Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quick Roundup

Mike N has two good posts over at Mike's Eyes: Government Worship and a Review of Surviving Katrina (Previous Katrina-related posts: New Orleans Revisited & the latter portion of this entry.)

Diana reports on a terrible socialized medicine bill here in California. Many of the comments to her post are right on as well.

SARPO Available for Auditing

Diana has the details. (I'll be taking the class for credit.)

Clowesia Russelliana


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Cost of Environmentalism and Regulation

Briefing had this blurb today:
WSJ reports on India's northwest coast near Pakistan, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India's largest private-sector co, Reliance Industries, is building the world's largest refinery complex. When it's finished, he plans to load 40% of the fuel it turns out onto huge tankers for a 9,000-mile trip to America. The potential for oil refineries abroad that can serve the U.S. is so strong that Chevron (CVX), though based in the car-happy state of California, is investing in Mr. Ambani's project rather than try to build a new refinery at home. While in the past, thinner profit margins required that refineries be close to consumers to save on shipping, today's margins are wide enough that it pays to haul gasoline and other refined products long distances. Locating refineries in a region such as Asia is an easy decision, given its less-onerous construction costs, environmental limits and red tape, plus its own rapidly growing fuel demand. Saudi Arabia's national oil co, Saudi Aramco, currently envisions two giant new 400,000-barrel-a-day refineries. ConocoPhillips (COP) is in talks to build one, and France's Total (TOT) the other. In addition, Saudi Aramco and Exxon Mobil (XOM) are talking about being partners in a refinery expansion and petrochemical complex in China's Fujian province, near Taiwan.
Hard to believe that things have gotten so bad in America that it now pays to refine oil in India and then ship it 9,000 miles to the US! I hope the environmentalists and statists are happy with what they have wrought.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Jihad Against the West - Conference

Just got this in my inbox, no link yet:

The Jihad Against the West: The Real Threat and the Right Response
A three-day conference event
Including a lecture by Yaron Brook at the Ford Hall Forum
Boston, Massachusetts
October 20-22, 2006

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum
Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute
Flemming Rose, culture editor of Jyllands-Posten
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch
Peter Schwartz, author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America
John Lewis, assistant professor of history, Ashland University

Update: Here's the link with all the info.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Tim Blair highlights a story from the LA Times which suggests *gasp* that maybe the Palestinians aren't so civilized after all.

Fantasy Football

I plan to play fantasy football this season on the free fantasy football challenge site in division 5 under the team name icemen069. If others are interested in playing, I think it would be fun to all compete in the same division. Leave a comment here with your team name so that we can track results during the season. (Tara Smith mentioned during the Q&A session of her Irvine Hyatt talk that she's a big ff fan, if anyone knows her personally, please feel free to encourage her to join too.)

Update: It looks like they are still setting up this year's databases, so the ff site isn't yet available to make one's picks. I think things should be ready early next week, and will post to the comments when I'm able to pick my team. To get a quick idea of the 5 contests, mouse over the names on the left sidebar under "Contests". For exact details, see the "rules" tab in the team management section. If something doesn't make sense, post questions to comments and I'll try to answer them based on my experience from last year.

Housing Data

This weekend John Mauldin recommended The Big Picture as a good blog for housing and real estate data.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Zygopetalum (Kiwi Geyser X Jumpin Jack)


Friday, August 25, 2006

Edith Hamilton

Over the past nine months or so I’ve read two books by Edith Hamilton: The Greek Way and The Roman Way. I thoroughly enjoyed both and highly recommend them to anyone interested in a general survey and appraisal of Greek and Roman cultures respectively.

The principal quality which attracts me to these works is Ms. Hamilton’s willingness to generalize and to make value judgments on each of the cultures as a whole. (Anyone who needs a footnote for every observation and conclusion should shy away from these books.) She is able to do so successfully and convincingly because, as far as I can tell, she has read and re-read every existing ancient text in their original languages. (She began teaching herself Greek at the age of seven and her father taught her Latin when she was nine – after which she read classics in both languages until the time of her death at the age of 96!) She is also very familiar with the corpus of post-Renaissance literature, which enables her to draw very interesting comparisons, noting both similarities and differences between the literature of Ancient Greece, Rome and (modern) Europe.

