Saturday, November 29, 2003

What a bunch of lamers

By way of the Terran, I've learned that those perennial useless busy-bodies at the Center for Science in the Public Interest are trying to ban beer ads during collegiate sports games, implying that such ads lead to "binge drinking."

Never mind that more than half of all college students are over 21, and thus a perfectly legitimate audience. Forget also that many alumni -- themselves way over 21 -- watch these games, and also like beer.

All you Tuttering Templars of Temperance, listen up: the reason college students drink beer till they puke is not advertising campaigns with frogs or babes in them. It's to be as different as possible from irritating dweebs like you.

Friday, November 28, 2003
Steven Den Beste has an interesting post on what happens if terrorists get access to working nuclear weapons. The whole thing is well worth a read, but I just want to concentrate on this conjecture:
In the aftermath of a nuclear attack against the US, the US would issue the following directives:

1. All nations we do not fully trust which have nuclear weapons, or programs to develop them, will cease all development immediately, and will turn over to us all completed weapons and all fissionables and all other equipment and material used in those programs by a certain deadline, a small number of weeks.

2. All nations will fully cooperate with us in finding the attackers and all other militant groups we consider dangerous to us. All nations will immediately and totally cease providing any kind of support to such groups. All nations will immediately and vigorously work to prevent their citizens from providing any kind of support.

3. All nations will fully answer any significant questions we ask.

4. Any nation whose cooperation is not considered adequate will be assumed to be an enemy, and may be the target of a saturation nuclear strike at a time of our choosing, without any warning. There will be no negotiations, no second chances, no obfuscation, no delay, no deception. Nothing less that full and unstinting and rapid cooperation will be considered acceptable.
That's an interesting policy, but I am wondering if we might go farther than that. There is no need to wait for the first attack to occur and give anyone a freebie. Our doctrine could be more proactive (and pre-emptive). Something like this:

There are several nations in this world that we know or suspect have nuclear weapons, and whom we do not trust with such weapons. As of today, the list of those nations is as follows:

  • Pakistan
  • North Korea
  • Iran
This list will be modified continuously.

We cannot know what any of these nations will do with their nuclear arsenal, and whether such arsenal might be made available to non-state groups, whether by official act, rogue operatives within the government, or sheer incompetence. Once loose in the nominally-civilian population, it is nearly impossible to stop such weapons from reaching U.S. territory. At any rate, we consider possession of nuclear weapons by these countries to be an unacceptable risk.

Therefore, any nuclear detonation within the the United States, including any of its Territories or Possessions, will be met with a three-stage response, in this order:

  1. Conduct a quick investigation to ensure that the source of the device was not in the United States.
  2. If the source was foreign, a saturation nuclear strike will be delivered against every country on the list above. No official denials will be accepted, and no negotiations forthcoming. All diplomats of the listed countries will be subject to deportation; all other nationals will be subject to arrest and detention. In other words, the detonation of a foreign nuclear device within the United States will automatically place the United States into a state of nuclear war with any country on the list.
  3. A thorough investigation will be conducted, to determine the source and supplier of the nuclear weapon. Any country that is found to have contributed to or facilitated this act, will likewise be subject to a saturation nuclear strike.
In order to get off the list, a country must fully dismantle its nuclear program, prove to the satisfaction of the United States that the program has been shut down, and turn over all demanded materials to the custody of the United States. Cooperation with the UN and IAEA will not be a sufficient substitute; the United States must be satisfied directly and without conditions. Removal from the list will be subject to congressional approval.

The main advantage of this policy, in my view, is that it presents all current and aspiring nuclear nations with a prisoner's dilemma: Pakistan could never be certain that Iran's actions won't get them nuked, for example. North Korea might start thinking twice about selling its nuclear weapons or technology to others, knowing that one stupid action by their customers might result in nuclear devastation of their own territory. By the same token, this policy gives all these countries a very good reason to disarm: suddenly their weapons are less of a deterrent, and more of a liability.

The only component necessary to really make this work would be the SDI missile shield -- otherwise, we might lose more of our own cities to retaliation from the listed countries. There isn't any hope of designing a shield capable of blocking all the missiles launched by Russia or China, but we can handle Pakistan or North Korea's few nukes just fine.

An ethical argument can be made against this policy, in that it is founded on the notion that we will destroy countries that are completely innocent of any wrongdoing against us. This is true, but somewhat pointless: in every war, lots of perfectly innocent people are killed. Even if we limited our saturation strike to the country that was guilty of supplying terrorists with nukes, we'd still be killing millions of people who had nothing to do with the act. It's heartbreaking, but there is nothing we can do: all nations pay the price for the stupid actions of their leadership. If we had other options, we'd use them -- but we don't. Still, it's important to point out that just as with the MAD doctrine, the idea here is not to get revenge through mass killing, but rather to deter the leaders of other nations and encourage them to disarm, by threatening to take away the only things they value: their lives, power, and privilege. It's unlikely the even Kim Jong-Il relishes the idea of being the dictator of a radioactive wasteland.

Anyway, yes, this is all quite scary. But it's a scary world we live in, and trying to paint a happy face of "international cooperation" on it is simply delusional. We'll simply have to deal with the threats that exist, and ultimately, the only way to deter an enemy is to make it clear that an attack will cause him to lose more than he gains.

Sunday, November 23, 2003
Something I'm getting sick and tired of are these weepy stories about broken families, etc., when illegal immigrants are caught, packed up, and sent home. Stories like this:
Schaumburg cosmetologist Habeeba Zainab wants her husband back, even if it means pouring out her most private thoughts in a letter to immigration officials.

"Our relatives and friends, they say he not a good-looking person -- ‘Why you marry?' But I know …" Zainab writes in broken English. "He is good to me. He is gentle man. He is healthy, and hard worker. I don't care if he is not look so beautiful. I want a man who looks after me."

Native Pakistani Amir Hussain Shah promised, "I will take care of you." And he did take care of his often-sick wife -- right up until the U.S. government stuck him in prison for five months and deported him.

