:: Friday, September 29, 2006 ::
An Islamic Roundup
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:50 AM
While watching news coverage of the mammoth wildfires in California - caused largely, I suspect, by environmental prohibitions against the clear-cutting of old and inflammable trees and brush, a policy meant to prevent or minimize wildfires -- I was prompted to think of the wildfires set by Islam around the globe, and how they could very well converge on us to form an all-consuming firestorm, if the West does nothing to clear-cut states that sponsor terrorism and Islamic totalitarianism. I was also reminded of how much jihadists and environmental terrorists have in common, at least in terms of wanting to cause destruction and sacrifice themselves to accomplish it.
It was difficult this week to pick a subject on which to comment. The candidates are all so deserving of attention.
We will begin with the United Nations. President Bush, addressing it, back-pedaled from his incendiary reference the week before to terrorists as "Islamic fascists," and instead employed the term "extremists." That was bad enough, but he attempted to strike a note of empathy with Muslim populations in the Mideast, calling terrorists "extremists in your midst [who] spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam."
That alone should earn him an award for muddled blinkerism. Yes, the West is engaged in a war against Islam, and, at last report, most Arabs in the Mideast are rooting for the terrorists. And, they neither respect nor fear the West. Don't those morning intelligence briefings in the White House mention this?
Mr. Bush came into slightly clearer focus when he named Iran and Syria as the arsonists behind the Mideast conflagration, calling Syria a "tool of Iran." But then he lost that slight clarity and, instead of calling Iran an enemy, said, after a meeting with French president Jacques Chirac, that the U.S. is willing to talk with Iran if only it would suspend its uranium enrichment program.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, at the same U.N. podium, excoriated the U.S. and promised that Islam would someday rule the world. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has formed a Satanic alliance with Ahmadinejad, at the same podium called Bush a devil and promised that the U.S. would be cut down to size. That relationship is reminiscent of the Soviet-Nazi pact over Poland and which other hapless European nations the dictatorships agreed not to go to blows over.
But the pearl for me was a portion of a speech by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who asked the U.N. to ban the "defamation of Islam." Musharraf is a so-called ally in the "war on terror." If terrorists employ force in the name of Islam to silence defamers of Islam - whether in scholarly inquiries, political cartoons, or in speeches to university audiences - shouldn't the creed be defamed, loudly and frequently? When Mr. Bush heard that request, shouldn't he have asked, "Pervez, my friend, what are you talking about?" But, he didn't. If he had asked, Musharraf would probably have only replied with his charming chuckle, and changed the subject to golf.
Musharraf also pooh-poohed the idea that he has struck a deal with the Taliban and provided them a sanctuary in western Pakistan. It's just a truce with tribal elders, he assured an ABC interviewer, failing to note that the elders are beholden to the Taliban.
Perhaps the only positive outcome of last week's U.N. summit is that the 7/11 chain of convenience stores and gas stations in the U.S. has decided to drop Citgo as its gas supplier. Citgo is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company of Venezuela. The move was prompted by Chavez's insults of Bush and of the U.S.
Daniel Pipes in his Weblog report of September 25th noted, as I did in my September 20th "The Janus Face of Islam," the true colors of dissembling Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, and commented on Bari's warning, threat, or promise - the reader may decide for himself which it was meant to be - that "if demonisation [of Muslims] continues, then Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists, 700,000 of them in London."
Pipes doubts that this warning has any teeth. "I am inclined to give it poor prospects, as non-Muslims will likely reject the implicit threat....Moreover, were such a civil war actually come to pass, Muslims being a small minority could not realistically hope to win it."
But, Britain needn't have a civil war. Deferential multiculturalism and nihilistic egalitarianism have rotted Britain's secular institutions to the core. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, George Galloway, and Mayor Ken Livingston of London, together with hoards of sensitized bureaucrats, school boards and police, have already conceded - nay, encouraged - submission to the anti-Western agenda of British Islam.
British non-Muslims haven't much say in the direction of their country. They are also worried about the legislative emasculation and usurpation of British law and independence by the super-bureaucracy of the European Union, which seeks to absorb Britain into its own caliphate. But anyone who speaks out against either blatant threats of Muslim civil turmoil or the "immigrate, invest, ingratiate, and intimidate" tactic of the incremental conquest of Britain by Islam, is called Islamphobic, a racist loon, or a toady of the British National Party.
Here are two instances of why Muslims needn't resort to an uprising against perceived "Islamophobia" and can reverse-assimilate Britain in a nearly bloodless coup. A "mega-mosque," whose construction will be underwritten and funded by mostly Saudi petro-pounds, and which could hold between 40,000 and 70,000 worshipping Muslims, as well as schools, a hotel and other facilities, is planned to be built adjacent to the future site of the 2012 Olympics stadium in London. It would be the largest place of worship in Europe, dwarfing St. Paul's just across town and every other cathedral on the Continent.
The aforementioned Dr. Bari sits on the Olympic planning committee. Officials are not certain that the mosque will be constructed. If it is approved, they are worried about resistance by all non-Muslim Britons, who may see it as a last straw of Islamic arrogance. Dr. Bari is sure to perceive such outrage as evidence of "Islamophobia."
And, Britain's National Health Service has patented the first burkah hospital gown for women, to debut on November 1st, complete with a headdress with eye slits and elastic cuffs to prevent immodest exposure of the arms.
On the Continent, in Brussels, the so-called "capital of Europe" (it is the headquarters of the European Union and European Parliament), Belgian Muslims celebrated Ramadan with consecutive nights of destructive rioting, burning and looting. In Berlin, Germany, Deutsche Oper Berlin announced cancellation of a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" for fear of precipitating Muslim rioting and demonstrations.
Produced in 2003, this highly adulterated, "updated" version of Mozart's opera about Idomeneus, king of Crete and a hero of the Trojan War, features a scene (not written by Mozart) in which Idomeneus presents the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammad in what director Hans Neuenfels claims is his protest against organized religion. He refused to remove the scene after Kirsten Harms, director of the German Opera Berlin, informed him that state security officials had warned of dangerous outbursts of Muslim anger. So the "protest" was squelched. Harm's excuse was that, recalling the violence caused by the Danish cartoons of Mohammad earlier this year, she weighed "artistic freedom and freedom of a theater...against the question of security for people's lives."
Her decision ignited a controversy. German Muslim spokesmen hailed the action, and shed crocodile tears over the loss of artistic freedom. German officials and the press, however, were scandalized and called the action "crazy" and "unacceptable." The mayor of Berlin stated, "Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them."
Also on the cultural front, Syrian television director Najdat Anzour, who earned death threats for having produced a television series on suicide bombers that was aired throughout the Mideast, is about to air another "provocative" series with dramatized episodes of terrorist attacks in Syria, Egypt, Morocco, England and Iraq. And the villains are all Muslims! But, wait, before applauding Anzour's courage, readers should know that his purpose is to "defend Islam and to show that it's the religion of tolerance and dialogue, not of violence." Apparently Muslim characters in the series are outspokenly opposed to terrorism -- if it hurts them. Anzour blames the U.S. for the rise in terrorism for having invaded Iraq and for supporting Israel. "Terrorism," he said, "is an American industry, 100 percent." He sounds awfully like a Democrat.
Speaking of Democrats, former President Bill Clinton's premeditated hissy-fit on Fox News, during which he defended himself against Republicans and "right-wingers" by blathering untruths about his pursuit of Osama bin Laden and hammering Chris Wallace's knee with a finger, appears to have been the "go" signal to fellow Democrats to launch a full-scale assault of Bush's Iraq policy. Not that it shouldn't be assaulted - it is the wrong war and it is a mounting failure - but Democrats will accept any excuse just to "get" Bush and recapture Congress in the fall elections so they can proceed with their own failures.
To be sure, one or all of them will make as much hay as possible out of the recent revelation that former Secretary of State during the Vietnam War Henry Kissinger regularly consults Bush and has advised him to "stay the course" in Iraq. Perhaps Kissinger believes that while his policies failed to "democratize" Vietnam, they will work this time and "democratize" Iraq.
