, and not by a lot of lackwits and faint-hearted flame-bait.

So let's look for areas to improve.

EXERCISE: Kerry, dressed in a bed-sheet, jumps out of a bush and cries, "Boo! There are 380 tons of explosives missing in Iraq!"

YOUR OBJECTIVE IN THIS EXERCISE: Feign terror in a convincing fashion. Lend credibility to Kerry's charge, and drop a few pithy bon mots in his little treat bag.

First up is Andrew Sullivan:
More bad news for the Bush campaign: Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the [Iraqi] science ministry's site monitoring department and worked with UN weapons inspectors under Saddam, said "it is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall." He said he and other officials had been ordered a month earlier to insure that "not even a shred of paper left the sites."
You've got to be kidding me. The head of the Iraqi science ministry's site monitoring department? Is that supposed to be a joke, troop? You think this is funny? I guess if God wanted you to climb this obstacle, he would have miracled your ass up there. Get your lazy, Bush-loving butt off my obstacle course, Republican!

Obviously Sullivan is not even going to try, so let's give Daniel Drezner a shot:
To put it crudely, my anger at Bush for the number of Mongolian cluster-f**ks this administration was discovered to have made in the planning process in the run-up to Iraq was compounded by the even greater number of cluster-f**ks the administration made in the six months after the invasion, topped off by George W. Bush's decision not to fire the clusterf**ks in the civilian DoD leadershop that insisted over the past two years that not a lot of troops were needed in the Iraqi theater of operations.
That's a little better. A trifle scatter-shot, but I'll bet he was wearing a good "war face" when he wrote it. Needs to work on some Kerry enthusiasm, though, because this kind of stuff just won't make the program:
I still have doubts about Kerry. Massive, Herculean doubts. His plan to internationalize the Iraq conflict is a pipe dream. However, here's the one thing I am confident about -- a Kerry administration is likely to recognize, once the multilateral diplomacy fails, that it will actually have to come up with a viable alternative.
Though he shows a promising spirit, I'm afraid I'll have to nominate Drezner for "Most Likely to Desert on the Next Ambush Patrol".

Next up is Mickey Kaus, wearing a charming Corporal Klinger ensemble:
I'm voting for Kerry, mainly because I think Bush is prosecuting the fight against terrorism in a way that will make us dramatically less safe unless we have a conspicuous change at the top. Even if you supported the war in Iraq, now is the time to a) try to preserve our gains in that country and Afghanistan while we b) let the world calm down so that fewer people hate us (and hence fewer people try to come and kill us). I don't expect Kerry to be a successful president in any other respect. It doesn't matter.
What the hell is that? I'm not even going to bother with this soldier. Obviously, he only signed up for this program to eat my chow, test my patience, and waste my limited training resources.

Another wasted youth for Allah, and more wrath for us

DUKE: I blame society. Society made me what I am.
OTTO: That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk, just like me.
Repo Man, 1984

Topping the Drudge Report this morning is Adam Pearlman, aka Adam Yahiye Gadahn. Charles Johnson at LGF has posted on Gadahn several times before, describing the introduction to Islam he received at the Islamic Society of Orange County (in Irvine) directed by Muzammil Siddiqi. Four years ago (10/28/00) Siddiqi addressed the Jerusalem Day Rally in Washington, DC:
We want to awaken the conscience of America. America has to learn that. Because if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please! Please all Americans, do you remember that, that Allah is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice, and tolerating injustice, the wrath of God will come.
Like some 80% of Islamic "education" centers in the United States, The Islamic Society of Orange County is funded by Saudi Arabia, and its teachings are therefore dominated by the radical and militant Wahhabist sect. Adam Gadahn, the 17 year-old kid who went to them in 1995 to "learn about Islam", was typical grist for their mill. My friend zombie describes his background in a post today at LGF:
The father, Phil [Pearlman], was indeed the one who was the son of a Jewish urologist and a Christian housewife. He founded an underground psychedelic band called Beat of the Earth in Orange County in 1967 that has been (ludicrously) compared to Velvet Underground but which in fact just made one boring concept album that no one bought -- long meandering improvised psychedelic prog-rock. Then he went nuts and moved to an isolated farmstead in Riverside County and raised his kids there without electricity or running water or public schooling. He changed his name to Gadahn (in an apparent attempt to abandon his Jewishness).
Unsurprisingly, his son Adam Gadahn grew up a little disturbed, and fled to live with a relative when he was 15, at which point he changed his last name back to his father's original name, Adam Pearlman. Then, like many unloved/disturbed kids, got involved in the whole "death metal"/Goth thing for a while, and then -- boom! Met some Muslims, got all caught up in their enthusiasm, and converted.
Now Adam Gadahn is apparently the messenger in the video sent to ABC News from Pakistan, bringing us Allah's latest tidings of peace, love, and understanding, with a double helping of blood. There are lessons in all of this, but like Adam Gadahn, it might be too late for us to learn them now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Worst October Surprise, Ever!

