September 30, 2006

Pederasty and Cover Ups

Rep. Mark Foley has resigned when it came to light that he was sending creepy unsolicited emails to pages in the House, apparently attempting to play out his homosexual fantasies of having it away with these teen-aged boys.

At the same time he was chair of a House committee on the exploitation of children.

Even though it appears that his conduct was limited to his sordid emails, his stupidity and hypocrisy mean that he must go.

As much as I despise the committee chairs the Democrats will bring with them, and detest the idea of a Speaker Pelosi, based on what I know, Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner should resign their leadership positions as well, because they knew what was going on and did nothing for a year, whether to protect the majority or out of mistaken sympathy for a colleague. Here's the usually pro-GOP Captain's Quarters on who knew what when. Apparently Hastert did know and lied about it.

Democrats have done worse. Barney Frank's live in was conducting a homosexual prostitution business from Frank's apartment, and Gary Studds was having it off with a page and got away with a censure, after which he kept getting reelected.

But that was then and this is now. My father always used to say "The worst kind of thief is a pious thief." This is the party that claims to defend traditional values and morality, and is hostile to homosexuality at least when marriage is concerned. And here's a gay man with an uncontrolled passion for boys heading an effort against the exploitation of children, and the leadership covers it up.

For the same reason, the penchant of many clergy (and not just Roman Catholics) for sex with boys is particularly shameful. It's an abuse of a sacred trust, worse than the garden-variety sexual sins that most of us commit.

What will not be said is that the increased acceptance of homosexuality comes at a price. It is taboo even to intimate that there is sometimes a connection between the homosexual orientation of some and the abuse of boys and young men. (Not that heterosexual men aren't also prone to exploiting girls). Of course, many male homosexuals are circumspect, law-abiding, and would never transgress in this way; others, however, are not, but the issue is not discussed frankly. It has long been my view that government should keep its nose out of their private adult conduct, and leave the matter at that. Because the issue has been draped with the mantle of civil rights, and is fodder for a "movement," with its scribblers, marchers, and lawyers, an effort has been made to impose political correctness on the subject.

It's ok to beat the GOP over the head with the Foley episode, but many would make any wider-ranging discussion taboo. It shouldn't be.

Meanwhile, Denny Hastert must go.

September 25, 2006

I Put My Dream on a Ship

Pus o meu sonho num navio
e o navio em cima do mar;
depois abri o mar com as mãos,
para o meu sonho naufragar.
Minhas mãos ainda estão molhadas
do azul das ondas entreabertas,
e a cor que escorre dos meus dedos
colore as areias desertas
O vento vem vindo de longe,
a noite se curva de frio;
debaixo da água vai morrendo
meu sonho dentro de um navio . . .
Chorarei quanto for preciso,
para fazer com que o mar cresça,
e o meu navio chegue ao fundo
e o meu sonho desapareça.
Depois, tudo estará perfeito:
praia lisa, águas ordenadas,
meus olhos secos como pedras
e as minhas duas mãos quebradas.

I put my dream on a ship
and my ship upon the sea;
then I opened the water with my hands,
to shipwreck my dream.
My hands are still wet
with the blue of the opened waves,
and the color that runs off my fingers
dyes the desert sand.
The wind is coming from far away,
the night bends with the cold;
under the water lies my dream
dying inside a ship . . .
I shall cry as much as needed,
to make the sea rise
and my ship reach the bottom
and my dream disappear.
Then, all will be perfect:
smooth beach, ordered waters,
my eyes dry as stones
and my two hands broken.

--Cecília Meireles (1901-1964)

September 24, 2006

Sister Leonella's Last Words

Drive Through Politics quotes Jeff Jacoby, on Sister Leonella Sgorbati, the nun murdered in Somalia, allegedly in retaliation for Pope Benedict's speech:
As she lay dying in a Mogadishu hospital, Sister Leonella forgave her killers. She had lived in Africa for almost four decades and could speak fluent Somali, but her last words were murmured in Italian, her mother tongue. "Perdono, perdono," she whispered. I forgive, I forgive.

She was 65 and had devoted her life to the care of sick mothers and children. She was on her way to meet three other nuns for lunch on Sunday when two gunmen shot her several times in the back. "Her slaying was not a random attack," the Associated Press reported. It "raised concerns" that she was the latest victim of "growing Islamic radicalism in the country."
Catholics, both Roman and Orthodox, believe in the intercession of the saints. It can't hurt to ask.

It's Too Easy When You've Actually Seen the Movie

The "Unrepentant Marxist" doubles as a film reviewer.

Seems he went to see Little Miss Sunshine, didn't like it, and walked out after 10 minutes. This didn't stop him from posting about the flick, which I found quite funny in its own goofy way.

I used to have to write advance movie blurbs for a school paper whether or not I'd seen the movie. It never occurred to me to ask for the promotional mailing from whomever ordered the films. In mitigation, I was fifteen.