And you can bet that no Democrat (or Republican) will demand that Bush, Rice, or Rumsfeld answer this question: Isn't having 140,000 troops in Iraq being beaten up by Iranian and other Mideast "foreign insurgents" as insane and costly a policy as having American troops, during World War Two, fighting the Nazis in France and Belgium but not allowing them to enter Germany? Are or are not Iran and Syria our chief enemies in that region? Why haven't they been taken out? And why should American taxpayers be underwriting the rebuilding of Iraq, when recent events point to Iraq preferring to be in the Iranian sphere of politics?
But, no one should hold his breath waiting to hear those questions posed in the Senate and House. The Democrats are willing to resort to any tactic but asking for the truth. They are out to demolish Bush at any cost but a commitment to reason.
In their assault, they won't be quoting Oriana Fallaci, the fiery Italian journalist who died earlier this month, who was to be tried in her home country for "blaspheming" Islam, and who, given a chance, would probably have given Bush a tongue-lashing in the Oval Office, calling him an "insipid, quavering Christian more afraid of Allah and Mohammad" than of his own God, "and to hell with Him, too." She was an atheist and a proud infidel who has warned the West about the insidious, destructive encroachments of "the Borg" ever since 9/11.
Finally, while Britain is being absorbed by the whims and caprices of an envious European Union, American sovereignty and independence is being suborned by the Supreme Court (via its Hamden decision) and by Congressional deference to the Geneva Convention over the treatment of prisoners of war taken in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Notice I called them "prisoners of war,' and not "detainees." Prisoners of war have no rights, especially not prisoners who claim rights that they seek to destroy under Sharia law.
Could it get any worse? Yes. The Democrats will think of something.
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:: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 ::
The Janus Face of Islam
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:45 AM
At first sight, his hair and neatly trimmed short beard hint at professional styling at an expensive men's hair salon in London. His sports jacket could have come off the rack on Saville Row, and his open collar shirt might be a pricier Izod. In the background are well-stocked bookshelves, and they, together with his benign demeanor, suggest the career of perhaps an assistant director of the Royal Shakespeare Festival, or a market analyst, or a symphony conductor. There is a certain rugged air in his manner; one might guess that perhaps he participates, in his free time, as a fully kitted Cavalier or Roundhead during reenactments of battles of the English Civil War of the 1640's.
This is Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, 52, the new secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain and chairman of the East London mosque. He has a Ph.D. in physics from King's College London (according to the Daily Telegraph; the BBC News profile, however, claims he is a behavioral specialist with a PH.D. from the same school), and a management degree from the Open University. Before earning those he trained as an engineer in the Bangladeshi air force.
He was born in Bangladesh and emigrated to Britain in 1979. He is the author of several books, among them Race, Religion and Muslim Identity in Britain, Building Muslim Families, and The Greatest Gift: A Guide to Parenting. He was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2003. He is active in various other Muslim civic councils and groups, and was president of the Islam Forum Europe. According to BBC News, he is also on the organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
He is influential in British "social" politics, getting phone calls from Downing Street, politicians, and other quarters on Muslim matters. He is credited with helping multiculturalist, anti-British George Galloway win a seat in Parliament by urging East End Muslims to vote. "We want to help fight hooliganism," he told the Sunday Telegraph, "drugs and broken families; we want the British to become better neighbors. Muslims can give and teach Britain so much: looking after the elderly, enduring marriages, respect, strong faith, no alcohol."
And no short skirts, premarital sex and cohabitation, either. He echoes the moral agenda of the staunchest Christian Republicans in the U.S. Bari is ostensively patriotic. When British football teams play, he and his family "always fly the flag."
All in all, Bari appears to be the elusive "moderate" Muslim sought by those who believe that Western civilization and Islam can coexist peacefully.
"I joined the air force because I was good at school," he said during a Daily Telegraph interview (June 6, 2006) shortly after his election to the Muslim Council. "A few years after my training in Britain, I realized I was a better academic than a pilot. I got a scholarship to do a Ph.D. in physics at King's College London. I taught in Haringey - that was tough. But I liked it here: the cool weather, the easy nature of the British. This is my home."
A droll enough observation.
"Our religion teaches us to be good neighbors and friends. Any group or religion has one or two people who are bad. But now we are all seen as the enemy." And on September 9 he told the Sunday Telegraph, "There are a few bad apples in the Muslim community who are doing terrible acts and we want to root them out. We want to isolate the bad people and put them in the dock. But we all have to work together to do that."
"Work together." Also an innocuous observation, except that it imputes a separatist premise that puts Muslims at odds with the rest of Britain. But, separatism is not on Bari's mind. As the Muslim Council's new secretary-general, he will maintain that organization's opposition to racial and religious profiling at airports and the government's anti-terrorist legislation, and continue its call for a law that would ban incitement to religious hatred. (Which, in practice, would mean a law that muzzles critics of Islam, whose words might cause Muslims to express their hatred in demonstrations and violence. Muslims, of course, could continue to excoriate non-believers with impunity, as they do now, all over the world.)
"His aim," reports the Daily Telegraph interview, "will be to encourage Britain to adopt more Muslim ways, as well as to encourage Muslims to be good British citizens. He thinks that non-Muslim Britons would benefit from having arranged marriages and espousing stronger family values; they would also do well to stop drinking and gambling and to follow many of the teachings of Islam."
And become half-caste Muslims? What a scheme for incremental submission to Islam and Sharia law! The grinning mask of Janus is beginning to come into focus.
What bothers Bari most is what he calls the "demonization" of Muslims in Britain. He told the Telegraph that he sensed a mood of "anxiety, frustration and, especially among young people, anger." "The young are the dynamic section of society and there are many issues facing young Muslims - including alienation, deprivation, frustration, and, in a small section, there is extremism," he told the BBC.
One would like to pose this question to Dr. Bari: If Muslims have caused such a magnitude of death and carnage over the last five years, sanctioned by the Koran in a declared war against Western civilization, wouldn't it be logical to "demonize" Muslims? When Nazi Germany blitzed Britain in WWII, wasn't it logical for Britons to "demonize" Nazis?
"He did not understand why 'the whole of our diverse [Muslim] community' was being targeted," reports the Sunday Telegraph. Bari said, "When the IRA was blowing people up, the entire Catholic population of Britain was not demonized, so why is it happening to the Muslim community?"
Such a diverting, fatuous query deserves a retort. The entire Catholic population of Britain was not demonized because the IRA had no totalitarian agenda, nor had the Catholic Church in Britain. The IRA was waging terrorism - on military music schools, on the Household Cavalry on parade, on commuter trains, on Protestants and Catholics alike, in Ireland and in Britain - in order to end British rule in Northern Ireland. I am certain that Dr. Bari knows this, but has counted on no one else making the distinction between the separatist aims of the IRA and the one-way assimilation agenda of British Islam.
Bari blames the news media and the police for "contributing to the rise of Islamophobia." If Islamophobia is on the rise, can anyone not a Muslim be blamed, especially if the murders and carnage are committed in the name of Islam?
The partnering tragic mask of Janus now pops into view. "If that demonization continues," Bari told the Sunday Telegraph, "then Britain will have to deal with two million Muslims terrorists - 700,000 of them in London. If you attack a whole community, it becomes despondent and aggressive."
Come again? Who is attacking whom? Who is being aggressive? In the name of what creed? Is that a threat? Or a promise?
Of course, Bari had something to say about Pope Benedict XVI's recent citation from a medieval text about the nature of Islam, in which a 14th century Byzantine emperor asked a Persian Muslim: "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 September 16 edition of the Daily Telegraph reports Bari saying, "the Pope was regurgitating the words of a bigot."
"One would expect [the Pope] to repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations between Islam and Catholicism," he said.
No evidence of dissemblance there.
