Saturday, May 08, 2004

the religion of peace vs. the evil crusaders

Mick Hartly notes the following two news stories
Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State [Nigeria], has ordered the demolition of all churches in the state, as he launched the second phase of his Sharia project yesterday.
A statue in a Spanish cathedral showing St James slicing the heads off Moorish invaders is to be removed to avoid causing offence to Muslims.
Thanks to Andrew Stuttaford for the link.

a Democrat misstep

I think the crocodile tears being shed by Democrats and their media lackeys over the Abu Ghraib incident are going to backfire on them in a major way. They mean for it to hurt George Bush and worsen America's worldwide reputation, but it's going to do the reverse of both. For decades the leftist media have pounded away at the message that America is evil because of racism, mistreatment of prisoners, the death sentence, forcing the poor to pay all the taxes, human rights violations, etc. ad nauseum. This deluge of distortions is responsible for much of the negative image of the United States held in other countries. After all, if our own media, Democrat politicians, and celebrity citizens are horrified at the evil culture of the United States, then it must be truly horrible.

But now, the whole world is getting to see exactly what Americans are so horrified about and they are all going to go, "What, that's it?" Most of the people in the world live in regimes where such treatment of prisoners is routine, expected (if you don't bribe the guards), and entirely trivial. They're going to say "You mean you all get riled up about a little thing like that? You mean actual military personnel are going to be punished for abusing enemies of their country? You mean officers and even generals are going to be punished for the misbehavior of their men? You mean the secretary of defense is being humiliated over it? You mean the freaking president is apologizing and concerned about it? What's going on in that country?"

The world is going to be exposed to how America works in a way that they never have, and they are going end up feeling contempt for the shrieking, moaning breast beaters. The next time some actress talks about the horrors of injustice in America, they are going to think that she's naively over-reacting and doesn't have the faintest idea what injustice is. And they'll be right.

common ground

D. Weinberger is concerned about the conservative reaction to the Abu Ghraib "torture" incident. The article tries to be even-handed but it shows no knowledge at all about how conservatives actually are reacting to this incident.
The left sees in the photos what we are afraid our country has become. The right sees in the photos some "fratboy hazing" (Rush Limbaugh's basic message) and fairplay against people who want to kill our children. Is torture going to be the final breaking point between the two sides in this country? Is it the issue that will in fact solidify our national sensibilities into two and only two sides: You hate torture or you think it's great that we're finally getting tough on the bad guys?
It's pretty clear that Weinberger not only doesn't listen to Rush, but also doesn't read any conservative blogs. The only actual reference is to Rush Limbaugh, and I'll bet Weinberger only read some quotes taken out of context. Every conservative commentator I've read who has commented on this issue has condemned the behavior and demanded punishment for those involved. Not one has said that it's "great that we're finally getting tough on the bad guys".

Yes, some commentators have remarked on the misuse of the word "torture" to refer to humiliation. This isn't to lessen the seriousness of the humiliation, but to remind people that it is a lot more serious when you cut off body parts, apply real electric shocks, really rape people, etc. When you treat humiliation as being as bad as real torture, you lose the ability to express how bad real torture is. So don't do that. If there had been real torture, conservatives would be talking about the death penalty for the perpetrators, but leftists couldn't be any more shocked than they are now. It's full on or full off for leftists because it's all political for them.

And it's a simple matter of fact that many (not all, but many) of the things done to those prisoners were the kinds of things that people voluntarily submit to as part of hazing rituals. I don't listen to Rush either, but I understand that he brought that up in the course of an hours-long show where he otherwise condemned the actions. It's a good point. It's also a good point that many of the people who are so outraged about this incident are phlegmatic about it when anti-American tyrants do much worse things. Conservatives have a responsibility to point out this outrageous hypocrisy on the part of leftists and Islamists.