Shah was one of thousands of Muslims deported in a sweeping immigration crackdown targeting men from Islamic nations, the Chicago Tribune reported last week. The dragnet grew out of terrorist fears, but, according to the report, none of the thousands of men deported was charged with terrorism.
How terrible. U.S. immigration authorities enforced the law on the books, and never even gave the terrorists among those they deported prove themselves as such. Oh, the humanity!
"They cast a broad net over many Arab and Muslim nations," says Cleo Kung, an attorney who is handling Zainab's quest for her husband's return. Kung, who didn't get the case until after Shah was deported, says Shah may have avoided deportation in a different political climate.

"Say he wasn't from Pakistan, he wasn't Muslim and this had happened before 9/11," Kung says. "I think he would have been approved, gotten a green card, and they would be living as happily ever after as they could."
Say he wasn't an illegal alien, say he obeyed the law. Say he left for Pakistan when his visa expired. But he didn't. So he was shipped out. What a persuasive argument: if only our immigration enforcement was as lax as it had been before 9/11, more people could get away with illegal stays. In John Ashcroft's America, authorities whose job it is to enforce the law, are enforcing the law! The horror!

But wait, there's more:

As part of his job hiring workers for car washes, Shah was waiting for his boss about 5 a.m. Feb. 23 when police spotted him sleeping in his car. A routine background check revealed that Shah, who came to the United States as a visitor in 1991, had been denied asylum and had ignored a previous order to leave this country.
So the police find some guy hanging around in his car early Sunday morning, check his background, find out he's a scofflaw who is not supposed to be here, and have him shipped home. A stellar job. Exactly as it's supposed to be. But no, you're supposed to get your hankies ready, for here the article brings out the full-strength weep inducers:
"I feel very bad. I was crying. He is a very good man," Zainab says during an interview in the Schaumburg apartment she shares with her sons, Asim Saif, 21, and Omer Farooq, 20, who have visas that allow them to live and work here.

"He was a nice person. We are really missing him," the older son says of Shah. "I was very happy with him."
You know what? I don't doubt that Mr. Shah was a nice person. But there are lots of other nice people who want to be here, and we have our own nice people to protect, so if a nice person comes here illegally, overstays his visa, and ignores the order to leave, I expect the nice people at the INS to put him on a nice plane and send him back to his nice country of origin, which presumably also has plenty of nice people. If his wife and her children miss him so much, they can buy tickets to Karachi at their convenience.
Shah's case is just one of more than 13,000 recent deportation cases in which "there are a lot who have valid reasons to stay in this country," notes Ahmad Tansheet, community outreach coordinator for the Muslim Civil Rights Center in Hickory Hills.
Great. Convince the American authorities.
"My question is: Is America any safer today?" asks Tansheet, who lives in Bensenville.
While I'm normally not a fan of such statements, since Mr. Tansheet asks: yes, even if only one terrorist supporter has been booted out.
Interviewed by phone from his new home in the town of Mandi Bahauddin in Pakistan, Shah said he hopes the U.S. government will allow him to return to his home in Schaumburg.

"I'm following all the rules and regulations so I hope I can go back again and start my life with my family," he says.
Better late than never, I suppose.
"You cannot compare Pakistan to the United States," he says, explaining how his life in Pakistan is merely an existence. "Life is not to just sleep and eat."

An outsider in Pakistan, Shah lives with relatives.
Huh?! How is this man "an outsider" in his native land?
His wife's health problems cause "extreme hardship," says Kung, an attorney with the not-for-profit Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Kung argues that Shah should be returned for humanitarian reasons.

"She is in need of family support if she becomes ill," reads a letter from her doctor, Alejandro Sanchez of Palatine, who notes that she suffers from hypertension, hypothyroidism and Type 2 diabetes.
OK, look, I don't mean to sound heartless, but the woman lived on her own until 2001, and she has two grown sons. She's only been married to Mr. Shah for two years. It's a shame what has happened to them -- a problem entirely of their own making -- but tragedy this is not. Frankly, I remain unconvinced that this 39-year-old illegal alien married a sickly 50-year-old woman who just happened to have U.S. citizenship, for purely noble reasons. Well, that's none of my affair, but I'm not going to get all broken down and demand exceptions to American immigration law simply because he didn't get away with breaking our laws.
If nothing else, Shah's case should remind other immigrants to "abide by the law," warns Tribhuvan Gaur, a volunteer with the immigration and naturalization desk at the Indo-American Center in Chicago.
Wow. Abide by the law -- now there's a newsflash.
I am going to try to keep this post civil. It'll be hard, but I will try.

A few days ago Knight-Ridder reported on yet another horrific honor killing, this one by a Palestinian mother against her own daughter:

ABU QASH, West Bank - Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder.

Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter's room last Jan. 27. "Tonight you die, Rofayda," she told the girl, before wrapping the bag tightly around her head. Next, Qaoud sliced Rofayda's wrists, ignoring her muffled pleas of "No, mother, no!" After her daughter went limp, Qaoud struck her in the head with the stick.

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."
A mother, telling her own daughter to commit suicide, and when the daughter refused, taking 20 minutes to kill the poor girl -- against the pleas of her husband and Palestinian crisis counselors. All for the "crime" of being raped. Then this "person" (using the term very loosely) actually has the gall to whine and make herself out to be the victim. To me, this is textbook depravity. Conrad the Gweilo agreed, and used some very strong language (though still insufficient to describe this horror; I'm not sure English is adequate to the task).

