Archive for August 2010

Beck Missed the Boat

I like Glenn Beck. He’s a recovering alky like myself but is much more interesting to listen to. At heart Beck is an historian with a keen intellect and a knack for storytelling – the two elements that make history come alive. As an history student myself I find his shows to be relaxing yet informative, like a slow boat ride down a calm river that cuts through an enchanting but often overlooked landscape.

But I’m disappointed in his Restoring Honor rally held last Saturday, Aug. 28. Instead of drawing on the historical and secular ties that bind Americans together, he used the theme of religion. As a marginally religious person myself, I believe the last thing our country needs is more religion.

Instead what it needs is the restoration of the secular principles that were formulated during the Enlightenment and inspired our Founders. These ideals are harder to promote – which Beck does so well in his TV shows but failed to do last weekend. Instead we had more of a Moral Majority flashback which as a socially liberal libertarian I’d rather avoid. While I don’t like to see public life cleansed of all things religious (honestly, crosses on mountaintops don’t offend me – nor do mottos on the coins in my pocket invoking deities), I don’t want my private life to be subjected to God’s law – unless I have freely chosen to allow it.

Jeffrey Lord writing for The American Spectator had a similar sense of unease with Beck.

“The Beck rally, says Beck, was about prayer. About God. And God generally supplies the help. As John Fund reported over at the Wall Street Journal, the grass roots nature of this event was evident as hundreds of Tea Party members buckled down to do the hard work of making the event and other events associated with it actually happen and run smoothly. But the Tea Party as it has emerged has presented itself as a political movement concerned about economics and politics. Not a religious faith.”

The arrogance of atheists and ACLU types annoys me – but so do people who view politics as a place to proselytize. It’s a fine balancing act between Church/State that I value – and one that I don’t want to see erased. Beck has shown that he is aware of that line and respect it in his TV show. It would have been a better had he shown that same intelligence at The Mall in DC.

UPDATE: Lexington of the ChicagoBoyz disagrees.

Beck is building solidarity and cultural confidence in America, its Constitution, its military heritage, its freedom. This is a vision that is despised by the people who have long held the commanding heights of the culture. But is obviously alive and kicking.

Beck is creating positive themes of unity and patriotism and freedom and independence which are above mere political or policy choices, but not irrelevant to them. Political and policy choices rest on a foundation of philosophy, culture, self-image, ideals, religion. Change the foundation, and the rest will flow from that. Defeat the enemy on that plane, and any merely tactical defeat will always be reversible.

Beck is unabashed that God can be invoked in public places by citizens, who vote and assemble and speak and freely exercise their religion. They are supposed to be too browbeaten to do this. Gathering hundreds of thousands of them to peaceably assemble shows they are not. But showing that the people who believe in God and practice their religion are fellow-citizens who share political and economic values with majorities of Americans is a critical step. The idea that these people are an American Taliban is laughable, but showing that fact to the world — and to potential political allies who are not religious — is critical.

Beck is attacking the enemy at the foundations of their power, their claim to race as a permanent trump card, their claim to the Civil Rights movement as a permanent model to constantly be transforming a perpetually unjust society.

He is nuking out the foundations of the opposition’s moral preeminence…

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 27, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: The Razor - Tolerating Intolerance Thanks to the council for selecting this piece for this week.

Noncouncil: Buckhorn RoadHey, Union soldier! What have you done for me lately? – submitted by The Colossus of Rhodey

Full voting here.

Krauthammer: The last refuge of a liberal

The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.

Krauthammer shows his genius once again. I’m also surprised that the WaPo would print it. Perhaps it’s because he’s been associated with the paper for so long – they picked him up while he was associated with the Mondale campaign (whom I voted for in 1984 – in the interest of full disclosure).

I doubt the paper would hire someone like him now.

Tolerating Intolerance

It has been awhile since I knew exactly where my passport was at all times and how many frequent flier miles I had. Neither is needed at this stage in my life, but I know the passport is around somewhere and is coming up for renewal.

