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:: The Rule of Reason ::

:: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 ::

Waging the War of Non-Ideas 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:51 AM

"It wasn't real, was it?" - "We seem to have heard it." - "We couldn't help it." - "We don't have to believe it, do we? Do we?" - "Tell them to go on as if nothing had happened."1.

Ayn Rand was always there first. She articulated the fundamentals of metaphysics and epistemology that govern the continuance of human existence. The statements above are spoken by some villains after they have heard John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged. They reveal the dead-end of the kind of consciousness that refuses to acknowledge the existence of anything and everything, including speeches, of a consciousness that wishes A to be non-A at the same time, to be militantly certain of nothing in order to reshape reality to the need of the moment.

That same species of consciousness has also been charged with the security of the U.S. against Islamic jihad. It was formulating policy long before 9/11, decades before that, as jihadists of various gangs hijacked and blew up planes, murdered Americans and other Westerners, and extorted concessions from us throughout the years from the 1960's. But one of its benchmarks is President Bush's so-called "war against terrorism."

What is a policy? According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, it is "prudent conduct, sagacity; course or general plan of action (to be) adopted by government, party, person, etc."

What we have had for the last twenty years could be called an anti-policy, because there seems to be no general plan of action that has ever been adopted by any Western government, particularly the U.S. government, except one of abject, pragmatic appeasement and pseudo-conciliation.

An Accuracy in Media report of May 21, "Unresolved U.S. Strategy on Jihad and the War of Ideas," perfectly demonstrates the anti-ideological nature of our foreign policy.

"Last fall, Sen. Joe Lieberman questioned the FBI, the DHS, the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) about their organizations' role in the 'war on ideas' against Jihadists. The answer was a giant shrugging of shoulders.

"...FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III revealed during the hearing that the FBI has no counterideology response other than its 'outreach' to Muslim-American communities so they 'understand the FBI and 'address the radicalization issue.' Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also said nothing is being done domestically to battle Islamist extremist ideas....Retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, said the intelligence community does not conduct any battle of ideas against terrorists...unless there is a foreign connection."
If a "war of ideas" is a legitimate way to combat a mortal enemy, why should a "foreign connection" make a difference? It is the "foreign connection" - Islam - that is the root of the "war." It gets worse.

"...[W]hen the NCTC Acting Director Michael Leiter had a confirmation hearing with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Leiter brought up the issue of a 'war of ideas,' a reasonable person might have expected some discussion as to organizational responsibilities and goals. Mr. Leiter stated 'we must have an equally robust effort in what many term the "War of Ideas."' But Mr. Leiter offered no organizational ownership or goals other than seeking to respond to al Queda's use of mass media and Internet technologies, 'we must engage them on this front with equal vehemence - and we can do so in a way that makes quite clear how bankrupt their extremist ideology is.'"
"What many term the 'War of Ideas'?" To Mr. Leiter's mind, this "strategy" is as subjective and arbitrary as a choice between card games, say, between canasta and bridge. It is completely optional, more like a public relations campaign to put something over on a recalcitrant opponent. But, which ideas does he propose to engage the enemy on with "equal vehemence"? None were discussed at the hearing, nor have any ever been discussed anywhere in Foggy Bottom, except to "win the hearts and minds" of Muslims everywhere by expending blood and treasure on good intentions.

Well, that campaign had a partial success. The Iraqis certainly bought the idea of "democracy," and voted themselves a mongrel government based largely on Sharia law, complemented by a smidgen of secular statist legislation.

Further, Leiter is the pot calling the kettle black when he claims that Islam's "extremist ideology" is bankrupt. One can imagine that he regards the philosophy of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness as an "extremist ideology" that was "hijacked" by the Founders. (Historically, that was more or less the position taken by the Crown and American Loyalists in the Revolutionary period.)

The Senate Select Committee did not think it relevant to question Leiter on the wisdom of the NCTC's recommendation that the government refrain from using "insensitive," "provocative," or "counterproductive" language when referring to jihadists, "nor did it have any questions on the NCTC Extremist Messaging Branch recommendations on not defining the enemy..." (See "State Department Goodthink," April 29). Nor did it think it pertinent to delve into the agency's function.

"At Mr. Leiter's confirmation hearing, there was little reported discussion of what 'strategic operational planning' NCTC provides, or what NCTC's role in the 'war of ideas' is."
Leiter, of course, was confirmed by a panel of politicians whose non-extremist ideology is compatible with his own. Committee chairman John Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), told Leiter, "You're kind of an ideal of what a public servant should be." Leiter is also a lawyer, more concerned with "civil liberties" than with defeating and eradicating the enemy.

The AIM article, commenting on the purged lexicon of terms which Leiter is now editor of and which his agency promulgated, and which Bush endorses, concluded, "we continue to have an enemy whom we won't define and whose ideology we won't understand."

Our anti-policy claims that the enemy and his messages aren't real, although the policymakers seem to have heard something, they couldn't help it, but they don't need to believe it, and neither should Americans, who should just go on as if nothing had ever happened.