Well, there you have it. Both masks of Janus. There are no reports of what "moderate" Dr. Bari has to say about the violent demonstrations, death threats and promises of retribution against Benedict and Catholics in general by all those "alienated, frustrated, and angry" Muslims in Britain and abroad. All of which serve to second Emperor Manuel II Paleologus's "bigoted" motion that Islam is not so much despondent as aggressive. Bari's silence is deafening.
Never mind what the behind-the-scenes managers and stagers of all those "spontaneous" demonstrations around the globe say or think (the ones who apparently have stockrooms full of infidel national flags ready to burn, and prepared placards and banners in English ready to hoist and wave for the cameras). It would be interesting to hear how "moderate" Dr. Bari would suavely answer these questions: Why is Islam so bothered by an infidel telling the truth? Does not Mohammad advocate spreading Islam by the sword? Or is it Benedict's (or Paleologus's) characterization of Islam's means and ends as "evil" and "inhuman" that has riled all those "good neighbors and friends"?
Do Muslims protesteth too much?
To iterate: While the Koran repeatedly urges the faithful to kill infidels who do not submit, Muslims are feigning indignation, claiming that the Pope's indirect identification of that fact is an insult worthy of murder, the destruction of Catholic churches, and a special jihad against Christians.
No killer likes being labeled a killer. Misunderstood, perhaps. Frustrated. Angry, or oppressed, or deprived, or a victim of imagined persecution, or despondent, or temporarily insane. But never a killer, even if he confesses to killing.
It would be difficult to find a more perfect instance of why Islam is closed to reason, and why it cannot be open to civilized "dialogue," something Pope Benedict's statement was intended to initiate. Every inconsistency or contradiction in Islam, if revealed by a non-believer, would be rebuffed by Muslims, as well as any truth - such as the ongoing jihadist infidelicide - that conflicted with Islam's posturing as a "peaceful" creed ready to coexist with other creeds.
Dr. Bari doubtless would deny that "radical Islam" is a redundancy, but he would agree with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who during an ABC interview on September 19th, asserted that Islamic fundamentalist "extremism" is "the perversion of a great religion." And, he was probably heartened by President Bush's remark, during his address to the U.N. the same day, that the U.S. "is not at war with Islam."
Pardon me, Mr. President, but, yes, it is. At least it is with Islamic totalitarianism. And Dr. Bari is one of numerous soft-soapers who can help make that horror possible. One must wonder how many of his disingenuous ilk are active in the U.S.
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:: Saturday, September 16, 2006 ::
A Postscript to The Pathetic "Path to 9/11"
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:26 AM
In my commentary of September 14th, I quoted from Ayn Rand's essay, "What is Romanticism?" from The Romantic Manifesto:
I then remarked:
"... Naturalism lost the attempted universality of Shakespeare or Tolstoy, descending from metaphysics to photography with a rapidly shrinking lens directed at the range of the immediate moment - until the final remnants of Naturalism became a superficial, meaningless, "unserious" school that had nothing to say about human existence."
"That essentially describes 'The Path to 9/11': a shrunken, myopic lens focused on moment-by-moment actions and incidents, examining endless minutiae adding up to non-judgmental conclusions." I try to limit my commentaries to 2,000 words or less, and so omitted other points I wished to make. So, let's pull back the lens and take in the context that surrounds "The Path to 9/11."
At no point in the film did one hear a single critical comment about Islam. The focus was almost entirely on finding Osama bin Laden. Of course, the director, Cyrus Nowrasten, may have chosen to stress the obsession the Clinton and Bush administrations had with bin Laden over any wider conflict. In Clinton's case, however, it was with his and his appointees' collective, expedient dismissal of the seriousness of bin Laden's threat; in Bush's case, it was with his fallacious notion that bin Laden and his underlings hijacked a "peaceful" religion.
Then again, Nowrasten may have been following ABC's playbook of political correctness and refrained from painting Islam and its fundamentalist followers in the least negative light. But, jihadists had been waging war on the West long before the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Apart from of the murderous depredations of the IRA, Basque separatists, Tamil Tigers, and other non-Muslim terrorist groups, Islamic jihadists have racked up the biggest body count and the most property and economic destruction in the past thirty years. Therefore, it is logical to assume that Nowrasten would feel tempted to cast at least one aspersion on Islam and its ideology of conquest and destruction as a driving force.
But, he didn't. So, I am fairly certain that Nowrasten succumbed to political correctness and repressed any critical portrayal of Islam. Islam is too big and active a venomous hydra not to notice - except to those burdened with self-induced myopia.
Much of the cinematography of the Afghanistan scenes was gorgeous. But, heeding Leonard Peikoff's dictum that "a picture is not an argument," I was of two minds about what was shown in that locale. The dominant one was: But for all the SUVs, trucks, automatic weapons and cell phones, what viewers saw was the appallingly barbarous, primitive living conditions in that part of the world, whether in the areas controlled by the Taliban or the ones controlled by the Northern Alliance, conditions that had not changed in over a thousand years. Worse yet, I had the sense that those conditions are what both sides wished to preserve - as a "culture," as a "way of life" -- including the "good guy" Northern Alliance chief who was assassinated in the end.
The lesser of my two minds was: What an education! Those conditions are what, in the end, submission to Islam (or to any totalitarianism) would ultimately reduce the entire world to! That is the root motive and end of the jihadists and their state-sponsors, in the Mideast, in Asia, and in the West, the vision of a Hobbesian "leviathan," a global caliphate in which men are reduced to living in tents, caves, and shacks assembled from the debris of a destroyed world, lorded over by tribal chiefs who swear allegiance to a hierarchy of ayatollahs and muftis.
My last point is that "The Path to 9/11" failed utterly to convincingly project the evil of our enemies and of their ideology. Why? Because, focusing as it did on the touchy bull-headedness, obstructive foot-dragging and venality of especially the Clinton gang, it could not project an efficacious good. Aside from the frustrated diligence of John O'Neill and a few other characters, there was no powerful counterpoint. O'Neill and his allies were lost in a swamp of moral grayness that often melded into the black villainy of political turf conflicts and outright cowardice.
The current bull-headed, "stay the course" policy of President Bush concerning the "democratization" of Iraq is simply another path to tragedy and defeat. Pakistan, a dubious "ally" from the very beginning, has already shown its true colors in the "war on terrorism": by signing a truce with terrorists to create a "sanctuary" for them in a western province, and by the recent release thousands of Taliban fighters taken prisoner by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Congress is proposing to abolish torture as a means of extracting information from Muslim combatants taken prisoner in Afghanistan and Iraq. Presumably, they, like the prisoners released by President Pervez Musharraf's government, are represented by lawyers, as well, and will possibly be released at the urging of our "humanitarian" Congress.
That would be an interesting subject of another "docudrama," as the wind stirs the radioactive ashes of Boston or San Francisco, and as America counts its thousands of dead. Will there be anyone around to watch it? Will there be anyone to film it?
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:: Friday, September 15, 2006 ::
Another (not so) great moment in democracy
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:31 PM
Dutch justice minister Piet Hein Donner is what one can call a slavish democrat. He believes in the will of the majority—so deeply in fact that he concedes the majority's right to force you to live under a wholly irrational, totalitarian code.
Donner strongly disagrees with a recent plea by CDA parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen for a ban on parties seeking to launch Sharia (Islamic law) in the Netherlands. "For me it is clear: if two-thirds of the Dutch population should want to introduce the Sharia tomorrow, then the possibility should exist," according to Donner. "It would be a disgrace to say: 'That is not allowed!'."What Donner doesn't allow is the principle of individual rights, yet despite the outrage over this story, his position is hardly shocking. Lots of people ascribe omniscience to the majority. Hey, it's a group—they voted. Time to meet your new overlords. After all, 50 million Sharia advocates couldn't possibly be wrong.
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Alter's alternate universe
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:43 AM
I've never found much use for the game of historical "what-if," as it is rarely anything more than utter rationalism, arbitrary speculation, and wishful thinking. History is the product of ideas across an entire culture, not of chance happenings or unitary decisions. As expected, Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter's recent post-9/11 "what-if" measures as expected. Alter envisions a world where all is well, thanks to none other than President Bush.