Yes, I want those guards punished. But not because I'm concerned about the outrage of people who celebrate suicide bombers and the 9/11 "heroes". I want the guards punished because America is a nation that doesn't tolerate that kind of behavior. The whiny Islamists can bite me.
Can we get even to that common ground? Can we as a nation say that we abhor torture, except in the rarest of cases? That we do not believe in the institutionalizing of torture? That we will fight it around the world? That we believe in the rule of law and that no one is above the law? That we believe in treating even our enemies with dignity? That we support the established international conventions for treating prisoners? That we are sorry about what went on at Abu Ghraib?
Conservatives have been consistent on this. We condemn genocide and slave camps and torture and murder. We also condemn abuse and humiliation, but not as much as the greater crimes. We condemn hate speech and violations of privacy, but not as much as abuse and humiliation. And we condemn them all whether they are committed by enemies or allies, leftists or conservatives or Islamists. By contrast, the left and the Islamists are very selective in their condemnation. Leftists have compared Ashcroft and Bush to Hitler over minor privacy issues of the Patriot Act while having nothing bad to say about Castro.

So you want a common ground? It looks like we have one. Conservatives and leftists alike can condemn abuse when it is committed by American soldiers. That's the middle ground apparently: who commits it. Where will the left be the next time Castro imprisons a batch of journalists? What about the next time the Iranian mullahs round up a bunch of students and send them all off to jail? What about the next time in England that a Christian gets beaten up for saying that homosexuality is a sin and then gets arrested on top of it? Is abuse always wrong or only when it is committed by American soldiers and allies? The next time the Palestinian terrorists blow up a bus full of Jewish children, will you condemn the terrorists in unequivocal terms or will you use it as a good time to discuss your disagreements with Israeli self-defense policy?

How about for common ground we agree that we condemn all vicious crimes regardless of who commits them or why?
Thanks to Donald Sensing for the link.

Friday, May 07, 2004


As long as we're telling technical support horror stories, here's my favorite: I had DSL and it was usually pretty reliable. One day it just stopped working for no reason at all so I called tech support. It only took ten minutes or so to get through, which I though was a positive sign. Foolish, foolish me. The conversation went something like this:

me: My DSL stopped working.

tech: What operating system do you have?

me: Huh?

tech: What operating system do you have?

me: This isn't a problem with my computer, it's with your wires. Nothing has changed in my system.

tech: I still need to know what operating system you have.

me: I'm using Linux.

tech: But what operating system?

me: Linux.

tech: An operating systems is either windows NT, windows 98, or Apple.

me: Or Linux. My operating system is Linux.

tech: So is that Microsoft or Apple?

me: Neither.

tech: You have to have one of those three operating systems.

me: Why?

tech: We only support those operating systems.

me: I just want you to fix your DSL connection, I don't need any help on my computer.

tech: I can't help you unless you have one of those operating systems.

me: Just tell me what you want done and I can do it on Linux.

tech: I only have menus for those three operating systems.

me: (I'm doing a slow burn at this point) OK, I'll reboot into windows NT but I'm on a cell phone, so
can I call you back after it boots without going to the back of the line again?

tech: No, I don't have any way to do that.

me: Can you call me back?

tech: We can't make calls from here.

I was working pretty hard to keep my temper at this point because I figured it wasn't that poor sap's fault that someone hired an incompetent idiot for the job. After my computer rebooted:

me: OK, it's running windows NT now.

tech: OK, now I need you to reboot your computer.

me: (after counting to ten, slowly), OK, I just rebooted it.

tech: Already?

me: Yes.

tech: OK, click on blah, blah, blah. Did it work?

me: (without trying it) Nope.

tech: OK, it must be on our side. We'll get someone out to work on it first thing in the morning.

me: Thanks. I'd like to speak with your manager.

I had a nice chat with the manager about tech-support issues and my DSL started working again the next day.