So, apparently every federal agency charged with the responsibility of defending this country is party to a game of blind man's bluff. In the meantime, our jihadist enemies, soft and hard, are fully focused on what they want to accomplish: the conquest and subjugation of the West. (And that is aside from what any of the three presidential candidates propose in the way of their statist solutions to all the government-caused problems within the country.)

1. Atlas Shrugged, pp. 978-979, Signet Centennial edition, paperback.

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:: Saturday, May 24, 2008 ::

Heroism: A Memorial Day Comment 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:04 AM

In his tribute to Ferdinand Magellan, William Manchester, in A World Lit Only by Fire, wrote, in the concluding chapter, “One Man Alone”:

“He was not the wisest man of his time. Erasmus was. Neither was he the most gifted. That, surely, was Leonardo. But Magellan became what, as a child, he had yearned to be – the era’s greatest hero. The reason is intricate, but important to understand. Heroism is often confused with physical courage. In fact the two are very different. There was nothing heroic about Magellan’s death. He went into that last darkness a seasoned campaigner, accompanied by his own men, and he was completely fearless because as he drew his last breath he believed – indeed knew – that paradise was imminent. Similarly, the soldier who throws himself on a live grenade, surrendering his life to save his comrades, may be awarded the medal of honor. Nevertheless his deed, being impulsive, is actually unheroic. Such acts, no more reflective than the swift withdrawal of a blistered hand from a red-hot stove, are involuntary. Heroism is the exact opposite – always deliberate, never mindless.

“Neither, if it is valor of the first water, may it be part of a group endeavor. All movements, including armies, provide their participants with such tremendous support that pursuit of common goals, despite great risk, is little more than ardent conformity. Indeed, the truly brave member is the man who repudiates the communal objective, challenging the rest of the group outright. Since no such discordant note was ever heard around the Round Table, young Magellan, in his enchantment with the tales of Arthur, Lancelot du Lac, and Gawain, was being gulled. It follows that generals, presidents – all leaders backed by blind masses – are seldom valiant, though interesting exceptions occasionally emerge. Politicians, who defy their constituents over matters of principle, knowing they will be driven from office, qualify as heroic. So, to cite a rare military instance, did General MacArthur when, protesting endless casualty lists with no prospect of an armistice, he sacrificed his career and courted disgrace.

“The hero acts alone, without encouragement, relying solely on conviction and his own inner resources. Shame does not discourage him; neither does obloquy. Indifferent to approval, reputation, wealth, or love, he cherishes only his personal sense of honor, which he permits no one else to judge. La Rochefoucauld, not always a cynic, wrote of him that he does ‘without witnesses what we would be capable of doing before everyone.’ Guided by an inner gyroscope, he pursues his vision single-mindedly, undiscouraged by rejections, defeat, or even the prospect of imminent death. Few men can even comprehend such fortitude. Virtually all crave some external incentive: the appreciation of peers, the possibility of exculpation, the promise of retroactive affection, the hope of rewards, applause, decorations – of emotional reparations in some form. Because these longings are completely normal, only a man with towering strength of character can suppress them.”


While I think this is an eloquent statement on heroism, I have several reservations with it. Coupled with what is his key sentence: Heroism is the exact opposite – always deliberate, never mindless – physical courage may be a necessary partner, without which, one’s intention would be futile. I do not think, however, that Manchester is derogating the role of physical courage, but simply noting a distinction between it and heroism as a character attribute he so aptly describes in the third paragraph.

Another statement, that the soldier who throws himself on a live grenade to save his comrades performs an unheroic act, also omits the motivation behind such an action: The admiring altruist would call it an act of self-sacrifice; for some, it may well be that. But if his comrades represent a value to him, then faced with a single choice requiring a split-second decision, he has instead acted to preserve that value.

This hardly would be an emotionally driven impulse. That is heroism, and it is preeminently a selfish motivation. I once corrected a young fan to whom I recommended the movie Gunga Din. After he had watched it, in his letter to me he remarked that he thought Din was a brave man who sacrificed his life to save his friends. No, I answered him; knowing the risk, Din exposed himself to enemy fire to signal a warning in order to preserve a value. Such an action is not the hallmark of selflessness, but of just the opposite. A man cannot place his physical existence in peril who did not first have a self; a selfless man who did would be little more than a robot, which is what altruists and collectivists and tyrants of all stripes today wish men to be.

Manchester's key sentence contradicts Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transcendentalist notion that heroism “feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.” That is the hallmark of jihadists, of suicide bombers, and similar killers for a “cause.” It also contradicts the idea of heroism expressed by Arthur Ashe, noted tennis player and later a “social activist”: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

The last statement of Manchester’s which I take issue with is his conception of “normalcy” in respect to “external incentives” to heroism: the appreciation of peers, the possibility of exculpation, the promise of retroactive affection, the hope of rewards, applause, decorations – of emotional reparations in some form. These motivations have been the stuff of great and not-so-great literature, and can be cited in real life, as well. Because these longings are completely normal, only a man with towering strength of character can suppress them.

Most of these “normal” incentives are other-oriented, with the possible exception of “emotional reparations,” which is a completely selfish means and end, and “exculpation,” which implies a pursuit of justice and acquittal. But a man of “towering strength of character” would not root his “longings” on the approval of others. He would be utterly devoid of any consciousness of the value others might place on his actions, and so would not crave other-oriented rewards; those longings would not be present in him to be “suppressed.”