As far as top life experiences go, living abroad is in my top three (behind becoming a parent and tied with being in a monogamous relationship with my best friend for almost twenty years). For a good chunk of the 1990’s I immersed myself in Japanese culture, and in Tanzania lived a life worthy of National Geographic pages. The years I spent in Japan and the year in Tanzania provided me with a lifetime of lessons that I’m still working through.

One of those lessons is that people aren’t the same everywhere. It may seem obvious, but it was a constant source of friction whenever I talked about my experiences there. My elderly mother for instance always thought that the Japanese were like the people of St. Louis – just with a different complexion and palate. Whenever I talked to her about the real Japanese that I lived among, she had nothing in her experience to relate it to and would inevitably change the subject.

It wasn’t just her. It happened all the time with friends, co-workers, and other family members. The only people that I could talk to about my experiences were other travelers; people who had experienced the same thing. We could then swap stories about Kyoto and Kathmandu, or Kobe and Kosice without noticing each other’s eyes glazing over.

Part of the boredom I subjected friends and relatives to was due simply to my poor story telling skills; but some of it was do to the lack of a common frame of reference. The Japanese are a unique people, and I love them for it. They are nothing like the movies make them out to be, nor are they just like us. They are Japanese, with two thousand years of history shaping everything they do – from what they eat to how they move. Even now years later I can tell the difference between a Japanese and other Asians at a distance because they hold themselves and move differently.

The Japanese don’t think like Americans. In fact, few people do. The closest non-Westerners I met that reminded me of Americans are members of the Chagga tribe in northeaster Tanzania. The Chagga are a direct and friendly people with an eye for business and profit. They make up most of the government in Tanzania and a large portion of the economy that isn’t run by ethnic Indians. Their handshakes are firm, and their self-confidence borders on the arrogance one often hears Europeans complaining about in Americans. I remember arguing with the Japanese about buying foreign products. The Japanese simply wouldn’t because the foreign products lacked a certain “Japanese-ness.” No matter what the price, how cutesy the ads were, the Japanese wouldn’t buy foreign goods because they weren’t Japanese made and as a result lacked that undefinable quality.

The converse was also true. The Japanese didn’t get religion at all. They looked at the wars in the Middle East and the fighting in Ireland with bewilderment. To them the idea of abiding by a single faith didn’t make sense. The Japanese claimed that they were born Shinto, married Christian and died Buddhist because they participated in rituals that had roots in all three religions. But there is more to belonging to a religion than going through the motions of a particular ritual, but the Japanese didn’t get that.

What the Japanese didn’t understand was that being Japanese was their religion; they just didn’t call it that. A religion dictates how you act, how you dress, who you marry, and Japanese society did just that. Once I learned this myself and explained it to my Japanese friends, their understanding of religion’s role in the world became clearer.

In America Islam is a relatively new religion. People don’t understand it – a fact made harder by the demand that one must learn Arabic to practice it. While Muslims have been emigrating to the United States since its founding, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that oil money flowing to the Saudis allowed them to build mosques and proselytize. So until very recently most Americans hadn’t seen a mosque in their neighborhood or lived with Muslim immigrants. The Syrians, Lebanese and other Arabs from the Middle East that arrived in their communities during the 20th century were mostly Christians, so their exposure to Muslims was pretty much limited to the news media.

Our instinct as Americans is to see Islam as just another religion, protecting Muslims with the same Constitutional rights as Methodists, Buddhists, or Catholics. The problem is that Islam isn’t the same as these religions; it is a unique religion that unites politics with religion in a way that hasn’t been seen in the West for over 500 years.

Islam has a terrible history of coexisting with other religions, and its tenets reflect that. Conversion to another faith is punishable by death. The only law is God’s law – so a secular society cannot coexist in an Islamic one – as Turkey is learning. (Yes I know that some branches of Shi’a Islam preach separation between Islam and state, but it’s not First Amendment separation that Americans think). In lands where other faiths exist, Islam must be supreme, and believers of these faiths can live as long as they are taxed and recognize the supremacy of Islam in the societal affairs (Dhimmi status).