A poll question

I have a poll question I'd like asked in Iraq. Actually, I'd like to have it polled all over the world. Here's the question:
After finding out about the way Iraqi prisoners were treated in Abu Ghraib prison, would you rather be a prisoner in Abu Ghraib today, or in any other prison in any Middle Eastern Muslim country?
There is no question in my mind where an Arab or Muslim prisoner would be better off. Do they know that? I'm curious.

everyone should be reading the Belmont club

Wretchard has an amazing post on the "torture" incident.

another rant

I thought my latest rant was pretty good, but it's downright sedentary compared to La Shawn's. Don't get on that woman's bad side.

back to leftist-bashing

The following was emailed to me in response to my rant on leftists. I was taking a break from politics at the time, but now that my self-imposed restriction seems to be over, I thought I'd post it:
Your rant on how lefties support wacky dictators is flawed in two important ways. Every part of the American political spectrum has supported truly evil dictators. Hitler was widely supported by the right in the US. In fact, his support was much greater on the right than on the left. Franco was also widely supported on the right. Add Somosa, Rios Montt, Pinochet, Duvalier, etc. Another list could be made for lefties, but who cares. You take the support of any lefties and assert it as the support of all lefties. You know better.

The bigger problem is that the subject of the blog was a rule against bigoted speech; dictators didn’t enter into it. Though I don’t support any restriction on free speech, I understand the relentless violence that occurs when two or more similar sized religiously conservative populations exist. I have been many places in the world where stopping the tragic consequences of conflicts between true believers was worth some loss of freedom. In those places, it might make sense to force people to refrain from saying the kind of thing about other people’s religion that causes those other people to kill them causing revenge causing revenge etc. Canada is not one of those places, but a weakness of lefty thought causes them to not notice; it might make them seem superior which is immoral. On the other hand, it is a small mistake that could be addressed and most lefties could be rational about it.

What I have a problem with in your blog and the one you linked to is the unwillingness to understand why a person might say something that seems stupid to you. I believe that it is a fundamental flaw in those who are certain of their own existence.
He's mistaken, of course. I understand perfectly why a person might say something that seems stupid to me: because the person is stupid. Just kidding. The truth is that I don't think leftists in general or the leftist I responded to are stupid. In fact, I wasn't even accusing that particular leftist of being a communist sympathisizer. I was merely drawing attention to the fact that this is yet another leftist double standard. They demand limitless free speech for pornographers and flag burners, but Christians? Christians need to be punished for believing bad things. Leftists are horrified at any trace of unequal treatment of women in America, but women who are practically slaves in Arabic countries are just practicing their cultural preferences. White racists are the most evil people in the history of the world, but non-white racists are merely reacting with understandable outrage at centuries of discrimination by people who looked like me. Etc.

Cliff makes two relevant claims here: that not all lefties support these dictators and that some conservatives also support grotesque dictators. Neither point is entirely true. All leftists maintain a respectful silence when other leftists do support the dictators. Compare their reactions when anyone says anything that can be remotely taken as an excuse for Hitler (or George Bush for that matter). When you tolerate political allies and supporters who do heinous things, you share their guilt. Or would it be OK for the Republican party to seek votes from Klansmen, invite prominent racists to speak at fundraising dinners, and appoint Nazis to important committees? What if they did those things and yet claimed that they weren't racists themselves? That they had a big tent and all were welcome? Would anyone buy that? Of course not. And I don't buy these weasely excuses from the Democratic party when they tolerate communist apologists.

As to the second point, that conservatives are guilty of supporting rightwing dictators, this is just false. Conservatives have occasionally supported a dictator because they felt he was the lesser of two evils, but they have never celebrated and honored them, or excused their crimes the way the leftists have done. Cliff emails a few counter examples in another message: Taft (Ohio senator, not pres), Henry Ford, and Lindbergh. Taft didn't support or excuse any dictators although he was an isolationist in both WWII and the Cold War. Neither of the other two are defended by modern conservatives the way, say Walter Duranty or Alger Hiss are still defended by the left (here is an attempt to defend Hiss and make Chambers look like a liar. The author never mentions that the Verona documents clearly named Hiss as a communist spy). And although Ford and Lindbergh could be described as conservatives they didn't lead or speak for any conservative movements. There were no large conservative crowds chanting Franco's name like they did Ho Chi Mihn's. The National Review never wrote articles justifying Hitler the way The Nation justified Stalin. And when conservatives did defend or justify tyrants, as I said, they did so in comparison to an even more brutal alternative. Leftists justify the horrors of Communists dictators by comparing to the horrors of income inequality.

And one more thing, Cliff: even if conservatives were as guilty of this as leftists, that would not excuse the leftists. If conservatives really do have this shameful past, let someone document it like many people have documented the shameful past of the left, and we can condemn both of them.

