Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Serious links

This is depressing: Douglas Murray (via Instapundit) says "the jihad in Europe is winning":

Europe is shuffling into darkness. It is proving incapable of standing up to its enemies, and in an effort to accommodate the peripheral rights of a minority is failing to protect the most basic rights of its own people.

The governments of Europe have been tricked into believing that criticism of a belief is the same thing as criticism of a race. And so it is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to criticise a growing and powerful ideology within our midst. It may soon, in addition, be made illegal.

Glenn Reynolds also says "I'm afraid that it's going to come to open military action against Iran, sooner rather than later" citing this ThreatsWatch article.

Then there's this (via Drudge):

Mexico has long had a thriving Middle Eastern community, but there is word it might now be getting new, possibly less benevolent members.

"We've had source intelligence that there are possible terrorist cells making their way into Mexico, who want to learn the language and culture and camouflage themselves as Mexicans," said another law enforcement official, who requested anonymity.

I have the sense, and I hope I'm wrong, that a most horrible war could break out fully fledged any day now and that Americans would awake to having been left in a foolish lurch by their news media focused on other less substantive matters. Is the next wave of a holocaust about to start? Is this what 1938 and 1939 felt like? Will it be "Does he really mean what he said in Mein Kampf?" all over again?

Most stuff I need to know I learned long after Kindergarten

Robert Fulghum wrote a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, listing such nuggets of wisdom as "share your toys" and "wash your hands." (Cute concept, though I've never read the book: All I really need to know is what the title says.)

Sadly, I'm slower; it took me many years to accumulate some things I really needed to know. In the interests of my younger readers, I'm offering a partial list here. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Stuff I need to know that I learned long after Kindergarten:

  • This too shall pass

No matter how bad you feel and how horrible life can become, remember: "This too shall pass." You will be happy and feel carefree and enjoy life again. You can count on that and take it to the bank. Young people especially can feel their lives have been ruined and that they're "stuck" in sadness that will last forever, but once you've lived through some pretty horrible times, you learn that happiness and a sense of normality and well-being will be yours again and again. That's the way life really is. So in the bad patches, hang in there.

  • Don’t worry about being "cool"

Trying to be "cool" or "hip" is a dead-end, so don't bother. Whether you are trying to be popular with the crowd you admire at any random point in your life, whether you aspire to impress certain important people, or emulate the Hemingway or rocker life to prove you're a serious artist, it'll all turn out to be a sad detour, and mostly just a waste of your time. Any standards of "cool" or "trendy" are ultimately shallow and fleeting, as you will eventually learn. Figure out what your own destiny in life is (God's plan for your life, as some say), and jump into that with both feet. With this bigger perspective you will be at peace with yourself, happier on a personal basis, and you will find your unique community who will appreciate you for being a success by being real.

  • Life is not a dress rehearsal

Don't waste time messing around doing things that aren’t important as if you were immortal and a wasted day doesn't count. You only get to pass by this way once. Along these same lines, remember to both "carpe diem" ("seize the day") and "stop and smell the roses"--a Zen-like contradiction of living life in balance that you can spend your whole life perfecting.

  • I’m crying--what am I supposed to be learning from this?

Usually if you are chronically dissatisfied or unhappy with something or someone, there is something you could be doing about it (either externally or internally, by changing your own attitude) to change your life for the better. Pain is sometimes a wakeup call. To remember that life is all too brief, unpredictable, and precious ("memento mori") is a good motivator for really living it, and sometimes that takes change.

  • Maximize your options

The reason to get good grades and pay attention in school is so you will have more choices available to you in the future. The reason to meet lots of different kinds of people and try lots of different (healthy) experiences is so that you can find out better what suits you best. Develop and accumulate all kinds of skills. Remember to think beyond the status quo of your present situation and times. Education is the key here. Maximize your (lifelong) education to maximize your choices and your strengths.

  • "Eighty-percent of success is showing up"

Woody Allen once said this, and I’ve found it to be true. Just keep putting the body where it's supposed to be, whether you feel like it sometimes or not, and you will go far. I found in college that it was better to show up to class even if I was unprepared and hadn't done the homework, than to skip class out of fear, laziness, or a feeling of being imperfectly prepared. You will often be surprised at how much better things turned out than you feared.

  • Ask for help

Don't be afraid to call on your friends, your parents, or a professional counselor (pastor, minister, teacher, therapist) for advice, perspective, or just a listening ear. You deserve help and you are not expected to have all the answers, no matter how old and well-educated you get. Humans helping each other along in life is the way life is supposed to be. And if you have to ask for help, don't see that as a failure, see it as you being wise and assertive; it shows you are the kind of person who knows how to move forward for the better.

  • Cultivate the habit of cheerfulness

Research these days shows that negative attitudes of unhappiness and depression etch actual physical/chemical ruts in the brain that can become chronic and hard to dig out of. It is a good strategy to deliberately look on the bright side of things, to see silver linings in rain-clouds, pennies from heaven in the rain, to let a smile be your umbrella--all those corny lines our great-grandparents lived by to get them through the worst of life's hardships. To see benefits coming out of tragedy, and opportunities lying in challenges is not a skill we are born with, but it is to everyone’s advantage (especially yours) if you can learn to do this. Meanwhile, shun those people or philosophies who wish to wallow in the dark side of life--they are like poison for your mind. (See "Don’t worry about being 'cool'" above.)

  • Beauty care

Regarding your looks: do the best you can in the morning to make yourself look as attractive as possible before you leave the house. Then forget about it for the rest of the day. This method seems to strike a healthy balance between vanity and neglect. Also, advertising to the contrary, there is nothing as physically attractive as healthful, clear-eyed youth. You are better off investing in plenty of rest and exercise, good nutrition and hygiene, a level gaze, and an honest, natural smile than a lot of makeup, fashion, and jewelry.

  • Don’t rush it

Don't be one of those kids who wants to grow up and become an adult and do adult things as fast as possible. Take your time and enjoy every single year of childhood and adolescence. Adulthood is a long, long, time and you can never go back and savor those special and unique years of just being a kid.

To be continued.

Monday, February 27, 2006

School choice is imperative: face it and get on with it

This article by Star Parker maintains that school choice should be a defining political issue for black voters, and sums up:

Politicians who pay lip service to the growing gap in incomes and the plight of our growing poor, black population must appreciate that this problem is first and foremost a crisis of freedom and values.

I suggest that no black American cast a vote for any candidate of either party that does not support school choice.

I second that emphatically. I also think the idea of portfolio education (the money travels with the individual student) is an excellent idea:

Most necessary reform: Any reform that directly attaches money to the backs of children and allows them to choose any school, without regard to residential restrictions, holds promise. The actual choice mechanism—tax credit, charter school, or voucher—is less important than a child’s having substantial purchasing power and an open system that allows many different types of schools to compete for the child’s funding.

I am very encouraged to see corporations such as Wal-Mart trying to accomplish real changes in the U.S. education system by subsidizing students and stimulating competition among schools. I have thought that if I had the money to do so, I would love to be able to "rescue" one or more poor students smart enough to want a better education than what they are able to get from their local public school, by paying their way out of that school and into a better (probably private) school. What a life-transforming charity this would be. If this became a trendy way of giving ("Sponsor a child to a good school!"), we wouldn't even have to wait for the government to solve the failing education system for us (and wait, and wait, and wait).....

UPDATE: The Liberty Papers makes the case for the threat of teachers' unions against accountability and effectiveness in public education in our country and says they are a greater long-term threat to freedom and prosperity in our country than Islamic terrorists (via Boortz).