Another virtue of her works is that, contrary to most histories, they do not focus on wars and military campaigns as the essential causes and explanation of events. Instead she often explains events and the cultural development as the result of the ideas dominating the period. I still don’t know enough about classical civilization to judge whether she is consistently right or not, but her approach is refreshing and engaging.

The first two chapters of The Greek Way, which deal with the essential difference between Greece and all that came before it, are probably my favorites; and if time is limited, they can be read as stand-alones (I’d say they’re worth the price of the book on their own). Here are a few, more or less randomly chosen observations from those chapters:

By universal consent the Greeks belong to the ancient world. … The ancient world, as far as we can reconstruct it, bears everywhere the same stamp. In Egypt, in Crete, in Mesopotamia, wherever we can read bits of the story, we find the same conditions: a despot enthroned, whose whims and passions are the determining factor in the state; a wretched, subjugated populace; a great priestly organization to which is handed over the domain of the intellect. … This state and this spirit were alien to the Greeks. None of the great civilizations that preceded and surrounded them served them as model. They were the first Westerners; the spirit of the West, the modern spirit, is a Greek discovery and the place of the Greeks is in the modern world.

Greek thought, science, mathematics, philosophy, the eager investigation into the nature of the world and the ways of the world which was the distinguishing mark of Greece, came to an end for many a century when leadership passed from Greece to Rome.

Before Greece the domain of the intellect belonged to the priests.

The Greek kept his formal religion in one compartment and everything that mattered to him in another. He never went to a priest for guidance or advice.

Homer’s hero who cried for more light even if it were but light to die in, was a true Greek. They could never leave anything obscure. Neither could they leave anything unrelated.

Up and down the coast of Asia Minor St. Paul was mobbed and imprisoned and beaten. In Athens “they brought him unto the Areopagus, saying “May we know what this new teaching is?”

[Following a quote from Aristotle on why it is noble to study living creatures] Did ever scientist outside of Greece so state the object of scientific research? To Aristotle, being a Greek, it was apparent that the full purpose of that high enterprise could not be expressed in any way except the way of poetry, and, being Greek, he was able so to express it.
I should also note that I highly enjoyed both books, despite the fact that I am probably the least artistic person on Earth (both in aptitude and in ability to get at its deeper meaning) and much of her discussion revolves around art and literature. Thus I suspect that most who read her will get even more out of the books than did I.

I will also caution that Ms. Hamilton seems to be a Platonist, and some of her analysis is couched in platonic language, but her points can be easily re-cast so that these references become nothing more than a slight distraction.

I hope to take up a few of Ms Hamilton’s more specific observations and conclusions in future posts, but for now I hope that I have conveyed a bit of my appreciation for her books and perhaps encouraged a few of you to check them out for yourselves.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogging the Bible

Diana points out some good chapter by chapter Bible commentary over at Slate. Some of the examples Diana cites remind me of Julia Sweeney's hilarious and insightful one woman show "Letting Go of God"; while the story of the flood has always piqued my interest. What exactly did animals do to deserve being wiped out? Perhaps some prophet will soon come along and reveal to us that God considers them also to suffer from original sin?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Robert Spencer on C-Span

IBA has a post with links to Robert Spencer's (of Jihad Watch) interview on C-Span. I was impressed with his obvious command of the subject of Islam and with how well he handled himself in the interview. I have nothing but praise for the work he does in exposing Islam , and I recommend watching the interview, but it should be noted that I disagree with his (implied) idea that there is a difference in kind between Islam and Christianity. (I'd accept differences in degree, as Islam seems more explicitly political, but in the end method is more telling than content, and on this both faiths qua faith are equivalent.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ralph Peters

The sixth column calls our attention to a couple of Ralph Peters articles (1, 2). They're actually more like bulleted reminders than articles, but they definitely make some interesting points. (If you're short of time, I'd read the first over the second)

TOS Fall 2006

Craig Biddle has posted the contents of the next issue of The Objective Standard. I'm particularly eager to read C. Bradley Thompson's article.

Golden Tang Kiilani

As a kind of homage to LGF (as well as a way to help me keep track of which of my plants flower when) I've decided to occasionally put up a picture from my orchid collection.

This one is interesting because it starts off light yellow but will be fully orange a few weeks after blooming.