OK, so case closed, right? Nope, some post-modernist jackass named nyx wades into the fray, and immediately starts lecturing the simpliste Conrad about his silly cultural snobbery:

While I personally grieve at the death of the child, I believe that the mother is equally a victim of social conventions and beliefs. Richard calls this ‘hard-wired irrationalism’ here; but what is rationality to begin with?
Well, it's good to know nyx "[grieves] at the death of the child," but she didn't die of leukemia or an auto accident. She was murdered, in cold blood, by her own mother. Grief is not the only appropriate emotion here. But then, like a good deep-thinker, nyx goes all pomo on us: "what is rationality...?" Yes, truly this situation is a philosophical conundrum.
It would probably — but I make no assumptions/presumptions here — have been entirely rational in the mind of the mother to have killed the daughter, in order to, as the article mentions, protect the rest of her family.
Good Lord. Never mind that even her husband disagreed -- how can a human mother actually manage to kill her own innocent child? This violates every human instinct, never mind notions of morality. To even be able to consider such a thing "rationally" -- that is, in cold blood -- requires levels of depravity that would impress Charles Manson. And to sit there and rationalize it away after the fact with dimwitted first-year-philosophy questions, well, that requires a moral obtuseness of truly inconceivable dimensions.

If one mother can do this to her own child, imagine the kind of physical and social violence that would have been visited on the entire family if the matter of her child’s incest were to become public.
You've gotta love expressions like "social violence." What the hell does that mean? I have no idea. Probably some reference to the family being the subject of nasty rumors, and that most horrid of Arab fates, humiliation. Of course, apparently having everyone know you killed your own child is preferable to people knowing your child had been raped. Either this is false, in which case the mother is simply off-the-wall nuts, or it is true -- in which case Arab society truly is degenerate at its core. Oh, sorry, I must never say that, lest I should practice "cultural snobbery."

For nyx, though, this continues to represent quite the dilemma:

It might be possible to describe, and even condemn, her actions as ‘hard-wired rationalism’, cold utilitarianism — for the ‘greater good’ and the ‘welfare of the majority’ — but irrationality? Where does one draw the line?
I'd say once you are mutilating your own daughter to death, you're way past the line. But I guess I lack nyx's sophistication on the matter. Speaking of which, nyx continues to engage in his Aristotelian musings:
Similarly, if you were to then absolve the mother from blame, and decide to make the society that promoted. . . such actions the scapegoat, then deal with this. One accepts that in the Western conception of rights, the abrogation/violation of one individual’s rights by another is a crime, and can justifiably be punished by a consonant violation of the criminal’s rights.
I'm not absolving the mother from blame, but the society she lives in is not a "scapegoat" -- that would imply that it's blamed unfairly. The society Mrs. Qoaud lived in is most definitely at fault for espousing the values that justified this senseless slaughter. But Mrs. Qoaud is likelwise guilty for valuing such mores higher than the life of her own child. At the very least, she knew there was a conflict, but she chose to resolve it in favor of this bullshit Arab notion of "honor."

Oh, and incidentally: the idea that killing a person is a crime, for which you would be punished by having your own rights violated, is not exactly unique to the "Western conception of rights."

Sometimes this may be death — and even on this issue, there is no universal rejection of the death penalty as an inhumane punishment. The incest arguably abrogated the rights of the family to live freely, and safely, in their own society, violated their freedom from fear, from persecution, from murder. Under such circumstances, perhaps the daughter was not necessarily the ‘criminal’ — though it is arguable that she could have possibly been a consensual participant. . .
Dear. . . God. Excuse me while I get my jaw off the floor, and try to wrap my mind against what may possibly be the most thoroughly revolting "argument" I have heard or read this week. This nyx jackass, on reading of a teenager raped and then slaughtered, actually has the indecency to suggest that perhaps she was a willing participant in getting raped by her brothers. (Yep, that's totally worth the risk of dishonor and death, right?) What's his evidence for this? He's got none. But hey, when you are trying to prove your sophisticated open-mindedness, spitting on the victim is just part of the process, right?
— yet still my rudimentary understanding of the Western paradigm of rights would suggest that the removal of this threat to the rights of the majority — in the same way that the war on terrorism, or criminal law, is intent on removing a similar threat to a larger majority — would be in line with the spirit of the law: to protect one’s rights.
Wow, killing your raped teenage daughter is siimilar to conducting a war, see. It's all about protecting one's rights. When nyx calls his understanding of rights "rudimentary," he is flattering himself rather highly. (And I love this "Western paradigm of human rights" phrase. Like the right to life is just one viewpoint among many. Killing your child: not really good or bad, just depends on the paradigm you follow. Sophistication through amorality -- how inspiring.)

The lecture concludes thus:

This is not an argument for cultural relativism, though in my mind that is another valid argument that could be made. This is an argument against cultural presumptuousness, and the crime of demeaning other cultures and societies by virtue of one’s own ignorance, and self-righteous bloody enthusiasm.
That nyx is a relativist is fairly obvious and unsuprising. But the irony of warning against self-righteousness while lecturing Conrad on his attitude is clearly lost on this poor would-be philosopher. And truly Conrad is the bad guy here, committing "the crime of demeaning other cultures and societies" because of his "ignorance." If only Conrad knew more about Arab society, he wouldn't judge a child-killing bitch quite as harshly as he has. His simplisme is showing, see. Sophisticated people never themselves be blinded by simplistic binary notions of right and wrong. Silly Gweilo.

Needless to say, Conrad was unimpressed nyx's attempts to rationalize the indefensible, especially his swipe at the victim:

Finally, not content that the hapless girl has already been victimized twice, the blogger proceeds to smear her by describing her in a manner that makes her appear to be a participant in incest, rather than the victim of a forcible rape by her own brothers. Truly despicable. I swear to God, after reading the post, I feel like I need a shower.
I'd say that was pretty kind, but Nyx, not content with the hole he has dug himself into, gets all intellectually puffed up and proceeds to dig further:
The girl has been described as ‘hapless’ and ‘poor murdered’. Was she? Do you know that for a fact? I for one am not so willing to commit to so absolute a judgment of the situation, far removed and very much the armchair blogger here. If you don’t know better, stop polarising this situation into black and white; the ‘hapless’ girl against the ‘evil’ and possibly ‘demented’ mother/society.
The article as written seemed pretty clear to me: girl gets raped, then killed by her own mother over the course of 20 minutes. Silly us -- we don't think getting raped is a justifiable cause for being killed, and we don't try to introduce our own asinine "theories" that maybe this poor teenager had been asking for it all along. But wait:
I am not suggesting that the mother is innocent. She did murder her daughter, and, in doing so, violated one of the most sacrosanct of all rights: the right to life. By my arguments on how she was practicising values inculcated into her from birth by society, I am merely suggesting — as opposed to stating unequivocally — that she is possibly a victim of society as much as her own daughter.
Well, then, what the hell is it? If the mother acted on her own demented beliefs, then she is a nothing more than a child-killing two-legged animal. If she was acting on what are accepted values in Arab society -- and she was -- then the society she lives in is thoroughly warped. Which is exactly what Conrad said earlier, and that got him the criticism of being a "cultural snob." Imagine that: he had the Eurocentric chauvinist arrogance to condemn a pervasive notion that a raped woman should be killed.