What I'm reading: Cyber mistakes

From a book of advice to internet-savvy young girls on dealing with bullies, cliques, popularity, and jealousy (it's good advice for young boys, too):

IM and Email: Clicking Your Way Through a Fight...

Fighting on IM is a huge mistake....You can't hear her tone of voice...Unfortunately you couldn't hear that she was just kidding...behind that blinking box, your "friend" could be three or four people cutting and pasting your conversation to three other people, who send it on to their friends, and so on...

Don't, don't, don't give out your password. Do you give out your locker combination? House key? Diary location? So why are you telling people how to break into your account? Because that's what a lot of girls will do when they get mad. Angry girls will hijack your screen name and send e-mails and IMs to guys acting like they are you. They will subscribe you to porn sites. They will enroll you in crazy spam schemes. They will send notes to other girls about things you never said. You can avoid that risk entirely by keeping your password to yourself, or at least changing it when you get in a fight with someone.

IM and e-mail are like passing notes or writing on the bathroom wall. They are inadequate, impersonal tools of communication. When you have a problem with someone and need to resolve it, nothing will ever replace the experience of two open eyes and a firm, respectful voice.

[From Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons, Harcourt Books (2004).]

Kids these days have to learn to negotiate the internet and relationships via the internet while they are still kids, with little life experience of human nature (or the possible inhuman nature of internet interactions) to guide them. I tell my children to consider nothing they do on the computer to be private, as you don't know where your words or actions on the internet may eventually turn up, or how they may be tracked or replicated. Anything you type, IM, send, or blog today may come back to haunt you in the years ahead.

It is hard for a kid to understand longevity. I just tell mine: Do and say nothing on the computer you wouldn't like to see on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper, for everyone to see and know about you. Yes, even when posting or surfing (supposedly) anonymously, keep your computer use that transparent and disciplined, and you will not end up hurt and crying about it someday. In the meantime, you are practicing discipline and integrity, two invaluable character traits.

And as we all know, until youngsters get older, smarter, wiser and better at choosing their friends, a "friend" today may become an enemy tomorrow. In the old days, youngsters (and adults) didn't have to deal with such mistakes becoming a permanent part of the internet.

Kids beware, and parents, teach your kids.

Safety programs for kids and parents:

Internet Superheroes


Learn more:

"How Blogging Can Impact Your Job Search"

"Battling and Teen Naivete"

"Some Employers Now Search Online Profiles"

"National elections could be a lot more interesting in 20 years..."

"Employers, Police Joining Facebook"

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Good news and bad news

Victor Davis Hanson delivers some good news in his report about his visit to Iraq...

...followed by Mark Steyn's depressing views of the situation in Iran in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. Hugh points out, among other things:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejead blamed the United States and Israel for the destruction of the shine's Golden Dome, saying it was the work of, "defeated Zionists and occupyers." He did this to a crowd of thousands on a tour in Southwestern Iran. "They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice." Now you know, Mark Steyn, this is a deliberate is almost a provocation to war. He's trying to turn the entire Islamic world into believers of the idea that we blew up their holy site.

If you can stand more bad news, check out American Digest's "The Dulcet Tones of the Iranian Fascist," which links to this: a MEMRI English translation of the Hamas leader's speech to the faithful on Feb. 7th in Damascus: "The Nation of Islam Will Sit at the Throne of the World and the West Will Be Full of Remorse--When It's Too Late." The parallels between the rise of the Third Reich and the rise of Islamofascism are clear and chilling. Remind me: who was it who vowed "Never again"? But this time it's not only the Jews who are the express target:

"This victory, which was clearly evident in the elections, conveys a message to Israel, to America, and to all the oppressors around the world: You have no way of overcoming us. If you want war, we are ready. If you want democracy, we are ready. Whatever you want - we are ready. You will not defeat us. The time of defeat is over. Defeat within six days, defeat within hours, the defeat of armies - all this is over.

"Today, you are fighting the army of Allah. You are fighting against peoples for whom death for the sake of Allah, and for the sake of honor and glory, is preferable to life. You are fighting a nation that does not tire, even after 1,000 years of fighting. Today, you are facing peoples filled with faith, with the love of Allah, with the love of Allah's Prophet, with bravery, glory, and pride - a nation that knows its way, a nation that knowswhat it is, a nation that respects itself. How can you possibly defeat us?

"There is a chasm between you and our defeat. You will be the ones to be defeated, Allah willing. The time of defeat is gone, and the day of victoryhas come, Allah willing. Wherever you turn, you will fail."

Crowd: "Death to Israel. Death to Israel. Death to America."

And have a nice day.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Daily links/grab-bag o' stuff

Lileks muses for me on the Dubai ports thing.

Paul Reynolds of BBC World News talks about the blogosphere and the effect it's had and will have on news around the world:

They have an army of what Sherlock Holmes called his "Baker Street Irregulars," that is an almost unlimited number of people around the world, many of them expert on the subject under discussion, scouring sources and sending information in to an easily accessible central site which can disseminate it instantly.

The above quote comes via Mark Steyn at "Mohammed's New Mailbox" which includes some interesting and amusing letters, too, like this one from Andy Tyrrell of the U.K.:

Indeed, in my homeland of Britain each and every weekend such scenes of mayhem, anger and violence can be witnessed. We invented hooliganism after all. The only thing is the next day most of our nutcases have hangovers and regrets, and whatever reason they had for smashing up the town center is all a blur. So whenever the Muslims go nuts and you watch the tv pictures of an embassy being attacked, flags burnt, men wailing and gnashing teeth, these are the actions of people who are SOBER! and that is the frightening part.

Bush "Ein wunderbarer Führer" ...It's all in the editing ... Davids Medienkritik catches the German magazine website Spiegel Online offering two different versions of their interview with Karen Hughes: one in English for foreign consumption and another in German, slicing Hughes' comments up to play up to its German readership's anti-American sentiments.

Stand up for Denmark! Christopher Hitchens is eloquently organizing a peaceful demonstration of support outside the Danish embassy in Washington, D.C. tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 24) from noon to 1 p.m.

Iraq the Model reports on the situation in the wake of the bombing of the shrine in Baghdad.

These via Instapundit: Bill Bennett and Alan Dershowitz agree on "A Failure of the Press" in the Danish cartoon matter. And on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Alan Dershowitz had this (and more) to say regarding the resignation of Larry Summers from Harvard University:

Well, you know, tenure has failed. I can tell you why. There is no less courageous group that I have ever encountered in my life, and I meet people from all circles of life, than tenured professors at major universities. They are among the biggest cowards. They use tenure as a sword, but not as a shield. And they are afraid to speak their minds...

Finally, it takes a liberal: Student yells "Remember Chappaquiddick" as Teddy Kennedy begins a speech on campus. His conservative father is proud of him, and many students have no idea what Chappaquiddick is/was. (Via Boortz).

Temporarily not blogging

My DSL service is not working for the second day in a row. Using a dial-up modem seems pretty primative when it's all you've got. I'll be blogging again when the fast-access is back up.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Things our children (and we) need to learn

This is hilarious (via Neal Boortz): a new children's picture book, Why Mommy is a Democrat. Isn't it cute?

I'm going to get hold of a copy and use it to teach my children to spot fallacies in critiquing arguments (which they evidently do not get much practice at doing at school). Just the ticket.

