September 27, 2002

Fisking David Broder.

"Radical" conservatism? Or just plain ol' conservatism itself?

David Broder’s Washington Post column "Radical Conservatism" of Wednesday, 25 September in quotes:

“The restatement of the United States' fundamental defense doctrine issued by the Bush administration last week -- substituting preemption of potential threats for containment of aggression -- is probably the most dramatic and far-reaching change in national security policy in a half-century.”

No, preemption has been the dominant American military policy since World War II, as will be shown later. The war in Afghanistan is the only post-World War II example of response to a direct threat. All Bush has done is articulate what's been the de facto standard ever since 1946.

“But it is also part of a pattern of radical revisionism in basic governmental philosophy and structure engineered by President Bush, who is quietly rewriting the classic definition of conservatism.”

Um, you mean basic liberal governmental philosophy, right? And I’m sorry, I haven’t heard the “classic” definition of conservatism, as if it's a museum piece that never changes, all I’ve heard is useless liberal caricatures thereof. In fact the only working definiton of classic conservatism I can come up with is "Stick with what works and don't fool around with what doesn't." Let's see if that is, in fact, what Bush is doing.

“The word, as this president uses it, has little or nothing to do with the traditional conservative inclination to preserve the status quo.”

Gee, maybe if liberals would stay out of government we’d have a status quo worth preserving. We have eight years of Clinton/Gore to clean up after here, y’know.

“Instead, it suggests a very bold and risk-taking readiness to reexamine, revise and restate basic tenets of government.”

That’s supposed to be the liberals’ prerogative? It totally shocks you that conservatives have progressive ideas about government?

“It is a pattern that now pervades Bush's economic, social and foreign policy and makes this, in some respects, a truly radical government.”

You mean a “coherent” government. That’s all right, after eight years of Clinton/Gore waffling and flip-flopping I understand this is still rather new to some folks.

“Consider economics. The centerpiece of Bush's policy is his belief in the efficacy of tax cuts under any and all circumstances.”

Quick lesson for any students reading this: When you hear someone use “any and all circumstances” you can safely disregard the criticism being made.

“It was hardly novel for a Republican president to push for lower tax rates early in his term, as Bush did last year.”

Seeing as how history shows they’ve, well, worked in the past.

“And the budget surpluses then accumulating caused opposition Democrats to agree that revenue reductions, slightly smaller in scope, were appropriate.”

How kind of them. I know it was difficult.

“What is different is Bush's insistence that tax cutting should continue, even with the return of budget deficits and even with the prospect of staggering, long-term additional spending on the military, homeland defense and the war on terrorism.”

Why don’t we wait and see how expensive things are going to be before we jack up taxes again? Some of us don’t enjoy paying taxes on a “just in case” basis, which then get used for government programs to subsidize the cost of providing cow dung to Greenwich Village performance artists.

“Facing deficits in his second year, Ronald Reagan acquiesced in Congress's rollback of some 1981 tax cuts. In a similar situation in his second year, the president's father made the same concession to a Democratic Congress. This President Bush has broken the pattern.”

“Pattern.” Something happens twice under very different circumstances and it’s an iron-clad “pattern.” Notice also how easily Broder slides over the economic benefits which followed the tax cuts in the first place.

“Consider education. The hallmark of conservative thinking has been the insistence on local control of schools. Bush has pushed through the largest expansion of the federal role in education of any president since Lyndon Johnson, not just in dollars but in standards of performance and measures of achievement, backed by real sanctions.”

Which is a far cry from the national centralized curricula liberals dream about at night. Conservatives haven't said there's no role for government in education, the whole debate's been about what the proper role is.

“Consider social programs. Bush has backed a continuing effort to shift the line on church-state relations, bringing civil and religious authority much closer together.”

All I’ve seen him do is suggest that churches and other faith-based organizations are better equipped to deal with poverty than governmental bureaucracy, and that to maximize return on the dollar – another conservative value – money should be invested there. Sounds reasonable to me.

“He proposed direct public funding of parochial schools”

I'm not sure how "direct" the funding in his proposal was, but it's true that parochial schools have been shown on the whole to do a much better job educating children than many public schools. Millions of parents of inner-city children would kill for their kids to get a parochial-school education. Again, maximizing the return on investment from the government’s education dollar sounds good to me.

“and applauded when the Supreme Court approved the Cleveland voucher plan.”

As did the inner-city parents of children in failing Cleveland public schools. Vouchers aren’t direct payments to religious schools or any schools, vouchers are simply education credits which can be redeemed anywhere. It’s a fake criticism that vouchers cross the separation line between church and state -- using vouchers at parochial schools is like someone using their welfare payment to buy a Bible.