Nyx continues to whine:

Stop painting me as protesting that the murderess is innocent, and the murdered is guilty. I am merely suggesting that one should not think of the situation in black and white.
Which is exactly the problem. A girl was killed. By her own mother. Over the course of 20 minutes. For the "crime" of getting raped by her brothers. The mother is an evil murdering pile of scum. It is black and white. Attempts to rationalize this behavior by comparing it to the war on terrorism, aside from being laughable, are morally repugnant. But no, no, we must see this in more subtle terms:
Similarly, the argument that the girl didn’t kill herself, therefore it wasn’t deeply inculcated into her that her crime was wrong, is flawed. This is because it assumes that the girl functions like a machine: if (what_i_did == False): kill(self); return 0. Firstly, the girl isn’t placed in the same position of responsibility over the rest of the family in the manner that her mother is.
Well, apparently she is -- as she is expected to die for something that wasn't even her fault!
Secondly, suicide is not as easy as what you make it out to be. Neither should killing your own daughter — and in that, perhaps we can accredit the mother with an act of sacrifice, to save the family. Or we could label the mother as a slightly poor example of motherhood, to have taken her daughter’s life so easily.
Once again, I find myself peeling my jaw off the floor. For the crime of choking her own daughter with a plastic bag, slashing her wrists, and impaling her on a stick, Nyx is not sure whether the mother should be accredited for an act of sacrifice, or labeled as a "slightly poor example of motherhood." Words fail me.
Either way, this does not equate with: mother BAD, daughter HAPLESS POOR INNOCENT OH NO!
Jesus wept, but this guy is a piece of shit. That's -- what? -- the fourth time he spits on the victim? Yes, shame on her for getting raped and then killed. She probably was asking for it anyway. We should sympathize with the mother for making this sacrifice to protect the family from "social violence." Folks, this is what happens when a man believes in nothing: he ends up justifying anything.

Lastly, deal with the argument that the mother was acting not out of sheer murderous intent, but that her actions were a product of cultural/societal forces as well as a desire to protect the rest of her family from a more dire fate.
That's exactly the argument Conrad started out with -- and he condemned the society that generates such forces, at which point nyx accused him of "cultural self-righteousness." But that having been said, no way the mother gets a pass on this: for one thing, the family was not in danger of physical violence, only possible ostracism; and for another, a mother simply shouldn't be capable of killing her child that way. The crime is shocking, and nyx's attempt to show his intellectual sophistication by spitting on the victim and engaging -- despite his protests -- in the worst kinds of moral and cultural relativism, is nothing short of revolting.
One thing I agree with Richard@pekingduck is that increased publicity and exposure of issues like these will help to curb or moderate such cultural/societal-endorsed violence in the future.
Not if there are pea-brained aspiring bien-pensants in the West continuing to insist that we shouldn't condemn them, lest we be accused of cultural snobbery.
But I disagree with the means of doing so: the employment of absolute, almost comic-book sketches of the characters to forward one’s argument. It does not deal justice to the situation, and does not deal justice to the actors involved.
Condemning a woman for killing her daughter, who did no one any harm, is employing a comic-book sketch, and should be avoided. On the other hand, implying that the victim of a rape and murder might have been asking for it, that's truly the path to justice.

Suddenly, I understand Conrad's urge to take a shower.

Saturday, November 22, 2003
By way of LGF comes an article on the reaction by some people in Turkey to the Istanbul bombings, basically blaming the whole thing on the United States:
Several thousand Turks gathered in Istanbul and other cities to protest against the bombs and what some said was the underlying cause of the attacks -- the United States and NATO member Turkey's close links with the world's only superpower.

. . .

In the Istanbul protests, some demonstrators blamed U.S. policies for the suicide bombings.

"People think what's happened in Istanbul was a result of America's policies in the world," said one demonstrator in Ankara who asked not to be named. He said it was dangerous for Turkey to be close to the United States, whose invasion of neighboring Iraq (news - web sites) was deeply opposed by most Turks.
So radical Islamist operatives, sworn enemies of the United States and Britain, sneak explosives into Istanbul and deliberately set them off in a busy street, knowing but not caring that many Turks will die as a result -- but the fault is not with those who set the bomb, but those who were targeted by the bomb. Fascinating.

Let me first point out that this article is from Reuters, which has always made a point of finding the anti-American angle to every story. Let me also point out that such a sentiment is hardly unique to Turkey -- every time a terrorist atrocity happens to allies of Western Civilization, some people always feel the need to demonstrate their ability to "think outside the box" and blame the West and its policies -- Iraq, Israel, Christina Aguilera, whatever. So the rest of this post is not just talking about Turks who feel this way.

What strikes me is not so much the illogic of this view, but its sheer cowardice: better turn against the U.S., or else terrorists will bomb us. Forget principle, or who stands for what, just take the path of least resistance and try to make terrorism someone else's problem. Again, this isn't just a view of some Turks: much of European policy seems to be based on it. The entire worldview is based on fear, and they figure they might as well oppose those whom they fear least. So forget standing up to North Korea, or Iran, or radical Muslims -- they might do something crazy and hurt people! Better to give the royal shaft to Americans and Israelis; they'll just take it, maybe mount a feeble protest -- but without street riots. That can be handled.