Neal today also writes about how teacher unions are contributing to the stupidity of our nation's electorate (he's convinced me on this):

Those of you who are constant listeners know my feelings about government schools and teachers' unions. I firmly believe that in the long-term this country has more to fear from teacher's unions than we do from Islamic terrorists. I fully believe that Islamic terrorists will once again strike this country, and they may well manage to kill ten thousand or more, but at this point I don't think they can kill the dream of our forefathers. We recognize (I hope) the terrorists for the enemies that they are. We don't recognize government education and teacher's unions for the enemies that they are. Because we are so unaware and asleep at the switch, the education establishment can bring us down, where the terrorists probably cannot.

There is a level of ignorance in this country that the word "stunning" does not even begin to describe. Not only are we producing high school "graduates" who cannot read and comprehend the most basic of writings, they have no understanding of American government or our true history. These kids couldn't even begin to tell you the difference between a constitutional republic and a democracy. They have no concept of the differences between the rule of law and the rule of men. They cannot tell you that our founders feared a democracy, nor why a democracy should be feared. They're ignorant as to our culture, our history and our form of government ... not to mention basic math and science.

And then there's economics. Our typical high school grad has no clue as to how a free enterprise economy works. He couldn't write a cohesive paragraph on the law of supply and demand or the difference between a profit and a profit margin. This, of course, makes the high school grads just lumps of clay ready to be molded into whatever their union officials or teachers want them to be.

I was listening to my pal Sean Hannity do an "I hate Hannity" segment on his show last Thursday. Several callers began slamming Hannity on, believe it or not, the Wal-Mart issue. They just couldn't believe that Sean wasn't joining them in their hatred of Wal-Mart. It was clear, of course, that these were uneducated, union-oriented people. They would come up with lines like "Well, if the unions aren't for the workers, who will be?" Duh ... how about exercising that responsibility for yourself! At any rate, one caller really caught my attention. He started out with this "Republicans are for big business and rich people" nonsense. Then somehow he got into the subject of income taxes. Everybody knows, he said, that rich people don't pay income taxes. Sean reminded him that the top 10% of income earners in this country pay about 70% of all personal income taxes collected by the federal government. The caller said "That's only on paper. They have all these write-offs so they really don't pay anything."

That conversation was four days ago now, and I can't get it out of my mind. How, in this country, can anyone possibly be that completely and absolutely ignorant? How can they actually believe such nonsense? One answer --- government schools. There is no excuse for this level of stupidity, and it must be turned around or this country just flat-out isn't going to make it. The most immediate answer? Get rid of teacher's unions. Across the nation job one for teachers' unions is to fight school choice. Parents must be denied the opportunity to choose where their children will go to school at all costs. In Florida the teachers' unions recently managed to kill a voucher program in the courts. Only children who went to government schools that failed to get a passing grade for two years in a row were eligible... but the teachers' unions declared war ... and won. One teacher-plaintiff even said that competition is not good for schools, and it's not good for humans. This is the lesson she's teaching someone's son or daughter right now.

Wake up folks. This country was handed to us on a silver platter. Now it's up to us to save it, and we're not doing all that good of a job.

I'm afraid not enough people are listening.

I remember shortly after 9/11, I was watching Fox News or CNN and the anchor person asked one of the guest expert talking heads what he thought was the biggest challenge we faced in fighting back in the war against the terrorists who had attacked our country. The expert shocked me (with the shock of recognizing the truth) by replying that clearly the biggest obstacle we faced was the poor level of education in our own country. That too many Americans would have no sense of history (not to mention geography, politics, government, religion, or economics) and hence too many Americans would have no sense of what we were facing, what we had to accomplish, or why.

I regret I can't remember who it was who said this, but I certainly never forgot that moment.

It is so true, and so sad. I don't set myself up as any sort of brain or especially well-educated person myself, but I can recognize the truth that our country has reached a dangerous trough in well-informed thoughtfulness, with no improvement in our inferior governmental educational system over decades. Sometimes I am afraid that we are self-destructing from within with our deteriorating academic standards at the heart of it.

And I agree with Boortz that the teachers' unions are only accelerating the decline, as they undermine the political process with their lobbyists and campaign contributions, and place their own self-interest ahead of the welfare of the children and truly educating our people to assume the responsibilities of self-government.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cheney story another media freakout

A dear friend emailed me this past week regarding the Cheney shooting incident (and allows me to post our discussion here):

I am so curious what you think about it. Do you think the blunder he made at not disclosing it correctly and immediately was actually a well-thought out plan to MAKE it the #1 story all week, to divert attention from substantial negative news about Bush administration failings like Libby, the Katrina report and the Guantanamo report that just came out?

As incorrectly handled as it was, I am still astonished at how huge a story it is. After all, it was so clearly an accident. Anybody who goes hunting is taking a risk. And even though he did serious physical harm to another human being who's now in the ICU, it was not huge, impeachable news. I can see why the arrogant secrecy was big news, but not the accident itself.

No, I personally don't think Cheney was concerned as much about anything else as he was about the welfare of the man he shot and the man's family, and that trying to do whatever he could for their sakes was foremost in his mind.

You see, I don't think Cheney is an evil guy, I think he's an ordinary human guy--dare I say it? even a nice guy. And I think how people react to this story depends on whether they already thought Cheney was an evil, secretive, malicious guy or a relatively decent guy. According to that template, nobody's minds were changed by the incident. In the wake of the shooting, I imagine he was sincerely trying to do the best for the victim and his family above anything else. I think that he even relegated the concern about any political fallout to himself to a minor role in this affair (to his later detriment, as the media is always first thinking about publicity and politics and image). Of course he knew the minute this was widely publicized and linked to himself, the man and his family and the local people and facilities would become the eye of an unwelcomed and harrassing publicity storm.

Charles Krauthammer's article summed up what seems a reasonable view to me, and ends with this at the end, which I agree with too:
Arrogance? The media laying these charges are the same media that just last week unilaterally decided that the public's right to know did not extend to seeing cartoons that had aroused half the world, burned a small part of it and deeply affected the American national interest. Having arrogated to themselves the judgment of what a free people should be allowed to see regarding an issue that is literally burning, they then go ballistic over a few hours' delay in revealing an accident with only the most trivial connection to the nation's interest or purpose.

Cheney got a judgment call wrong, for reasons that are entirely comprehensible. The disproportionate, at times hysterical, response to that error is far less comprehensible.

The judgment call was in perhaps waiting somewhat too long (how long? What would be the "appropriate" wait?) to tell the national press corps, as Krauthammer concedes. But I am not sure Cheney should be faulted for that, myself.

I think the way Bush and Cheney have been treated by the Washington press corps in the past explains why they'd be very low on the list of people he'd contact about anything not state business. I can sympathize with that.

Having heard on the radio the way the press corp attacked Scott McClellan over this like a pack of marauding hyenas, I wanted to slap them myself. I'm ashamed of them as representing the supposed elite of U.S. journalism. I do not question their right to ask probing questions, but I decry their loaded, biased questions--their feeding frenzy and partisan, over-the-top antagonism.

Did you hear the questions some of them were asking and how rude they were concerning what was clearly a tragic accident? Unbelievable. After listening to that press conference, I pretty much made up my mind to blow off the national press on this myself. Their evident unconcern for Mr. Whittington and his family and their nose for blood was palpable and disgusting.

Cheney let the story go out on the AP wires through an eyewitness's account to the local news outlet, and he had law enforcement on the scene immediately. So all that's "wrong" here is that the Washington press got their feelings hurt by being snubbed. As Neal Boortz said, whatever happened to the idea that news journalists would go out and actually investigate and report a story instead of waiting around on their assets in the White House Press Room for the Administration to hand them a press release? That bunch has gotten lazy and self-important, and are projecting the idea of "arrogance" on an administration they have treated disrespectfully and unprofessionally time and again (as I am continually reminded by watching them over the past several years, with my jaw dropping at their displays of rudeness and bias in posing loaded questions along the lines of "when did you stop beating your wife?"). My attitude is "forget 'em," they're not the only journalists in town, nor the most important ones, no matter what they think.