It was only yesterday that the New York Times reported that 380 tons of explosives had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from a facility in Iraq. The Kerry campaign had apparently been tipped by their own sources about this bombshell - or empty bombshell, I guess - and virtually within minutes Kerry was thundering the appalling news before his captive, terrified audiences. CNN set out to elaborate on the story: Condoleezza Rice knew about the greatest heist in world history several day ago - cover up, cover up!

Even as this mock outrage was pleasantly seeping through the veins of the barely loyal opposition, like China White through a starved junkie, by late yesterday the nation's sober persons were learning that the story was total cow confetti : The facility was already empty when our troops reached it in April 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad. An imbedded NBC correspondent reported it as such at the time, and NBC was not backward about pointing this out again.

Today we learn that CBS news had planned to "break" this bogus story on October 31 (the last day for it to qualify as an October Surprise!) but the NYT beat them to it. Gosh, if we were suspicious types, it would almost look like CBS knew the story was damaged goods, and they planned to spring it on the eve of the election so there would be no time to debunk it.

And Cliff May at The Corner says:
Sent to me by a source in the government: “The Iraqi explosives story is a fraud. These weapons were not there when US troops went to this site in 2003. The IAEA and its head, the anti-American Mohammed El Baradei, leaked a false letter on this issue to the media to embarrass the Bush administration. The US is trying to deny El Baradei a second term and we have been on his case for missing the Libyan nuclear weapons program and for weakness on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”
If they were trying to scare us with this one, it just isn't very scary to see CBS drop its pants. We've seen that already.

UPDATE: And, as of 4:00 PM EST, CBS is still running the false report on their website. Pull up your pants, for God's sake, think of the children ...

Some back and forth on this, at Winds of Change. I can summarize my position as follows: Given that those syphilitic terrorist bastards (sometimes called "The Iraqi Resistance" - or "The New Minutemen" by you Michael Moore fans) have no vehicles available to them apart from the occasional civilian passenger conveyance, how many Datsun 4x4 trucks would it take to steal 380 tons of material? (To avoid the massive aerial and satellite reconnaissance of the area surrounding Baghdad, assume that Datsun 4x4 trucks are invisible.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

I, for one, welcome our new Blog Overlords

The Washington Post's 2004 Best Blogs Readers' Choice Award winners have been announced. Given that the WaPo has traditionally been a fuzzy Linus-blanket for Beltway liberals, it's interesting to see that its readers have such excellent taste in blogs.

First of all, Best International Blog was awarded to my friend Charles Johnson of little green footballs (LGF) - cyclist, patriot, Lizard King, uber-mensch, web designer par exemplar; a champion of Civilization and a relentless observer of its worst malcontents. Charles stepped up to the horror of 9/11 and looked it straight in the face, and he hasn't backed down since. Or even flinched. "War-blogging" would be infinitely poorer without his work, but Charles is not just another blustering hawk. Those who would visualize peace must confront the deadly enemies of peace, and he is a tireless scout on that front. This has earned him the emnity of various ankle-biters, bed-wetters, and other faint-hearted folk - which he has met with humor, grace, and redoubled effort.

Nietzsche said "In order to be great, one must have great enemies." I think Charles is great anyway.

He's not boring either, hence his honorable mention for Most Original blog, second only to the excellent James Lileks.

National Review's house blog The Corner swept the other awards. This was well deserved, too - among the old flagship political journals, NR is the only one to really understand the potential of the blogosphere.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Learning Math with Paul Krugman

Steve Sailor, who's been studying old SATs and Officer Qualification Tests and such things, says that the available evidence indicates that John Kerry's IQ is probably lower than George Bush's.