But the left certainly needs to be condemned for it's utter hypocritical callousness toward the victims of communist and other leftist dictators. Even if all the mythology of the good intentions of those dictators were true (and it's not) if even one man wakes up in the middle of the night to a rough knock on the door and gets dragged off with his family to a slave labor camp where they are abused and starved for years because he might have been a danger to the regime, then the dictator is a monster and his regime is a hideous sore on the face of humanity. And anyone who defends this monster, even in principle, is no better in my view than a Holocaust denier.

And that's what's so baffling about leftists: they would be outraged at a Holocaust denier. They seem able to grasp the hideousness of the Nazi regime, but they pass lightly over all the other regimes that did very similar things. Stalin was evil. He murdered millions through executions, starvation, and slave labor camps. Yet thanks to the leftist control of popular culture, he's not considered an evil man like Hitler, if anything he's just an adorable little rascal. Castro who murdered thousands and jailed and tortured tens of thousands is honored and adored by the leftists.

The left wailed loud and long about every infraction committed by the South Vietnamese government or the Americans helping them, but when the communist North conquered the South and sent a million people off to slave labor camps, there was dead silence. No one cared about the atrocities committed by communists. Only the atrocities committed by America or America's allies were significant.

Africa has suffered dozens of horrendous genocides and grotesque dictatorships over the last half century, but the only one the American left got especially worked up about was the white racist government in South Africa. What was distinctive about that? They weren't especially cruel, not compared to their neighbors. They weren't unusually dangerous to other countries. No, South Africa had only two relevant distinctions at the time: they were one of Israel's few allies and they were America's strongest ally in Africa. That's why the left wanted to destroy them. South Africa was even liberalizing peacefully if slowly. The left always wants us to dialog patiently with leftist dictators but they were satisfied with nothing less than immediate action from South Africa.

That's my complaint with the left. Not that they're stupid, but that they're morally obtuse.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

murdering little girls

I'm going to save this link for the next time the Israelis kill a terrorist and leftists go all bitchy about it. I'm going to ask them why they are so concerned about Israel killing murderers but don't have much to say when their lovely Palestinian murderers kill little 2-year-old girls. These people are the scum of the earth. And so are the terrorists.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

an alternative view of evangelicalism

I don't want to start a blog war here, but I'd like to suggest an alternative view of the distinction between fundamentalism and evangelicalism than Donald Crankshaw does. I haven't been to an evangelical seminar recently, but I was born on the mission field to parents working for The Evangelical Alliance Mission, so my perspective is perhaps worth something. Donald gives a list of beliefs that he views as fundamentalist but not evangelical: the inerrancy of scripture, being born again, and pre-millennialism. In contrast to Donald, I've always considered the first two of these to be critical marks of evangelicalism. Although pre-millennialism is extremely common among evangelicals, I never considered it distinctive or essential.

In my own view, what distinguishes evangelical doctrines from other doctrines is not the fact that they engage in evangelism, but the fact that they use scripture as the only religious authority. Tradition, feelings, philosophies, and the opinions of religious leaders have no standing in comparison to scripture. This view only makes sense if you view scripture as originally inerrant. Of course this still leaves room for debate over exactly what constitutes scripture and how accurate our current scriptures are. But I view evangelism as a consequence of the primacy of scripture rather than the defining issue. If evangelism were the primary distinction, one could make the case that Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses are evangelicals.

As to being "born again", scripture makes clear (according to evangelicals) that what distinguishes believers from nonbelievers is not what customs and traditions they follow, not what church they go to, not how wise or good or holy they are, but simply that they are a part of the family of God. Being part of that family gives you certain resources to help you be good, but it doesn't make you good. Being born again is simply the act of joining that family, like adoption or marriage. You go from non-family to family in an instant by the speaking of a word. Evangelicals (as I understand it) believe that adoption into God's family is similar and that it is our responsibility to extend God's family as much as possible.