“He has lobbied hard for legislation that would route much more federal money aimed at meeting the needs of troubled individuals and families through churches, synagogues and mosques.”

More power to him, since those are the institutions which have been shown time and time again to be far and away the most effective means of dealing with the problem. The only caveat I would have is that it would be detrimental to the work houses of faith are doing to have to get bogged down in government oversight -- as The Salvation Army found. I highly recommend Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy Of American Compassion to David Broder or anyone else who doubts that private faith-based anti-poverty programs are the only ones that really work.

“For good or ill, he is trying to narrow a gap that has existed between the clergy and the government since the start of this republic.”

American history, David. The “gap” is quite recent.

“Consider retirement security. In the face of cautions from members of his own party and strong criticism from the Democrats, Bush has kept on his agenda the proposal to change the Social Security program -- that staple of New Deal policy --”

All the more reason to grab a hatchet and whack its head off.

“-- to permit individual workers far more freedom to devise their own basic pension plans, with all the potential risks and rewards such a change might entail. If Republicans regain control of Congress in this election, he almost certainly will try to make this concept law.”

It never ceases to amaze me that liberals think the government knows what’s better for people than the people do themselves. Oh certainly you can’t be trusted with planning for your own retirement, here give us your money, we’ll pay these current retirees with it, and if you keep your fingers crossed there may be someone paying for your retirement someday. If you're lucky; we're not guaranteeing anything, understand.

“And now Bush has put before the world, first in his West Point speech and last week in a formal state paper, a fundamental revision of American foreign and national security policy. That policy developed in stages, from the imperialism that marked the decades before World War I,”

Imperialism? As imperialism goes it was pretty timid -- a protectorate in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and what else?

“to the isolationism that prevailed between the wars, to the bipartisan ‘containment’ policy that evolved during the Cold War.”

Bipartisan. Right. Liberals were all in favor of “containing” the Soviet Union when they weren’t singing its praises, criticizing Reagan for criticizing it and voting to lower defense budgets. Nice try to slip on the winning side after the war’s been won here.

“The common characteristic of the whole 20th century was the readiness of the United States to respond to threats to its security and its reluctance to initiate conflict or issue ultimatums to anyone.”

Then remind me again what the Cuban Missile Crisis was if not an ultimatum?

“When aggressors pushed forward, we pushed back -- hence Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. But we did not start fights ourselves.”

Aggressors pushed… against us? In the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars we attacked armies that had not lifted a finger against the United States. We initiated conflict with them in the name of preempting the march of Communism, the Domino Theory and unbearable oil prices. In not one of these cases did anybody initiate conflict with us. Bosnia – we initiated conflict to preempt the mass slaughter of Muslims. Persian Gulf War – President Bush (41) issued an ultimatum and initiated conflict. Afghanistan’s the only military action responding to a threat to American security since World War II.

“Now, with the doctrine of preemption justified by the all too real threat of terrorism,”

Despite having been practiced lo these fifty years.

“Bush is proposing to scrap that distinction. Instead, he asserts the right of the United States, as the only superpower, to judge the degree of potential danger itself -- and to take whatever action it deems necessary to eliminate that threat.”

Thank God somebody’s on the job. When it was left to Clinton and the FBI to judge the degree of potential danger to the United States they did such a terrible job we were rewarded with 9/11 -- Al Gore personally rejected the sort of profiling at airports which probably would have stopped at least some of the 9/11 hijackers. Is Broder implying that countries who aren't "the only superpower" don't do this themselves? And that they don't have the right to do so?

“You may think any one of these changes is wise or foolish. What is remarkable is that all of them have come in so short a time from the hand of a man whose campaign seemed so bland and whose election was so narrow.”

The only reason Bush’s campaign seemed "bland" was because it was looked down upon by the liberal media, who were too busy trying to find some way to get people to actually vote for Bill Bradley, or yukking it up with John McCain on the Straight Talk Express or trying to pass Al Gore off as smart to notice the substance of what Bush was saying. Bush only got air time when he made a mistake.

“Bush is redefining what it means to be a conservative.”

No, David Broder’s realizing that conservatism isn’t a cookie-cutter ideology like American liberalism is today. Conservatism is and has always been about one thing: What works. Do what works. Don't initiate social policy according to idealistic conceptions of how things should work, initiate on the basis of what works. Parochial schools work, failing schools do not. School vouchers work, local school taxes do not. Private faith-based poverty programs work, government bureaucrats do not. The United States Armed Forces work, the United Nations does not. Tax cuts work, raising taxes does not. It's the most "classically" conservative tack possible to stick with what's been proven to work.

Friday’s Mailbag, Etc.

Favorite line of the week: “I disagree; slinging invective on a blog does qualify as a leisurely pursuit. If you were a proper New York liberal you’d be paying a psychiatrist $200 an hour to tell him the things you write on the website.”