And yes, I was further turned off by the story being blown out of proportion to its importance, and its continuing on day after day in pseudo-crisis tones. Along with the latest crime of the week (Entwhistle) inexplicably favored by the media, it's just another example of the news-entertainment industry hyping a story to death for drama and market share as they seem to do these days. I know enough not to be hooked into wasting my time on that. I deliberately tuned out of the hype and didn't pay any more attention when it was clear Mr. Whittington was recovering, which was the important message to be learned beneath all the irrelevant media "buzz."

So it wasn't that big of a story in my life; the media's inappropriate reaction was as big a part of it as the actual accidental shooting was. But that's not news.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn sizzles on this subject (I laughed "out loud," as they say): "Cheering Tidbits Lighten Otherwise Grim Week." This man can write.

"Islamic Truths"

Betsy's Page highlights an article ("Islamic Truths") by Mansoor Ijaz, an American Muslim of Pakistani ancestry, running in today's Los Angeles Times. Among his observations:

...Some Muslims have decided that burning cities in defense of a prophet's teachings, which none of them seem willing to practice, is preferable to participating in rational debate about the myths and realities of a religion whose worst enemies are increasingly its own adherents....

...The cartoon imbroglio offered Western media an opportunity to portray the prophet in his many dignified dimensions, not just the distorted ones; sadly, there were few takers.

But to look at angry Islam's reaction on television each night forces the question of what might be possible if all the lost energy of thousands of rioting Muslims went into the villages of Aceh to rebuild lost homes or into Kashmir to construct schools.

In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam's mobsters fear the West has it right: that we [in the West] have perfected the very system Islam's holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.

This is not Islam. And the faster its truest believers stand up and demonstrate its values and principles by actions, not words, the sooner a great religion will return to its rightful role as guide for nearly a quarter of humanity.

Thank you, Mr. Ijaz, for your faithfulness, your rational debate, and your bravery. Your example and your words remind us that the rioting, looting, burning mobs we see on television around the world are indeed not the entire face of the followers of Mohammed.

The cartoon uproar should be seen as an instructive episode and a golden opportunity for much open debate. I would like to see many more opinions expressed by those who feel similar to Mr. Ijaz. And I would like to ask such Western Muslims if they think their religion instructs them to seek the spread of Islam throughout the world and if so, by what means.

Does "jihad" allow for a "live and let live" attitude and mutual coexistence alongside those of other faiths, or does it necessarily dictate conquest and forced coversion? Does Islam in Mr. Ijaz's mind allow for freedom of conscience in those who do not share his faith? Does it allow dissent among those Muslims who disagree on interpretation, or does "blasphemy" (as defined by whom?) require death? Does Islam allow for secular governments? I respectfully pose and would like to hear some answers to these questions, as I am not the only Westerner wondering these things in light of current events. Westerners wonder if dhimmitude is the only alternative for Christians and Jews as required by the teachings of the Koran. If this is not so, I would very much like to hear the explanation, so I can stand up and support Islam as a tolerant religion of peace evidently being hijacked by Wahhabi thugs.

Why study history?

"We do not live in the past, but the past in us."
(Ulrich Bonnell Phillips)

Now that I have reached middle age and am firmly settled into a contented wonkdom, I enjoy watching The History Channel on television, and I enjoy reading history, as there is so much of it to learn and so dern little I know about it.

Lately my Dreamboat and I have been watching (on DVDs) the riveting TV miniseries made of Stephen Ambrose's book, "Band of Brothers" (the story of Easy Company of the U.S. Army Airborne Paratrooper division during WWII) and the equally complex "Heimat" (the German 1984 television miniseries of a rural German village between the years 1919-1982).

Watching movies is an entertaining way to absorb some history, but I especially enjoy learning history through the words of straightforward and clear-speaking writers who seem to have both a broad and deep familiarity with their subjects and who are then able to offer some lessons to be drawn from the past concerning our present times, which they can support with much researched evidence in a logical and compelling way.

One of my favorite historians and essayists, Victor Davis Hanson, has written an article ("Losing Civilization: Are we going to tolerate the downfall of Western ideals?") on the larger perspective of the current clash of civilizations going on of which the Danish cartoon controversy is only the most recent canary in the coal mine (he says the Salman Rushdie affair was the first canary). Read the whole thing, as it is mournfully eloquent (and I hope, while cautionary, not prophetic). Just one good point, out of many:

Like the appeasement of the 1930s, we are in the great age now of ethical retrenchment. So much has been lost even since 1960; then the very idea that a Dutch cartoonist whose work had offended radical Muslims would be in hiding for fear of his life would have been dismissed as fanciful.

Insidiously, the censorship only accelerates. It is dressed up in multicultural gobbledygook about hurtfulness and insensitivity, when the real issue is whether we in the West are going to be blown up or beheaded if we dare come out and support the right of an artist or newspaper to be occasionally crass.

I appreciate historians who can remind us of our traditions and our legacies, of our victorious battles and smart or brave achievements, or our tragic missteps and near-misses, whether they are speaking about the history of the last decade, of the Cold War, World War II, the Revolutionary War, or the Pelopenysian War. These stories should not be lost! That so many in our country are ignorant of even our most recent history (including me among them) and of world history is both alarming and embarrassing.

Kenneth Timmerman is another author I respect for helping me learn about recent history in the Middle East. After 9/11 when I was searching for more background information on that area I read two of his books, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War Against America and The French Betrayal of America. Sensationalist titles, perhaps, but as a journalist who researches his history, he is able to offer some shrewd observations and a decidedly alarming warning:

I argue in Preachers of Hate that everything changed in 1979. That was when the shah of Iran fell, and when the Saudi royal family out of fear and trembling agreed to finance a worldwide expansion of militant Wahhabi Islam. To my knowledge, no one has really focused on those two key events before as the genesis of the war of terror launched against the West by militant Islam.

Timmerman's books opened the door for me to so much that I didn't know before (and am still learning).

Another one of my favorite historians is Thomas Sowell, for his dispassionate and well-documented explorations into complex "big" subjects guided by unprejudicial curiosity. His ability to apply economics principles in analyzing the large movements of history and cultures has been particularly intriguing to me, as so few historians do this, but should. I've been reading his Conquests and Culture: An International History and come across passages like this:

While such geographical influences as rich natural resources--petroleum in the Middle East or gold in South Africa, for example--have played major roles in the economies and in the histories of particular nations, it is also very common for countries with rich natural resources (such as Mexico or Nigeria) to be poor countries and for countries with very few natural resources (such as Japan or Switzerland) to have standards of living that are among the highest in the world. Similarly, it is not uncommon for immigrants to arrive destitute in a new land and then rise above the average income or wealth level of the population of that country. Whether with nations or with individuals and groups, it is human capital that is crucial to the creation of wealth and higher living standards, often far more so than their initial endowment of natural or other wealth. Immigrants who arrive without money but with occupational skills--Jewish immigrants to the United States being a classical example--are analogous to nations without natural resources but with the skills and entrepreneurship to import other countries' natural resources and process them into valuable finished products, as Japan has done in its rise to industrial pre-eminence....