Now somebody needs to find out if Paul Krugman, one of the canned brains from the New York Times, is smart enough to operate his own keyboard - or if he has to dictate the junk that appears under his name. Yesterday he (or someone) wrote:
If the U.S. presidential election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won't be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.
Nobody knows what Krugman means when he looks into the future and states flat-out that "the votes won't be counted fairly", unless he's complaining about the fact that people who vote for Bush will have their votes counted, too. But this is the familiar "It's only fair if my guy wins" whine that we've been hearing for weeks now. Let's get on with the math:
Recent national poll results range from a 3-percentage-point Kerry lead in the AP-Ipsos poll released Thursday to an 8-point Bush lead in the Gallup poll. But if you line up the polls released this week from the most to the least favorable to President George W. Bush, the polls in the middle show a tie at about 47 percent.
Could you do that one on the blackboard, professor? Those of us who can freaking count are confused.

Krugman wrote this article on October 23rd, at the end of a week in which 15 major Bush/Kerry/Nader polls were released. Kerry showed a lead in only one of them, the AP-Ipsos poll. Bush led in 12 polls, with two ties. No matter what order you line them up in, the average of these polls is 48-46 in Bush's favor. In a single poll you could fairly fudge that to a tie of "about 47 percent", but not when you're comparing 15 polls. Only 6 of these polls showed an advantage that was outside of the poll's margin of error, and Bush won all six.

During the same week (10/16 to 10/23) there were 8 major head-to-head polls released. These polls excluded Ralph Nader, whose presence is a presumable disadvantage to Kerry. But Bush won in all 8 of these polls, with an average of 48.8% Bush, 45.2% Kerry.

People question the validity of polls, which is understandable. While any single poll must be suspect, an aggregate result from a dozen polls is pretty good, and has served us very well in the past. And if we pretend that polls mean nothing, then there is no point speculating about the election at all, because there is no other real basis on which to form a judgment. Polls aren't just the best evidence we have, they're the only evidence we have.

The only evidence that sane people have, I should say. People like Krugman are beginning to display another kind of creepy gnostic certainty: the idea that they are entitled to win, no matter what, and if they lose it can only be because they were cheated. In fact, a loss is prima facie proof that they were cheated - even if they know that they weren't.

Sentiments like Krugman's are growing, and such thinking is absolutely deadly to democracy. It might also cause gambling addiction, but I can't prove that mathematically.

Prayers for Margaret Hassan

He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him. (Proverbs 24:24)

People were praying today for Margaret Hassan, who was shown on al-Jazeera television this week pleading for her life, with her hands tied behind her back. “Please, please, I beg of you, the British people, to help me. I don’t want to die like Bigley ... Please help me. This might be my last hour."

So at churches in Dublin and Birmingham, and throughout Britain and the US, people prayed today that Margaret Hassan would not be murdered by her Muslim captors in Iraq. They prayed that we would not see a video of Margaret Hassan's head being cruelly sawed off with a knife - the fate of Daniel Pearl, Kenneth Bigley, Eugene Armstrong, Kim Sun-il, Jack Hensley, Nicholas Berg, Georgi Lazov, Ivaylo Kepov, Dalibor Lazarevski, Zoran Naskovski, Dragan Markovic, Raja Azad, Sajad Naeem, Barie Nafi'a Dawoud Ibrahim, Enzo Baldoni, Paul Johnson Jr., Ramadan Elbu, and many others, some of whose names are unknown.

Margaret Hassan is a Muslim; a dual British-Iraqi citizen who has lived in Iraq for 30 years. She is a woman, and we are told that Islam demands that women be treated with respect. She is an innocent person who works for the world's largest aid organization, facing a brutal and agonizing death at the hands of Muslims - an act which we are told would be a "perversion of Islam". And this is Ramadan, which we are told is the Islamic "month of peace".

Forgive us for not believing everything we are told. We know, for example, that Ramadan is not - and never has been - an Islamic month of peace. In 1973, Egypt launched a bloody surprise attack on Israel during Ramadan. Far from restraining their aggression, Sadat and his generals regarded Ramadan as a particularly appropriate time to unleash war on Israel, and they named their attack Operation Badr, after the historic battle fought by Mohammed in 624 - fought on the 7th day of Ramadan.

Muslims conquered Rhodes in 653, during Ramadan. Saladin was notorious for fighting during Ramadan, during which he scored his greatest victories. Civil war raged for eight years in Yemen and for seventeen years in Lebanon, with no breaks for Ramadan. When the Indian government declared a unilateral cease-fire in Kashmir for Ramadan in November 2000, as a gesture of respect for Islam, their Muslim opponents ignored it.