Compare Manchester’s description of a hero to Aristotle’s:

“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.”


That is a finer, more precise description of heroism. It describes Ayn Rand’s fictional Howard Roark, John Galt, and Francisco d’Anconia. It describes Cyrano de Bergerac and many lesser heroes, lesser because the obstacles their creators put in the path of their heroes were not as daunting and insurmountable as Cyrano’s. It describes the real life heroes who have advanced virtually every realm of human knowledge and happiness in science, medicine, technology, industry and, too infrequently, and much to our detriment, in philosophy and politics. It also describes those few men faced with the terrible task of war.

Their heroism was always deliberate, and never mindless.

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:: Thursday, May 22, 2008 ::

This week's Objectivist blog carnival 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:14 PM

Rational Jenn's got it here.

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:: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 ::

Provenzo in the Wall St. Journal 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:17 PM

Today the Wall St. Journal printed my reply to its recent op-ed praising the government's current attempt to block the proposed merger of Inova Health Systems of Northern Virginia and Prince William Hospital.

The Journal applauded the FTC's effort to block the proposed merger of Inova and PWHS on the grounds that Inova's use of zoning law and other political efforts to restrict its competitors makes it a coercive threat to competition and a legitimate target for antitrust enforcement. The error in such a position is that there is no such thing as a legitimate target for antitrust enforcement; these laws are no different from any other political interference in the marketplace.

Nicholas Provenzo
Chairman
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
Washington

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:: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 ::

Waging the War of Words 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 11:33 AM

To the photo album of the two Bush administrations can be added a recent picture that accompanied an Associated Press article of May 16, "Saudi Arabia rebuffs Bush on oil production," about the President's one-day visit to the medieval kingdom. George W. Bush is seated next to King Abdullah. In a dark business suit, his hands folded on his lap, sitting on what looks like a throne, Bush stares grinning at the camera in that special imbecilic way of his that political cartoonists have exploited ever since the 2000 election.

On the other side of the low table separating them, Abdullah's face is nearly inscrutable. Except for the Arab dress, he could be taken for a modern day Mafia chieftain. The spade beard and moustache, the dark glasses, and the smug blandness of the monarch's expression speak volumes about his relationship with the American president. In this instance, he seems to be tolerantly humoring a high-ranking fool for whom he must put on a show of welcome with much fanfare. It would not be an exaggeration to say that humoring a fool has been the leitmotif of their relationship since its inception.

But Bush is a perfect portrait of dhimmitude. Dhimmitude, of course, means a state of subjugation under Islam. Dhimmis are also kaffirs, or non-Muslims or non-believers. And later on that day, Abdullah reminded the kaffir of his subjugation by rebuffing his plea that the Saudis increase oil production to help relieve Americans of soaring gas prices.

"The White House said Friday that Saudi Arabia's leaders are making clear they see no reason to increase oil production until customers demand it.

"The Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said there was no need to increase production now. 'Supply and demand are in balance today,' he told a news conference. 'How much does Saudi Arabia need to do to satisfy people who are questioning our oil practices and polices?'

"He said the kingdom decided on May 10 to raise production by 300,000 barrels, at the request of customers and that increase was sufficient."
Bush saw Abdullah in mid-January, made the same plea, and was also given the cold shoulder.

One thing should be clarified here, lest someone think that the Saudi oil minister, Bush and his economic advisors know what they are talking about.

"Bush's visit to Saudi Arabia [fresh from Israel, no less, and one may speculate if the Saudis secretly objected to the whiff of "ape" or "pig" Bush may have brought with him], which has the world's largest supply of oil, comes two days after Congress voted to temporarily halt daily shipments of 70,000 barrels of oil to the nation's emergency reserve. Bush has refused to stop pouring oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying the stockpile was meant for emergencies and that halting the shipments would have little or no impact on gasoline or crude oil prices."
Actually, the world's largest supplies of oil are in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska, but they remain untapped because of environmental laws. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil production capacity, thanks also to environmental laws coupled with an irrational foreign policy of appeasement and accommodation with the Saudis and OPEC that dates back to the 1940's. This is aside from the issue of environmental law and other regulations that limit our ability to refine crude oil.

The Associated Press article spells out how the U.S. cut cards with the devil:

"The Saudi-American relationship began in the 1940s with a simple bargain: Saudi Arabia offered oil in return for U.S. protection. The United States became the kingdom's biggest trading partner and the Saudis became the biggest buyers of U.S. weapons."
Thus the West, and in particular, the U.S. and its oil companies, ceded to medievalist tribalists a monopoly on oil production. Subsequent environmental law and industry regulation ensured that monopoly. The devil is collecting his due and sticking it to all Americans. Earlier in the article, a security analyst observed:

"U.S. influence over OPEC and Gulf oil production is diminished. It's not clear what the incentive is to Saudi Arabia. We can't deliver on (Mideast) peace. We can't deliver on arms transfers. We can't deliver on the Iraq that Saudi Arabia wants. We are raising problems in terms of Iran. And the reality is the market isn't being driven by us; it's being driven by China, by India, by rising Asian demand."
No, the market is being driven by the U.S.'s irrational policies, in conjunction with the statist policies of Russia, Venezuela, China, India and other countries. If anyone claims that the global market is driven by free enterprise, he is living on the planet Xanadu. Bush's grasp of economics is as eclectically premised as his grasp of Islam, which, to him, is a "religion of peace."