The irony, of course, is that America can make it very dangerous for people to "stand up to us." We don't have to use suicide bombers or jury-rigged trucks to scare cowards: we can drop munitions right in their living rooms. Ditto for Britain or Israel. We don't actually have to take it; we can turn entire opposing nations into corpses and rubble -- but our own morals will not permit this course of action. In the eyes of many people, those morals are not something to fight for and defend, but to take advantage of in finding the path of least resistance.

In the days after September 11th, some people in the United States called for the U.S. to distance itself from Israel, lest we should anger more Muslims and invite more terror. It never occurred to them, of course, that Israel has plenty of its own jetliners and qualified pilots, not to mention well-trained commandos more than capable of taking over an airliner -- and Manhattan still has lots of skyscrapers. The appeasers didn't concern themselves with this possibility because they knew perfectly well that Israel would never murder Americans that way; it was far too moral of a nation. And as far as those cowardly appeasers were concerned, Israel's morals were their own weakness: Israelis won't take up terrorism against the United States, but the Arabs will, so we should do what the Arabs want, and to hell with the Israelis.

Of course, such views were held by a small minority in America, but in much of the rest of the world, including Western Europe, they are quite popular. After all, Arabs can withhold oil or send truck bombs, but Israelis will do neither -- so Arabs win. One comes to the awfully depressing conclusion that the only way for Israel to get a break from the likes of France is to start setting off bombs and demanding that Europeans ask themselves why. Similarly, the only way to shut up the morons demanding that Turkey distance itself from the United States would be for the U.S. to make a few threats of its own. A few strategically-aimed cluster bombs, and being anti-American will suddenly lose all its lustre.

I am not advocating any of this, of course. In fact, the notion is horrifying, and I'd dedicate my life to unelecting any American government that dared try it. But there is a lesson here, one known to Caesar and Machiavelli: with some people, it really is better to be feared than loved, especially if "loved" isn't really an option. Arabs and Muslims are certainly not loved in Europe, to put it mildly -- but they are definitely feared, and that gives them power. Jews aren't loved, either -- but they are also not feared, and therefore get the shaft. The Turks marching in anti-American demonstrations don't really fear America, but they fear al-Qaeda, and want to yield to their demands.

It's also why I find the idea of world peace through negotiations and understanding to be bogus. In the end, peace is built on fear first, mutual understanding second. Our peace with Canada and Mexico was achieved after several wars; peace in Europe was the result of a devastating world war and a subsequent need for Western Europe to be protected from the Russians (there's that fear again). Common understandings break down, as our disagreement with Europeans over Afghanistan and Iraq has shown; fear endures, which is why for all their protests and wailings, they stayed out of the way after Iraq was invaded. Fear is what kept the peace throughout the Cold War. Fear is what keeps the North Korean regime in power. Fear is what keeps Arabs from attacking Israel en masse. Ultimately, fear is the only thing that works.

We know all this, of course -- have for millenia, and a few dumb ideas from post-Great-War era aren't going to snow us any time soon. Still, the U.S. and its allies are trying to find a new way to lead and inspire, without the use of intimidation; to get people to see things our way and stand up for what we think they know is right: an end to tyranny, to mass-murder in the name of religion, and personal freedom for all. It's hard, not just because some reject this view outright, but because many would rather not stand up for anything, and hope every conflict is just dropped or goes away, to be replaced by "peace." The question is whether their attitude will prevail -- really allowing terrorism to win and prosper -- or whether they will be eclipsed by people with actual principles and actual backbone.

I don't know. But the fate of much of the world depends on it -- quite literally.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Idiotarianism on display

The Independent, most notable for publishing the writings of Robert "25 loo rolls" Fisk, is working hard to legitimize the "anti-war" bunch that will be protesting Bush's upcoming state visit:
The Prime Minister would like to write [the protesters] off as extremists - but Andrew Johnson talks to those preparing to protest next week and finds the same diversity that made the anti-war movement impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore? I thought Bush and Blair and the much-sneered-at Coalition of the Willing did exactly that. But hey, let's check out these protesters, so full of diversity. Surely they will bring credit to the bunch? Well, let's see: there's the 15-year-old who'll be ditching school:
"I've been leafleting in schools. I don't think George Bush should have been invited. It's not just because of the war, I don't like him, or rather, disagree with him, for a number of reasons - his refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty, for example."
OK, so the usual how-could-he-go-against the world stuff. I'm not going to pick on a teenager, so moving on.

Next we have the barrister. This guy provides much comic relief:

Ernest James, 52, is a barrister who joined the national demonstration against war in Iraq earlier this year. He believes President Bush will use his visit to launch his re-election campaign.

"The Americans love the Royal Family," he says, referring to the President's scheduled stay at Buckingham Palace.
As Dave Barry would say, I swear I'm not making this up. But it gets, umm, better:
"The last use of a state visit for a US President was 85 years ago. America has done nothing for this country, we've just done things for them. Pakistan has received more, we're still closing our steel mills."
Nope, the United States has done nothing whatsoever for the British since 1918. And it's our fault that the British steel industry is uncompetitive. (Was this man honestly expecting third-world style aid?)

Anyway, onto The Muslim, as the Independent subtly labels the next rocket scientist they quote:

"I think its disgusting that the world's number one terrorist has been invited on a state visit. I'd like him to know that the British people are not with him on this. When people are occupied they are going to resist."
You know, aside from the lame reference to "number one terrorist," I love this romantic notion of "resistance." Look: the Warsaw Ghetto resisted. The people who rose up agaist Saddam in 1991 resisted. The tiny number of French who actually didn't cooperate with their Nazi occupiers, resisted.

The lamers marching around in Western cities against whatever cause they read about on Indymedia, who smash windows and trash fast-food joints and light other people's cars on fire, only to go home at the end of the day -- they are not resisting. They are not standing up for what's right; they aren't standing up for anything at all. They are there to "make their voices heard," or rather, to be seen making their voices heard. Someday, years from now, they willl look back on this day and smile at how they "did something" and "participated in" the fight "about justice and equality." And it will make them feel good. That's all this is: one giant, loud, and expensive feel-good session, by people whose entire universe is constructed around "feeling good" about "doing the right thing." It's large-scale onanism.