Human capital must not be confused with formal education, which is just one facet of it, and still less with the growth of an intelligentsia, which may be either a positive or a negative influence on economic development and political stability, depending on the particular kinds of skills they possess and the particular attitudes they take toward those with the productive capacity to advance the economic level of a country. Modern Western industry and commerce developed at a time when the intelligentsia were a small and relatively uninfluential group. However, many Third World societies in the twentieth century became independent nations led by elites based on formal education and political charisma, but with little or no experience in economic matters and a hostility toward autonomous economic institutions and toward economically productive minorities in their own countries....
[my bold]

I find Sowell's books fascinating for pointing out facts I never knew and, after gathering exhaustive research, arriving at conclusions I'd never considered. For example, it had never occurred to me to wonder why Hong Kong is such an anomalous economic success story. Sowell tells how when the British empire was sending out leaders to run its colonies, the one sent to Hong Kong happened to be a free-market devotee, alone among the group. The intellectual and legal foundations he set up to organize Hong Kong society into one of the bastions of relatively free trade in the world were so successful that successive governors could not then in good conscience or in fact dismantle them, even though they did not share their predecessor's free-trade views. There is much more of interest in this book about various world and historical cultures and the results of various means of conquest and clash among them, with many of the conclusions drawn being quite surprising.

Another tremendously interesting book by Sowell is Ethnic America, a study of several different ethnic groups of immigrants to America: their histories, what cultural baggage they brought with them, what they encountered in immigrating, what struggles they engaged in, and to what extent and in what ways they succeeded or failed once in the U.S. The long chapter on black history alone is worth the price of the book. I had never known enough of their history to contrast the experiences in America of West Indian black immigrants, American-born blacks descended from slaves, and those descended from freedmen, but Sowell does, and it is enlightening.

There is much to learn about the past in his books that I never knew, and much to ponder over as far as what lessons can reasonably be drawn (and what conclusions should not be drawn) in dealing with similar situations or policymaking in the present.

Another historian I enjoy reading is Steven Ozment, who wrote A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People. His books on the history (including social and religious history) of Europe and especially of the German people (long before the Nazi era, which most ordinary Americans think of as the be-all and end-all of defining German history) have helped to start filling that huge gap in my historical knowledge that my formal education never touched upon.

Fun history I read these days for pleasure are Simon Winchester's two books, on the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It is both entertaining and instructive to read his stories artfully intertwining the geological history of millions of years of the earth's development with transient moments of intense crisis for human beings caught in the crosshairs of a specifically tragic time and place.

How are we to best live our own (brief) lives and make our own (hopefully wise) decisions, whether as individuals or societies? I believe that as the wise person calls upon those older and wiser, who have seen more of life and life's lessons, for advice and a guiding perspective, we should read history for the friendly sound of older, wiser voices teaching us--"this is nothing new, this was our story, and here's what happened to us." Circumstances are constantly changing as cultures evolve, but human nature remains the same. By remembering and studying the successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies of human endeavors in the past, we can draw on wisdom and learn from mistakes as we face our own challenges and tribulations.

Or, as historian Paul Johnson said, "The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."

Why study history? As an antidote to hubris.

What America does best

What America seems to be really good at is producing a multicultural society that, overall, works. We've been doing it for centuries, and in this article ("The Multiculturalism of the Streets") Joel Kotkin asserts we're still doing it successfully, and will continue to do so, "under the radar" of "either left-wing academics or conservative political warlords"--thanks to free-market opportunities made the most of by our immigrants:

...But in America anything is possible, even Spanish-speaking Americans who become expert Chinese cooks....

To be sure, this culture fusion will not please some conservative intellectuals, who will not look kindly on the incorporation of Spanishisms into our daily language any more than the rising popularity of Yiddish words appealed to Henry James a century ago. For the most part, however, this informal, undirected and mostly market-driven form of integration bodes very well for the continued dynamism of both American culture and economy. It guarantees that America will remain youthful, changeable and, very likely, strongly family-oriented. And it points to a major difference within the civilizational West—for most European countries have yet to figure out how to blend and thrive as has the United States.

Read the whole thing, as it's both optimistic and sounds like commonsense to me. But then, I like Mexican and Asian food and music, the untrammeled free market, and individual enterprise over institutional quotas. (Via Instapundit).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tennis star intimidated

This infuriated me: A 19-year-old female Indian tennis player has backed down from playing a doubles match with her Israeli friend at the Bangalore Open after continuing threats from India's Muslim thugs (via Little Green Footballs). They didn't like her tennis outfit or her talking about sex either. Shame on her for offending somebody, eh? Those who blame the Danish cartoonists for being insensitive--what do you blame this girl for?

I find it more and more absurd that anyone on the American Left could seriously be concerned about the oh-so-feared spector of a rising fundamentalist Christian culture in the U.S. (those scary Salvation Army bellringers outside every courthourse!) when this kind of violent, misogynistic intimidation is REALLY going on all over the world.

Daily links

Mark Steyn writes about world demographics determining destiny in the years ahead, including this paragraph (but do read the whole argument) about the differences between when cultures assimilate and when religions assimilate:

Instead of a melting pot, there's conversion: A Scot can marry a Greek or a Botswanan, but when a Scot marries a Yemeni it's because the former has become a Muslim. In defiance of normal immigration patterns, the host country winds up assimilating with Islam: French municipal swimming baths introduce non-mixed bathing sessions; a Canadian Government report recommends the legalisation of polygamy; Seville removes King Ferdinand III as patron of the annual fiesta because he played too, um, prominent a role in taking back Spain from the Moors.

Another ranting point of mine: I hate "hate speech" and amorphous "harrassment" laws for their Orwellian muddling of thoughts with actions (dangerously casting both, not just the latter, as crimes), for setting up certain groups as "special" victims (promoting unequal treatment under law), and for infringing on First-Amendment freedoms (including the necessary freedom to be offensive, offending, and offended) in the name of craven political correctness. Victor Davis Hanson writes about having to undergo a course on sexual harrassment policy--but the same points apply to so-called "hate speech" in general (including of course the current Danish cartoon affair):

Given that harassment lies in the eye of the victim, the course recommends that all employees constantly monitor and fine-tune their conversations and behaviors in order to avoid anything that could remotely be construed as objectionable to anyone in the “protected” categories. This advice, of course, is useless, given that there are so many subjective definitions of what’s objectionable that the only viable solution is to avoid most conversation or reduce one’s comments to banal pleasantries. In workplace discussions individuals will have to continually practice self-censorship to insure that their personal way of expressing themselves — with irony, sarcasm, or humor, for example — is not interpreted by the thin-skinned, the crazy, or the malignant as “harassment.”...

The result of such a climate is to erode collegiality and poison relationships with the lurking possibility that the normal disagreements and conflicts that are part and parcel of normal human relationships will be redefined as actionable harassment subject to the greater coercive powers of the institution and the state....

Reference was made to the First Amendment, usually to note that it doesn’t protect behaviors or speech perceived as harassment, a debatable legal position at best....

Given the great variety and number of free people and their thresholds of offensiveness, our words and deeds will frequently be disturbing to some. But that’s the price we pay for freedom, and it is our responsibility to be adults and figure out how to get along in a world where everybody, not just privileged elites, are given wide latitude for the expression of their ideas. A truly free and open speech will frequently lack civility or sensitivity to feeling, for the point of such a debate is not to make people feel good but to get at the truth and value of ideas. The raucous, sometimes crude, often offensive nature of democratic speech was recognized as part of democratic freedom as far back as fifth-century Athens — which is one reason why elitists like Plato disliked democracy.
My bold. I am glad there are still people not afraid to articulate these points. I am not as eloquent, but I agree, and passionately. There should be no such legal category as "thought crimes" in America, no matter how well-intended the reason. Criminal behavior should be prosecuted, not offensive speech (which is impossible to objectively define by the state or by any one else).