As Bush warned, catching terrorists wasn't easy, but he kept at it. At the battle of Tora Bora, CIA operatives on the ground cabled Washington that Osama bin Laden was cornered, but they desperately needed troop support. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately dispatched fresh forces, and the evildoer was killed. While bin Laden was seen as a martyr in a few isolated areas, the bulk of the Arab world had been in sympathy with the United States after 9/11 and shed no tears. After their capture, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists were transported to the United States, where they were tried and quickly executed. Did you see the fast one Alter plays? Bush is simultaneously bold (dispatching fresh forces into Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden), and humble (smooth-talking Syria and a pre-liberation Iraq to helping squelch Islamic terror.) Alter totally evades how Bush has been "humble" throughout his entire presidency. A bold man would have dropped nuclear bombs on Afghanistan rather than risk a single American life for the Taliban's intransigence. A bold man would not have taken a year to beg the UN for permission to topple Saddam. And what evidence does Alter offer that "talking" to Syria and Iraq would have convinced them of anything. Israel has been talking to the Palestinians for years. Remember the Oslo accords? What has Israel received in return, other than unending jihad?
Today, Al Qaeda remains a threat but its opportunities for recruitment have been scarce, and the involvement of the entire international community has helped dramatically reduce terrorist attacks worldwide. Because Bush believes diplomacy requires talking to adversaries as well as friends, even Syria and Iraq were forced to help. By staying "humble," as he promised in 2000, he preserved much of the post-9/11 good feeling abroad, which paid dividends when it came time to pull together a coalition to handle North Korea and Iran.
Alter piles it on even thicker.
At home, some aides suggested that Bush simply tell the nation to "go shopping." But the president knew he had a precious opportunity to ask Americans for real sacrifice. He took John McCain's suggestion and pushed through Congress an ambitious national-service program that bolstered communities and helped train citizens as first responders.Here Alter engages in his wishful thinking. The same president who was "humble" before our adversaries should all of a sudden be demanding when it comes to the American people. Damn us, with our selfish, oil consuming, SUV driving ways. We should be compelled to sacrifice, paying even more in taxes and serving the nation as it ought to be served. If Alter says "what if," I say, "whatever."
Soon Bush put the country on a Manhattan Project crash course to get off oil. He bluntly told Detroit that it was embarrassing that Chinese automakers had better fuel efficiency, he classified SUVs as cars, and he imposed a stiff gas tax with a rebate for the working poor. To pay for it, he abandoned his tax cuts for the wealthy, reminding the country that no president in history had ever cut taxes in the middle of a war. This president would be damned if he was going to put more oil money into the pockets of Middle Eastern hatemongers who had killed nearly 3,000 of our people. To dramatize the point, he drove to his 2002 State of the Union address in a hybrid car. Sales soared.
Alter is not finished yet, not when he has yet to fully chime in on Iraq.
In 2003, Vice President Cheney advised the president to take out Iraq's Saddam Hussein militarily. But Bush was beginning to understand that his veep, while sounding full of gravitas, was in fact reckless. When it became clear that Saddam posed no imminent threat, Bush resolved to neuter him, Kaddafi style. When the president found, after a little asking around, that the 10-year cost of invading Iraq would be a crushing $1.2 trillion, he opted out of this war of choice.Here, Alter isn't even internally consistent. Just a few paragraphs above Iraq was a strategic partner after Bush's "listening" and due deference. Why would Cheney then want to causelessly attack such a valuable asset in the fight against Islamic militancy? And what about Iran and their nuclear ambitions? How will the fountainhead of Islamic jihad suddenly change course and enter the world of civilized nations in Alter's alternate universe?
Alter's "what-if" analyses shows that he simply does not grasp the root of America's problems. Americans say that they love their liberty, but they are woefully inconsistent about it, neither understanding its moral source, nor what it will take to properly defend it. A proud people, jealously guarding their lives and freedom and willing to act consistently to defend them would not long suffer a pathetic and irrational foe like militant Islam, nor would they tolerate the statist's pipe dream of higher taxes and even more sacrifice. If Alter wanted to name Bush's true fault, it would be his unprincipled pragmatism, and if Alter wanted to name its source, it would have to be in the ideas of the people who elected him.
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:: Thursday, September 14, 2006 ::
The Pathetic "Path to 9/11"
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:40 AM
Watching ABC's "The Path to 9/11" on September 10th and 11th was a tortuous, grueling exercise in journalistic duty. I viewed it simply because former President Bill Clinton and many from his administration objected to it and raised the specter of censorship. ABC promoted it as a "dramatization" of the events leading up to the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon.
True, there is a difference between a "dramatization" and a "documentary." Many of Shakespeare's plays are imaginary "dramatizations" of the lives and actions of English kings. Doubtless, if Kings Richard, John, and the various Henrys had been alive to audit Shakespeare's plays, every one of them might have protested, "Hey! I never said that! I never did that! That's not how it happened!"
A documentary, on the other hand, should clearly recount the details and circumstances of a historical event, based on available evidence. The only value judgments the director of a documentary may make is whether or not a fact is true and contributes to an understanding of the event.
In her essay, "What is Romanticism?" from The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand observed:
"...[H]aving rejected the element of plot and even of story, the Naturalists concentrated on the element of characterization - and psychological perceptiveness was the chief value that the best of them had to offer....[However], that value shrank and vanished; characterization was replaced with indiscriminate recording and buried under a catalogue of trivia, such as minute inventories of a character's apartment, clothing and meals. Naturalism lost the attempted universality of Shakespeare or Tolstoy, descending from metaphysics to photography with a rapidly shrinking lens directed at the range of the immediate moment - until the final remnants of Naturalism became a superficial, meaningless, "unserious" school that had nothing to say about human existence."
That essentially describes "The Path to 9/11": a shrunken, myopic lens focused on moment-by-moment actions and incidents, examining endless minutiae adding up to non-judgmental conclusions.
The protestations of Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke and others from that disgraceful regime are as irrelevant as the hypothetical objections of the English kings. They ought to feel flattered that they were even "dramatized." Absent any moral judgment of their actions in the ABC movie, they got off easy with a mere implication of improper behavior. If "Path" had any purpose or point at all, qua "dramatization" it should have been to illustrate the impeachability of their policies and actions.
On a literary level, "The Path to 9/11" is hardly Shakespearean. A good director and cast can bring alive the dullest of Shakespeare's plays. But director Cyrus Nowrasten's fudged, "non-partisan" recounting of the events leading up to 9/11 is a passionless yawner. In response to the Clinton gang's objections and reported threats of legal action for defamation of character, ABC apparently snipped and cut the original version here and there before the national broadcast of the movie. I suspect, however, that the original was just as jumbled and cobbled together as the end product, which was as flat, colorless and undramatic as "Survivor" or "This Old House" or any other "reality" program.
The Clinton gang, blinkered by their pragmatist outlook and policies, should not protest too much, for the altruist-pragmatist policies "dramatized" in "Path" also reflect those same policies as practiced by President George Bush's administration in his failing "war on terrorism." One could also cite Ronald Reagan's failure to properly respond to the murder of hundreds of American Marines in Lebanon by Hezbollah, and Jimmy Carter's failure to properly respond to the taking of American hostages from our embassy in Tehran. There is more than enough blame to go around when it comes to the politics of lying, betrayal and verisimilitude in our foreign policy.
The sequence of events in "Path" was strung tenuously and haphazardly along the thread of a story line about the actions of FBI agent John P. O'Neill, who, later as director of security for the World Trade Center, died in the South Tower when it collapsed. O'Neill was portrayed by Harvey Keitel; his was the only credible, non-anemic performance in the whole production.
One aspect of "Path" that I found distracting and annoying was the number of long scenes set in Afghanistan and other foreign locales. Most of the dialogue in them was in what I suppose was Urdu, or whatever language Afghans speak, with subtitles. Why the actors couldn't have delivered their lines in English, I cannot fathom. It was difficult enough to focus on the actors' expressions and actions without having to also quickly read the subtitles at the same time.