Monday, August 21, 2006

I Muslim

Google has the video. There's nothing too new in it, though it brings out once again how hopeless the Western response is because no one has any clue about individual rights or the importance of ideas ... almost every commentator speaks only of "demographics" with the implication that immigration control (i.e. we'll keep our gang bigger than yours) is the answer. (HT LGF)

Catholic Sharia Coming Soon?

For those who think Islam (due to being "unreformed") is the only religion trying to instill its values and laws on the rest of us, I give you the example of Tom Monaghan (of Domino's Pizza) who is funding not only catholic schools and universities but also a Law School -- all in the effort to "get people into heaven". According to the WSJ:
The next phase of Mr. Monaghan's pedagogical crusade began in 2000, when the Ave Maria School of Law opened its doors in Ann Arbor. Big-time conservative Catholics signed up. Clarence Thomas gave a lecture. Robert Bork co-taught a class. Princeton professor Robert George joined the board; so did Henry Hyde and Cardinal O'Connor. Everyone involved, particularly the students and faculty, was vetted with care. They had to buy into the mission: "a legal education in fidelity to the Catholic Faith as expressed through Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church." Mr. Monaghan estimates that he has put $69 million into the law school and he has seen some outstanding results. The first class had the highest bar passage rate in the state, and the school earned full ABA accreditation in the shortest possible time.
In a free society, everyone has the right to teach their ideas, but the point, as I tried to stress in my previous post, is that views in politics and law are necessarily driven by deeper philosophical ideas. So given that religionists of all stripes believe knowledge is revealed by divine grace -- rather than being discovered by humans employing their faculty of reason in a definite way -- catholics will seek to convert and control us (for our own good of course) just as Islamists will. Naturally they must be challenged at all levels, but it is particularly important that they be refuted at the fundamental levels of epistemology and ethics.

[PS the internecine conflicts and lunacy which the rest of the article describes is, I think, par for the course when explicitly faith-driven people interact.]

Friday, August 18, 2006

Selfishness and Self-Defense

I found this John Hawkins article of last week to be of interest, in part because of some excellent points he makes, including:
If Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately place legitimate military targets in areas frequented by civilians, why should Israel show greater concern for the safety of those civilians than their own government did in the first place? Since the people of Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have chosen to support Hezbollah and Hamas at the ballot box, despite knowing the tactics that they use, haven't those civilians essentially agreed to serve on the front line of any conflict as human shields?
However, the "cycle of violence" doesn't have to continue. As Curtis Lemay once said, "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting." If the Israelis are willing to kill enough of their enemies and destroy enough of their property, eventually they will be left alone. But, if that's ever going to happen, Israel needs to stop treating civilians in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories like innocent victims of the terrorist groups they support. These civilians have voted these terrorists into office, they've encouraged them to make war on Israel, and they've allowed their homes, schools, mosques, ambulances, and even children to become part of the fight. Because of that, it's time for Israel to make the civilians in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories pay a much steeper price for their actions than they have in the past.
Yet while the article is much better than almost anything one finds in the media, it also caught my attention because I’m on the lookout for examples concretizing the role of deeper philosophical ideas governing both the culture and the thinking of individual intellectuals. (Objectivists hold that political arguments always rest on deeper views in morality and epistemology, and so one’s primary focus should be on trying to change the culture’s underlying philosophy rather than concentrating on political action. I’m sympathetic to this view, but am still trying to collect enough instances to make it “real” in my mind.)

In the Hawkins case, we have a columnist who obviously feels viscerally and to the bone that free men should defend themselves at all costs, yet due to deeper conflicting premises, he is unable to make a consistent argument throughout his piece. Specifically, it is his acceptance of altruism which undercuts his arguments at key places.

Most notably, Hawkins sets the stage for his entire argument by paying lip service to our more “moral’ age (emphasis added):
Had the war we're seeing today in the Middle East broken out a century and a half ago, it would have been rather short indeed because the stronger force, the Israelis, would have simply massacred all their enemies. Today, in a more moral age, we find such acts to be savage and barbaric -- as well we should.

However, while civilians should be protected in wartime, we also need to recognize that such protection can, and in fact has, gone too far in many instances.
The highlighted sentence undermines -- if not flat out contradicts -- his subsequent arguments. If he held that men have a right to live free from force, and that if aggressed against, they can and should do whatever necessary to defend themselves and eliminate the threat, then he would recognize that just as bombing Hiroshima was moral, so too is it moral for Israel to use every means to eliminate its enemy and their supporters. Or to put it another way, a victim’s self-defense is a profoundly moral act – there is nothing “savage” or “barbaric” about it.