Moving on, there's the war veteran:

"I've been to war, I volunteered to go. That would put me in a situation where I would applaud our military. But I've seen war where it is necessary and unnecessary."
So far so good. The argument about necessity of war is perfectly reasonable. But then it slides off the rails:
"We should act together through the UN. For all its faults it has some legitimacy."
The United States, the world's oldest democracy and savior from totalitarian idiocy several times over, apparently has less legitimacy than "some" possessed by a worthless discussion club populated by adherents of every manner of revolting political theory imaginable. Nice. Oh, and of course:
"And I don't think America has acted properly with respect to Palestine and Israel. The Islamic world must see that as part of the problem."
Bad George Bush! How dare you and America offend the precious Muslim world by not letting Israel be crushed by genocidal religious lunatics! Listen to your betters at the UN!
" If the Democrats had got in I don't think the war would have happened."
Really? Not even with that Lieberman guy as the VP?

On we go to the professional protester (or as the Independent calls him, the "seasoned activist"):

Dean Ryan, 37, from east London has been going on demonstrations for 12 years. He has protested against racism and the BNP, for pensioners' rights, and has attended anti-capitalist marches.
12 years? Somebody seriously needs to get a life.
"The way they are treating the Iraqis is disgusting. It is outrageous, they are taking oil to pay American companies to rebuild the country they bombed."
On the other hand, leaving Iraqis to die in Saddam's torture cells to ensure harmony at the UN -- that's perfectly acceptable.
"If Britain and America are serious about rebuilding Iraq they should pay reparations. The more pressure we put on them the more they are going to think twice about going to other countries, and we are showing people in the Middle East it is not the West against the Middle East."
I'm curious if this "seasoned activist" is willing to pay reparations to all the people that Saddam killed while he was marching to protect him. Also, given the amount of money the U.S. is spending to reconstruct Iraq ($87 billion ring a bell), I'd say reparations are a moot issue.

Finally, we get to "the young mother," whose presense is explained thus:

Jo Lazzarie, 23, from Kent, is not demonstrating against the war. She will go with her son Jack, nine months, to protest against President Bush's policies on abortion.
What, no one to free Mumia?

ICRC to Arabs in West Bank: Drop Dead

. . .and blame Israel:
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is ending its emergency food programme in the West Bank, saying the economic collapse there is the direct result of Israeli military closures and that Israel must live up to its responsibility as the occupying power for the economic needs of the Palestinians.

. . .

Vincent Bernard, an ICRC spokesman, said: "This was humanitarian relief designed to assist in a humanitarian emergency, not to address the longer-term problems caused by curfews, closures and the collapse of the economy that has occurred. It is not our responsibility to take care of the economic needs of the Palestinians. We have repeatedly said it is the responsibility of the occupying power."

Mr Bernard denied Israeli press reports that the food programme had been cancelled for budgetary reasons. "As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to minimise the humanitarian consequences of its actions," he said. "You cannot go on for ever with the curfews and closures which are destroying the Palestinian economy. They have to find a different way to guarantee their security. If they lifted these security measures, the Palestinian economy, though damaged, would start again."
Let me make something painfully clear: my concern is not with the Palestinians. They engaged in mass murder and continue to widely support it; destruction of their economy is a fitting consequence to the stupidity and depravity of their actions and views. I certainly wish no ill to innocent people who happen to share the misfortune of living in Arafat's little fiefdom, but I'm too busy worrying about Israeli children being bombed on buses to concern myself with some West Bank shlub's dozen malnourished rugrats. Sorry, I gotta draw the line somewhere, and they are on the other side.

I do find it most enlightening, however, that when the politics is right, the ICRC is perfectly willing to walk away from a tragedy, wash their hands of it, and say, "Not our problem." Figures.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
I knew it!
That "close door" button on elevators? It won't work unless you're a fireman or an elevator operator with special access to the system. The rest of the time, in deference to various building codes, it's deactivated, according to engineers at Otis Elevator.
Just one more way They Are Lying To Us.
Just a quick post to say that this behavior by radical settlers is despicable:
EINABUS, West Bank — Men with chain saws destroyed Fawzi Hussein's olive grove overnight — 255 trees cut down at the trunks, fruit-laden branches wilting on a West Bank slope, at the height of the harvest season.

The suspected culprits: militant settlers who have been harassing Palestinian farmers for years, especially in the past three years of fighting. Human-rights groups say it's part of an attempt to drive Palestinians off their land.
No, it's nowhere near as revolting as Arab murders of Israeli civilians. (This is.) But it's still absolutely appalling.

Update: On the other hand...

The police investigation into the cutting down of Arab-owned olive trees near the Jewish neighborhood of Mitzpe Yitzhar has taken a dramatic turn. The opinion of an expert from the Jewish National Fund – brought in by the police – is that the “tree-cutter” severed the upper branches in a way that avoids any serious damage to the actual tree. On the basis of the expert opinion, the police are requesting that those who filed the accusations - left-wing activists and Arabs from the village of Inbus - submit to lie-detector tests. . .

Residents of the village of Yitzhar in Northern Samaria, as well as the outlying neighborhoods of Mitzpe Yitzhar and Hill 725 have published a joint statement denying any connection to the cutting of the village of Inbus’ olive trees. The letter is a response to MK Efraim Sneh and some in the press who have stated, “without a shred of evidence” that the residents cut down the olive trees.
Given the Arabs' propensity to staging funerals and "massacres" in the past, and the press's instantaneous aping of whatever accusation is levied against Israelis, it's certainly right to be suspicious.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
So apparently there's been quite a lot of consternation on the Left about CBS's preemptive removal of The Reagans after a mass protest from the Right.

I can see their point. Though I don't seem to remember any similar fury at this:

LOS ANGELES — A "Law & Order'' episode about violence during New York's Puerto Rican Day parade provoked angry complaints from Hispanic groups and a promise from NBC never to air the hour again.

"We sincerely apologize for offending members of the Latino community regarding the portrayal of Latinos and the Puerto Rican Day parade ... we have agreed not to repeat the episode on NBC,'' the network said Thursday.