To compensate for the lack of coherence and drama, too many of those Afghanistan scenes were injected with the requisite "shoot 'em up" battles between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. This is the usual resort of a director who makes a movie in which nothing significant happens.
And then a question occurred to me: Why does the U.S. government find it so hard to find and recruit Arabic speakers to serve as translators and decoders of the various dialects for its military and civilian programs, but Hollywood doesn't?
Much worse - in fact, revolting -- was how the 9/11 hijackers and their handlers were portrayed in a neutral light. One would think that when proposing to spend $40 million on a movie, one would want to make a moral point about the villains. No such point was made. A writer or director of a "fictionalized" story must reveal his moral compass; he must express a conclusion about his subject.
Even Shakespeare communicated moral judgments of his kings in his dramatized "chronicles." Nowrasten's singular achievement is that he did not reveal a moral compass. Given the bland projection of the villains and the noncommittal portrayal of the "good guys," it is doubtful he had a moral point to express, or, if he had one, it was repressed. Personally, the actors who portrayed the hijackers and their mentors elicited no emotional response in me. I could just as well have been watching a dramatized exposé of a gang's plot to rob a series of 7/11 convenience stores.
Given the Naturalist character of "Path," that was to be expected. There was no point to its production or broadcast, moral or otherwise.
Watching "Path," I could not help but compare it with other historically based cinematic epics whose subjects were Arabs or jihadists, such as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and Basil Dearden's "Khartoum." Lean and Dearden's moral points are clear as a bell, making their films compelling and memorable, whether or not one agrees or disagrees with their points.
The worst thing about "Path," then, is that it deliberately failed to project the evil of our enemies. The only good thing one could say about the film is that it was an indirect, unintended indictment of the pragmatism and moral relativism that have governed this country's foreign policy for more than half a century.
One of the most memorable lines from Lean's "Lawrence" is an implicit rebuttal of the idea of predestination: "Nothing is written." Nowrasten's non-judgmental, non-evaluative signature line for "The Path to 9/11" is: "It just happened."
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:: Wednesday, September 13, 2006 ::
Who put the cowards in charge?
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:09 PM
Unless you live under a rock, you know that the Taliban was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks, for it deliberately gave Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda sanctuary for their Afghanistan terror training camps. It is in this light that this AP story indicates an appalling symbol of America's craven cowardice before its enemies.
The U.S. military acknowledged Wednesday that it considered bombing a group of more than 100 Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan but decided not to after determining they were on the grounds of a cemetery.A "higher moral and ethical standard"? By not killing our enemies when they are assembled as an easy target? This story is evidence of the degree that altruism has infected our nation's military and its willingness to wage war. Rather that exploit a prime opportunity to kill over 100 of the enemy in one fell swoop, our commanders would rather let the enemy escape and leave our solders to fight them another day and on less favorable terms. If one American gets so much as a hangnail as a result of this appalling failure to act, the blame for it rests solely upon the heads of American commanders.
The decision came to light after an NBC News correspondent's blog carried a photograph of the insurgents. Defense department officials first tried to block further publication of the photo, then struggled to explain what it depicted.
NBC News claimed U.S. Army officers wanted to attack the ceremony with missiles carried by an unmanned Predator drone but were prevented under rules of battlefield engagement that bar attacks on cemeteries.
In a statement released Wednesday, the U.S. military in Afghanistan said the picture — a grainy black-and-white photo taken in July — was given to a journalist to show that Taliban insurgents were congregating in large groups. The statement said U.S. forces considered attacking.
"During the observation of the group over a significant period of time, it was determined that the group was located on the grounds of (the) cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed in a coalition operation nearby earlier in the day," the statement said. "A decision was made not to strike this group of insurgents at that specific location and time."
While not giving a reason for the decision, the military concluded the statement saying that while Taliban forces have killed innocent civilians during a funeral, coalition forces "hold themselves to a higher moral and ethical standard than their enemies." [LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer]
War requires killing the enemy until he surrenders, and the best time to kill the enemy is when he least expects it. War requires moral certainty. It is not a "higher ethical standard" that makes our leaders value the lives of America’s enemies more than they value the lives of our men, it is a standard of pure and useless sacrifice. Such a pathetic ethic has no place in our military.
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Founders passes first regulatory hurdle
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:47 AM
With all the excitement, speculation (and indeed outright criticism) over Founders College, the college has passed a significant milestone in its launch. Today it announced that has received degree-granting authority from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, a regulatory hurdle that also allows the school to begin to recruit students. Additionally, Founders outlined what portents to be its selling proposition.
[Dr. Gary Hull], Director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace at Duke University, said Founders will redefine and revitalize liberal arts education. "What makes the College unique is its focus on an integrated education centered around important ideas in history, literature and the arts, economics, and philosophy. In addition to liberal arts, Founders will start by offering degrees in business and education."While the above blurb is unlikely to sway Founders' critics, there is no doubt that the project continues to move forward. It has contracted on property, it has hinted at what will be its vision for integration in learning, and it contemplates becoming a renaissance center for life-long learning. I still need to see the specifics, but I continue to remain hopeful that the Founders team can pull it off.
"Each student will graduate with an important body of knowledge, a capacity to think independently and make logical judgments, and the ability to write and speak clearly and eloquently. Our education gives students the ability to understand better themselves and the world around them."
Student Scholastic Aptitude (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) test scores will not be considered for admission. Instead, Founders evaluates applications by reference to a student's context of knowledge, thinking and writing skills, essay, maturity level, and motivation.
Faculty at Founders College will be required to pass a rigorous, proprietary teacher-training program, and to participate in on-going teacher training. Tenure will not be offered.
"We prize effective teaching methods and great teachers." Hull said. "Instructors will focus on inspiring and fostering the intellect of students, as well as providing the finest education in essential liberal arts subjects."
Tamara Fuller, the College's Chief Strategy Officer, said Founders is on track to open in the fall of 2007, once it receives the necessary approvals for use of the 1,100-acre estate nestled in the foothills of Central Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
"We have three ingredients for success," Fuller said. "There's clearly strong interest in a classical and disciplined liberal arts college that takes seriously the idea that parents and students are its customers. Second, the demographics of the next decade will generate a significant boom of college-age students. And third, the College is positioned to offer a rich campus experience in a state known for great colleges and universities."
The College will sit at the core of a long-term vision to establish a lifelong learning center at the Lynch Station site, including a retirement community, a luxury conference center, fine dining and other amenities.
:: Monday, September 11, 2006 ::
Taking Islam Seriously
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:58 AM
On the whole, I agreed with a recent ARI op-ed, "The Terrorists' Motivation: Islam," by Dr. Edwin Locke and Alex Epstein, and read it with great appreciation. Its principle point is that Islamic totalitarianism is a greater threat than most people can imagine. However, I had been saying that for years. I kept getting expressions of doubt concerning the fundamental nature of Islam, doubts that denied or questioned whether jihad against non-believers, infidels, and Western civilization in general was an integral weave of the Islamic cloth. These reservations and doubts came from some surprising Objectivist quarters.
But, going by recent observations by other Objectivists, I think no doubts remain among our number that Islam poses a mortal peril here and abroad. This is a positive way to mark the fifth anniversary of the Islamic attack on this country.
My only reservation about the op-ed can be found in this paragraph:
"It is true that many Muslims who live in the West (like most Christians) reject religious fanaticism and are law-abiding and even loyal citizens, but this is because they have accepted some Western values, including respect for reason, a belief in individual rights, and the need for a separation between church and state. It is only to the extent that they depart from their religion - and from a society that imposes it - that they achieve prosperity, freedom, and peace."Islam is just as insidiously corrupting as is Christianity. Name me one Christian who has a fundamental, unshakable respect for reason, individual rights, and a separation of church and state. True, as the op-ed points out, Christianity's "jihadist" character has been diluted since the Renaissance (and the recent resurgence of Christianity Harry Binswanger called an aberration). But most rank and file Christians are foggy on these ideas, while most of their "intellectual" spokesmen today are outspokenly hostile to them.