Enough about "peaceful" Ramadan, now and forever.

Enough about Islamic reverence for women, too. Let the pro-Muslim feminists tell that one to their sisters in Saudi Arabia. Women (including the youngest girls) are regularly beaten, raped, facially mutilated and murdered in Muslim nations, by Muslims who claim express religious sanction for their deeds. It is not unusual for a Muslim girl to be raped by one relative and then murdered by another, for the crime bringing of "dishonor" on her family. To observers of life in places like Pakistan and Iran, these events are depressingly familiar.

If Margaret Hassan lives, then, it will not be for the sake of Ramadan, or the fact that she's a woman. How about plain and simple mercy - doesn't every section of the Koran begin with "In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful"? The "Muslim insurgents" of Iraq show no spark of mercy for their captives, unless they get something in exchange for it, so presumably they are not "real" Muslims. (And yet we are told that when we oppose them, we are not just making war on Muslims, but on Islam itself.)

Shouldn't every "real" Muslim be praying for the life of Margaret Hassan, as earnestly as those Christians in Dublin are?

But there is still no mention of Margaret Hassan today at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. There is no outcry from the American Muslim Council or the American Muslim Federation on behalf of Margaret Hassan. In Hamtramck, Michigan, where Muslim prayer calls sound five times a day, there are no calls to pray for Margaret Hassan.

Those of you who pray, on this day or any other, pray for the Muslim Margaret Hassan.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Guardian goes to Plan B

"Please to remember
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!
We know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot!"
(Diana, Princess of Wales, drunk and naked in Soho at four o'clock in the morning, 1993)
Stunned and demoralized in the wake of the Operation Clark County debacle, the staff of UK Guardian is desperately looking for a new way to dispose of George Bush. Chief strategist Charlie "Dinsdale" Brooker explores some options:

He should be flung out of office: tarred, feathered and kicked in the nuts ... On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?
I predict that the Guardian Plot to kill George Bush (Operation Large Wooden Badger) by putting some lone-nut patsy behind the trigger will be unsuccessful, for the following reasons:

The Guardian doesn't have a huge number of readers (they've probably never noticed this) and more than half of them are sensible law-abiding bloggers who are just looking for stuff to make fun of. No doubt the other half includes a fair number of lap-drooling blitherpates, complete with bulging eyes and sinister cranial voices, some of whom may have considerable sociopathic experience from attending so-called "football" games, or from standing for parliament. Few of them, however, have access to any weapon more sophisticated than a cricket bat, and fewer still are skilled with such weapons.

In short, the pool of potential assassins is much too small to ensure a reasonably competent Manchurian Candidate. Consider the fact that it took one and a half million copies of "Catcher in the Rye", distributed worldwide in 30 languages, to produce one David Wayne Chapman. No matter how much deranged prose the Guardian prints (and they're certainly giving it a jolly good go) their chances of duplicating this feat are astronomically remote.

Which means that if the Guardian wants Bush dead, one of their chaps is going to have to do it himself. Alas for them, here is an even shallower pool of talent. To be fair, Brian Whitaker is probably crazier than a sackful of bobcats and might be nudged over the edge into actual mayhem, but I wouldn't bet a damn Euro on his chances against those snap-shooting boys in the Secret Service.

Advertising their homicidal intentions in print wasn't such a brilliant idea, either. Already, Homeland Security is no doubt on the lookout for a hairy-legged assassin with British press credentials (disguised as Jodie Foster's character from "Taxi Driver") who's asking around for a "Cowboy Shop" where he can purchase one of those "ruddy f--king gunpowder devices".

UPDATE (10/24/04): Can't you blokes take a ruddy f--king joke? The Guardian posted this statement today:
Charlie Brooker apologises for any offence caused by his comments relating to President Bush in his TV column, Screen Burn. The views expressed in this column are not those of the Guardian. Although flippant and tasteless, his closing comments were intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action - an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand. He deplores violence of any kind.
So Charlie Brooker was just being funny. At least, everybody at the Guardian thinks he's funny:
As readers of his spoof listings at or his Screen Burn column in the Guardian will appreciate, anger drives Charlie Brooker - and makes him very, very funny.