In my April 29 commentary, "State Department Goodthink," I remarked on the State Department's recent summary of "offensive" terminology concerning terrorism and jihadists.

"...[H]ere is another damning legacy being bequeathed to us by President Bush. He has claimed from the beginning that Islamic terrorism is perpetrated by people who have 'hijacked' a 'great religion.' But he himself has now hijacked and sabotaged language."
On May 7, Jamie Glazov of FrontPageMagazine interviewed Bill Warner, director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. In "Kafir Dreams," Warner explicated the precise meanings of terms that have been carelessly bandied about since 9/11, such as "moderate Muslim," "kaffir," and "jihad." And, much to my surprise, Warner came to the same conclusion I have been emphasizing for years: that Islam cannot be "reformed" without turning it into something that is not Islam. This is a conclusion which not even Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, or Robert Spencer have endorsed. All three have stated or implied that Islam can be "reformed." Warner is especially stirred by the sloppy use of the term "moderate."

"Very few people know much about either the doctrine or history of political Islam," says Warner, who distinguishes between religious Islam, as it is practiced by rank-and-file Muslims, and political Islam, which encompasses all facets of living, including law and ethics, and including kaffirs and dhimmis.

"So they think of Islam as only a religion and believe since Islam has so many members, it must be one of the great religions. And all religions are good, so Islam must be good....Since Islam has been defined as good, there must be an explanation [for today's terrorism and for Islam's history of conquest and slavery]. Those Muslims who kill must be 'extremist' Muslims. That leaves Islam as good with a few rotten apples."
Glazov asked Warner if there was any hope or point in trying to "reform" Islam.

After an odd comment that there are "almost no points of comparison between Islam and Christianity," Warner answered,

"The religion of Islam needs no reform. Who cares about how Muslims worship? All kaffirs must be concerned with Islamic politics or how Islam defines them. The Koran, the Sira and the Hadith determine the treatment of kaffirs."
Neither Glazov nor Warner touched on the subject, but integral to Islam is not only how it is practiced in the mosque and at home, but what it requires of its adherents, such as honor-killings, female mutilation, the severing of hands for petty theft, dress codes, in some Islamic sects, self flagellation, and, in general, the whole "legal" universe of Shari law. For just a smidgen of the barbarity Islam imposes on its votaries, see this Voice of America article.

"To reform the Koran, all of the hateful, cruel, and bigoted references to kaffirs would have to be removed. If the kaffir material is removed, then only 39% of the Koran remains. The greatest part of the Koran, 61%, is devoted to negativity about kaffirs.....The Sira (the life of Mohammed) has about 75% of its material devoted to jihad. The Hadith [the teachings of Mohammad] has 20% of its material devoted to jihad. There is not one positive reference to kaffirs.

"If you delete 61% of the Koran, 75% of the Sira and 20% of the Hadith, you will have reformed Islam. You will also have destroyed it. There is a very good reason that Islam has never been reformed. It is impossible."
To "reform" anything - whether it is a living room, a diet, a character, or a religion - means that the thing is no longer what it was. As for the "reformation" of a religion, one need only recall the history of the Catholic Church in the Renaissance. It was one of the most murderous, blood-soaked, chaotic periods of European history, in which uncounted tens of thousands died in religious wars, pogroms, church-conducted trials by Catholics and Protestants, the Inquisition, and just by barbarity in the guise of religious cleansing.

Books were burned in several cities and the homes and shops of Catholics and Protestants were destroyed in the best spirit of the Nazi Kristallnacht. Thousands of living bodies were tied to stakes after horrendous torture and burned to death. Secular humanists were hunted down and murdered. And all that was just an overture to the Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1648. This was the Reformation sparked by Martin Luther in 1517.

So, any attempt to "reform" doctrinal Islam would ignite similar phenomena, and it would be exacerbated by the existence of the two principal and absolutist Islamic sects: the Shiite and the Sunni. One could argue that this conflict is occurring now.

During the interview, Glazov asked Warner why he objected to such terms as "moderate Muslim," "extremist Muslim,' "good Muslim," and "radical Muslim."

As Warner explains it, a moderate Muslim is one who simply obeys the Koran and the Sunna. He is chiefly a religious Muslim, but he harbors an indoctrinated antagonism for all kaffirs, which of course, can swell into a seething hatred, and ultimately action. Osama bin Laden, says Warner, is a Medinan or "moderate" Muslim. So were all nineteen hijackers on 9/11. All jihadists are "moderates." Fundamentally, to Islam, the adjectives "moderate," "extremist," "good" and "radical" are interchangeable and mean the same thing. The only people who see any distinctions between them are kaffirs, who invented the terms, and those distinctions are wholly imaginary and the product of wishful thinking.