This is not to say that Islam is all bad. There are sects that are more liberal and respectful of non-believers than others (the Ismaili sect leaps to mind), and like Obama I too found the calls to prayer sublime in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. But the Ismailis and related sects are a tiny portion of the Ummah, and the sect that has gained the most ground in Europe and the United States is the Wahhabi sect – the most radical and intolerant within Islam.

But Americans are beginning to recognize that Islam is different – that it’s not Buddhists with burkas, or Pentecostals with prayer rugs. They remember 9-11, and each suicide bombing or slaughter of aid workers by men acting in the name of Islam adds to the suspicion. The silence of Muslims and worse, the justification of these acts in some Muslim quarters, is making Americans take note. The fact that condemnations of terror are rarely unequivocal and are nearly always followed with “but…” and a statement that undoes the condemnation that preceded it doesn’t help. Americans want Islam to be as benign as other religions, but they are beginning to wonder if that’s even possible.

Yet American elites which should know more about Islam than the common people side with a religion that is intolerant of the very rights it champions among Christians: women, gays and artistic freedom. The ignorance shown by the mainstream media towards Islam makes one wonder if any of these “journalists” ever left New York City or San Francisco. Every attempt to equate a Muslim cleric with an American religious figure like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell merely emphasizes their ignorance of both faiths. The reviled Robertson and Falwell would actually be considered raging liberals compared to “moderate” Islamic clerics.

The mainstream media and the American Left have allied themselves with one of the most intolerant faiths around, yet they demand that Americans tolerate this intolerance and call those who don’t “Islamophobes”.

Those who question a religion that treats women as second-class citizens are not ignorant. Those who question the motives of a cleric who wants to build a Muslim temple on the site where Muslims murdered 3,000 Americans of all faiths in the name of Islam, and are aware that it fits the pattern of building mosques on conquered territory, aren’t stupid. Those who are repelled by a faith with an active legal code that kills homosexuals, should not be termed “bigots”.

UPDATE: Of course the great Charles Krauthammer realized we’re all NOT the same, writing in this piece 27 years ago:

If people everywhere, from Savannah to Sevastopol, share the same hopes and dreams and fears and love of children (and good food), they should get along. And if they don’t, then there must be some misunderstanding, some misperception, some problem of communication…It is the broken-telephone theory of international conflict, and it suggests a solution: repair service by the expert “facilitator,” the Harvard negotiations professor. Hence the vogue for peace academies, the mania for mediators, the belief that the world’s conundrums would yield to the right intermediary, the right presidential envoy, the right socialist international delegation.


“The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature,” writes Emerson. “The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man.” Ultimately to say that people all share the same hopes and fears, are all born and love and suffer and die alike, is to say very little. For it is after commonalities are accounted for that politics becomes necessary.

Thanks to Soccer Dad for this timeless gem.

Democrats, Obama – NOT Bush and Republicans – Got Us Into This Mess

This little chart says it all:
Budget Deficit and Iraq War

Let’s see… Republicans were responsible for FY 2007 Budget, the Democrats were responsible for FY 2008 and later, having taken over Congress in the 2006 election.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 20, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: The Razor – The Rage Beneath The Surface Again, this is a great honor and I am humbled by this vote.

Noncouncil: Pascal Bruckner @ City Journal - Europe’s Guilty Conscience submitted by Wolf Howling

Full voting here.

The Rage Beneath the Surface

The mosque at Ground Zero controversy rages on for the time being. When asked about Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar’s endorsement of the mosque, one commentator this morning referred to him as a holy man, “like a Muslim Jerry Falwell” is the exact term he used. Now I have never liked Jerry Falwell (see here). But equating the leader of a Christian church with a leader of an organization that murders civilians shows the amorality of the politically correct Left. Falwell doesn’t have blood on his hands; al-Zahar does.

There are variations in the practice of Islam, and there are moderate voices within it. But their voices are silenced by the well-oiled Wahhabi Machine run by the Saudis and fueled with your petro-dollars.