From one reader:

"Great piece on global warming. I was still under the impression that there was evidence to support the theory that it was warming slightly, just no evidence to support why. I also didn't know that the Sahara desert was receding. Amazing that these UN types were prepared to foist an outright lie on us. This is big news, thanks for writing it."

One can only hope they "were" prepared, and are not still.

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This from a friend in the Great White North is for anyone who might still be pining for the good ol’ days when “Hillary!” was trying to convince the nation that we needed a health care system more like Canada’s, which seems to operate on the principle of pay more, get less:

“After my own experience, I can only say that I hope that the US healthcare system is better than the current Canadian system. Ugh. Do you know I even have to pay $45 for the ambulance? In Canada! Where our taxes are, like, a million percent!

“I remember people in Philadelphia complaining that their income tax if they worked in the city was 17%. That is peanuts! It's almost like making two salaries at once. Here, if you make over $83 a year, the income tax rate is 50%. And for that, apparently, I no longer get a free ambulance once in my life. I am not thrilled about this.”

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Someone wrote after having just heard – elsewhere – that The New Yorker was preparing a 10,000-word feature on Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier:

“10,000 words on Steve Spurrier. I can only think of 3 or 4 and none of them would be printable. I guess I'm just pithy.”

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A reader who noticed my references to Mennonites contributed the following:

“In Ontario, the Mennonites are in such an enormous gene-pool crisis (Mennonite women are not supposed to practice birth control, which means that (a) everyone has 17 children, vastly increasing the odds of getting a dud; (b) a woman who is in danger of dying from a damaged uterus or unplanned pregnancy actually has to Apply to the Elders to get her tubes tied - and even then they may say no) that they are having to face the possibility of employing computers (ack!) to keep track of who marries who. The problem is that while people LEAVE the Old Order and Conservative congregations, hardly anyone JOINS. They are solving the problem by importing new DNA: Mennonite families are adopting those slightly-older children from places like Romania and Mexico who don't get easily adopted. These kids, brought from poverty and horrible conditions to environments where they may not have electricity (though most Conservative Mennos now have their own generators), are raised with decent values, love, and lots of food, and seem to do okay, but I don't know about the ethics of this. There are arguments on either side.”

I can see the arguments for adopting the children out of miserable squalid orphanages into loving, caring families with "decent" values and apple butter to die for, remind me what the arguments against it are again?

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“I also have to agree on McDonald’s,” a reader wrote after reading about how Mickey D’s stock has plunged, a fall I attributed (in a now-archived piece) to lousy customer service and increasingly dirty restaurants. “When we lived in Arkansas, I used to get coffee there every morning. The coffee was good (I’m fairly picky about my coffee) and they knew me by sight. It was also a nice place to go during a mid-afternoon to get away from things, quiet but clean. Today, I avoid it like the plague, even the simplest orders are mistaken and the place is always a pig-sty. The coffee bars have replaced them as a place to get decent food, decent service and the occasional quiet moment.”

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Another reader contributed further proof, as if any were needed, that Yasser Arafat has no intention whatsoever of building a nation in Palestine and is only interested in continuing terrorism against Israel. This is from a recent article published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat by liberal Egyptian author Amin Al-Mahdi questioning why in the name of heaven Arafat ever rejected the Camp David 2000 proposals, cited from the Middle East Media Research Institute:

“The Palestinian people had a state in the making that had clearly progressed. [This state] included eight large cities and 400 villages, and serious negotiations [were underway] regarding two villages inside Jerusalem... [It had] a port, an airport, an airline, and headquarters in Jerusalem... a parliamentary building under construction in Abu Dis; active tourism; reasonable tax revenues; fledgling industry; considerable trade with Jordan, Israel, and the European Union; agriculture that had accumulated knowledge. It had... 127,000 workers in Israel with an average income of $100 [a month]... esteemed educational institutions and an identity; [It had] police and intelligence apparatuses and prisons (more than necessary); media institutions; a government administration; and international political and economic support.

"Most important, there was an entity and an urban elite capable of leading the first Intifada with success rare in the Arab world. This elite was capable of addressing the Israeli people and mobilizing broad sectors of it to support the Palestinian cause. President Arafat held the record for visits to the White House. The national Palestinian entity was visited by many presidents, headed by Clinton and Chirac, and most of the world's prime ministers and foreign ministers. The declaration of the state was within arm's reach – or closer. President Clinton's proposals... made an opening for a chance for change and progress.

"Although President Arafat has admitted that he was mistaken in his rejection of Clinton's proposals (Haaretz, June 21, 2002), his words are of no avail. But he should have explained honestly why he rejected these proposals, why it was a mistake, and why admitting the mistake had taken so long.