"The word kaffir is the worst word in the human language. It is far worse than the n-word, because the n-word is a personal opinion, whereas, kaffir is Allah's decree. Nearly two-thirds of the Koran is devoted to the kaffir. Islam is fixated on the kaffir and the moderate Muslim thinks that you are a kaffir. How moderate is that?"
For a single, exemplary instance of how Sharia law in its political/religious mode is imposed on kaffirs, see this Associated Press report from February 20, 2007.

Elsewhere, Warner clarifies the distinction between the kaffir meaning of "moderate Muslim" and the true, unalterable Islamic meaning of it.

"In any case, the term moderate Muslim has two totally different meanings. The kaffir meaning is warm, fuzzy, and incorrect. The Islamic meaning is cruel, precise and correct."
I do not know if George Orwell ever had anything to say about Islam (his contemporary, Winston Churchill, certainly had nothing good to say about "Moslems"), but Warner deftly describes Islamic doublethink:
.
"What is a radical Muslim? A radical Muslim is capable of harming kaffirs. A radical Muslim is a Medinan (or moderate) Muslim, but a Medinan Muslim follows Mohammad's actions. So killing kaffirs is not radical. Harming kaffirs follows Mohammad's example and is pure Islam, not a radical interpretation." (Italics mine.)

"The false names used by kaffirs [such as our policymakers and in the news media] are an attempt to humanize Islam or suggest that violence is a bizarre interpretation of Islamic doctrine. But Mohammad was involved in a violent episode on the average of every six weeks for his last nine years. Again, Mohammad defines moderation, and the violence is integral to Islam."
Elsewhere, Warner says,

"Dualism is the key to understanding Islam. On the surface many parts of the Koran contradict each other. The usual explanation is that the older, nicer verses [purportedly composed in Mecca] are abrogated by the later verses [purportedly composed in Medina]. But in reality all of the Koran is true since it comes from the only god, Allah. Allah is perfection, and therefore, the contradictory statements in the Koran are all true. That violates Aristotelian kaffir logic, but it defines the Islamic dualistic logic. In Islam, two contradictory things can both be true at the same time....Contradictions are integral to Islamic logic."
"Logic," wrote Ayn Rand in 1974, "is the art or skill of non-contradictory identification."1. Doubtless, Islamic scholars would dismiss that statement as an irrelevant kaffir-ism and possibly even an insult to Islam and Muslims for accusing them of illogic, and call for another round of riots, car burnings and killings.

Warner labels the three basic views of Islam and its doctrine as believer, kaffir, and dhimmi. "The believer-centric view is the standard Islamic viewpoint. For the believer, the Koran is the perfect word of the only god of the universe and Mohammad is the perfect pattern for all human life and all times."

"Kaffir-centric is the view of the victim...the kaffir-centric school is skeptical and analytic.

"The dhimmi-centric viewpoint is the academic school and is neither fish nor fowl. It is marked by political correctness and never refers to the deaths of the 270 million kaffirs [over 1,400 years of Islamic history], never talks about the suffering of the dhimmis. The dhimmi-centric school is actually believer-centric 'lite.' It rarely applies skepticism. The dhimmi-centric school is the predominate school in the universities, military, law enforcement, government and the media.

"One of the marks of the dhimmi-centric school is to ignore Islamic political theory."
Which school is President Bush a member of? Condoleezza Rice? The current presidential candidates? Most Republican and Democratic politicians? Even our highest-ranking military officers?

The dhimmi-centric school. To them, to perceive nefarious designs on the West by Islam is thoughtcrime.

Warner makes another interesting observation, this one on what he calls "kaffirized" Muslims, that is, Muslims who live in Western, secularized societies but who attach some value to some Western institutions in some unacknowledged, pro-life way (and not in the way that Saudi libel tourists, for example, place some value on British or American legal systems, which is their form of cultural jihad). Clarifying the term "kaffirized Muslim," Warner says:

"What are its advantages? It is better than any of the alternatives such as a 'good Muslim,' or a 'moderate Muslim' or my 'Muslim friend.' All of these names are an attempt to bring some good out of Islam. But, there is no good in Islam for kaffirs, only for Muslims....The goodness of your Muslim friend comes from the kaffir civilization, not Islam. Your friend is a kaffirized Muslim, but he is not a good or a moderate Muslim...."
Warner claims that it is important to discriminate between Muslims and "kaffirized Muslims," for the latter should be judged as individuals and not as members of an entrapping "box." Orthodox Muslims do not regard "kaffirized Muslims" as true or actual Muslims. Kaffirized Muslims, he argues, in practicing the "ethical dualism" mentioned above, are nominal participants in what he calls "the shared reciprocity of altruism," that is, they observe the Golden Rule to "treat others as you want to be treated." ("Do unto others what you would have others done unto you.")

The flaw in Warner's position here lies in his notion of the "reciprocity of altruism," which he states "is the very basis of civilization" and which he rightly says Islam neither practices nor condones. Treating others as one would want to be treated is not fundamentally an "altruist" ethic. True altruism, like "moderate" Islam, is actually a mortal enemy of reason and civilization. Both have as a basis a belief in the supernatural, from which are decreed their separate moralities. They are tautologically identical but with different ends.