The episode that aired Wednesday depicted a parade day rampage by Puerto Rican youths in which women are molested and one is killed. A Brazilian youth is shown convicted in the death.
I saw that episode. It did not claim to be about real people. Its storyline had little to do with the parade itself; it just happened to be the setting. The killer was not Puerto Rican. The episode was preceded by the then-unusual L&O disclaimer, "The following story is fictional and does not represent any actual person or event." Law and Order has had many positive portrayals of Latinos, including Detective Reynaldo Curtis, a Peruvian played by Benjamin Bratt, and a central character on the show from 1995 to 1999. On the flip side, the show has had unflattering portrayals of virtually every other ethnic, religious, and political group. And yet, based on this one episode, which never generalized about the entire Latino population, the pressure groups managed to get NBC to not just apologize, but also take the episode entirely off the air, including reruns and even syndication, so you couldn't catch it in reruns on A&E or (now) TNT.

Where were the cries of outrage?

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Just a quick note: I have not disabled comments on this site. BackBlog, the comments provider, seems to be down for quite some time. Sorry about that.

Update: Comments are back, and BackBlog has the following explanation:

Nov 5, 2003:
backBlog was down for the last day or two due to maintenance job by our host which went bad. Feedback links on your blog might show the wrong number of feedback entries. This will be fixed soon or when a new entry is added. Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you all for your patience.
Monday, November 03, 2003
Having decried European idiocy in my previous post, I think it's time to pick on the Canadians.

Before I get yelled at by Jane, Joe, Damian, or anyone else, let me clarify: I'll be picking on Canadians who wrote dumb letters to the October 25th-31st issue of the Economist, apparently in response to this story (site requires subscription, but the original article is also available here).

Our first winner is Abraham from Guelph, Ontario. (Since my blog is anonymous, I likewise won't mention the letter writers' full names.) He writes:

SIR - It is a shame that, despite its coolness, Canada is still not good enough for The Economist. You find it necessary to measure the degree of our success against the benchmark of America -- strictly in cash terms. We may earn less than our neighbours but we do not have a large number of entertainers, professional athletes and ridiculously overpaid executives that would bring up our average salaries.
Let's stop right there. This argument is silly on its face: is Abraham really suggesting that it's a good thing that Canadians are poorer? But we can be charitable, and assume that he meant that the hugely-paid top earners in the U.S. skew the results, and the "regular" workers earn the same as, or less than, "regular" Canadian workers. This still strikes me as a dumb argument ("Oh yeah? Well we don't have really rich people!"), but let's take a look at some data to see if it at least makes sense.

The Economist article doesn't actually provide any salary info for Canada, so we'll have to go with GDP per capita, available at the CIA world fact book: US$29,400, estimated in 2002, and adjusted for purchasing power parity. By contrast, per capita GDP in the U.S. is US$37,600 -- 27% higher. Given that the U.S. has a population of roughly 290 million, that difference comes out to $2,378,000,000,000 -- a little under US$2.4 trillion. Somehow I doubt our "entertainers, professional athletes and ridiculously overpaid executives" have managed to siphon it all off. I admit that's just a hunch on my part, but even if we had a million such people, they'd each have to snag $2.4 million without the rest of us noticing.

I used the per-capita GDP because I think it is the best-adjusted of the statistics, but we can look directly at salaries. The latest available are from 2001, and Statistics Canada reports that the average Canadian woman earned CAN$24,688, while the average male Canadian earned CAN$38,431. (US$15,927 and US$24,794, respectively, per the exchange rate on September 1, 2001.) That year, Canada's labor force included 8,769,200 men and 7,477,100 women, meaning that the average per-worker salary works out to US$20,714.

For the same, year, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary for a worker in the United States in 2001 was US$36,214. That's a premium of nearly 75%. There's probably some give-and-take on the type of workers studied by the statistics services, but any way you cut it, Canadian workers are earning substantially less. Given that total employment for August 2001 was in the neighborhood of somewhere around 135 million, that's $2,092,500,000,000 -- again, over US$2 trillion -- more that U.S. workers brought home that year, vs. what they would have were they paid like Canadians. Even if we give a huge fudge factor for mismatched statistics, that's a lot of overpaid executives.

(Update: Jane rightly points out in the comments that when comparing the average salaries, I should have taken cost of living into account. To fix the problem, I used the Purchasing Power Parity of the Canadian dollar vs. the U.S. dollar. For 2001, taking into account the PPP, a US$1.00 was worth CAN$1.20 -- not CAN$1.55 you'd get from a straight exchange. With that in mind, the average Canadian's salary in 2001 was actually US$26,756, and the U.S. workers ended up with $1,276,886,250,000 -- or a little under $1.3 trillion -- more than what they'd get if they were paid the same as Canadian workers. That's still a huge difference, though -- you'd need a lot of overpaid execs.)

Abraham continues:

We do not need a huge army because we do not go about deposing democratically elected governments or invading sovereign countries. As far as being ovetaxed goes, most Canadians do not mind paying more for universal health care, universal access to post-secondary education, and much safer streets. . .
I'll stop the letter here, and say flat out that Abraham is fully entitled to his opinion; I won't presume to tell him or any other Canadian how they should arrange their nation. I will, however, take issue with his first statement, about not needing a huge army because Canada generally minds its own business. This dovetails with the second letter of the night, written by Roy from Quebec:
SIR - "Canada enjoys a free ride in defence from the United States" you insist. Please advise us of the countries that would attack Canada were it not for the might of the United States military.
That's the letter in its entirety, and it prompts me to make the following observation; call it Nough's Law: People who spend long enough in a protective bubble often forget that the bubble exists. This is not unique to Canadians by any stretch -- a huge proportion of Europeans and a nontrivial number of Americans share this flaw. Having spent all their lives in a world made safe through U.S. power, they forget that much of the world is an ugly, horrid place.