True Hearts of the West, No. 1

Wretchard at the Belmont club compares the resolve of militant Islam with that of our own civilization (assuming that we are still allowed to call ourselves a civilization) in The Hollow Men: "The Global War on Terror may be not so much about freeing the Middle East as about liberating ourselves. Allah spoke to his Prophet and sent forth his flame; but the West has forgotten all, even its very name."

Wretchard quotes William Blake's "Jerusalem" as a voice from the West that Was:
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
And his title invokes T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men":
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of
the tumid river
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Friday, October 22, 2004

"Operation Clark County" is a glorious victory!

For Tim Blair, that is. He was the one who suggested that Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian (UK) get back in touch with some of Britain's old colonial subjects, and provide them with unsolicited advice on how to discharge their civic duties. The resulting debacle, which will provide us all with amusement for years to come, is therefore Blair's accomplishment. We genuflect in his general direction.

Freedland had been voicing the latest grievance of the European Useless Class: The fact that they are not allowed to vote in US elections. This gross injustice, which had gone unnoticed for two hundred years, now weighs sorely on the already weary intellects of the Old World. New depths of sophistry are being mined, with the kind of diligence once reserved for digging coal out of Yorkshire. Since the outcome of the election will affect the entire world, they reason, why shouldn't non-Americans have a say, too?

The implication of this - that a US president elected by a "world community" would therefore be the President of the World, and entitled to give orders as such - is ignored. Not even the most deeply deranged European intellectual is about to submit to US World Rule. They just want to put a good chap in charge over here, the way they used to do with their old colonies. And of course, their chap of choice is John Kerry, not that ... that unspeakably vulgar Texas cow-person. For Europeans of Freedland's ilk have convinced themselves that Bush is all to blame for the current unpleasantness - without which, Saddam Hussein would still be managing Iraq and corrupt Euro-elites would be allowed to enjoy their "Oil for Food" bribes in peace.

Thus distracted, the Guardian unwittingly swallowed Tim Blair's suggestion, like a toilet sucking down a cherry bomb:
Here’s a way Freedland and his fellow meddlers can still have their say in the USA: each could simply identify and adopt a random individual living in one of the battleground states and target that person with emails, letters, and telephone calls begging them to vote against Bush.
The sarcasm was a dead giveaway, of course, but no doubt those busybodies at the Guardian were confident of their own superior cunning. After all, Tim Blair is an Australian, which by their lights is only a tiny evolutionary notch above being an American. Why, they'd borrow his petard and hoist Bush with it! So Operation Clark County was born, in which the Guardian asked its readers to pester the kind and patient folk of Clark County, Ohio, with letters telling them how to vote. How to vote against Bush, that is. Nudge, nudge. To give their readers an idea of what kind of pretentious condescension would be required to accomplish this mission, the Guardian commissioned some incredibly artless letters from British notables John Le Carre and Richard Dawkins, to serve as examples - nudge, nudge.

The ensuing chaos - reminiscent of Dunkirk and some of the more unpleasant events of the Crimean War - is described in the UK Telegraph: Guardian calls it quits in Clark County fiasco (via LGF).

The Guardian received letters of consolation from iowahawk and Jeff Goldstein.

UPDATE: The Guardian says "Blimey, what the hell were we thinking?"

And the Guardian's Bobbie Johnson denies that Tim Blair played them like a toy banjo: "Arch Australian Tim Blair claims he had the idea first, but I have been assured this is not the case."

Johnson did not say who assured him of this. Nor did he explain what an "Arch-Australian" is, or how he differs from the ordinary antipodean stalwart (Homo Dinkum). But surely it was no ordinary sort of chap who made such fools of their chaps.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Osama bin Laden, still dead after all these years ...

And in other news, Francisco Franco is still dead.
(Chevy Chase, Saturday Night Live)

Where is Osama bin Laden? In Pakistan, say some. In Iran, say others. In Afghanistan, John Kerry says with eerie confidence. Kerry might be right, some would say - because the mortal scraps of the world's number one terrorist have been decaying in a cave at Tora Bora for the past two years. Either that, or bin Laden died of wounds or kidney failure in some remote hideaway.

Charles Johnson at LGF has consistently taken the line that bin Laden is dead. Acidman likewise doubts that Osama bin Laden still has corporeal significance. And today Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch reviews the various pseudo-manifestations of bin Laden (video tapes, purported voice recordings) that have occasionally surfaced over the past two years, and concludes: "Folks, bottom line: we have to go all the way back to December 26th 2001 to see a video of UBL [bin Laden] that really seems to get close to passing a smell test evidencing that's he actually, you know, alive in it (and he didn't look too smashing in this one either)."