The UM, on the other hand, thinks Ingmar Bergman, who directed Wild Strawberries among other things, is a genius. This reminds me of an old joke about socialism and strawberries, which I'll modify a bit:
Scene: Union Square. A soapbox speaker is working the crowd.

"Come the revolution, we will be culturally emancipated and will all watch Ingmar Bergman movies for free!"

"But I hate Bergman!"

"Come the revolution, dammit, you'll watch Bergman and like him!"
You can't walk out of a Marxist revolution after 10 minutes.

"Five Minutes to Midnight"

Is it likely that Europeans will rise to this challenge? I fear not. Is it still possible? Yes. But it's already five minutes to midnight—and we are drinking in the last chance saloon.
--Timothy Garton Ash, in the New York Review of Books.

That's not an alarmist take on Muslim immigration and violence in Europe, by a Pat Buchanan or even a Tony Blankley, but by an archetypical academic left-liberal.

One hundred years from now will they speak of Bernini's mosque in Rome, as they do of the mosque (now a museum) of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul?

Everyone Can't Be Right

Posts by and about writer named Sam Harris have suddenly popped up here and there on the blogosphere.

Sam Harris is a convinced atheist, and rather than nattering about "theocracy" or "Christianism" seeks to persuade his readers that religon is just wrong. In his new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris follows up on his earleir book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Harris takes the view that science is good, relgion is bad, and the world would be a better place if religious faith disappeared.

Baptist seminary president and blogger Dr. Al Mohler cites Harris for his criticism of "liberal" Christianity:
One interesting facet of Harris's approach is his specific rejection of theological liberalism and moderating positions. He does see these for what they are -- thinly disguised forms of unbelief.
I have written elsewhere about the problems I see with religious liberalism and religious moderation. Here, we need only observe that the issue is both simpler and more urgent than the liberals and moderates generally admit. Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or it isn't. Either Christ was divine, or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ was an ordinary man, the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion. If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this. At least half of the American population understands this. So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.
Orthodoxy Today links to an LA Times piece by Harris wherein he takes liberals to task for not understanding that jihad is embedded in a Muslim theology that millions believe:
A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world — for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.

Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.
In other words, although freedom of religion and religious tolerance may be the compromises that the Founding Fathers adopted to keep the peace in a relgiously diverse society, and may be good means of damping down religious conflict, relgious freedom and tolerance do not exhaust the issues. There's still the question of who's wrong and who's right.

Writer and talk-show host Dennis Prager argues in favor of Jewish and Christian religion primarily, it seems, because on average religious belief makes people behave better. The argument is common enough, and indeed, I've made the argument that our secularizing society lives of the moral capital accumulated in our more believing past.

Except perhaps for some sort of extreme pragmatist, this is not an argument for the truth of religion, just for its utility. A belief in Santa Claus may induce children to behave better in the runup to Christmas, but that doesn't mean you'll find him if you overfly the North Pole.

The fact that we don't use the police and the courts to enforce religious belief and observance, and there's a public understanding that we won't run around loudly denouncing one another's religions or lack of same, doesn't mean the question of the truth of faith should be ignored.

Is there a God? If so, is God a Trinity with an internal dynamic of love, who became incarnate? Or is God a radical unity, and totally transcendent? Does God simply dictate an arbitrary code of conduct, and authorize His followers to impose it by force?

These propositions cannot all be true, and if any of the monotheistic relgiions exist, it is a critical question for every human being which ones are true and which false. As Andrew G. Bostom points out:
Recently, at the close of a compelling, thoroughly documented address (delivered April 2, 2006, at The Legatus Summit, Naples, Florida) entitled, "Islam and Western Democracies," Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, posed four salient questions for his erstwhile Muslim interlocutors wishing to engage in meaningful interfaith dialogue:

  • Do they believe that the peaceful suras of the Koran are abrogated by the verses of the sword?)

  • Is the program of military expansion (100 years after Muhammad's death Muslim armies reached Spain and India ) to be resumed when possible?

  • Do they believe that democratic majorities of Muslims in Europe would impose Shari'a (Islamic religious) law?