Muslims are not Methodists, and Islam is not the same as other faiths. Westerners who haven’t studied the faith seem to think it’s Lutheranism in the desert, Catholics with burkas, or Buddhism without statues of fat guys everywhere. Islam is different. It is unique among religions in experiencing a resurgence today as other faiths decline.

Islam is a political force and has been since its founding. When Muhammad returned to Mecca and defeated the tribes allied against him, he immediately built a mosque, the Masjid al-Haram, around the kaaba which had been worshiped for centuries before Islam. The Dome of the Rock mosque complex sits on the remains of the Jewish temple and continues to spark controversies as the foundation of the mosque lays in the sacred temple. In 1992 Hindu fundamentalists tore down the Babri mosque with their bare hands that had been built in Ayodhya on the remains of a temple devoted to Rama by Rajas of India.

Islam is intolerant of other faiths. Want to visit Mecca? You can’t unless you become a Muslim. Imagine being barred from seeing the Sistine Chapel simply because you aren’t Catholic. Immediately upon Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Palestinians sacked, desecrated and later burned Jewish synagogues to the ground. When my brother-in-law married my sister, he converted to Catholicism without incident. But had he done so from Islam, he would have risked beheading for leaving the faith – something that unites both Sunnis and Shiites. How about attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while visiting Saudi Arabia? You can’t; other faiths are banned and reading the Bible can result in your execution. Even Buddhists have suffered under Islamic intolerance, losing the statues of Buddha in Bamyan Afghanistan.

Why does the Left rage against Christianity and Judaism yet never fail to give Islam a pass? The Catholic Church bans gay marriage; the Taliban and Iranians execute gays. The Catholic Church bans divorce; the Saudis don’t allow women to drive and stones to death those who commit adultery.

In Christianity and Judaism there are sects that allow women pastors and rabbis. There are pastors who will marry homosexuals and sects that allow homosexuals to preach. Where are those sects in Islam?

There aren’t any. Of course, that may be due to the fact that there are no homosexuals in Muslim countries – at least in Iran.

One might say, “Sure, Islam is intolerant and militant today, but so was Christianity 300 years ago.” Which is true. Since the Reformation most of the European wars had at least some religious component, as did the Crusades. But it’s often forgotten that the Crusades started after Christian pilgrims were slaughtered in Muslim lands on their way to holy sites in Israel, and that nationalism became the predominant force behind wars starting in the sixteenth century. Religion has been on the decline ever since.

But so what? Should we subject ourselves to Islamic fundamentalists today simply because Roman Catholics burned heretics at the stake 500 years ago? How clever is it to ally yourself politically with a group that devalues you (in the case of feminists) or wants to kill you for who you are (in the case of gays)?

Maybe they do so out of plain ignorance. Having fallen for Marxist atheism in college they may have believed that Islam was just another opiate of the masses. Perhaps they do so out of hope, thinking that the alliance will change the minds of the Islamists. Or maybe it’s due to fear: You can drop a crucifix in a pot of piss or create a painting of the Virgin Mary with crap without worry – and even look edgy doing so. But draw a cartoon of Muhammed or make a 10 minute movie about women’s bodies covered with Quranic verses and you get banned in newspapers and a note pinned to your chest with a dagger. Leftists refuse to recognize that while it’s possible to talk your way out of a robbery or mugging, it’s impossible to talk your way out of being murdered.

This issue is one of the few times I’ve seen the Left support religious freedom which the ACLU has done everything in its power to curtail. It’s difficult to imagine their support of any other religion’s deliberate provocation, but given their moth-to-the-flame like alliance with Islam it’s no surprise.

Meanwhile a Greek Orthodox church of St. Nicholas was damaged by the 9-11 attack. The Port Authority of New York has refused to allow it to rebuild because it would rise higher than the proposed 9-11 memorial – a restriction not placed on the mosque at Ground Zero, which is planned to rise 13 stories above the memorial. Come on Leftists! Show that freedom of religion you so recently discovered.