Unfortunately, in today’s world the only ethical doctrine taught is the Judeo-Christian theory of altruism which holds that a man’s moral purpose is the fulfillment of other men’s needs and desires (including those of the enemy) and so as much as Dawkins wants to act otherwise, his acceptance of this idea causes him to cede the most important principle from the very get-go. That is, it is impossible to consistently advocate self-defense if you don’t believe that the self is one’s primary moral goal. Only by grounding arguments in an ethics of egoism can men morally and consistently defend their absolute right to life and, by consequence, to its uncompromising defense.

This acceptance of altruism, coupled with an under-appreciation for fundamental philosophic principles and ideas, is what hinders even our best columnists, and helps explain why they often can’t quite see root problems, as keenly intelligent and perceptive as many of them so obviously are. In another example from last week, we find Mark Steyn searching for what’s wrong with the world today, wondering why the best countries can’t muster the moral certitude to proudly stand up for themselves and righteously demolish their would-be assassins. He hits upon some critical issues in his search for answers, but they never quite crystallize for him (emphasis added):
In fact, the notion that "fighting" a war is the monopoly of those "in uniform" gets to the heart of why America and its allies are having such a difficult time in the present struggle. Nations go to war, not armies. Or, to be more precise, nations, not armies, win wars. America has a military that cannot be defeated on the battlefield, but so what? The first President Bush assembled the biggest coalition in history for Gulf War I, and the bigger and more notionally powerful it got, the better Saddam Hussein's chances of surviving it became. Because the bigger it got, the less likely it was to be driven by a coherent set of war aims.

So even the most powerful military in the world is subject to broader cultural constraints. When Kathryn Lopez's e-mailer sneers that "your contribution to this war is limited solely to your ability to exercise the skillset provided by your liberal arts education," he's accidentally put his finger on the great imponderable: whether the skill set provided by the typical American, British and European education these last 30 years is now one of the biggest obstacles to civilizational self-preservation. A nation that psychologically outsources war to a small career soldiery risks losing its ability even to grasp concepts like "the enemy": The professionalization of war is also the ghettoization of war. As John Podhoretz wondered in the New York Post the other day: "What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?"
This is true in so far as it goes, but unless you understand that the “skill sets” produced by our educational system are the necessary product of the ideas taught in our educational institutions, there is little that can be done to oppose it. Specifically, when one teaches subjectivism and skepticism in epistemology and altruism in morality, students will naturally be unsure of themselves, of their thinking and of their very self-worth. (To the extent they take the lessons of skepticism straight up, they literally won’t know anything.) Had our intellectuals done what they are entrusted with doing, viz. providing the thinking methods and content necessary for the establishment and continuance of an advanced society, they would be teaching students that reality is absolute (i.e. you can not fake it or create a new one in your own mind); that reason is man’s only valid means of knowing -- and thereby of dealing with -- reality; and that each man’s life is his proper moral purpose. A society with such teachers would be crying for an intransigent national defense policy, not lapping up every faux picture from Al-Reuters and Al-AP.

Similarly, Podhoretz’s identification of “humanitarian concern” as an impediment to survival, would have much more impact if it were stated in the form of a principle, i.e. that consistently practicing an ethics of altruism will lead to your own failure and death. For if you accept altruism, you will not be able to argue or act for your own survival, since you hold that the good rests in self-sacrifice. And as much as you may deplore the evident death of the once-great civilization around you, until you can identify and challenge the root principles responsible, you won't be able to reverse its decline.

This brings me back to Objectivists, because as far as I know, they are the only intellectuals around today whose approach is one of dealing with essentials and, as a result, they are the only ones who can both offer analysis of current problems and propose fundamental solutions to them. Let’s hope that their voices soon become part of the mainstream debate, for without a rational moral base upon which to proudly advocate our own self-defense, I fear that our days of freedom are severely numbered.

(HT Isaac Schrodinger for the John Hawkins piece)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Good and Bad News

Actually only the first of two items from LGF constitutes news, and it is good: Hollywood Stars led by Nicole Kidman condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. The second item, also via LGF, is just more of the same:
Condoleezza Rice says you need a plan to disarm a terror gang like Hizballah. And then you need to hope they’ll do it voluntarily if you ask nicely enough.
“I don’t think there is an expectation that this [UN] force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah,” Rice told USA Today. “I think it’s a little bit of a misreading about how you disarm a militia. You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of the militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily.”