Instapundit wonders why the media hasn't bothered to sift through the evidence more thoroughly.

Update: Dan Darling, writing at Winds of Change, makes the case that Osama is still on his hind legs, or should be assumed so: "While it's certainly true that there is more to the current conflict than just bin Laden, I don't think his cult of personality should be under-estimated."

Darling points out that the CIA and European intelligence agencies are giving a lot of credence to the purported OBL audio message from last April, which offered a truce to European countries if they withdrew troops from Muslim territory. He also notes that the rumors of OBL's death may have been exaggerated by unreliable Pakistani sources; furthermore, the reports that OBL suffers from kidney disease may be an al-Qaeda ruse.

So if OBL is alive, where is he? Darling quotes Michael Ledeen on the possibility of OBL's refuge in Iran, where a vast subterranean facility (built with the help of China and North Korea) exists north of Tehran. OBL could stay safe indefinitely in such a place, so long as the Islamists rule Iran.

There are some counter-arguments than can be made here, and Darling does not ignore them. Why so many fake or highly dubious communications? Why, above all, does Osama bin Laden not defiantly parade himself before the world at every opportunity? Darling argues that OBL is typically not a publicity hound: "for him to go underground for long periods of time without communicating with the general public is by no means out of character, even during those periods of time when he is universally agreed upon to have been alive."

It seems to me that arguing over the authenticity of video and audio tapes is mostly fruitless, and so is arguing over the credibility of intelligence assessments on this subject, made by agencies that have been wrong time and time again.

The relevant question is: Why does al-Qaeda not take advantage of the tremendous propaganda value that Osama bin Laden represents, by making him a regular Rush Limbaugh?

  • They are not sophisticated enough to recognize this, being too busy pestering Allah with their blood-thirsty demands.
  • Osama bin Laden is a coward who fears that regular communications would jeopardize his own safety.
  • Osama bin Laden is too closely hounded.
  • Osama bin Laden is receiving refuge from a government that strictly limits his ability to communicate, fearing that it will be traced to them.
  • Osama bin Laden is pining for the fjords. That is to say: Defunct, deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the bleeding Choir Invisible.

Elevating Public Discourse - No. 1

The situation in Iraq is properly referred to as "the situation in Iraq". Everybody write this down, please.

The next person who uses the phrase "the situation on the ground in Iraq" has to eat a bucket of sand.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Is John Kerry Excommunicated?

Father Basil Cole, a Dominican theologian representing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says yes in an "unofficial" letter to Los Angeles canon lawyer Marc Balestrieri. The excommunication is said to be latae sententiae, an automatic separation which requires no formal pronouncement by the Catholic Church. De Fide, a lay organization of canon lawyers, has posted a copy of the letter.

Needless to say, this is a potential bombshell, and not just for the Catholic community. Skeptics are stressing the "unofficial" nature of the communication, and asking "Says who?" However, by the nature of latae sententiae excommunication, no individual need pronounce excommunication on Kerry, and no official statement is required. Kerry, by his own words, has effectively excommunicated himself, and so have a number of other prominent Catholic politicians: Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkin, and Mario Cuomo.

This is about abortion, of course, and the fact that Kerry's stock-liberal-Catholic position on abortion is officially and explicitly a heresy. An actual heresy, that is; not one of those figure-of-speech heresies. It is not possible to champion it and remain a Catholic. Therefore: Kerry, Cuomo, Kennedy, Harkin, et al, are ex-Catholics. No bell, book, or candle required.

Being the heretical Protestant that I am, I might be moved to sympathize with these boys and girls, though I have no sympathy for their attempt to have their pro-Choice cake and eat it, too. But watching an exchange between Michael Novak and Mario Cuomo on The NewsHour recently made me realize that Cuomo's Catholic blood runs so cold that I can't believe a papal delegate hasn't been dispatched to kick him in the butt. Or at least give him a hug. I have considerably more sympathy for the Catholic position than Cuomo does, so why does he bother with the pretense of being a Catholic? And the same question would be posed to Kerry.

Cuomo's rationale is that if Catholics followed Church doctrine on abortion, no Catholic would ever get elected to office again. Not a very spiritual answer, but one which clearly shows where the priorities are. Render unto Caesar ... whatever Caesar wants. And render unto working class Catholics whatever it takes to get you elected.