By the way, here's a link to the 12 Mohammed cartoons (scroll down) in case your local news outlets have not seen fit to give you the whole news story. By viewing the cartoons yourself you can make your own informed decisions about just what provocation they represent. Some Muslims are still reported to be rioting evidently against any symbols of Western civilization or of females being "sexually provocative." The more artistically inclined fight fire with fire (scroll down).

Via Instapundit, here's a transcript of yesterday's Hugh Hewitt radio show at Radio Blogger that is quite interesting, including first an interview with Mark Steyn, followed by a discussion of recent DNA research contradicting The Book of Mormon; followed by an interview with Robert Ferrigno, author of the new novel coming out, Prayers for the Assassin, envisioning a Muslim America around the year 2040. See also "Helen Thomas hangs up on Hugh Hewitt." I wish I could hear the Hugh Hewitt show where I live, but thanks to Radio Blogger I can still enjoy it.

Krauthammer on the Cheney shooting affair.

Hannity's page on the Saddam tapes.

Again, I have to admit with regret that I cannot comment on all the news topics and ideas I'd like to. Just don't have the time to keep up. My silence and/or my emphasis on any given topic doesn't necessarily imply much more than how much time on any given day I have to devote to blogging. Some days: none.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Institutionalized racism in the U.S.--we should be ashamed

Saw this (via Bookworm Room) on the widespread discrimination through de facto quota systems against Asian high-achievers in U.S. schools and universities, including this passage regarding Lowell High School in San Francisco:

While race is allegedly not a consideration in its highly-competitive admissions process, other factors such as language spoken at home, English Learner Status and parents’ occupation are used to determine student admission to Lowell. These factors, along with others, are used by the San Francisco school to compute a student applicant’s “Diversity Index” for use in the admissions process.

Presumably, this means that the school’s admissions committee seeks students other than ones whose parents speak Chinese at home, have engineering degrees or work at Chinese restaurants—all in the interest of maintaining student diversity, of course. To this end, San Francisco school officials known euphemistically as “reverse truant officers” have been known to pay a visit to a student’s home in order to verify information on student applicants, in some cases discreetly following them home from school.

This is disgusting. Where is the A.C.L.U. in this matter and why doesn't it stand up for these children's rights not to be discriminated against by race? More importantly, how can we as American citizens under the Constitution and "justice for all" tolerate this racial discrimination, pure and simple, which incidentally does our nation no good by excluding its most able and potentially productive students from the high school and college slots they deserve and have earned on merit?

Update: Background articles here and here. This is not news. Why has it not been addressed by now? Where are our elected representatives and why do they not remedy this?

To my liberal friends

To my liberal friends who say, "Do you really think the rest of the world cares what our internal partisan political machinations are or what our minor politicians might say? Do you really think the rest of the world even pays attention to any of that internal stuff?" -- Thomas Sowell sums up my answer to that succinctly in his essay, "Two Crises" (at

The truly dangerous aspect of this temper tantrum politics is its undermining the government of the United States in its dealings with foreign powers and international terrorist networks.

There are nations and movements that respect only force or the threat of force. Regardless of anyone's politics, the President of the United States is the only one who can launch that force.

In the early days of the Iraq war, when it was clear to all that American military force would be unleashed against our enemies, Libya suddenly agreed to abandon its nuclear program and other countries backed off their hostile stances.

But when our domestic obstructionists began undermining the President and dividing the country, they were undermining the credibility of American power. North Korea's government-controlled media gave big play to Senator John Kerry's speeches against the U.S. hard line on the development of North Korean nuclear weapons.

Obviously this all-out attempt to damage the President at all costs makes any threat of the use of military force less credible with the country divided.

Whether President Bush will in fact use military force as a last resort to prevent an unending nightmare of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian fanatics and international terrorists is something only the future will tell.

It would be far better if the threat of force were credible enough that actual force would not have to be used. But divisive politics have undermined the credibility of any such threat. That can narrow the choices to killing people in Iran or leaving ourselves and our posterity at the mercy of hate-filled and suicidal fanatics with nukes.

Yes, I do think the rest of the world, including and especially our enemies, pays attention. And I do think it is a deadly serious matter with deadly serious consequences. That's why our distinguished statesmen who grandstand for personal and party gains like John Kerry, Howard Dean, and Al Gore, who spouted off yet again on Sunday, this time in Saudia Arabia, are, in a time of war, acting like traitors to the detriment of our country, all for the sake of pitting the Democrats against Bush and the Republican party.

Elected officials in previous generations used to acknowledge a lot of unwritten rules that guided political disputes and personal behavior. The most famous contrast in modern times is the example of Ronald Reagan, who insisted on always wearing his jacket in the Oval Office, with Bill Clinton, who recognized no such circumspection for the office of the President. Statesmen invited to a funeral used to understand that a funeral was not an opportunity to insult others. More seriously, personal attacks and criticism of a U.S. president would not be made by roving politicos to foreign audiences. Today, behavior once considered traitorous and classless is being exhibited by those of the left as a matter of course (see Belafonte, Sheehan). I am one who does not consider this to be progress in social mores. I find it particularly egregious in elected officials who are supposedly intelligent and sane enough to recognize better the damage they are doing to their country in the world's eyes.

Sometimes I wonder how these people can claim to love our country. In their positions of prominence, when they might accomplish constructive, helpful things, they instead choose to do so much to undermine our country's reputation, traditions, and indeed even its security.

How or if they rationalize their actions to themselves I cannot fathom.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ask the internet Ouiji board

Ever wonder how long you'll live and when you'll die and why? Take the "death test" (via Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter). Actually it's an estimated-longevity test based on research developed by the Harvard math department. Your estimated longevity depends on your lifestyle habits and your family's health (surprise, surprise!). According to this handy device, I'm predicted to expire at age 81. Can you top that?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Daily links

You want to see offensive? I find the kidnapping of journalists offensive. And where are the outraged feminists protesting and burning flags and embassies against these offensive acts-- here's a site to keep up with Iran's tormenting of women just because they are women (via Ace). Brave women in Iran are protesting at the risk of their lives against the abuses of their government. Particularly egregious is the recent case of a girl sentenced to hang for unintentionally killing one of her three would-be rapists. Amnesty International focuses criticism on the case only because the woman was a minor at the time! Unbelievable. I am offended. I'd go on a rampage, but my religion is a religion of peace, and my mama didn't raise me to be a bully. Mama raised me to be an American. So I will write (or draw up some pointed cartoons) instead.

More on the Mohammed cartoons....Rioting hypocrits? "Egyptian newspaper printed drawings in October/Little stir was caused when an Egyptian newspaper printed the Mohammed drawings last October during the Muslim month of Ramadan" (via Powerline).

Banning cartoons, shutting down websites around the world in response to the Mohammed cartoon hypocrisy. Around the world, people are running scared in the face of Islamofascist violence and threats, which is precisely what the cartoons set out to illuminate. Very illuminating experiment indeed. Mona Charen writes:

Britain's Channel 4 canceled a documentary about abuse of girls in the Muslim community because the police cautioned that it might "increase community tension." That self-censorship was exactly what the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was attempting to expose with its cartoons.

Betsy sums it up:
...let's stop all the handwringing about how sensitive we have to be about respecting the delicate Muslim sensibilities. We could do nothing and they'll manufacture some crisis to whip their followers into the street and mau-mau the western powers to back off criticism of their own odious regimes.