If Hezbollah resists international demands to disarm, Rice said, “one would have to assume that there will be others who are willing to call Hezbollah what we are willing to call it, which is a terrorist organization.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"We Hope the Hammer Won't Be Necessary"

No, this isn't another war-related story. Turns out that the State of California is trying out fascist tactics rather than the socialist ones so prevalent during the previous administration. The WSJ has a good editorial detailing the proposed new "voluntary" prescription drug plan that our masters in Sacramento have unveiled to rob pharmaceutical companies.

Unfortunately, the free-market alternative the editorial's author proposes is very watered down and takes no moral stand (except on some ridiculous cost-benefit analysis). To make a true impact we have to first establish that the proper purpose of government is to protect each and every individual citizen from the use of force, not to use it against them. ("Hammering" them as our lovely Czar of Health and Human Services so quaintly puts it.) Then we can go on to challenge the notion that the government has the job of protecting us from ourselves (and thereby violating our rights) at which point we could call for a full repeal of all the regulatory bodies like the FDA, and of all preventive legislation such as the Anti-Trust and the Sarbanes-Oxley Acts.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

That Didn't Take Long

Who ever says violence and aggression don't pay? Certainly not Bush and Rice. Their capitulation has already emboldened Syria to try to grab back the Golan Heights. Expect much more of the same until the West shows some moral certainty in its right to exist.

Quick Roundup

Gus Van Horn has some valuable commentary on this excellent Rob Tracinski article. Andrew Medworth has a good post on the West's siege mentality and an alternative to it:
It does not have to be this way. We know how to defeat ideologically-driven fanatics who do not care about their own lives and are committed to our destruction. Just sixty years ago, we won a world war against such people. Back then, we recognised the states who were sponsoring the aggression against us: Germany, Italy, Japan and their allies. We did everything possible to defeat those nations and refute and humiliate the ideologies which fuelled them, including mounting massive attacks on their civilian populations, to bring home to those who were (either actively or passively) supporting the enemy war machine the consequences of their governments’ aggression. The result was that all the fascist nations are now peaceful, semi-free countries who threaten no-one.

What Germany was to twentieth-century fascism, Iran is to Islamic totalitarianism today. We can destroy today’s threat by defeating Iran and its co-sponsors of terrorism, turning Islamic totalitarianism into a humiliated and discredited ideology for which no-one is prepared to risk his life, let alone give it in order to kill others. There is no way this vicious movement can survive without some measure of state support: if we end this, we end the movement.

Seeing the Forest

Michael Ledeen has a good column arguing that we must look at -- and deal with -- the Islamist attacks and wars around the globe as an integrated whole, not as individual, isolated events. In other words, our only hope for survival is to develop and implement a grand strategy to battle the fundamental enemy, Islamic totalitarianism, and that such a strategy must include taking out the Iranian and Syrian regimes. I agree whole-heartedly, though I'm not convinced that it can be done by solely political means; indeed I think the time for that has long since passed and it will now take a massive military victory to show the Islamists and their sympathizers the futility of their cause.

(HT: a Thrutch commenter.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Analyzing the Cease-Fire

Caroline Glick has a very detailed analysis of what an unmitigated disaster the mideast cease-fire is for both Israel and the US. (HT Stark Relief)

Stevens Speaks

John Stevens, a former police commissioner of London, has published a relatively strong editorial which includes a few good passages:
Equally important, those British politicians who have seemed obsessed with pandering to, and even encouraging, this state of denial, must throw off their politically-correct blinkers and recognise the same truth—that Muslim terrorism in Britain is the direct responsibility of British Muslims.