As for Roy's question, we can start with the Soviets, who were certainly not above invading other countries, and would have found the resources of Canada very enticing. The Chinese might be interested -- if not in outright conquest, at least in tribute. (It's hard to argue with a demand that's followed by "or we will nuke Vancouver." If the U.S. didn't care, what would be Canada's counter-move?) Ditto for the North Koreans, once their missiles reach far enough. What, did Roy forget that there are some bad people out there, willing to kill en masse for their goals? The oceans aren't the barriers they once were.

Speaking of the oceans, it is not necessary to invade the mainland to take advantage of a weak country: simple piracy around its main coastal waters would do the trick: harrassing fishermen, taking containers off cargo ships, etc. It doesn't take much to do a lot of economic damage in short order.

And this is assuming that things stay the way they are. Were the U.S. isolationist, much of the world would look a lot more tempting, and a whole lot of countries with an eye towards revenge or conquest might get a lot more active. That would include the likes of Iraq, Iran, Japan -- even France or Germany might decide to grab some of that old national glory. Maybe that seems preposterous at the moment, but that's only because of half a century of active U.S. involvement and dominance in every corner of the world. Whether they care to admit it or not, much of the world's stability has been guaranteed by the benign meddling of the hyper-power. I have nothing but respect for Canada and its denizens, but any Canadian who thinks his nation, with its military the way it is, could hold out against even a second-rate hostile power, is deluding himself severely. Living in a bubble has dangerous side effects.

Saturday, November 01, 2003


OK, look. I can deal when a senile old Left-wing icon parades his moonbattery for all to see. I can understand when confirmed idiotarians utter inanities and display the most sophomorically obtuse moral equivalence. Conversely, I have learned to expect the "enlightened, sophisticated, tolerant" Western Europeans to have an irrational hostility towards the United States (whose power they somewhat understandably fear) and Israel (I have no idea what generates this). But I had no idea the idiocy had gone this far:
A leaked opinion poll shows more than half the European Union public considers Israel a threat to world peace.
Never mind the sheer on-its-face stupidity of worrying about tiny Israel being a threat to anyone other than the frustrated fascists with dreams of mass murder that Israel has the misfortune of having for neighbors. No, what's truly remarkable is that apparently people actually think of something as being a threat to world peace. Does no one realize how stupid this is? What "world peace"? When has the world ever been at peace? What reason is there to think that such a condition is even desirable, much less achievable? Are the likes of Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Burma, or Syria really the kinds of outfits we want to be on great terms with? Do these Europeans, whose own wealth and liberty has been paid for with so much blood -- most of it not even theirs -- really believe that "world peace" can come about as long as you just leave every bloody dictator unchecked? Have they seriously accepted the notion that nothing is worth fighting for, except stopping globalization, getting government checks, and banning popular food?

Apparently so.

Not that this newfound apathy has checked European arrogance at all; quite to the contrary. This sanitized version of the survey (PDF, 185 KB) shows that for all its cravenness, Europe still has remarkable gall: When asked who should be in charge of rebuilding Iraq, 58% voted for the UN, 44% for the Provisional Government, and, in what must have been self-parodying haughtiness, 25% for the European Union. Only 18% wanted the the current situation, where the U.S. is in charge. On the other hand, when it came to paying for the reconstruction, 65% wanted to stick Americans with the bill, as compared to 44% for the UN, and 24% for the EU.

The percentages obviously indicate that people could select more than one response, but it's still remarkable that nearly half the people surveyed wanted the U.S. to pay for the reconstruction without being in charge of it. Very sophisticated of them, I must say. (In fairness, it's worth noting that 54% of Europeans are in favor of their country's "financial participation" in rebuilding Iraq, though that phrasing is much more ambiguous than Who should finance the reconstruction of Iraq?)

It should be noted that this is not just an Axis of Weasel thing. Specifically, 61% of Britons want the U.S. to pay for reconstruction, while only 20% want the U.S. in charge. This compares favorably with France (60/10) and Germany (84/23). Least grabby are the Italians, with 50% saying the U.S. should pay, and 22% saying the U.S. should be in charge. Which still seems to indicate a remarkable degree of presumption.

Speaking of presumption, here's a fun fact: 81% of Europeans think the EU should "play an effective role in resolving of the peace process in the Middle East." (You gotta love that phrase: resolving the peace process.) Italy and the openly pro-Arab Greece are the biggest cheerleaders for EU meddling, with 89 and 90%, respectively. In all countries, deeper EU involvement is a clear winner with over two-thirds support. Seems like no matter how many times they are told to butt out, the Europeans just can't help themselves.

Getting back to Iraq for a moment, the surveyed Euros overwhelmingly wanted UN and/or UN peacekeeping forces to guarantee security in Iraq (43% and 19%), rather than the U.S. alone (6%), with the coalition (5%), or commanding a UN force (11%). Which brings up three possibilities: the Europeans are slow learners; the Europeans have forgotten about the UN's abysmal peacekeeping track record; or the Europeans are just trying to contain the hyper-power and don't really care about providing real security in Iraq. After all, it's not like they have to live there.

You'll notice there's no reference in the PDF file to those eeeevil world-peace-bustin' Israelis. That's because this version of the survey is incomplete, containing only ten of the fifteen questions asked.

Here is some more omitted data demonstrates with painful clarity that the enormous effort to keep Europe free has been as wasted as the huge resources Europe spends on educating its supposedly sophisticated public:

The same survey has the United States beating out Iran, Iraq and North Korea – the trio dubbed the "axis of evil" by President George W. Bush – as well as Afghanistan in a ranking of what countries contribute most to world instability. . .

The poll found 59 percent of Europeans believe Israel represents the biggest obstacle to Mideast and world peace.
I'm normally not into full-on Eurobashing, but . . .fifty-nine percent. Combined with the parts of the survey, Europe comes off yet again as a continent rife with arrogant, cynical, self-righteous appeasers. The good guys on the scene all the best of luck. Europe needs to re-establish its grip on reality, or else the world will get a whole lot uglier in a really big hurry.

Update: Steven Den Beste calls today's Europe effete. I think that just about sums it up, though I would add arrogant in there somewhere.