  • Can we discuss Islamic history -- even the hermeneutical problems around the origins of the Koran -- without threats of violence?
Dr. Habib Malik, in an eloquent address delivered February 3, 2003 at the at the 27th annual Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Presidents Conference decried the platitudinous "least common denominators" paradigm which dominates what he aptly termed the contemporary "dialogue industry":
We're all three Abrahamic religions, we're the three Middle Eastern monotheisms, the Isa of the Koran is really the same as the Jesus of the New Testament . . . This is politicized dialogue. This is dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Philosophically speaking, this is what Kierkegaard called idle talk, snakke in Danish; what Heidegger called Gerede; what Sartre called bavardage. In other words, if this is dialogue, it's pathetic . . . it needs to be transcended, and specifically to concentrate, to focus on the common ethical foundation for most religions can also be very misleading. Because when you get into the nitty-gritty, you find that even in what you supposed were common ethical foundations, there are vast differences, incompatibilities. Suicide bombers is one recent example. Condoned by major authoritative Muslim voices; completely unacceptable by Christianity.
Cardinal Pell's unanswered questions highlight the predictable failure of the feckless "We're all three Abrahamic religions", "dialogue for the sake of dialogue" approach to both Muslim-Christian, and Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
In short, although we should, in pluralist societies, accept and live with one another as people, regardless of belief and reject conversion by force, we can't all be right about these important questions.

NOTE: Links were deleted from Archbishop Pell's quotation within a quotation. Here's a link to the complete original talk.

Silence at Fifteen

When I was fifteen, I was at boarding school in New England. The winters were long, and as my mother intuited and medicine later discovered, the darkness contributed to a black mood.

The content of the mood was a feeling that my entire life was programmed and planned--school, college, work, so that I would never be able simply to walk the streets of a city without a purpose in mind. No doubt there was more to it than that, but such was the essence of the feeling.

In despair, I somehow induced my parents to come up, which involved a long train trip in the snowy winter. For the whole weekend I remained silent. I never did articulate my thoughts, which I was certain they could never understand. How little I knew them or myself!

Another time, at about the same age, my parents took me to the home of one of my father's college friends, who had a son my age. Although we spent the weekend together, I barely spoke to him and he barely spoke to me.

These silences were not angry, but inarticulate. One barely understands one's own new feelings at this age, and must certainly be convinced that no one else can possibly do so, or want to do so.

Now I have a daughter who has just turned 15, a bright, lovely girl who does well in school and resembles me in many ways. This summer I took her to Washington and New York. There were many silences.

Last night I took her to see the new version of All The King's Men. I asked her a few questions and she responded in such a way that it became clear she was choosing not to answer them. She didn't want to listen to music. We watched the water on the way. She said she liked Redemption Song and listened politely to my description of the Ras Tafari religion. When the film was over, she allowed as how it was not great, but we again lapsed into silence.

When once she would turn on the TV and do her homework in the living room while watching animé out of the corner of her eye, now she descends to her room to do her much more demanding homework in quiet.

I realize that my cultural conviction that sharing company means constant conversation is not universally shared.

It also seems to me that although age fifteen need not involve parent-child clashes, there is a necessary movement into independence. She may have neither the need or the ability to challenge us, and yet have a very strong need to become herself.

From time to time, as always, her thoughts and stories do come tumbling out.

I hope her silence is golden.

September 19, 2006

Strange Bedfellows Redux: The Real Joe Carter

Joe Carter blogs at Evangelical Oupost.

In this post he lists some propositions to which he subscribes.

We're a lot closer in our views that I imagined. Here's a sample:
  • I'm not a Bush apologist. In fact, I don't particularly care for George W. Bush. I believe he is a generally mediocre President who has been thrust into an extraordinary time in history. On such issues as global terrorism or embryonic stem cell research, I believe he is right more often than he is wrong. Also, whether due to luck or skill, he has prevented any further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil; I give him credit for that occurring on his watch. He also averted the tragi-comedy of a Kerry Administration, so I have to give him that too. Still, my support for him is severely limited.
* * * *
  • I am indeed convinced that anyone who truly believes the U.S. is on the path to theocracy is a moron.

  • I don't condone torture or support those who do. I also don't think the word has been properly defined in a way that is useful in clarifying the political debate on the issue. There is a broad spectrum that ranges from undeniable acts of outrage to the type of discomfort that I was subjected to in Marine Corps Boot Camp. Confusing the term in order to bash the President has done more harm than good and may unnecessarily inflame anti-American sentiment .

  • That being said, if President Bush has authorized actions that I would consider torture then I think he should be condemned and held accountable.

For Shame

First they murder his father, Theo Van Gogh.

Then they taunt and threaten his life.

The police do nothing.

Europe must be farther gone than I thought.

HT: Simon.

September 17, 2006

Zoraida Meets Pope Benedict

"What do you mean I'm violent?"

"If you say it again, what makes you think I won't cut you?"

Commemorating "All the King's Men"

I'm reposting this, editing only for typos, in honor of the release of the remake of "All the King's Men," which looks to be a good film. I don't like Sean Penn's politics, but the man can act. Huey P. Long, of course, is the original of Willie Stark. The novel by Robert Penn Warren (left) from which the film derives is one of the greatest American ones:

Huey P. Long
Originally uploaded by octopod.
The Corner at National Review Online is wracked (well, faintly ruffled) by a debate as to whether the late Louisiana Governor and Senator Huey P. Long was a righty or a lefty.