Islam cannot be tamed or diluted, not unless, as I've written elsewhere, the creed is gutted of its belligerent commandments. No Islamic scholar, ayatollah, or cleric is going to attempt that kind of "reformation" without risking a charge of apostasy and a fatwah on his life. If it were ever accomplished, what would be left would not be Islam, but a creed as innocuous and pacific as the Amish. The fundamental requirement of Islam is, simply put, abject, unquestioning submission by belief, conversion, or the sword (or bomb). It is as primitive and barbaric a creed as the Mayan or Aztec.
I am certain that if those American Muslims, who, as the op-ed describes in the op-ed, reject religious fanaticism and are law-abiding citizens, are ever faced with a choice, secularism or faith, they would side with faith. I see them as a fifth column here, kindling for the kind of warlike proselytizing that is common in mosques in Britain and Europe against the "host" country. We have seen the beginnings of such "radicalization" here as we've seen in Britain and Europe, with the SUV-jihadists and the Muslims who bought thousands of cell phones in a plot to destroy a Michigan bridge, and other incidents involving violent Muslim "activism."
What we have not seen here is any sincere, across-the-board condemnation of terrorism by Muslims by any American Muslim organization. Nor are we likely to. The creed forbids it; it would demand a conscious contradiction of principles. (And I'm not even including the transparent, pseudo-pious PR statements of CAIR or the Muslim Council of America, whose spokesmen have expressed a desire to see the Constitution replaced with Sharia law. CAIR, by the way, is an offshoot of Hamas and is more or less subsidized by Saudi Wahhabists.) Islam is not Episcopalism garbed in a hajib or burkah.
Furthermore, I don't think enough critics of Islam take seriously enough the "separatist" agenda of Islam in Western countries, a separatism or move to a status of "separate but equal" reminiscent of the black power movement of the 1960's and 1970's. The aforementioned Amish may wish to remain "separate" from American culture, and have largely done so, but they are not waging a jihadist campaign to convert other Americans or incorporate Amish principles into American law, either on the street or in court.
Just as a Christian must repudiate his creed in its entirety before he can begin to respect reason, endorse individual rights, and call for an iron curtain separation of church and state (most Christians adhere to these ideas more from "tradition" than from conscious conviction), so must a Muslim his. I think I understand Islam well enough to know that a repudiation of Islam, while necessary, is ethically and intellectually impossible to the non-thinking Muslim, and certainly impossible to Muslim clerics of any rank, who have a vested interest in enlarging their credulous congregations.
Anyone who was intellectually honest enough to attempt it would need to go into hiding, as did Wafa Sultan, the woman who condemned Islam on Al Jazeera TV, to elude her Muslim assassins. (Just the other day there was an item in the paper about a Sudanese editor who criticized Islam, who disappeared, and then was found dead on the outskirts of Khartoum, executed.) Briefly, I don't think it is possible for any Muslim to mentally compartmentalize his religious convictions as Christians and Jews do, or to think and act "outside the box." He is required to maintain his Islamic identity all his conscious hours. Christians or Jews can innovate in business, medicine, science and even the arts; I am not aware of any "Westernized" Muslim making a breakthrough in stem cell research or astrophysics or industrial production.
Finally, from a purely emotional standpoint, I find the presence of Muslims in the U.S. repulsive. There is no room in their creed for individualism, independence of mind, or for any of the virtues championed by Objectivism. Informally, I call them the "Borg." I cannot reconcile the thought of mosques in any part of the country with the images of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington.
The image of Jefferson's statue in the Memorial rotunda next to the figure of a Muslim kneeling on a prayer mat in supplication to a fearsome ghost is too violently offensive. I refuse to ignore that contrast, nor will I accept it as a norm and shrug it off.
Islam represents a tyranny over men's minds incompatible with what this country was intended to be. Even in a semi-rational culture such as ours, there is no room for the Koran and Hadith and the Declaration and the Constitution in the same country at the same time. One could say this as well, that ultimately there is no room in it for the Bible and the Declaration at the same time, either.
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September 11th, 2006
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:48 AM
I feel obligated on this 5th anniversary of 9/11 to write something poetic and full of poignant meaning. How about this: Avenge 9/11. Let not one drop of blood shed that day go unpunished. Make the world fit for those who want to live peaceably in it. If the rhyming and meter is off, let the sentiments carry the tune.
Yet have we as a civilization, "standing united" and "never forgetting" with our American flags fluttering from every doorstep, avenged those near 3,000 dead—and secured our title to our own lives? Have we crushed those who think that their mystical creed gives them the right to put box-cutters to our throats and drive planes into our greatest buildings? Have we destroyed those who aim to murder us on even a far greater scale? Our civilization was formed on the acknowledgement that each of us has a right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Five years after we were attacked, are our rights defended and our enemies vanquished?
Hardly. One wakes up today with the sickening knowledge that our enemy stands utterly undeterred, let alone defeated. This 5th anniversary of 9/11 is a day for mourning—and in more ways than one. For if we truly wanted to be free, if we thought we deserved to live our lives without threats from other men, we would have crushed our enemies years ago. Instead of the farce of "Homeland Security" and its endless searches of our library records and carry-on items, we'd bring the battle to our enemy's homelands. The force used against him would not be "proportionate," it would be ruthless, overwhelming—and decisive.
"But our enemy is terrorism and we never can truly defeat it." Hogwash. Our enemy is global Islamic jihad and those states that allow jihad to exist. Ruthlessly crush those states, end the people who allow jihad to flourish on their doorstep, irradiate their women and children, and the jihad dies with them.
"But if we do that, they will hate us more and become even more dangerous." Have you noticed that outside of a handful of pathetic skinheads, Nazism is not a credible threat to anyone? Did that victory come by leaving the Nazi's cities untouched, their government intact, and their people unmolested? Did not millions of Germans have to die before Nazism was utterly discredited as a cause? Are we so naïve to think that today's war would be any different, and that a few smart-bombs could replace the leveling of whole cities?
In fact, as the debacle in Iraq shows us, it's fighting a half-hearted war that makes our enemy truly detest us. We fight in Afghanistan, but we farm out the battle and leave Bin Laden free to escape. We fight in Iraq, but to bring a backward and ignorant people liberty, while leaving larger threats, such as Iran, unchecked. We continue to allow our enemy's leaders to speak the truth when they say that we are weak and that we have no stomach for war. We continue to allow them to preach the sacrifice of this life in the name of their faith and their desire to kill us.
Yet are we willing to show our enemy the strength of our reason in opposition to his faith? Are we willing to show our enemy the utter death and destruction that is the fruit of his bankrupt creed, so that his people see the logical outcome of their folly and beg for surrender over jihad?
Not on this day we won't. On this 5th anniversary there will be maudlin remembrances and mawkish tears, but only a handful of voices will be calling for what both the dead and living of 9/11 truly deserve.
Millions of Muslims felt joy in there hearts when our twin towers collapsed and our Pentagon smoldered. Millions of Muslims cheer the jihad that brought these great buildings down. These are not people open to reason and persuasion; their mystical creed forbids it. Let them then feel the only force on this earth that will shake them from their intransigence, and that is our righteous, unmitigated desire to never surrender our lives, freedom or security, and let them feel it with the same power that we felt 9/11.
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:: Saturday, September 09, 2006 ::
9/11: Taking it Personally
Posted by Edward Cline at 1:47 PM
When I learned of the attack on America five years ago, and watched with anger and horror the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York and the chaos and devastation in a section of Manhattan I knew intimately (having worked on Wall Street off an on for ten years), I took it personally.
When I saw the attack on the Pentagon, and learned of the heroism of those who fought to reclaim the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, I took it personally.
When I saw the jubilation with which American and foreign Muslims drooled over the attacks, I took that personally, as well.