Witness Bush's costly altruist policy of bringing "democracy" to Iraq and the value he places on self-sacrifice (of both individual American soldiers or of our whole nation) to accomplish that end, or the regular use of American military power to act as an agent of humanitarian aid to countries struck by catastrophic natural disasters (when it should be unleashed to destroy our enemies, which is its sole legitimate function).

And, witness the jihadist policy of bringing Islam to the West, and the value it places on "self-sacrificing" martyrs who devote themselves to slaying kaffirs, and the especially Saudi-financed campaign to brainwash Americans into believing that Islam is just another "good religion" that means them no harm.

However, Glazov's interview of Bill Warner sheds much needed light on the fallacies and folly of politically correct goodthink about Islam as practiced by our policymakers, the news media, and academia. It is a refreshing antidote to the puerile dhimmitude of George W. Bush.

1. Ayn Rand, "Philosophical Detection," (1974), in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1982. New York: Signet, p. 15.

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:: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 ::

Four Great American Paintings (Part 1) 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:41 PM

The American painter Norman Rockwell ranks among my favorite artists. Often derided as being mawkish and never taken seriously by the art establishment, Rockwell is nevertheless one of the few artists to dedicate his talent to capturing the American spirit in action. This first installment discusses one of four paintings that I consider to be among Rockwell's greatest achievements.

The Scoutmaster (1956)




This panting depicts the central figure of a man standing sentinel over the glowing embers of a nighttime fire as boys peacefully slumber in their tents. The starry blue of the night sky and dry rocky soil suggest a remote and secluded location. The man, muscular and taut, stands uniformed but he is not militaristic, a policeman or a hunter; he carries no weapon upon his person or badge of office. No threats are presented, yet the man stands watch nonetheless, his modestly ringed hand resting upon his hip, his stick racking the coals as a gentle wisp of smoke flutters in the nighttime air. The man's face is directed off-canvas, we know not at what, yet his expression reveals no tension; his gaze seems more inward than outward. By the different color hair of the boys, we see that they are not his, yet he watches over them as if they were his own. A small tripod stands over the fire, lashed together with line whose bitter ends hang out; these are knots seemingly tied by the hands of a novice. An aluminum pot hangs off the tripod, a coffee pot rests nearby and rocks and small stumps ring the faint fire; hunger or want is of no concern in this scene. Instead, Rockwell presents an image of quiet calm; of a man standing silently as the entrusted leader of future men.

I admire this painting for its technical mastery; the contrapposto pose of the man feels effortless, the natural drapery of the man's uniform and gentle billowing of his neckerchief reveals an artist who fully understands how body, cloth, and atmosphere interact with one another. I also admire this panting for its thematic presentation; even if we know nothing about the mission and history of the Boy Scouts, we can immediately see that Rockwell is depicting a man dedicated to the boys in his care and that this man is the product of specific values and achievements.

For example, set this scene in the middle ages, and one easily imagines a different scene where the man is a knight and the boys are his youthful attendants, yet here the man is depicted as serving the youth. Rockwell presents an expedition whose purpose is not to forage for food or wage war, but to instruct boys in the arts of self-reliance and personal independence--and that is why I see this painting reflecting a quintessential American theme. America is a land of plenty. The thing to be conquered, the challenge we would prepare our youth to face is not privation or other men; it is the mastery of their own nature as free and independent beings.

In my view, Rockwell captures the essence of those dedicated to such instruction and he captures it in a way that will resonate as long as images of this work continue to exist.

Future installments:
Part I: The Scoutmaster
Part II: The Homecoming Marine
Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter
Part IV: The Problem We All Live With

:: Permalink | 6 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 ::

The Grave Robbers 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 11:17 AM

"The game will continue, and the bandwagon-riders will destroy James Bond, as they have destroyed Mike Hammer, as they have destroyed Eliot Ness, then look for another victim to 'parody'..." 1
Next fall the twenty-second "official" James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace," will be released, first in Britain, then around the world, starring Daniel Craig as Bond in his second appearance in the role. This number does not include two "unofficial" Bond movies, "Casino Royale" (1967), which was a spoof of the novel, and "Never Say Never Again" (1983), which starred Sean Connery.

And on May 28, the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth, the twenty-second bogus James Bond novel, Devil May Care, will be published, written by British novelist Sebastian Faulks.

Fleming wrote only twelve full-length Bond novels, aside from a collection of short stories, For Your Eyes Only, from which the title of the new Bond movie was taken. In addition, he wrote what are actually two very short novelettes, Octopussy and his posthumously-published The Living Daylights; the latter two have been published under one cover, Octopussy, and include another short story, "The Property of a Lady."

So the output of bogus Bond novels exceeds what Fleming himself wrote. I call the non-Fleming Bond novels "bogus" because, in fact, in terms of quality, plot, character, and intent, they have as little to do with James Bond as Fleming conceived him, which is as a hero, as a Disney movie has to do with Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris or with any other classic. Beginning with the movie version of From Russia with Love, the destruction by second-handers of Bond as a hero has continued without let-up since Fleming's death in 1964.

Fleming died about a year after Dr. No, the first Bond movie, was released. The shot script is more or less faithful to the novel, although some pointless gratuities were taken with the original story. For example, in the novel, the villain is buried in a mountain of guano; in the movie, he is broiled alive in a vat of radioactive water. One can only speculate whether or not Fleming would have approved or sanctioned the subsequent gutting of his novels for the big screen.