UPDATE 11/10/2010
Michael Totten weighs in with a survey that half of American Muslims are against building the mosque. He also makes some important comments regarding Islam as a whole in the comments section. Given the respect I have for Totten, I take his comment seriously.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 13, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: JoshuaPundit - A Mosque At Ground Zero

Noncouncil: Hot Air/Ed MorriseyWhy is the state involved in marriage at all? submitted by Bookworm Room

Full voting here.

The State Shouldn’t Be in the Marriage Biz part 2

I wrote the following 2 1/2 years ago:

The State has been involved in marriage longer than the concept of “separation between church and state” has been in existence. In this case tradition does not make it right, and marriage needs to be recognized as a religious event – not a civil one. In its place should be an agreement based on corporate law – a legal partnership that determines asset ownership, division and responsibility. These legal entities already exist for businesses, so why not apply them to personal relationships?

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey writes this week:

Let’s first dispense with the idea that the government protects the sanctity of marriage. It doesn’t; if government ever did that, that ended with no-fault divorce. Marriage, as run by the government, is the only contract in this country that can be broken by one party alone with no adverse consequences. (Well, that and professional sports contracts, I guess.) Partnership agreements in the business context would disintegrate without at least the threat of government enforcement of its provisions. Marriage as run by government has been disintegrating for decades, as the divorce rate shows, and that has nothing to do with gay relationships.

We would do much better to require people to create partnership contracts in the civil context than get marriage licenses for issues like property sharing, access to family, and so on.


Riders In the Storm

I grew up in Missouri where tornadoes and thunderstorms scour the landscape beginning in the spring and only ending when fall comes and ends the summer heat for good. There is always a time before the biggest storms when the sky doesn’t look “right”, and the air feels “funny.” It’s hard to explain; it’s a different feeling you get before the weaker storms. It’s as if we unconsciously judge the severity of a storm and know that something big and dangerous is heading our way. That’s the time Midwesterners cast an eye at the basement door.

I recently was reminded of this unconscious knowledge on a drive through the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains with my son. We had left our home for a trip to the gun shop – an isolated but well stocked outpost run by a kind couple in their 60’s. The sky was heavy with dark blue clouds when we started, but as we drove on the wind changed and the skies quickly darkened. The storms lay on our path, and the Wife made a rare cell phone call to warn us that a tornado watch had been issued for our county. I ignored the warning, feeling excited by the light the storm cast on the rolling hills and mountains, and the air that became noticeably colder within a mile or two. Perhaps emboldened by shows like Storm Chasers, I drove towards a pea-green colored bank of clouds that threw up some fast moving wisps in the afternoon heat, but seeing a hint of rotation in the cloud I felt deep down that what I was doing was wrong – that I needed to return home and protect my family and property from the storm. But I went against my sensible Midwestern instincts, and drove into the storm.

On a winding country road I found myself driving head-on into gale-force winds that sprayed water onto my windshield like a fire hose. Lightening danced around the car followed by near-instantaneous cracks of thunder. I rolled down the window and stuck my head out of the window to see, and felt the sting of sweat and water in my eyes. A cold, paralyzing fear settled deep within me. Instincts evolved for a purpose, well before foolhardy minds could overrule them. The thunder sounded like an artillery barrage, and the lightening cast unnatural shadow shadows within the corn and tobacco fields.

My son nervously shouted above the din of the storm that we should stop at a house for shelter. This being rural North Carolina there were no houses – just mobile homes. At this point the fear weighed me down, slowing each movement as my mind raced on, cursing me for my terrible mistake in judgment. Thinking through our options, I focused on making it to the gun shop, solidly built with brick and concrete. It was the nearest structure that could best survive the storm, but it was still a quarter mile away. But even that option disappeared as I hit the brakes and came upon a fallen tree that blocked our progress.

With no options left, I whipped the car around and floored it, driving with the wind while listening for the deep, bone chilling sound that is always described as sounding like a “freight train.” The rain cascaded into my face but I kept my eyes open, watching for flooded dips in the road that could sweep my little Japanese car away. We came upon another fallen tree that had fallen after we had passed just moments before, and I tucked my head back in and powered the car through its leafy crown. Feeling every slip of my wheels on the damp pavement, I pushed the car to the very edge of my skill, driving as fast as I could without losing control.