Aside from the poor fit of a French revolutionary metaphor to the flowery variety of American policos, Long was unquestionably a lefty of a peculiar sort, a Louisanan Hugo Chavez. He excoriated the rich, and gave the rural folks paved roads, free textbooks, and a sense they mattered in Baton Rouge because Huey was one of them and would fight the good fight for them. He even managed to help the blacks, by giving them something approaching their fair share of state largesse.

Long threatened to oppose the patrician Franklin D. Roosevelt, and would have done so but for an assassin's bullet. So he became tarred with an imaginary fascist brush, a tarring that seemed to be confirmed when brilliant disciple Gerald L. K. Smith descended into political irrelevance and eventually loony anti-Semitism.

Long was a genius, an egotist, an authoritarian, a statesman and a villain, all at once. He has been too long forgotten, for he was a true American original.

And then there was his bro, Earl, another successful politician whose very madness was problematical and immortalized by A.J. Liebling in The Earl of Louisiana. A fine book, but not quite as great as Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men, a roman à clef based on Huey's life and death, later a fine film.

Russell, Huey's boy, was a model of probity in the U.S. Senate, perhaps to live down comparison with his more flamboyant relatives.

More interesting than the Kennedys and the Bushes combined, this political family has been too long forgotten.

Update: More on the Senate filibuster, including Huey's legendary performance, here.

September 16, 2006

Don Your Hijab, MoDo

The New York Times has published an editorial critical of Pope Benedict's speech, in which in the course of a discussion of complex ideas, he adverts to a Byzantine emperor's question about what Muhammad contributed other than the idea of propagating religion by force:
“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The editors, presumably unbelievers of Jewish origin, instruct the Pope as follows:
A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue.

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
The Pope's talk was thoughtful and dense, not easy to interpret and not at all a tirade against Islam, but the usual suspects are rioting, burning, and attacking churches.

Why shouldn't the Pope defend Catholic identity? Should he be defending Zen Buddhism or the Prosperity Gospel?

And who exactly appointed these jamokes as the arbiters of what is proper religious debate? Captain Ed is his usual lucid self on the subject.

Expect further attacks on Christians in the Muslim world and on its fringes. Expect continued calls for beheading the Pope. Expect silence from these bozos on all that.

A sample of what the jihadist internet is making of all this here. Warning, it's both childish and nasty.

Krauthammer's War Drums

Charles Krauthammer is beating the war drums against Iran, and virtually predicts US air strikes:
In the region, Persian Iran will immediately become the hegemonic power in the Arab Middle East. Today it is deterred from overt aggression against its neighbors by the threat of conventional retaliation. Against a nuclear Iran, such deterrence becomes far less credible. As its weak, non-nuclear Persian Gulf neighbors accommodate to it, jihadist Iran will gain control of the most strategic region on the globe.

Then there is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days.

The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist. This from a country that has an official Death to America Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeini's ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.

Against millenarian fanaticism glorying in a cult of death, deterrence is a mere wish. Is the West prepared to wager its cities with their millions of inhabitants on that feeble gamble?
To be fair to CK, he does at least give a scary list of the likely consequences of such an attack.

CK doesn't seriously consider any of the alternatives, the possibility that his assessment of Iran is dead wrong, the preparation and mobilization necessary if a serious attack on Iran were to be launched, the moral questions involved in another probably unsuccessful bombing campaign, or the significance of the presence in this country of an Iranian diaspora.

Paki Bashing or Disaster?

Bill Roggio reports that Pakistan has released a bunch of bad guys, including the killers of Daniel Pearl.

A commenter asks for sourcing, but I suspect Bill is correct.

The deal with Pakistan had a good run. Is it over? If so, what now?

Definition here.

Horror Show Update

Just how rich is Kofi Annan? He's not telling, reports Claudia Rosett.

Meanwhile, UN administrative reform has been stopped in its tracks.

There was a comedienne years ago whose tag line was "Who ne-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ds it?" in an ear-piercing whine.

I'm beginning to wonder.

September 14, 2006

A New Writing System Discovered

The Gray Lady reports on a find in Veracruz, Mexico, of what appears to be a writing system that may be several hundred years older than any known system in Mesoamerica. The last such discovery was the Indus script in 1924.

I must confess I love this stuff. Not enough to do it as a career, but it fascinates me.

I'm certain son-in-law Rex, who is a career scholar of similar matters, is also intrigued.

Throw the Wheel Out the Window?

In the legendary game of "chicken," where two hot-rodders aimed their cars at each other, the winner was the one who didn't turn away.

My pop game theory solution to winning at "chicken" is to visiblly throw the steering wheel out the window (actually, better yet, an extra steering wheel).