But I suspect Cuomo's realpolitik - and realpolitik mixed with sweeping references to Saint Augustine is still realpolitik - features more than a little flawed reasoning. Devout Catholics vote for pro-Choice liberals not because they support abortion, but because they've been assured (by pro-Choice liberals) that in politics, abortion is okay. It's not Catholic voters that Cuomo (and Kerry) fear, it's the left wing of the Democratic Party, which mostly hates the Catholic Church anyway. Except, of course, when Catholicism can be exploited to gain votes. And they are increasingly determined to destroy any Democratic politician who opposes abortion.

Kerry argues that the constitution forbids the writing of Catholic doctrine into law. This is an excellent argument, because it's true. No such thing will be allowed. That doesn't mean he can't fully support Catholic teaching, both in word and in deed, even though he is powerless to make everyone obey it through legislation. Wouldn't a devout Catholic want to do so? Even if it incurred the wrath of people who had the ability to torpedo that devout Catholic's presidential ambitions? Wouldn't the devout Catholic bravely face up to that opposition, and if he failed to overcome it, wouldn't he take reassurance in the fact that he put his faith ahead of his own selfish ambitions?

That'll be the day, right?

UPDATE: The undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith disclaims Father Cole's letter. Comment at Catholic World News: "The Vatican soup kitchen is back in business. Bon appetit."

UPDATE (10/20/04): De Fide and Balestrieri issue press releases: I went to the Vatican in search of the truth – the Undersecretary’s response was to refer the matter to Fr. Cole. And in the words of the Undersecretary, the Response was “excellent and solid.”

The Chemical Damnation of Mary Cheney (and of everyone else, too) ...

Lost in the hubbub over Kerry's remark about Mary Cheney is the round-about assertion he made at the same time: "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Here Kerry pays homage to a new article of political faith: Homosexuality is genetically determined before birth, and in no way involves choice. Those who question homosexual behavior, therefore, are questioning the inherent nature of the homosexual - and engaging in a hostile discrimination which is no different than criticizing someone for the color of their skin. This is the Essentialist Theory of homosexuality, but political activists assure us that it is no theory at all - it's an irrefutable fact, and anyone who doubts it is crazy at best.

When Essentialism began working its way into public debate a few years ago, it was not universally welcomed on the left. A number of gay activists took strong exception to the idea that they did not choose to be who they were; they saw Essentialism as a cop-out - a craven concession to the idea that homosexuality is immoral or undesirable conduct. A lot of minority activists didn't like it, either, implying as it did that being gay is no different than being black or Hispanic. They saw this as an encroachment by the gay community (a predominantly white community) on some jealously guarded Civil Rights territory.

These dissenters have largely been muzzled (though not entirely) as opposition to Essentialism has been ridiculed and demonized by the left. Before the big wet blanket descended, it was possible for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take a neutral and objective approach, in this 1993 statement:

A study to be released later this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that there is a correlation between a specific chromosomal region in human males and homosexuality. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force NGLTF) welcomes study into the complexities of human sexuality. Regardless of the scientific origins of homosexuality, however, NGLTF calls for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Fair enough. A worthy call for an end to discrimination, without putting all their eggs into Dean Hamer's basket. A wise choice, as Hamer's NIH study has since been pulverized. And they wisely referred to "the complexities of human sexuality", something which the popularizers of the "Gay Gene" have treated with gross disrespect. However, the dogma was taking shape, as the NGLTF went on to say:

"The NIH study is an important addition to the growing body of evidence indicating a genetic basis for homosexuality in some people," said Peri Jude Radecic, NGLTF Deputy Director of Public Policy. "And it shows that homosexuality is a naturally occurring and common variation among humans -- a fact that gay and lesbian people have known all along."

And the political stakes are specified:

In the past, Right Wing organizations have claimed that homosexuality is not genetically based and some groups therefore encouraged "reparative therapy" to "cure" gay people of their "abnormal behavior." ... "We know that the Right Wing will use any research results against gay and lesbian civil rights, because theirs is a movement based not on seeking the truth but on perpetuating bigotry," Radecic said. "Our movement, on the other hand, wants to end discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people, regardless of how or why sexual orientations vary."

Wherein the suggestion is made that opposition to Essentialism gives aid and comfort to those who would treat homosexuality as a disease (though the idea that gays suffer from a disease is very similar to the idea that homosexuality is entirely determined by genetics - in both cases choice is denigrated).