I was surprised to find someone who calls himself an evangelical who doesn't hold this view. By Donald's description, I would be a fundamentalist. He says
However, fundamentalists can be intolerant of those evangelicals who disagree with those beliefs, not considering them faithful Christians, if they consider them Christians at all.
This seems a bit unfair. Just because I hold to a certain set of doctrines I'm more likely to be intolerant?

My explanation for the fundamentalist reputation for intolerance is a bit different. A fundamentalist is basically an evangelical who gives great (too much, in my opinion) weight to tradition and asceticism in their interpretation of scripture. For example, some fundamentalist churches don't allow musical instruments because the New Testament doesn't mention them. Other fundamentalist churches don't celebrate Christmas on the grounds that it evolved from a pagan holiday. Most fundamentalists prohibit dancing, smoking, drinking, swearing and making out. All of these prohibitions are, in my view, really based on tradition and asceticism rather than scripture. The reason they seem more "intolerant" is because that's how you describe an ascetic when he disapproves of your behavior. When you disapprove of his ascetic life, you aren't being intolerant, you are just being critical. For this reason, I think the accusations of intolerance are a bit unfair.

La Shawn Barber has promised to enter the debate and I look forward to her comments (well technically, she didn't promise, but I'll be terribly disappointed if she doesn't. Not that I'm trying to put pressure on or anything).

Donald Crankshaw likes blog wars and I probably would too (I've never been in one). The reason I don't want to be involved in a blog war over this issue is because my sample space is very small and I'm afraid it will turn out that my experience is atypical. Also, Donald says that I'm upset. I hope this was intended facetiously because although I chided him a bit on his use of the word "intolerant", I wasn't upset about it. And although I think I know what "evangelical" means, I'm not particularly concerned with claiming the term or defending it against usurpers. It could turn out that my understanding was wrong, and this won't bother me especially. Donald has a way to go to prove it though.

One more thing. This should be obvious to evangelicals, but may confuse others: by mentioning that my parents were evangelicals I didn't mean that this made me an evangelical. I just meant that I grew up in a family with parents that had a pretty strong claim on knowing what an evangelical is because of their organizational ties. I don't have such ties myself, but my understanding of the word is pretty much what I learned from them.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

a good point about writing

In this article, Patterico comes of as an arrogant and self-aggrandizing jerk until I got to this part:
Then why did I use the word "forced"? The word is consistent with the sort of mock chest-beating tone that I sometimes generally adopt when I discuss the power and influence that I like to pretend this blog wields. (Examples here and here.) (My wife continually reminds me that this tone -- which I intend as ironic and humorous -- is difficult to distinguish from a truly arrogant and self-aggrandizing tone. She's right -- but usually, I just can't help myself.)
I reread the article and it suddenly seemed completely different. Patterico writes just like I do: incisive and witty with enormously clever word-play. Thoughtful, yet exciting to read. He, in fact, may be the second best writer on the web, after me of course. And certainly, a few oblivious dolts will misread the humor as genuinely arrogant and self-aggrandizing, perhaps even condescending, but why should I care about the misapprehensions of lesser intellects?

So, after this post I'm going to try to stop doing that. Patterico's wife is clearly one of the greater intellects and she has a very good point. People who know me realize that this kind of writing is intended as humor (at least I think they do) but anyone who doesn't know me is very likely to misunderstand and think I am exactly the kind of person I'm mocking. If someone who does the same thing doesn't get it, how likely is it that anyone else will?

Monday, May 03, 2004

death threats

A lot of people are furious about this offensive cartoon by Ted Rall. They have good reason for anger, but I really wish they would stop with the threats and death threats. Whenever the left engages in hate speech and a conservative calls them on it they look for stuff like this to bring up. It doesn't matter that it is much less typical on conservative sites than leftist sites. It doesn't matter that leftists do it habitually and that conservatives usually do it only in response to egregious and deliberate provocation. The simple fact that it happens on conservative sites allows the leftists to pretend that the situations are parallel. Please stop.

another interesting theory

Frank Marten writes the following in a comment to an post on Roger L. Simon's blog:
Is it just possible that the better reason why the US government acted on Iraq was because Iraq was acting as a bank and check cashing center for most of the worlds terror organizations? Can it be said the OFF scandal is how Saddam was funneling money into the hands of others who would then use it to fund terror organizations and their actions against the west?
Does this help explain why we suddenly got not one, but two new 20 dollar bill designs in such a short period of time?