After all the novels had been filmed (each of them used a Fleming title but little or nothing of the story), Hollywood began inventing Bond stories. Sean Connery, the original and most credible Bond, even appeared in one, "Never Say Never Again." Then Hollywood, ever the congenital literary and esthetic shoplifter, shot one short story from the collection, "From a View to a Kill," and now has turned to another, "Quantum of Solace." Neither has anything to do with the Fleming stories, which, if they were actually and competently produced, would make interesting hour-long television specials.

In addition, there is even a series of "young" James Bond novels. The hacks have left no stone unturned in their quest to cash in on the Bond-Fleming name.

It has been a long, tedious, macabre parade of bandwagons. Their riders, as Rand put it in "Bootleg Romanticism," are "a group of previously undistinguished persons" getting "their chance at distinction and at piles of money." Like price, when it comes to exploiting Fleming's creation and reaping unearned distinction and piles of money, esthetics, story integrity and honesty are no object.

Research for this commentary uncovered a bewildering number of websites and "fanzines" devoted to James Bond, which either pant or drool over the prospect of new Bond novels or movies. Like CommanderBond.net, they are all markedly oblivious to any wider issues concerning Fleming's creation. Several non-Fleming "graphic" (or illustrated) Bond novels have also been published and list not only their authors' and illustrators' names, but Fleming's, as well. That is likely at the insistence of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., which controls and owns the rights to the Bond character for the trustees and heirs of the Fleming estate, in addition to all the novels and movies, Fleming and non-Fleming. There are many forms of prostitution. Apparently, one of them is leasing out literary rights to a fictional character to any chance, indiscriminate hack, and calling it a "franchise."

But, why the fascination? One can almost excuse the fans' almost ghoulish obsession with Bond and their hankering for more of him. What other recent fictional hero in popular literature has represented manly efficacy, glamour, and excitement all rolled into one? But that unfastidious obsession simply encourages the literary parasites to exploit the character, and the novelists who undertake to "recreate" James Bond in the manner of Fleming, in the looting, nihilistic spirit of our age, will not allow him to remain efficacious, glamorous and exciting. Like the architect Gus Webb in Rand's The Fountainhead, who is assigned to "redo" one of Howard Roark's creations, they want to express their "individuality," too. But their "individuality" and "creativity," providing they even exist, are not worth contemplating.

When the second bogus Bond novel, License Renewed, by John Gardner (the first, Colonel Sun, by Kingsley Amis, appeared in 1968), was published, I wrote a Wall Street Journal review of it (June 4 1981), "A New James Bond Novel by Fleming's Successor," and said that Bond

"...is so appealing a hero, so amply endowed with those values and virtues we ought to want to see in any character, real or imaginary, that he has become the special target of those whose 'creativity' is limited to smears, parodies and innumerable pasticcios. James Bond was killed long ago - by movie producers, directors, ham actors, scriptwriters, stuntmen, gadget masters, tongues in many cheeks and, last but not least, by the artistic 'license' to kill."
Ironically, The Wall Street Journal twenty-seven years later ran this story on May 8, "Doubleday, Penguin Try to Revive Bond Series with New Author." It recounts the trials and tribulations of the bogus Bond novels and the overall diminished interest in Bond as a hero. There have been five "new authors" of Fleming's character, not including Samantha Weinberg, who published three "diaries" by M's secretary, Miss Moneypenney, and not including the "graphic" novels. Faulks is the fifth to try his hand.

Why has interest in Bond fallen? One thing the marketers of the bogus Bond novels have not thought of is how Bond, in the hands of his hacks, has undergone changes for the worse, usually to update him to bring him in line with politically correct "virtues" and the panacea of the moment. In both the novels and the movies, he gave up smoking, drove more environmentally acceptable cars, felt anxiety about killing his enemies, and grew glib, facetious, and unserious. (In the movies, he was merely a two-dimensional puppet in the hands of special effects crews in the action scenes.) In short, he became a boorish, fatuous stereotype that became more and more unbelievable. In Daniel Craig's movie version of the character, Bond is just a well-dressed brute.

The May 8 WSJ article reports that the publisher has taken a stab at trying to rectify the problem of Bond's unpopularity.
"Partners, a unit of WPP Group PLC that specializes in corporate branding, took two months to come up with a cover [for Devil May Care] that satisfied Penguin....One challenge: portraying sex and violence without being too graphic for teenagers, a target audience. 'We're trying to appeal to older Bond readers and bring along a new audience,' Mr. Renwick says."
A Daily Telegraph (London) article of May 11, "It's hell being a superhero," comes closer to an explanation. Many recent "superhero" movies are based on comic books. In remarking about the "Golden Age" of comics, the article says,
"This was the period between 1938, when Superman was invented, and the post-War late-Forties, when the public had an understandably voracious appetite for the exploits of strong, decent, super-endowed men and women triumphing over evil.
"But then came a backlash, in which superheroes fell out of favor, accused of everything from fostering juvenile delinquency to promoting deviant sex....The adoption in response by the comics industry of a stringent new Comics Code resulted in story lines so blandly inoffensive that no one wanted to read them.