Essentialism has mostly reduced human sexuality to a crude caricature by pretending that it is a simple matter of roosters and hens in a barnyard. Sexuality is portrayed as a kind of DNA-coded toggle switch with three settings: gay, straight, and David Bowie. In fact, sexual behavior covers an enormous amount of diverse ground, including some very troublesome ground (sadism, pedophilia, blood fetish, etc.) that no one is eager to call deterministic - how is it that socially acceptable forms of sexuality are deterministic, but abnormal sexuality is commonly recognized as being the product of bad nurturing?

Attempts to "cure" homosexuality are generally guilty of the same false reductionism. Homosexuality is a permanent possibility of human behavior. Therefore it exists, has always existed, and always will exist.

Of course there have always been those who argued that all behavior is minutely determined, either by genetics or by something even more profound - we had a term for it at my old school: Chemical Damnation.

To be continued ...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Have you heard the one about Dick Cheney's daughter?

This issue is not so much important as it is interesting; but I took part in an extensive discussion of it at Winds of Change (here and here).

When John Edwards brought up Mary Cheney's sexuality in the Veep debate, I winced. But it seemed to me an off-handed thing of no particular significance. I'd never paid much attention to John Edwards before, and in the debate he struck me as being kind of flighty and nervous - the sort of person who might say anything under pressure, without meaning to be rude. It did occur to me that he might be trying to deliberately bait Cheney (90% of commentary on all of the debates seemed to focus almost exclusively on Republican facial expressions - very important to the future survival of our nation) but I thought little of it. Using somebody's gay daughter against them in that way would be just be too low, wouldn't it? You might as well start on in on their mother, too, while you're at it.

But when Kerry brought it up in the third debate, taking care to deliberately load and fire the word lesbian into thousands of working and middle-class homes, it became obvious that Edwards' earlier invocation was no accident. Kerry and Edwards are trying to tell us something, folks. At least, they're trying to tell something to somebody, so the question is: What are Kerry and Edwards trying to communicate, and to whom?

The candidates are:

1. Religious conservatives - commonly known in liberal folklore as the dreaded Religious Right. Kerry and Edwards want those people to know that Dick Cheney has a GAY LESBIAN daughter. Gosh, what does that say about Dick as a parent? And how many of Mary's gay lesbian friends are running loose in Washington even now? Isn't it time for a change?

2. Black voters. Reliable backers of the Democratic party, for sure. But their enthusiasm for gay rights issues is something less than ardent. At least, the Kerry campaign thinks so. Jesse Jackson has been dispatched to the churches of the south, to remind everyone that gay issues should not interfere with their duty to support the political ambitions of the White Liberal Leisure Class. It couldn't hurt to remind them that the Republicans are hip-deep in homosexuals themselves. Dick Cheney actually had one living in his house, did you hear about that?

3. Generic idiots. No offense to some notable fence-sitters of Blogdom, but at this late stage of the campaign the dwindling pool of undecided voters always has a high percentage of idiots. They are eternally undecided because they know nothing about the issues or the candidates except for superficial impressions. They know what a lesbian is, though.

4. Gay activists. Apart from his opposition to the defunct Federal Marriage Amendment, Kerry is pretty lukewarm on gay rights issues. Kind of milquetoasty. His strategy has been to stay in George Bush's shadow, assuring everyone that his position on gay marriage is the same as Bush's. So this reference to Mary Cheney is a kind of postcard to gays, to let them know that Kerry thinks about them now and then.

5. Republican-hating partisan Democrats. These people hate conservative and/or Republican gays with a Hell-hath-no-comparable-fury kind of hate. They hate all Republicans, of course, but they especially hate the gay ones, who are social traitors. They love to point the finger at gay Republicans, because they believe that their very existence proves that Republicans are hypocritical as well as evil. And being a hypocrite is even worse than being evil, by their lights. Kerry's remark threw a great bucket of chum into the troubled waters that these people inhabit.

So which is it? The charitable (for Kerry and Edwards) interpretation is number 4. The most popular interpretation is number 1. The correct interpretation, of course, is all five.

Beginnings are such difficult times ...

But the times are so difficult already that a little more won't hurt.

We do not know very much of the future, except that from generation to generation the same things happen again and again. Men learn little from others' experience. But in the life of one man, never the same time returns. Sever the cord, shed the scale. Only the fool, fixed in his folly, may think he can turn the wheel on which he turns.

(T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)