And the reason why the president can't come out and say this is that by simply talking about the extreme vulnerability to our currency to counterfeiting that it would destroy our economic system?

So instead, The US government makes a case on the threat that Iraq poses in terms that average folks understand ( direct military threat - propensity to develop deploy and use chemical and biological weapons ), while not talking about other things that if talked about would be devastating to our economy.
It sounds plausible but the truth is, U.S. twenty dollar bills are (or were) the ideal target for all counterfeiters. They are accepted around the world, they are small enough that people don't check them too closely and large enough that you can make a lot of money, and until the new releases they didn't have any decent protections against counterfeiters.

P.S. the Microsoft spell-checker thinks "rogerlsimon" should be changed to "regression". No point, I just thought is was interesting...

Sunday, May 02, 2004

voting Republican

Timothy P. Carney has a great article on the Toomey/Specter race. He manages to express something I've been trying to get at for a while now:
This race had been billed as a battle between the conservatives and the liberals within the Republican party. That characterization ignores the glaring facts of Santorum and Bush.
This was instead a battle between the establishment and the grassroots.
I knew a lot of conservative Republicans back in 2000. Not one of them was excited about Bush. There was a strong feeling that the Republican party leadership had simply selected Bush and that we didn't have any real choice. McCain was certainly no choice for conservatives.

This is why I'm so suspicious of the thinking that we should vote for Bush just because the alternative is so much worse. There is a battle going on for control of the Republican party, and currently the conservatives are behind. The large majority of Republicans are conservatives and they should be in charge. But the elites have a strangle-hold on the organization and the funding. Thankfully the elites no longer have a strangle-hold on the sources of information, so I'm hoping that they can be defeated. But we will never defeat them as long as we keep going along with their selections. Conservative Republicans need to stand up and take control of the party and refuse to support or vote for non-conservatives.

The purpose of the party should be to advance our principles, not to keep our nominees in power. I've been taking the wrong strategy up to now. I've been simply refusing to vote (or register) Republican until they became more conservative (I haven't voted in a presidential election since I voted for Reagan), but that strategy is futile. I'm going to register as Republican and start attending the planning meetings they have every month. Groan. But someone has to do it. I encourage all you conservatives who are frustrated with the Republicans to do the same.

fake girlfriends!

Hey, you other single guys out there. Do you ever feel lonely? Ever wish for that special someone you could share your thoughts with? Ever feel the need for a simulated long-distance relationship with a woman who would sincerely pretend to care about you? Now you can have it! Just go visit and sign up. More intimate than a blog, cheaper than a prostitute, it's your intermediate-level solution to the need to express yourself. But it's far more than that. These girls will write handwritten letters to you every week, begging for your love and attention. Well, it could be them or their grandmother since they have to get out a hundred copies, but hey, if the handwriting looks feminine, who cares, right? And for that special ego boost, you are encouraged to break up with them like a cad and they will send a couple of more letters begging you to take them back. Simulated power. Yeah.

My favorite is Anaiis , although Julie is really cute and you've got to love Lauren's "do me now" eyes. And Isobel has large breasts, that's not to be discounted. Oh, wait, I'm never going to get my hands on them so I guess breast-size can be discounted. And now that I think of it, since I'm never going to see the girl anyway, I guess I could just have anyone write me the letters and send me pictures of Vanity . I've been having a fantasy relationship with her ever since I saw The Last Dragon.

more Saddamite bribery

The New Zealand Herald is reporting that the Iraqi governing council is compiling a list of "journalists, personalities, groups and parties" that received cash payments from Saddam. We can't make too much of the list until we see the names and dates, but I'm looking forward to it. I wonder if the anti-war zealots will ever admit that their opinions were unduly influenced by bribed journalists, personalities, groups, and parties and that they should rethink them. No, I lied. I know they never will reconsider on this basis for the very good reason that they didn't really make up their opinions based on those biased sources. They just believed what they wanted to.

Thanks to Roger L. Simon for the link.