With Iran, that's apparently what Mario Loyola wants to do:
And that brings me to the most important point. For the moment, there is a third option between preemption and appeasement: diplomacy. Our diplomacy now is packaged to seem like it might succeed, but it is not calculated to succeed. If you give them a clear choice between a negotiated settlement and military confrontation then we can negotiate in good faith and perhaps arrive at a resolution that will achieve "peace in our time" on a secure and rational foundation.
I suppose Loyola has a point--the Europeans have so fair failed with Iran at least in part because no one believes the will do anything real--certainly not anything military.

With the US, the question is whether, unlike Europe, we have the street cred, because of Afghanistan and Iraq as sticks, and our economic strength as carrot, to make diplomacy effective, or does the depth of our entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan make our stick seem like balsa wood. Do the Iranians really fear an attack from us? Surely not a land attack. An air attack (short of a terminally stupid and criminal nuclear one) would be destructive but very likely ineffecttive, and possibly unite a restive country around the mullahs.

I'm not convinced at all, then, that increasing our swagger is a realistic or effective tactic. Increasing our armed forces seems politically and economically untenable at this point. A simplistic "lady or the tiger" strategy won't work, Mario.

Think again.

Deja U-235 All Over Again?

The WaPo publishes a story to the effect that international inspectors are criticizing a US Congressional report on Iran's nuclear program as inaccurate and alarmist:
Yesterday's letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post, was the first time the IAEA has publicly disputed U.S. allegations about its Iran investigation. The agency noted five major errors in the committee's 29-page report, which said Iran's nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown.

Among the committee's assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that "incorrect," noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring.
If the IAEA is right, and they seem to have been about Iraq, all the more reason for caution on this issue, and in fact, a démarche toward the mullahs.

September 13, 2006

Today's Wisdom

“The same abba [Xanthias] said, ‘A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.’”

From: The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. trans. Benedicta Ward. Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cistercian Publications 1975, revised 1984, p. 59. Taken from here.

September 12, 2006

Semper Fi

Read this.

GOP Straw Poll

Here's an interesting straw poll on the GOP Presidential race for 2008. I don't know if the Javascript will work but here goes nothin':

Wallowing in Anachronism

Terrorism is a tactic, a means to an end. Islam, conversely, is the ideology behind modern terrorism. It’s an ideology that is also inherently fascist. It is no coincidence that these terrorist-fascists happen to be Muslim, for Islam itself is a clerical-fascist system of belief.

--Mark Alexander.
Considering that Islam arose in the 7th Century, and fascism in the 20th, this is a neat trick. "Fascist" has become a political swear-word, signifying nothing.

One could argue that movements within modern Islam have aped fascism or borrowed from it, although even this is more true of secular movements, like the Ba'ath and the Nasserists.

Alexander seems to be saying he doesn't like Islam, 'cause Muslims are mean.

The Cabal That Lowered Gas Prices

Gas prices are suddenly lower, noticeably so. Here, it's because they have a "2" instead of a "3" in front.

Does this mean Big Oil met at a hunt club somewhere and decided to lower the prices, as many suspected of them when prices began to go up? Or does it turn out that oil is just a commodity?

Not to spoil anyone's fun, the conspiracy buffs could conclude it's just an effort to help the GOP in the runup to the midterm elections. How many billions in profit would YOU give up to reelect Rick Santorum?

September 11, 2006

OK, They Win--Three 9/11 Links

Dr. Bob on the human heart.

Steve den Beste on the disconnect between the two American ways of looking at this event.

Hitchens on what we haven't learned and what we must learn.

May they rest in peace.

Democracy, War, and a Surfeit of Ideas

I happend on a blog called Eunomia. Daniel Laurison, who runts it, is amazingly prolific and writes quite well. He has an idosyncratic kind of politics, hostile to Bush, to neoconservatism, indeed to the strong state and foreign adventures generally.

In this recent piece he pretty much demolishes the new saw that democracies don't make war on one another. He argues that "democratism" is an ideology, and like most ideologies, invents the world it wants to see:
In perfect certainty the democratist can declare that democracies do not fight each other, because no real democracies would ever do such a thing. If there are wars between two or more democratic governments (and modern history is fairly littered with them), the democratists’ escape will be found in some undemocratic element of one side or the other. Thus a democratist will say that the constitutional monarchy of King-in-Parliament was insufficiently democratic (they have a king!); he will say that the Confederacy wasn’t a “real” democracy because of slavery (Hanson’s supposed hatred of “aristocracy” comes in handy here); he will say that you must blame the imperialist wars of Britain on something, anything except the fully enfranchised mobs who cheered on the aggression against the Afrikaners; obviously the mass, universal suffrage of Germans and Austrians–like that of their counterparts in the Entente nations–cannot have had anything to do with whipping up the nationalist war fever in 1914. Because democratic peoples don’t want war, and people who want war aren’t democratic peoples–the faith in democracy is so blind, so completely mad, that no appeal to either history or logic will suffice to break it.