In all my years at the front line of fighting terrorism, one truth was always clear — communities beat terrorists, not governments or security forces. But communities can't beat terrorism unless they have the will to do so. My heart sank this week as I saw and read the knee-jerk reaction of friends and neighbours of those arrested in this latest incident, insisting it was all a mistake and the anti-terrorist squad had the wrong people.
I would say that the second passage is the more important of the two, but should be stated much more broadly as "proper ideas are required to beat evil, for ideas ultimately shape not just individual communities, but the culture as a whole." Only by identifying -- and then advocating for -- the proper method of knowledge and the proper view of the good can a person or a community muster the “will” to oppose evil. For example, only when people stop seeing the dogmatism and death-worship of religion as desirable goals will they be able to strongly oppose the religionists. Similarly, only when men place a primary value on their own lives and individual liberty will they have the moral certainty necessary to take the battle to the enemy and defeat him without recourse to all the restrictive and dubious countermeasures Stevens proposes in the latter part of his piece.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hyatt Talks

For those in the Southern California area, mark your calendar for these two talks:
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Democracy vs. Victory: Why the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" Had to Fail
Yaron Brook
Free Public Event

After Sept. 11 the Bush administration declared that we must go on a mission to bring freedom to the Middle Eastern nations that threaten us; thus, the Forward Strategy of Freedom. According to this strategy, establishing democracies in key Muslim countries, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq, would spur a revolution in the rest of the Muslim world—a revolution that would bring free, pro-Western, anti-terrorist governments to power.

But the strategy has failed. With the rise of the religious Shiites in Iraq, of Hamas and of Hezbollah, and with the electoral victories of Islamic radicals elsewhere in the Middle East, the Muslim world has grown more militant.

Why has the Forward Strategy of Freedom failed, and why was failure inevitable? What are the flaws inherent in the strategy? How does it necessarily undermine victory? What motivates it and what strategy should replace it? These are the questions Dr. Brook will address in this talk.

Hyatt Regency Irvine [map]
17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California

6:30 PM: Bookstore opens
7:30 PM: Lecture
8:30 PM: Q & A

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Religion and Morality
Onkar Ghate
Free Public Event

Hyatt Regency Irvine [map]
17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California

6:30 PM: Bookstore opens
7:30 PM: Lecture
8:30 PM: Q & A

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blog Postings

Grant Jones and Gus Van Horn have a couple of good war-related posts on their respective blogs.

CAIR Should Apologize

I like this press release from ARI:
U.S. Muslim Group Should Apologize
Friday, August 11, 2006
By: Yaron Brook

Irvine, CA—Following news of the foiled plot to bomb airlines, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticized President Bush for calling the would-be killers "Islamic fascists."

"CAIR is demanding that we evade the actual goal of those trying to kill us," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "Just as the Soviet Communists and the Nazis sought to impose their version of socialism on the world, so the new killers seek to impose their version of Islam on the world. They seek total power to enact the dictates of Islam. Theirs is an Islamic totalitarian movement.

"I wish Bush would take his own rhetoric seriously, because understanding this fact about the killers is crucial to achieving victory in the war. Only when the political aspiration of Islam--the imposition of its religious dogmas by force--has been shown to result in the deaths of Islamists, not their victims, will we be safe. Only when the cause of Islamic totalitarianism has been thoroughly discredited, will victory be achieved.

"CAIR's demand that we evade the role of religion in this conflict is undermining America's self-defense. For this, the group should apologize to all Americans."

No Caption Necessary

Via Cox and Forkum, of course

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

We're Not Learning

Caroline Glick provides an excellent, but sad, look at the conclusions being drawn from the current war in the Middle East by Israeli and Western intellectuals. The type of thinking it represents leads one to the same questions and observations that Victor Davis Hanson raised in the article I linked to on the weekend. Will the West ever learn, or are we doomed to another Dark Age?

HT Gus Van Horn

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Congrats LGF

Congratulations to Charles Johnson and the LGF team for exposing the latest Reuters fraud. Trying to keep the mainstream media honest and objective is an almost herculean task, but no one works harder at it than LGF. I suggest stopping by their site everyday to get a saner appraisal of the day's events.

Update:Tim Blair links to another photo from Reuters' library corroborating their story (click on picture to see it clearly):

Update 2:If you haven't yet had a chance to read up on the Al-Reuters travesty, Michelle Malkin offers a video recap.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Valuable Views on the Crisis in the Middle East

There are a few articles and posts out right now that I highly recommend people read:

Robert Tracinski On the Crudely Obvious Strategy of Our Enemies:
Part of what is crippling Western leaders is the sacrifice-worship of the altruist morality, which programs them, in response to human suffering, to suspend thinking and react emotionally. Natan Sharansky recounts a discussion he had with former president Jimmy Carter about why the Palestinian-Israeli "peace process" kept failing. Carter responded, "You know, you are right, but don't try to be too rational about these things. The moment you see people suffering, you should feel solidarity with them and try to help them without thinking too much about the reasons."