Mau-mauing! I knew there was a certain deju vu about all of this. So who should we be most urgently calling on to practice "self-censorship," the so-called free press and media, or violent thugs and bullies? Which creates the most havoc and stifles the most inquiry?

Roger L. Simon also points out that more is already being censored than just cartoons to spare possible or assumed Islamic sensibilities.

If you want to, you can sign the petition supporting Jyllands Posten.

Charles Krauthammer (via weighs in:

A true Muslim moderate is one who protests desecrations of all faiths. Those who don't are not moderates but hypocrites, opportunists and agents for the rioters, using merely different means to advance the same goal: to impose upon the West, with its traditions of freedom of speech, a set of taboos that is exclusive to the Islamic faith. These are not defenders of religion, but Muslim supremacists trying to force their dictates upon the liberal West.
What would Peter Zenger say? Well, as his defense attorney argued to the jury in 1735:
...every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor you as men who have baffled the attempt of tyranny; and by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict, have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right -- and liberty -- both of exposing and opposing arbitrary power ... by speaking and writing truth....

TalkLeft weighs in on the cartoon controversy and notes that The World Socialist Society has this condemnation of the publication of the cartoons, calling it "an ugly and calculated provocation." Meanwhile, in a brave show of leadership, Hilliary Clinton blasts efforts to shut down freedom of the press: "Since when has it been part of American patriotism to keep our mouths shut?" she said.

Just kidding on that last one. The Democrats seem to be laying low, really low, on offering their opinions on the Muslim cartoon controversy, perhaps because what their hearts tell them and what is politically correct in the multicultural worldview of the left is in conflict here. Or perhaps they just don't care. Historically as liberals one would think they should be passionately in favor of non-censorship, freedom of expression and the First Amendment, freedom of religion or no religion--George Clooney and McCarthy and all of that. Well, wake me up when they have anything respectable, constructive, or interesting to say about this besides musha, musha, can't we all just get along, let it blow over, and keep raking in our paychecks.

This just in: Muslim rioting spreads to the Jews.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When Cupid Attacks

My 10-year-old daughter revealed to me yesterday what Valentine's Day is good for:

"It's really a useful holiday. Because if there is a boy at school who's been bothering you, all you have to do is tell him if he doesn't stop it, you're going to give him a Valentine that says you love him. They always run away screaming and leave you alone after that."

Old world/new world

Evidently there has for awhile been more going on in the Danish Muslim community than just the Mohammed cartoon controversy. The tension there does not all stem from a conflict of visions between the native Danish and the immigrant Muslims. This comes from Copenhagen, last March (via Dhimmi Watch; read the whole thing):

A group of forty women with immigrant backgrounds reported a Muslim preacher and his religious community to the police on Tuesday, for advocating threatening and discriminating treatment of Muslim women.

The preacher, imam Raed Hleihel, infuriated the nation during a Friday prayer session in February, when he insisted that Muslim girls should cover themselves from head to toe, and that women who use perfume and go to the hairdressers would go to hell.

For further background read this article by Jytte Klausen which ran in Prospect magazine in May 2004: "Is there an Imam problem? Too many Muslim clerics in Europe do not understand the lives of the young Muslims they preach to:"

In the last few months I have met leaders of Muslim organisations, imams, Muslim parliamentarians and councillors in four countries - Britain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Many of them expressed fears about "rogue imams" preaching holy war. There are a few rogues. But the real issue - as described by countless Muslim parents - is that Muslims in Europe desperately need imams and scholars who speak the languages and are familiar with the customs and practices of the countries in which they live.
The "Muslim community," whether in Denmark, in any other country, or worldwide as a whole, is not homogeneous. There is no "average Muslim" to feed any comforting stereotypes.

The more I learn about the problems of immigrant Muslims in western countries, the more similarities I see between their situation and the situation that existed among the communities of German immigrants here in the U.S. before the World Wars. The German immigrants too had to face the question of how far to assimilate in their new homeland, what traditions and customs and values to jettison (or to say goodbye to when circumstances stripped them away), and what to embrace (or at least tolerate with an uneasy truce). (Click here for an overview of U.S. German immigrant history.)

The German immigrants too had to deal with learning new customs and a new language. They had to cope with churches and ministers who did not replicate what they'd known in their homeland and who often times did not share their ethnic background or even their language (the Catholic church for example, in many places in the U.S. assigned Irish priests to minister to German congregations, and vice versa). They had to either adjust to or protest in various way the prevailing values of the culture they had settled in (here in the U.S. temperance and "blue laws" were the bane of Germans used to socializing, frolicking, and drinking in their beer gardens on Sunday afternoons following church.)

There were also German anarchists, socialists, Marxists, and radicals making things "hot" for the ordinary Germans in the eyes of the native U.S. citizens. Six of the eight men arrested in Chicago's Haymarket bombing in 1886 were Germans, seen as foreign terrorists and bomb-throwing anarchists.

The German immigrants between the years 1880 and the early 1900s seemed to swamp the United States in numbers and influence, much as Hispanic immigrants have left their mark across the U.S. today. At that time the majority of both the German immigrants and other Americans felt that the Germans had assimilated pretty well by becoming "'American' in politics while remaining 'German' in culture." In other words, they thought of themselves as "hypenated" Americans, German-Americans, and considered this a good thing, the best of two good worlds.

But this "successful" assimilation, while trying to keep the German Kultur intact, was doomed to fail.

Suddenly when the U.S. entered World War I, the German-American immigrants (also not a homogeneous group) and their U.S.-born children faced a terrible dilemma that forced upon each individual a stark personal decision: were they first Germans or were they first Americans?

Reinhold Neibuhr wrote about this "Failure of German-Americanism" in 1916:

...a nation needs and demands the loyalty of its citizens, not only when its existence is at stake or when its claims upon their allegiance are put with particular force by the crises of physical combat. In times of peace also it requires their loyalty—their loyalty to its ideals, and their allegiance to the principles upon which it has been founded. Of the immigrant it is entitled to expect that he will place the virtues and powers with which his particular race has endowed him in the service of the ideals that animate the people with whom he has allied himself.

German immigrants in Canada had to undergo a similar experience.

I see that immigrant Muslims in Western societies are already facing the same questions of assimilation. There are lessons to be learned from the example of the German immigrant experience, both for immigrants and for the countries that host them. The clash is not so much one of religion as it is of values: whether to cover women from head to toe or not; whether to dance on the Sabbath or not. There is no one correct monolithic Muslim interpretation or consensus, just as there was no one correct German consensus among Catholics, Protestants, or freethinkers, though both of these problems can be and have been couched in religious terms.

Certainly we do not want to go through a period of two world wars again to achieve the kind of assimilation the German immigrant population has finally achieved in the U.S. today (i.e. virtual invisibility). Nor do we want to inflict the same abuses on individuals that many naturalized German-American citizens suffered between 1914 and 1946.

But American society has changed so much since the rabid anti-German hysteria of WWI and the internment camps of U.S. Japanese, German, and Italian resident aliens, naturalized citizens, and their relatives during WWII, that even after the attacks of 9/11 there has been surprisingly little retaliatory or government-sponsored persecution of immigrant Muslims in the U.S. For this we should be proud. America today is unlike the America of the early 20th century in that our toleration and valuing of cultural differences has become a source of national pride.

We should all be trying to learn from past mistakes, as I believe many of us in the U.S. are sincerely doing. At the same time, it would behoove Muslim and other immigrants who have moved into open and free western societies to examine closely and seek to educate themselves about what it really is they want and expect, the true nature of their new world, and what they can really ask for, in having left their homelands behind. They need to acknowledge what debts and obligations they incur and owe to the harboring countries taking them in.