These were, in a sense, attacks on me, as well as on America and other Americans.
By "personally," I mean that I regarded the attacks and the jubilation as affronts to everything I value about America - as it once was, and it could be.
The "personal" aspect does not encompass George Bush, either of the Clintons, the welfare state that hobbles me, or anything else that could be deemed inimical to the idea and future of America. What is it that was attacked? Freedom. Individualism. Capitalism. Living and thriving on earth in the freest country on the planet. Everything that I have enjoyed and that other Americans can enjoy. In the context of what is possible to an individual when he is left alone to pursue his own values and life - all that is personal.
And that is what the Islamic totalitarians and their self-sacrificing drones attacked, and will continue to attack, until we reply in kind, with their annihilation.
For a while after 9/11, most healthy, uncorrupted Americans took it personally, too. (The exceptions were the leftist intellectuals and other anti-American creeps.) The blossoming of thousands of American flags, the expressions of defiance and patriotism, the pledges to never surrender to our attackers, gave one hope that perhaps Americans were not entirely beaten by the spiritually crippling influences of collectivism and philosophical nihilism.
But the flags were eventually retired, the patriotism morphed into self-pity, and the pledges were broken (chiefly by President Bush). Most Americans forgot their moments of glory, the personal aspect of the attacks. It was time, our political leaders and the press kept saying, as they turned their attention to "business as usual," to get on with life.
For a while, I had something in common with other Americans: a sense of personal value, a sense of shared peril. Gradually, but not inexplicably, I observed that sense fade into resignation.
I will say here that I have never lost that sense of personal value, not before 9/11, not since. The sense of taking personally any assault on my freedom, my mind, my future, was before 9/11 reserved for every politician and collectivist and irrationalist in this country who presumed to govern my life and actions. Now there was an external enemy dedicated to my submission or my destruction.
I do not see that many Americans still take it personally. Most have gone on with their lives, encouraged by our government and an administration that does not seem to able to deal rationally and finally with a mortal threat.
Nevertheless, I will always take those attacks on this country personally as a war declared on me personally for what I am. I can be destroyed, but I will never submit. America-haters, foreign and domestic: Go to hell.
I will simply end here with the slogan and battle cry of the heroes of my Sparrowhawk novels: "Long Live Lady Liberty!"
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:: Friday, September 08, 2006 ::
More 9/11 remembrances
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:04 PM
This one from Joseph Kellard, orginaly published in the Oceanside/Island Park Herald after Sept. 11, 2001.
Attacked for its Values
One day as I drove down Lexington Avenue, I understood the reverence author-philosopher Ayn Rand had for New York City.
From an incline along that avenue, a vantage point from which I'd never before seen Manhattan, I was awed by the many tall, stately buildings that lined the perfectly straight street for miles. Finally I’d had grasped how this scene, which resembled a canyon, and the entire metropolis had sprang not from nature, but from the human mind.
I was reminded of a passage from Rand's novel "The Fountainhead": "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?"
On Sept. 11, 2001, after I'd watched Islamic terrorists destroy the twin towers and the innocent people in them, I was reminded of what Rand also wrote about evil: "They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed; they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence ... You who've never grasped the nature of evil, you who describe them as 'misguided idealists,’ they are the essence of evil."
This passage from "Atlas Shrugged" serves to answer people bewildered over how human beings can act so savagely. At root, the Islamic terrorists are motivated by nihilism, the desire to destroy all values and existence. And they understood that the skyscraper is uniquely American.
Because of our nation's unprecedented liberties, Americans were free to form independent judgments and act on them. This environment spawned the Industrial Revolution, which saw great technological advances and labor-saving devices, such as the steel girders and elevators that made skyscrapers possible. More specifically, the twin towers embodied capitalism, whose foundation -- the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- spawned America's unsurpassed prosperity.
Those gleaming, soaring, stately towers were a proud boast of all these sublime human values and achievements. And this is why the religious nihilists twice targeted them. More specifically, they targeted the towers’ source: the liberated human mind. Militant Islamics don't want America's freedom, its industriousness, its technological advances, its high standard of living -- nor its skyscrapers. They only want us to lose them through their destructive acts.
This upcoming war is between America and Islamic fundamentalists. In essence, Americans use reason to choose their values and actions; the terrorists have blind faith in Allah’s word. We value freedom; they value religious totalitarianism. We value the individual; they force the individual to submit and sacrifice to their religious dogma. We pursue and achieve happiness here on earth; they damn this world and martyr themselves for an alleged afterworld.
At root, we want life and they want death. (As a Taliban spokesman put it, "Americans want to live; but we Muslims are willing to die for our beliefs.") Our leaders should give the death-worshiping terrorists what they want, in part, as an act of justice for we Americans who want to live.
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Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:52 PM
Craig Biddle is dead on with his 9/11 anniversary analyses at Principles in Practice:
How many Americans actually needed to die in order to solve our terrorism problem? Zero. We easily could have and morally should have destroyed the Iranian and Saudi regimes long before 9/11—and without sending soldiers in to fight on foot.Biddle then proceeds to name philosophic relativism and religion as the twin principles driving America’s impotence.
According to relativism, we're incapable of objective judgment; reason is invalid, and we are thus utterly ignorant of what is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong; consequently, we must assume that all cultures and all desires are equally amoral. According to religion, we're not supposed to act selfishly or as though we're better than others; we're supposed to "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves" (Philippians 2:3); we're supposed to "not resist an evil person" but "turn the other cheek" and "love our enemies" and "pray for those who persecute us" (Matthew 5:39–45) and so on.The answer?
If Americans want to put an end to this gray, godly slaughter, we must reject that false alternative; we must repudiate both relativism and religion; we must discover and embrace a reality-based, rational, morally absolute, self-interested philosophy—namely: Objectivism.Read the whole article.
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Harvard's Betrayal of America
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:25 AM
For many years I have argued that America's intellectuals—those learned people with the greatest ability to understand our virtues and articulate a moral defense of our way of life—have long abandoned America. Another piece of evidence of this betrayal can be found in Harvard University's decision to have Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, speak before its Kennedy School of Government and give a lecture titled "Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence."
Khatami's supporters claim he is a political moderate, yet Khatami's regime refused to renounce terrorism and Islamic jihad and it slaughtered the leaders of its political opposition. Rather than respect Iranian universities as a forum for the free exchange of ideas, the Khatami regime jailed students who dared to speak out against the theocracy.
David Ellwood, the Harvard dean that invited Khatami has claimed that Khatami's lecture gives Americans the chance to listen to someone they disagree with and "vigorously challenge" his ideas. He claims that not to invite Khatami to speak would be "to close our ears completely," yet that is precisely what Americans should do. We should not sanction any illusion that this leader in the Iranian government has anything valuable to contribute to the realm of ideas or the cause of peace, and we should not grant him a platform to communicate his ideas. If Khatami was unwilling to protect freedom of speech at his own county's universities, why should America grant him a platform to speak at ours?
George Mason University, my alma matter pulled a similar stunt on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. They set up a TV conference with students at an Iraqi university, fully ignoring the fact that these students were either Saddam’s toadies, or in no position to say anything critical of the regime. Thankfully, several of the students invited to participate on our end refused on the grounds that their mere presence would sanction a burial regime and grant our enemies the pretense that we could have an intellectual conversation with them. Hopefully Harvard's students will have the same sense of justice.
Nevertheless, is the Khatami invite a new low for Harvard and America's intellectuals? Appallingly, the answer is "yes."
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:: Thursday, September 07, 2006 ::
The reason for Amtrak's woes
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:37 AM
The Daily Press (Newport News, VA) printed the following letter of mine on Amtrak today.
I laughed when I read Thomas G. Tingle's "What we can do to save Amtrak" and George Tsirimokos's "Amtrak must do better to thrive," Aug. 31. Tingle argued for more money and more local political activism to keep Amtrak running, while Tsirimokos argued that Amtrak must redouble its efforts in customer service and scheduling. Neither put a finger on one overlooked aspect of our nationalized passenger train system: that virtually the whole private rail system, freight and passenger, was sacrificed to the trucking industry lobby ages ago.