But even more insidious is a kind of cognitive altruism that tells men to sacrifice, not just their interests, but their judgment, subordinating their knowledge to the opinions and prejudices of others. That is what seems to be operating here. Whatever Secretary Rice knows about the Iranians' strategy is discarded the moment lurid images of civilian casualties are splashed across the front pages of European newspapers and the broadcasts of Arab television stations. Just as, in this self-abnegating morality, you have to consider the interests of everyone except yourself--so, in this morality of cognitive self-abnegation, you have to consider everyone's opinion except your own. Thus, faced with the united force of "world opinion," the formerly "tough-minded" Secretary of State was flustered into an ignominious surrender of American interests.
HT Gus Van Horn

Jason Pappas at Liberty and Culture on how we should fight the war:
One of the side-effects of exposing lies like Qana, is that our side concedes main principles while arguing minor details.

Hezbollah’s desire to wipe the Jews off the map, led them to attack Israel. By their nature and actions, they are responsible for the death and destruction in Lebanon including the civilians they put in harms way. Israel, to reduce civilian casualties, drops leaflets warning of impending bombings--enabling Hezbollah to escape and regroup. Implicit in this mistaken generosity is that it is Israel’s responsibility to avoid Hezbollah-supporting “civilians.” It is not. Israel has no obligation to avoid civilian deaths in the course of fighting the enemy if it cost Israeli lives or compromises the mission.

This point is now lost as defenders of Israel focus on proving that Israel is not negligent in the deaths at Qana. This should not be a question. But in a polemical argument, it is tempting to show that even by our critic's standards, they are wrong. One should resist showing respect for the absurd standards of our critics, even for a moment. To do so concedes fundamental principles.

Israel, and her allies, should take the opposite tactic and unequivocally blame Hezbollah for bringing vast death and destruction to the people of Lebanon. At all times one should say: “look at what Hezbollah caused.” Israel should tell the “Arab Street” if you attack us like Hezbollah, you’ll see your families crushed and your tribe destroyed. We should back her in this stance. It should be clear in every sentence that Hezbollah is to blame for the war and its deadly destruction.
And from the Ralph Peters' article linked in Jason's update:
My best advice to Israel: Everybody just shut up. Fight. Win the damned war. Then talk.

Israel's public pronouncements over the past three weeks have done the country nothing but harm, playing into Hezbollah's hands. Don't claim you've knocked out 40 percent of the enemy's capabilities when you don't have a clue. And don't brag that you'll "eliminate" Hezbollah. You won't (although you can cripple the organization, and that objective is well worthwhile).

And don't belittle the enemy's capabilities - whenever you do, you set yourself up for a fall. Respect the enemy. And kill him every time you have the chance.

Don't let anyone, not even the United States, push you into accepting arbitrary deadlines. You have nothing to lose by fighting to win and everything to gain.
Barbara Lerner on how we're losing the war and why we must take on Iran now:
Average Americans — if they remember them at all — consider the series of American defeats chronicled above and a host of others as an unconnected jumble of unfortunate events.

It’s easy to do: Our media treats them that way. Muslim media do not. On the global Muslim media stage, Iran’s mullahs and their frontmen look like Islamic conquerors of old, winning victory after victory against both the great and the little Satan, mocking us as impotent cowards, and intimidating and co-opting our already half-dhimmified old-Europe allies. Watching all this, every year more and more Muslims rally to their cause, eager to be on what they see as the winning side.


Despite all this and more, we have yet to admit that Iran is at war with us, or to seriously consider striking back at her, and, in speaking of our own war aims, we never dare use the v-word — victory — anymore. Instead, we make head-in-the-sand happy-talk about “peace,” “democracy,” and “ceasefires,” rejecting any military action against Iran for fear of “widening the war” — as if Iran were not already at war with us — and rely on the U.N. and “the international community” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to prevent her proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, from continuing to bring death and destruction to our smallest, truest, and most vulnerable ally, Israel. In doing this, we ignore two obvious realities: rather than restraining Iran, U.N. heavyweights Russia and China are busy arming her, and the perfidious EU will not even recognize the plain fact that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Instead, these old-Europe “allies” join with our Islamofascist enemies in demonizing our brave soldiers in Iraq, and damning Israel for daring to fight back against unprovoked aggression, pursued with openly genocidal intent.