Not an easy process, but not a new one, either.

"Fake but accurate"--again?

What a bizarre twist: Mohammed or Gaulic hog-caller? Once again (as before in the Dan Rather forged documents case) it is the blogosphere and now most prominently, Michelle Malkin, who have been all over this story, while the mainstream media lags behind and/or gets it wrong..... The Danish cartoon crisis has gotten more unbelievable with the blogosphere's uncovering the story of the Danish imam and the "misidentified" "blasphemous" photo from the French pig-squealing contest (see "Absurd but deadly" at Power Line and "Danish Imams Bushed!" at Neadernews, which includes this:

As Gateway Pundit, Counter Terrorism Blog and others have reported Danish Imam Ahmad Abu Ladan, leader of The Islamic Society of Denmark, toured the middle east to create awareness of supposed anti-Islamic cartoons and included the above black and white photo as well as two other undocumented examples. Akhmad Akkari, spokesman of the tour, explained that the three drawings had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.”

Akkari claimed he does not know the origin of the three pictures. He said they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. However, when Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet asked if it could talk to these Muslims, Akkari refused to reveal their identity. BBC World aired a story on 1-30-2006 showing the three non-published images and claimed they had been published in Denmarks Jyllands-Posten, these images however had never been published in Jyllands-Posten.

You've got to love how the internet and the bloggers almost instantaneously ferret out connections in cases like this. Evidence seems to point to there being blood on the hands of Imam Ahmad Abu Ladan (a "rogue imam"?) and the Islamic Society of Denmark for inciting violence with fraudulent documents.

Meanwhile, yesterday the editorial staff of the New York Press (alternative NYC weekly) resigned after the paper's publishers backed down from printing the 12 Danish editorial cartoons (the Politicker, via Michelle Malkin):

Editor-in-Chief Harry Siegel emails, on behalf of the editorial staff:

...For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. ...

We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding.

Wow, journalists with principles, standing up for freedom of the press to actually cover a conroversial news story. This smacks of heroism to me.

How do you seriously present a controversial world story if you are afraid of reprisals and threats of physical violence (by taking refuge in portraying yourself as not being "offensive")? I hope everyone in the mainstream media is doing some soul-searching, because too many of them have been shown up in this matter as timidly operating under a double-standard, for all their braying about bravery, speaking truth to power, and freedom of the press.

"CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam."

Yeah, right.

Christopher Hitchens, one of my favorite liberal writers, takes on this controversy and makes a scathing case for mocking religion as shining the light of reason and principled tolerance into far corners through freedom of the press, speech, and conscience (read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt; via Annoying Pedant):

Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find "offensive."

Hear, hear.

The publishing of the 12 cartoons in Denmark may indeed have been offensive and insensitive to some, but they have certainly shone a stark light for people everywhere, and of many different views, into some hitherto unsuspected aspects of the Muslim religion, the jihadists' reactions, and the principles held dear or waffled on by the Western media and various Western and Middle Eastern governments. Education, enlightenment, and dialog happen, which is the point of free inquiry, even if it is rude to some.

I don't like rudeness, incivility, nastiness, snarky humor, what is called "hate speech," or inflammatory rhetoric directed against my own touchy subjects or sacred beliefs either. But I tolerate others' freedom to do that as the price for living in a free society, where what I say and think is guaranteed freedom of equal expression no matter who finds it "offensive."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Daily links

More on the Mohammed cartoons blow-up:

Via Boortz, a deliberative essay from Commentary ("The Cartoon Jihad" by Melanie Phillips) on what the underlying principles are:

Let us remind ourselves again – the cartoons were not an attack on Islam. They were instead a protest against the violent intimidation being practised in its name after the author of a (totally inoffensive) children’s book about Islam had difficulty in finding an illustrator because artists feared they might be attacked. Since then, the violence that has erupted across the world has more than proved the cartoonists’ point....

The madness of this protest deepens when one considers that the claim at its heart, that pictorial representations of the Prophet are forbidden in Islam, is not true. Like so much else, it is all a matter of interpretation; but the fact remains that there have been many representations of the Prophet in Islamic art over the centuries....

The usual gimlet-eyed essay from Mark Steyn:

Jyllands-Posten wasn't being offensive for the sake of it. They had a serious point -- or, at any rate, a more serious one than Britney Spears or Terence McNally. The cartoons accompanied a piece about the dangers of "self-censorship" -- i.e., a climate in which there's no explicit law forbidding you from addressing the more, er, lively aspects of Islam but nonetheless everyone feels it's better not to.

That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam.

Roger L. Simon weighs in:

We're already living in a rerun of the Middle Ages with religious-motivated hordes streaming through the streets, loaded for bear and screaming for the end of democracy. Only back in the Middle Ages people had an excuse. Most back then thought the world was flat. What do we do now? Many still think the way to deal with these lunatics is to apologize for these obscure cartoons, say "nice doggy," pat them on the head and hope they will go away. Similar techniques were tried in the 1930s when there were nowhere near as many Nazis as there are followers of radical Islam today...

The Counterterroism Blog claims that a delegation of Danish Muslims were circulating inflammatory cartoons that the Danish newspapers did not print, and claiming that they did and "The Cartoon Crisis Conspiracy and Modern Muslims" at The American Thinker (both via Michelle Malkin) asks and gives answers about the four-month-old cartoons:

Why was a plan created and put into effect? And why now?...

Muslim immigrant and Dutch Member of Parliament Hirsi Ali (who now lives in hiding under death threats) makes the point convincingly:

“…a free discussion of Islam remains rare and dangerous, certainly in the Islamic world, and even in our politically correct times in the West…Apostasy is still punishable by long prison sentences and even death in many Islamic countries such as Pakistan and Iran….”

“You cannot liberalize Islam without criticizing the Prophet and the Koran…You cannot redecorate a house without entering inside.”

See press releases denouncing the violence from CAIR and the Free Muslims Coalition, who write on their website:

Other Americans have spoken up against terrorism, but never before has this message come with such clarity from Muslims or Arabs. Muslims are the only ones who can resolve the problem of terror in Islam, and sadly until the founding of this Free Muslims, they were the only group who had not definitively spoken up against the use of terror.

May the voices of reason prevail.

On a lighter note after all of that, here's your genealogical gem for the day--the Star Wars family tree (via Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter) and a history quiz: what was the northernmost battle in the U.S. Civil War?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Playing the Game of Fours

This "quiz yourself" item has been circulating the internet. Here are my answers, and you can do it too.

Four jobs I’ve had:

  • legal secretary
  • receptionist at a furniture showroom
  • smalltown newspaper columnist
  • freelance graphic designer

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • Casablanca
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Groundhog Day

Four places I have lived:

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • San Francisco, California
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • North Syracuse, New York

Four television shows I love to watch don’t mind spending time watching:

  • “Law and Order” reruns
  • “Modern Marvels”
  • "Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume"
  • “Book TV” and live events coverage on C-SPAN-1 and -2

Four places I have been on vacation:

  • Moose Jaw, Saskatchawan, Canada
  • Baden-Baden, Germany
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Punakaiki, New Zealand

Four of my favorite foods:

  • Reuben sandwich
  • chicken korma
  • wurst mit kraut
  • chocolate-covered cherries

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be right now [on a weekend in February]:

  • anywhere in California
  • Sanibel, Florida
  • Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon
  • Tucson, Arizona

Four things I hope to do before I die:

  • visit Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland and learn German
  • have an extended walking/driving tour of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland
  • visit Japan
  • write a good novel