"What the disillusioned Seventies crowd wanted were more socially conscious types like the Green Arrow...and antiheroes like the savage Wolverine and dark and tormented The Punisher....Today, audiences are far too sophisticated to take at face value the plain, honest, good-versus-evil simplicity of the Golden Age superheroes."
The DT article elaborates on that "sophisticated" taste. Commenting on a 1986 graphic novel, Watchmen, that helped to pioneer the "humanized" superhero, the article goes on to say,
"This portrayed superheroes not as magnificent, selfless, crime-fighting role models, but as warped, sexually confused sociopaths whose powers had brought them little but misery and psychological damage."
One might think: Isn't this the reverse of cultural "trickle down"? Shouldn't comic books simplify and pictorialize standard, full-length literature, which came first and has existed for decades, even centuries? One would be right. The comics merely emulated the literature of the times, chiefly Naturalism, but souped up their stories with superheroes burdened with personal problems.

"Today's audiences," reports the DT article, "like their superheroes to be flawed: the more messed up the better."
"Hence the popularity of the increasingly dark Batman movies, based not on the original caped crusader but on the much edgier, more angst-ridden and morally compromised figure in Frank Miller's 1980s Dark Knight graphic novels."
The assumption in the WSJ and DT articles that contemporary readers have grown as corrupted and malevolent as the culture is properly the subject of separate commentary. But the CommanderBond.net site, in its coverage of "Quantum of Solace," features an interview with Daniel Craig, and what he says is in sync with the effort to "humanize" Bond.
"The way we finished up in 'Casino Royale' [Craig's first Bond film] was with a man who'd lost something that was taken away from him. The woman that he loved killed herself because he thought she was guilty because she was double-crossing him. And he never had the chance to go: 'Why?' said Daniel Craig during a roundtable interview. 'That's where we start the story and he's looking for that quantum of solace. He's looking for that little bit, but he can't be open about it because it's a sign of weakness.'"
The actor who plays the chief villain in "Quantum of Solace" dwelt on the "intricate mix of reality and fantasy that make up the film."
"If it was realistic the evil would win because that's what would happen today. That's why I think it's called Quantum of Solace. It's quite ironic. It's as if Bond was saying, 'Please, can I stop running? Maybe if the evil wins I can have some peace and go home and just sleep.'"
Obviously, this actor has never read the original story; I doubt if a single member of the cast has read any of the original novels or stories. Rand, in "Bootleg Romanticism," discusses the epistemological disintegration of intellectuals who approve of the reverse-bowdlerization of good literature. This actor had no epistemology that could disintegrate.

It is doubtful that Sebastian Faulks will do a better job in Devil May Care than his predecessors in writing an "official" bogus Bond novel and revive the corpse they helped to bury. Known better in Britain than in the U.S., he is the successful author of eight other novels. I have not read any of them and, based on his acceptance of the task of producing a bogus Bond novel, I do not plan to read any of them. Whether or not they are any good, however, is irrelevant. What I wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 1981 applies as well in 1881 as in 2008:
"'License Renewed' points up the futility of faithful imitation. No matter how well a writer - or any artist, for that matter - manages to capture the style or content of an original idea or work of art, something will always be missing: originality."
Writers should not be so hungry for distinction, fame and fortune that they would treat resorting to robbing the graves of their betters as a "realistic," pragmatic option, and to hell with originality and the chance to create something of which they could say: This is mine. (Consequently, the authors of bogus Bond novels are paragons of selflessness, as are the authors of bogus Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe novels.) And readers should not be so hungry for any kind of "hero" that they reward them. Their lack of discrimination in what they seek and accept earns them what they deserve: literary cadavers.

1. Ayn Rand, "Bootleg Romanticism" (1965), in The Romantic Manifesto (1971, revised 1975) (New York: Signet), p. 140

:: Permalink | 5 Comments ::

 

:: Monday, May 05, 2008 ::

Pray-in gas station asks God to lower prices 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:08 AM

Add this to the horror file:

Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.

Twyman - a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs - staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.

Yes, it's come to that.

"God is the only one we can turn to at this point," said Twyman, 59. "Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring." [David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle]
And if that story astounds you, just wait until you read this (hat tip: Noodlefood):

Jim Porter, chief technical analyst for one of the UK's largest banks . . . uses heliocentric magi astrology to predict the direction of the international financial markets. Millions of pounds worth of commodities, shares and currencies are traded on his command. His decisions may affect the value of your pension, your home, and perhaps decide whether or not you have a job tomorrow.

When I spoke to him late last year, he told me that the position of the planets indicated a 3.2 percent fall in the American markets. The following week they duly fell 3.5 percent.

"My attitude is that if you can test it, and it works, then it's just another tool that you can use to predict the direction of the markets," he says.

"I have tested it and astrology works. Used with other techniques it can give you confidence, and the more confidence you have, the bigger the risks you can take." [Danny Penman - www.newsmonster.co.uk]
Wow. If I had my money in a UK bank, I'd be searching high and low to make sure it wasn't in this guy's bank.

:: Permalink | 3 Comments ::

 

 

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