The democratist ideologue will focus on the imperfections of the far more developed, more successful and stable Wilhelmine political system of constitutional monarchy, but in the same breath will praise–apparently without irony–the rise of real democracy in Iraq. Pay no attention to the sectarian death squads behind the curtain in Iraq, but instead reiterate that WWI was fought against the forces of autocracy and absolutism. It will make you feel better–and one suspects that feeling better about the decidedly mixed record of democracy is essential for those who wish to inflict this type of regime on others.

As the doctrine of an ideological empire, democratism does not have to accord with reality, so long as it facilitates policy. If Hizbullah has both a political party that competes in democratic elections and an armed militia, the latter cancels out the democratic credentials of the former, while if SCIRI has an armed militia it remains a legitimate participant in democratic politics. This might seem inconsistent or the result of the application of a double standard, until you realise that the administration is the one that decides what constitutes real democracy–and real democracy does not exist anywhere except where it decides it exists. Thus, without any sense of contradiction, the democratist can tell you that some elected foreign leaders–such as, say, Ahmadinejad–are not really democratic leaders in any sense at all, because they espouse the wrong kinds of policies, but the sham democratic politics of Pakistan–a thin veneer covering up military rule–will be praised as robust and admirable.
As I've never been an admirer of Woodrow Wilson or our intervention in World War I, I share much of Laurison's views. To follow his viewpoint fully would mean a military retreat from the world.

After the Cold War, we could have done it--why preserve a NATO when the Russian threat was done, for example? The question is whether in militant Islam we have another global threat (convenient for the interventionists and reminiscent of the rotating wars of 1984), and if so, whether carrying on a struggle against it in the manner we have done is wise or effective.

As one who advocates an effort at rapprochement with Iran, I suppose I am not one of the more rabid interventionists, although now that we are in Iraq, I fear the consequences of withdrawal.

In any case, there is always food for thought on Laurison's blog. Almost a surfeit.

September 9, 2006

Bolivia Alert

Bolívia seems to be heating up.

Publius Pundit posts a bunch of pictures of unrest in the more capitalist, less indigenous "Half Moon" provinces of the East, and takes a hard anti-communist line, asserting that President Evo Morales is now a Cuban and Venezuelan pawn. He also paints the strikes as a success, and civil war as imminent.

The International Herald Tribune takes a much more guarded view, sourced to the AP.

What Brazil, the powerful neighbor, does, may be crucial. Morales nationalized the gas industry, controlled partly by Brazil's Pétrobras energy company, and for all President Lula's leftist image, the military still has its own concept of national security. That concept is not likely to embrace an imporverished communist Bolívia, or a failed state wracked by civil war, on its southwestern border.

The 3,000 Matthew Sheppards of the Neocons

We are, in the runup to the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, being assaulted on all sides by the punditocracy and the media with recollections, reminiscences, and reenactments.

Ugh. This was a tragedy for the dead and their survivors, and indeed for the country. Like any dead, these deserve a dignified commemoration, and, the event being significant and perhaps epochal, a serious analysis of what happened, why, and what is to be done.

However, what we get is a flood of platitudes and exploitation. The ABC docucrama has evoked a storm of criticism, which is fine, and what is not so fine, threats from Dem elected officials to go after broadcast licenses. The threats are empty but may be enough to scare the suits.

On the merits, there was, of course, a lack of prescience going back at least to Reagan's evacuation from Lebanon, shared by both parties. There was no need to embellish Clinton's share in the general fecklessness. The record's bad enough.

It was equally stupid on the Dems' part to raise such a ruckus, which can only help the ratings. Shades of Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, who was wont to denounce the "indecency" of movies, thus pumping up their box office. Think The Moon Is Blue, a Preminger film whose offense was to use the word "virgin" out loud. O tempora, o mores!

Of course, silence is too much to expect. The Clinton theme song is
Enough about you baby-let's talk about me
You don't even have a clue lately what I really need
You forgot how to listen
That's what I'm missin'
And I just wanna scream enough about you baby
Let's talk about me
Let's talk about me
Me, Me, Me, Me, Me-Yeah
Enough about you baby
Some young pup on the Huffington Post is paying David Horowitz back by discovering a right-wing network behind the ABC 9/11 docucrama.

Commenters on lefty blogs see this as a great exposé. It's really a yawn, unless one is surprised that non-lefty Hollywoodians can also talk to one another, promote one another's projects, and even create non-profits. "People For the American Way" is taken, or, no doubt, David Horowitz, apparently the spider at the center of this web, would have taken it. Norman Lear, who provided the seed money, got hold of that title decades ago. PFAW, incidentally, is promoting a "Call ABC" campaign. They don't outright demand that the series be pulled, but they do say the edits ABC has already made are not enough. So much for the marketplace of ideas.