Minutes later we were safely out of the storm, and the fear gave way to a heady adrenaline rush. But as my son whooped and hollered and patted me on the back for being the “best driver ever”, I silently cursed myself. I knew the storm was going to be bad before I drove into it. I knew the danger that lay ahead, but I ignored the unconscious knowledge built up over decades of experience.

Today sitting in my home baking in the heat and humidity, I feel much the same way about our country. Simply being alive and politically aware over the decades have taught me that something is seriously wrong with the direction of this country, our government and especially our leaders.

Wikileaks publishes the names of collaborators, their villages and even the names of their fathers (critical in cultures where sons take the names of their fathers as surnames) to support a group that executes gays, treats women as property, kills aid workers, harbors al-Qaeda terrorists and targets civilians. All in the name of peace. It’s as if Wikileaks in the name of justice published the faces, fake names, and the ages and names of the children of under cover police officers who infiltrated the mob.

The president and vice president laud the season as “Recovery Summer” while jobs evaporate. The politicians aren’t the only ones living a fantasy; Wall Street wheels and deals as if the recession never happened, bidding up the prices of stocks well above where they should be at this stage of the business cycle.

The worst oil spill in American history happens and the oil can’t be found.

Our government erects billboards warning us to stay out of the desert to avoid being murdered by illegal immigrant and drug smugglers, but sues Arizona for trying to enforce border security.

A mosque rises in a place covered by the ashes of thousands killed in the name of Islam just nine years ago – built by an imam who holds the dead accountable at least partly for their fates. Under democracy the People are responsible for their government, so his saying that the US government was at least “partly responsible” for the attacks places the blame on the Americans who died. Think of it as the Islamic version of “the bitch asked for it” defense of the indefensible.

A president who shares the same skin color as them – but nothing else – is venerated by the African-American community. George W. Bush has more in common with African-Americans than our president. At least he’s grown up in contemporary American culture – much of it stolen from Black culture – instead of the rarefied atmosphere of intellectual salons, and not taught by racists like the Rev. Wright.

The liberal-dominated mainstream media ignores it all, glorifying in their success at helping to elect the most inexperienced leader this country has seen in a century. As Nile Gardiner of the Daily Telegraph notes, “As much as the media establishment turn a blind eye to [negative stories on Obama], which are major news in the international media, the American public is increasingly turning to alternative news sources, including the British press, which has a far less deferential approach towards the White House.” I used to go to the British media to get international news; over the past year I have relied more on it to tell me what is happening just 300 miles away in Washington DC.

As with the storms, my instinct tells me that something is seriously wrong with my country. That same paralyzing fear that I had during the storm is with me everyday. The skies are ominous, yet Obama and the Federal Government are driving us deep into the storm and there is nothing much we can do it about it since both are deaf to our concerns. All we can do is listen to our instincts and take every chance we can to limit the danger to ourselves and loved ones the President and the Feds seem determined to visit upon us.

Wikileaks’ Assange Too Busy to Redact Documents

So Wikileaks founder Julian Assange publishes the names, villages and father’s names of people involved with international forces within his 75,000 document cache – providing the Taliban with a veritable phone book for everyone who has done as little as spoken to NATO forces and western NGOs. Even other human rights groups are calling for Wikileaks to redact the names to prevent the murders of Afghan civilians and their families. How does Assange respond?

“I’m very busy…”

I suppose he’s too busy trying to scrub the blood off his hands.

The Council has Spoken: Aug 6, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Mere Rhetoric - After Lebanon Border Ambush, Reuters First Out Of The Gate With Demonstrably False Anti-Israel Propaganda

Noncouncil: Winds of Change - Why We’re Just Flatly Screwed in Afghanistan submitted by The Glittering Eye

Full voting here.

Why Jews Hate Those Who Like Them