Worse, we meet the jackals halfway by endlessly apologizing for sins our soldiers and guards are falsely accused of, in Iraq and Guantanamo, and by urging “restraint” on Israel — as if she weren’t employing near-suicidal restraint already. Then, we congratulate ourselves for our “courage” in standing up to international pressure by not forcing Israel to stop fighting for her life immediately, and promising, in return, to “protect” her with a “peace-keeping” force of enemies, led by the reborn Vichy France of Jacques Chirac and Phillipe Douste-Blazy — the French foreign minister who just called Iran “a stabilizing force.”

Victor Davis Hanson on the similarities between today's cultural appeasement and that of the 1930's which lead up to WW II.

Not as good as the others, but with these worthwhile excerpts is Krauthammer's take:
When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to a cinder, and turned the Japanese home islands to rubble and ruin.

Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right--legal and moral--to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again. That's what it took with Japan.

Britain was never invaded by Germany in World War II. Did it respond to the blitz and V-1 and V-2 rockets with "proportionate" aerial bombardment of Germany? Of course not. Churchill orchestrated the greatest land invasion in history that flattened and utterly destroyed Germany, killing untold innocent German women and children in the process.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Differences in Education

Isaac Schrodinger has written a pair of good posts (1, 2) on contrasting educational systems.

I think they’re an excellent illustration of how a society’s worldview, i.e. its underlying philosophy, shapes it. For instance, if your concern is life and happiness on Earth, then it is in your selfish interest to understand everything possible about the reality in which you live. Knowledge is indispensable to your success –- science, engineering and technology become possible only when man sets out to discover and understand the natural world. Valuing knowledge also requires, and leads to, discovering the proper method of gaining it, i.e. observing the world, conceptualizing, testing one’s conclusions, integrating the results and eventually identifying underlying principles and laws. In sum: applying reason and logic. In such a culture, proper education is acknowledged as a great boon, and it too must proceed in a definite way, viz. of introducing students to new information and concepts, helping them understand the relationships (causal and otherwise) between them, and ultimately teaching them the method by which knowledge is obtained and validated so that they too can be independently successful when they venture out into the fascinating and ever-changing world.

This view of reason’s importance was the hallmark of the Western world during the Enlightenment and as a result education was exemplary during that period. And though reason is no longer universally appreciated, the West is still the product of the Enlightenment, and its influence still persists in many of today’s educational institutions (more so in the sciences than in the humanities) -- with teachers like Feynman being among the absolute best in this tradition.

On the other hand, if your goal is preparation for death (and some alleged after-life), and you believe that knowledge is obtained by revelation -- not by painstaking observation and discovery -- then there needs be no discernible connection between your “knowledge” and reality. Moreover, under such a disconnected view, no rigorous method for evaluating and validating facts and evidence is required; any flight of fancy is as good as the next. Hence the heated debates about the nature and characteristics of angels during the Scholastic period, or the profusion of “miracles” in the early Christian era, or the typical Muslim’s predisposition to the most far-fetched conspiracy theories nowadays.

Furthermore, when knowledge is obtained by revelation, society will tend to be authoritarian (with the guardians of the faith in charge) and then the average citizen’s key concern becomes not adherence to reality, but acquiescence to the unknowable “source” and “representatives” of his faith and salvation. He does not seek to understand, but simply to obey. If such a culture deigns to teach anything other than scripture, it is by pure rote -- there is no tie to reality, no making connections, determining relationships, nor seeking causes. In fact, investigation, discovery and reasoning all become detriments to survival since they may lead to questioning and challenging the dogmatic guardians of the faith -- challenges which are often met by violent reprimands and repression. Thus Isaac’s poignant description of his educational experiences in the Islamic world.

Ceasefire as Suicide

Iran knows and openly proclaims that any ceasefire would only serve as a reprieve for the Islamists to recuperate and then resume their attempts to wipe Israel out. How long before the West takes them at their word and responds accordingly?

From today's Best of the Web Today:

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the solution to the Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel, Iranian state media reported," the Associated Press reports:
In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-back group Hezbollah.

"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Annotated Religious Texts

This appears to be a useful reference site. (Via links in this Noodlefood post.) (Note that the classification of "Good Stuff" appears to mean passages adhering to altruistic tenets.)