(Don't get me wrong. As long as the gummint doesn't get involved, telling corporations you think they're wrong and should change their programming is 100% legal and constitutionally protected, right or wrong. What's sauce for Donald Wildmon is sauce for Chuck Schumer.)

Are ABC and the folks behind this miniseries exploiting the memory of the 9/11 dead? Probably. It happens all the time. There's a mini-wave of remembrances of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy these days, too. Even aside from the fact that I'm not an admirer of the man, murdered or not, enough already.

Dare I say, the Nazi murder of European Jews is a prime example. It's regularly trotted out by pro-lifers, Zionists, Jewish organizations, animal rights people, and pro-Palestinian advocates, just to name a few. It's also spawned an academic industry and an unsavory "revisionist" industry. All pimping off the dead, who deserve no such treatment.

Solemn remembrance would be more like it.

We do not honor the memory of the dead by waving the bloody shirt, or using them for political purposes. Let the 9/11 dead rest in peace. They need not be the Matthew Sheppards of the neocons. Or of the moonbats, either.

September 6, 2006


Centanni and Wiig, the Gaza-kidnapped and now-released Fox jouralists, feigned conversion to Islam at gunpoint.

This incident reminds us that Islam, for all the talk of "no compulsion in religion" approves of conquest of the unbelievers.

It also raises the question of whether we in the secularized West have the strength and belief to resist a more brutal but more committed creed such as Islam. Kobayashi Maru, in spite of the name not a Star Trek site, argues here that it would be a good thing if Western Christians accepted martyrdom (literally "witness") instead of forced conversion.
There was once a time when ordinary men and women with families and homes and perfectly bright futures and plenty to go back to--just like most of us, and just like the FOX reporters--were so convinced of the beautiful truth that God had come into the world for their sakes and sacrificed His only son that they did the irrational thing and refused to profess loyalty to Roman gods they knew to be false. They allowed themselves to be hung on crosses and ripped apart by lions and pierced with arrows and burned and beaten and minced in innumerable ways.

Most of them could have avoided such fates quite easily. They didn't. And people paid attention. Even Rome eventually paid attention. On their suffering and in their memory was born a great religion of peace--one that doesn't have to say so repeatedly in order to be taken seriously.

* * * *

Those same courageous individuals at the dawn of the first milennium could have said simply, "whatever". Roll the tape, Achmed. Hand me the script, Caesar... and we never would have remembered them. Nothing would have been built.

They were not so different from us... except in their reverence for words and oaths and the infinitely rippling impact of public expressions of faith (or lack thereof). They are the saints of old. They are alive and watching. They are praying for a few brave souls to hold back the waves of bowel-clenching dread and say to their captors:
'No'. I will not bow to a false god. Behead me if you wish. I know my salvation is in Christ. I know the world is watching. I know what I must say. I know what I must do. Your will, not mine, oh Lord.

Imagine such a spectacle: a modern saint on the nightly news--a wholly different kind of martyr. Not the kind we're used to hearing about who blows himself up on the subway. Just as firm in conscience, but utterly submissive in body. Imagine. More powerful than the greatest army. . .
I'm not a believer, and I'm chary of judging those who face terrors I only imagine. But KM has a point. If we love life so much we are afraid to lose it, as a civilization we are, perhaps, done for.

Nor is martyrdom only ancient. Multitudes of Orthodox Russians died in the gulags. Although it can't be said that all the victims of the Holocaust died for their faith, some of them did, with the Shema'a on their lips. Who knows, but I will not say they died in vain.

HT: The Anchoress.

September 4, 2006

Iran Delenda Est?

Some suspect that before he leaves office, President Bush will order air attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Some urge that this be done.

Comments on Ed Morrissey’s blog, for example, include the following:
I agree this shows just how out of control the Iranian regime is. In normal circumstances it would serve as a wake up call to other governments about the futility of negotiating with these lunatics. But, don't expect Annan's humiliation to change the approach of European appeasers to Iran, much less the obstruction and cynicism of Russia and China (whatever weakens US foreign policy objectives is a win for us) in opposing sanctions against the mullahs.

The only thing that's going to stop Iran is regime destruction on a scale rivaling Germany in WWII. If it comes to war, I favor a conventional bombing campaign that will literally take them back to the stone age. Let's see how arrogant they are when they have no oil revenue and no ability to support their population. The reality of aerial extinction tamed Khadaffi. A similar, though much greater effort, will be necessary with this crowd, and I am afraid it will have to extend to the whole damn country.

This is a cruel prescription, but we are dealing with a form of vile totalitarianism whose objective is the destruction of Western civilization, starting with the Jews, but continuing with Christianity and everything else inconsistent with their Dark Ages religion/ideology. If they start it, we'll have to finish it this way.