It was gross haulage by the private railroads that underwrote the costs of the passenger service. As that haulage was siphoned off by the trucking industry - whose rigs and semis, by the way, are the culprits that chew up the interstates in need of taxpayer-funded repairs - the revenue that underwrote the passenger lines dwindled. Contributing to the decline of passenger rail service, also, were the growth of airlines and special political treatment for interstate bus lines.
I remember traveling across the country many times in the 1960s on private passenger trains, complete with clean, comfortable coaches, dining cars, faster running trains and on-time arrivals and departures. But labor laws, federal regulation and special interest lobbies killed all that off. The solution was to nationalize the passenger rail system and emulate the heavily subsidized European public railroads. Passenger service declined abysmally, capital equipment depreciated, and tracks deteriorated, as did the rolling stock. Cost, operating and investment economies always go out the window when government takes over an industry.
Pumping more money into a government-made boondoggle isn't going to make it more valuable or efficient, just more costly.
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:: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 ::
'Massive' oil field found in Gulf of Mexico
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:41 PM
Here's an interesting story:
U.S. oil and gas reserves could grow by more than 50 percent as three companies said Tuesday that results from a deep-water exploratory drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico indicate a significant oil discovery. What makes this news even more interesting is another story on the discovery:
Chevron Corp. estimated the 300-square-mile region where its test well sits could hold between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels of oil and natural gas liquids.
Analysts are calling it the most significant domestic discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay more than a generation ago. [BRAD FOSS AP Business Writer]
In "Black Gold Stranglehold," Corsi and Smith argued the theory developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s by Prof. Nikolai Kudryavtsev that oil is a deep-earth, abiotic product. The theory, the authors wrote, "rejected the contention that oil was formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life that died millions of years ago. According to Kudryavtsev, oil had nothing to do with the unproved concept of a boggy primeval forest rotting into petroleum. The Soviet scientist ridiculed the idea that an ancient primeval morass of plant and animal remains was covered by sedimentary deposits over millions of years, compressed by millions of more years of heat and pressure."If this newly discovered field pans out and abiotic theory holds, and as a result, America can service its own energy needs, what a great turn of events for us.
Instead, the abiotic theory argued "oil should be seen as a primordial material that the earth forms and exudes on a continual basis."
Corsi and Smith directly challenge the "peak oil" theory advanced in 1956 by Shell Oil's M. King Hubbert.
In an interview with WND, Smith posed the following question: "If U.S. proven oil reserves can be increased by 50 percent with one deep-earth oil find in the Gulf of Mexico, who knows how much oil might be found as the technology of deep-water drilling advances and becomes even more economically feasible?"
In "Black Gold Stranglehold," Corsi and Smith note the importance of the abiotic theory:
The thought that oil might be naturally produced on a regular basis, that oil itself might be a renewable resource, is very threatening to those who have invested their minds into believing that oil is fossil fuel. The logical consequence of the fossil fuel theory of oil has always been that we will run out of oil. After all, there could only be a finite number of ancient forests available to rot into oil. Ancient forests, even if once plentiful, are a finite resource that by definition will become exhausted after they are fully explored and their oil harvested. The logic of the fossil fuel theory is that inevitably we will run out of oil.Corsi and Smith note the power of the abiotic theory: "Could it be that oil is abundant, nearly an inexhaustible resource, if only we drill deep enough?" [WorldNetDaily.com]
Three cheers for science and exploration!
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Is Founders College floundering?
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:13 PM
It seems there is some controversy surrounding the proposed launch of Founders College, Gary Hull and Tamara Fuller's project to create a new model for higher education. An Objectivist PhD candidate in philosophy, bogging under the assumed name "Noumenalself" has written an extensive critique of the plan—and has been accused of engaging in an "extended smear by implication and innuendo" by some Objectivists in the process.
I read Noumenalself's comments when he first published them, and as usual, I thought they were thoughtful and hardly a smear, but I didn't feel the need to comment until I learned that he was getting attacked for his views. Like any new start-up, Founders College must prove that it is a value, including that it has a worthwhile and unique product, a cogent and achievable plan for success, and the ability to attract talent, both in students, and in staff. Failure here will destroy any chance for success.
So has Founders revealed its hand? In my view, not yet. In fact, I've become increasingly surprised by what I can only describe as a lack of good public relations. I seem to hear about many of Founders' problems through the Objectivist grapevine, including the sudden and unexplained departure of Eric Daniels from both the Founders project and Duke University's Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, but I have not seen a whole lot from them about their vision—particularly the specific means they will employ to make their vision unique and real.
And that's not to say I don't love Founders for what I think it is trying to do, and that I don't want to support it. Higher education needs a rethink, and I admire the audacity it takes to even propose something like launching a new college, let alone make the thing real. I come across future college students all the time, and I would love to be able to recommend a worthwhile place for them to learn—and learn without compromise.
Quite frankly, if I were on the Founders College team, I'd read Noumenalself's criticism and take it to heart. Noumenalself pointed out several problems in their business plan (or at bare minimum, the communication of their business plan to people who should be natural supporters), and he did it for free. Founders has yet to publicly release a concrete selling position that defines their educational mission and how they plan to achieve it. Perhaps the Founders idea is still too early in the planning stages, but at minimum, its principals should be offering statements defining their grand vision and why they are the people to realize it. It seems almost elementary that they would do so, so why the absence?
At root, the controversy surrounding Founders is not a question of ankle-biting Objectivists; it is a question of defining your selling proposition to people who should be allies, if not outright participants. I wish those involved in the Founders College launch every success (and I'm practically at the edge of my seat wanting to see just exactly what they will offer) but like every new startup, they have a challenging road ahead of them. I'm pulling for them, but I also want to see their cards.
:: Tuesday, September 05, 2006 ::
Steve Irwin, Phenomenon
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:16 PM
When Princess Diana was killed in 1997, I remember thinking to myself, sure it's sad that a human being was killed in the prime of their life, but what did Diana ever do (other than be pretty, miserable, and a princess) to warrant the massive outpouring of grief displayed throughout the world upon news of her death?
With the sudden death of Steve Irwin, Discovery Communication's erstwhile Crocodile Hunter, I feel the exact opposite. Irwin, unlike Diana, actually offered the world something pretty amazing, and that was his irrepressible personality and his love of sharing the wonders of the natural world. In an era of cardboard celebrity, Irwin's Aussie larrikin was no act for the camera-it was the man himself, and it is what made him such a huge success, particularly with children. Yes, his personality was something of a cartoon made real, except unlike others, he was for real. We all need heroes, and this man who bravely wrangled crocodiles and snakes was a perfect fit for the younger set, as well as the young-in-heart. What a thing to share with the world.
Now I'm sure some readers are thinking how could I possibly admire Irwin, given his some of his pro-green stands and my own convictions. From what I researched today, Irwin's positions were hardly threatening considering the depths some environmentalists will go in order to roll back civilization in the name of the intrinsic value of nature. Irwin worked to save wild animals from needless death, using his own wealth to purchase habitat refuges over calling upon government coercion, and he was outspoken against the irrational poaching of rare animals for trinkets and use in quack medicines. These views are hardly offensive, and if Irwin held other positions that I disagree with, I can live with it.
Why? Because Irwin's pro-green positions weren't what was most striking about the man. Instead, it was his zeal and joy for life that set him apart. Wouldn't it be nice to be so in love with what you do and who you are with that your every sentence is an act of passion and exuberance? I'm not saying I wish a world of larrikins, but who would you have to be to pull it off a life like Irwin's and have it be real? To see something interesting and think, "Wow, that's absolutely incredible! To be able to share your excitement and vitality with others? To teach millions of people about what it is that fascinates you?
So in that light, I am sad that the Steve Irwin is no more. And for once, I expect that the crocodile tears in the world are for real.
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