Posted by: Redhand  at September 4, 2006 09:53 AM

I think it's clear that Iran doesn't give a damn. Time to take the fangs out of the viper. After we sink every one of his Naval Vessels, destroy his Air Force, Military Bases, Missile Batteries, and Command/Cobntrol facilities, let's see if he still ignores the U.N, or goes running to them screaming bloody murder. Heh!

Posted by: Nostradamus  at September 4, 2006 09:56 AM
It strikes me that this eagerness to attack Iran, although perhaps understandable, could lead to a serious mistake.

Episodically, Iran has committed acts of war against the United States and offenses against the international order, such a seizing our embassy and holding our diplomatic personnel hostage, and attacking barracks holding our soldiers. The verbal hostility of the régime continues unabated. The régime’s efforts to go nuclear should give pause to everyone, not least Iran’s neighbors.

However, Iran isn't a direct threat to the United States. Iran’s military, although not inconsequential,is not equipped for serious adventures even of a regional sort. It managed to fend off Saddam, among other things, by sending unarmed teenaged boys to their deaths in Iraqi minefields. Its economy requires it to sell its oil, and oil being a fungible commodity, even if Iran chose not to sell its oil to us, it would matter little.

The mullahcracy has serious economic problems and has lost the support of many of the urban young, who seem to admire the United States as only those subject to a repressive state seem to do these days.

The United States lacks the army to carry out an invasion, let alone hold Iran or any appreciable part of it. As Napoleon said, “One can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.” Our sissified élites and our isolated public might accept a Grenada-like or Panama-like quick victory, but would have little patience for another Middle Eastern waiting game, even if casualties were few.

Air power might set back the nuclear program for awhile, but not permanently, and the attacks would have to be widespread and harsh. There goes the sympathy for the US among the Iranian people. Up comes a Shi’a uprising in Iraq, and possibly around the Persian Gulf. Otherwise, air power is not all that effective, and the dream of conquest without casualties is just that--a dream.

Moreover, there is a split in the Muslim world. Shi’a such as the Iranians are in a distinct minority, and the chances of a permanent line-up linking the Shi’a with the Sunni are small. Unlike Sadaam's régime, which was held together by violence, the Iranian régime, however unpopular and nasty, emerged out of an internal process. It's organically linked to Iranian society. Give the Iranians a chance to deal with it, and assist them with the means, and when the time comes, perhaps they will.

In fact then, other than moralistic obstinacy, there is no reason for us not to be trying modestly to engage Iran, both on the diplomatic level with its government, and on the NGO and economic levels as well. We have a strong Iranian diaspora here, composed largely of educated people. Seduction might work better than intimidation. Our Allen Dulles and Kermit Roosevelt got rid of an Iranian government once (Mossadegh’s in the ‘50s, replaced by the Shah), and are still paying the price.

The nasty fly in the ointment is the nuclear program, and in particular two scenarios--nukes handed out to terrorists, and a nuclear attack on Israel. A “first use” of nukes after 60 non-nuclear years would be a Rubicon better not crossed, and even if largely destroyed, Israel could and would retaliate. The destruction of Israel would be a human and historic tragedy, and insofar as Israel is now, willy-nilly, our ally, would damage our prestige and our national interest. A hard-headed assessment of that danger is needed, and we probably won’t get it with our eternal Presidential campaign and the undoubted power of the pro-Israeli veto groups in our polity.

The UN, of course, will do nothing, except to slap Israel down if it acts.

Whether the Israelis, now governed by a rudderless, feckless bunch, will see the Iranian nuclear threat in stark enough terms to attack, which might conceivably suck us in, is questionable. Whether we should hold them back or run the risk of being dragged into a conflict that it is not in our interest to fight, is the question.

My sense is that the régime is not so strong, and won’t last another 20 years, and Ahmadinejad, however unpleasant, is not completely irrational. At a minimum, Bush should answer his letter. His Dad would have done so; he was polite.

September 3, 2006

"At Long Last, Have You Left no Sense of Decency?"

So asked Boston lawyer Joseph Welch of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy at the legendary Army-McCarthy hearings, setting in motion that senator's trajectory to his political demise.

We might ask the same of the New York Times, whose hyping of the "Cheney outed Valerie Plame as an act of political revenge" has turned out to be a crock. The details here, in necessary but tedious detail. It wasn't Cheney, it was Colin Powell protegé Richard Armitage, who also kept quiet about the whole thing for two years while those falsely suspected spent millons on legal representation and Scooter Libby got indicted when there was really nothing to investigate.

I must confess that my eyes glazed over at this particular issue from the beginning. But the unraveling of the accustation shows the Bush-haters have no shame and will grasp at every straw just to see a Bushie "frog marched" out of the White House.

There's plenty to criticize in this Administration without resorting to cockamamie conspiracy theories. Normally I'd say they discredit those who peddle them. The Times in the Pinch era, however, is beyond shame and beyond caricature.

NOTE: The photo above is a photoshopped fantasy.