“When Arafat returned from Camp David, his masses carried him on their shoulders as a symbol of respect for his achieving nothing… In my personal opinion, no matter what peace proposal Clinton presented to the Arab side, it was sure to be rejected. This is because the Palestinian issue was always the main source of legitimacy for the revolutionary [Arab] regimes that established rural or tribal military republics. The Palestinian issue was always the subject of 'Announcement No. 1' of all these [Arab military coups]. More important, it was the prop for the war declared on democracy and modernization [by the Arab regimes], an eternal pretext for the bill of divorce from the free world and for imposing various laws, from emergency laws through military laws.”

In other words, the Arab states have a great stake in keeping the open wound of the Palestinians festering, and will use any opportunity to do so since a) Palestinians are useful, expendable foot soldiers in the Arab world's attempts to destroy Israel, and b) it draws attention away from their own miserable totalitarian police states. The Arab nations could easily solve all the Palestinians' problems by writing checks and allowing permanent resettlement in Arab states, but then who would be left to run suicide bombs in Tel Aviv?

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A comment on my quoting Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christianity:

“It sounds like you read that article in The Atlantic Monthly on Christianity. It was a very good article. We were talking in church the other day how some Asian countries are starting to send missionaries to the U.S. I think it’s important that Christianity not be labeled the white man’s religion (usually by liberal white people).”

Amen. Rather what’s important is to note the usually superior development of the traditionally “Christian” cultures, which happens mainly because so-called “Christian” nations – Western Europe, North America – allow religious, ethnic and other minorities much greater participation in the nation’s political, business, cultural and social life – how many non-Arab Muslim men do you see in any positions of meaningful power in the Middle East outside of Israel and Iran? How many non-ethnic Chinese do you see in the corridors of power in Beijing?

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And finally:

“Loved the comment about the target demo - that comment basically sums up my life in advertising: ‘Uh, this sucks, but since I'm not the target...’”

September 26, 2002

This Way To The Egress.

Granted I don’t know much about the scientific aspect of the debate on whether or not global warming exists. But I can watch a money trail and listen to political axes being ground as well as anyone.

You know the whole global warming shtick is in serious trouble when even that bastion of liberalism, CBS News starts airing doubts about the whole thing:

“The question is not if it's warming, but why. Not every scientist believes carbon dioxide emissions from cars and greenhouse gases are the cause. Nor is the idea that recent warming trends are irreversible an accepted fact.

"‘Weather varies,’ says Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. ‘It was our turn to be warm. And for the Sahara Desert to be cool.’

"Dr. Christy says scientists must look beyond the U.S. to draw global conclusions, to realize that weather—by its very nature—varies.

"‘To say that this is evidence of an enhanced greenhouse effect, I think, is stretching it a bit,’ he says. ‘Because when you look at the globe as a whole, you do not see those high temperatures.’”

There’s no scientific knowledge needed to determine whether global warming’s a bona fide issue or not. Indeed, satellite data, more reliable than ground thermometers, indicate a slight cooling of the climate over the past 18 years. Global warming is the child not of responsible science, but of money and leftist politics. From Still Waiting For Greenhouse :

“According to a new report in New Scientist, the mighty Sahara Desert is receding (Read about it on the BBC as well). This latest example of climate change, cutting a green swathe right across what was previously arid parts of Africa has been going on since the mid 1980s and reverses the desertification trend which was active during the 1960s and 1970s.

“Yet only a few weeks ago, the UN Environment Programme, the parent body of the IPCC, claimed at the [early September] Johannesburg summit that over 45% of Africa was currently in the grip of desertification, with the Sahel worst affected. Now we find that claim was manifestly false, since it is precisely the Sahel region which is benefiting most from the greening.”

Heaven sakes. Why would anyone try to get away with that?

Because the supposed desertification of Africa, especially the Sahel is – was – Exhibit A in the Great Global Warming Traveling Snake Oil & Road Show Wagon. Friends, “the dirty secret is that global warming is driven more by the search for funding than the search for scientific truth. ‘Big science’ was adrift in the early 1990s, like many other [erstwhile] beneficiaries of the Cold War, and was desperate to sustain its federal funding.

"Global warming had all the key attributes of the next big cause. It could be used to frighten the politicians and the public, using threats of catastrophic consequences to extract billions of dollars for research to prevent it.”

True enough. Take this paragraph from the Earth Summit's Johannesburg Declaration itself:

“The global environment continues to suffer. Loss of biodiversity continues, fish stocks continue to be depleted, desertification claims more and more fertile land, the adverse effects of climate change are already evident, natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating and developing countries more vulnerable, and air, water and marine pollution continue to rob millions of a decent life."

Boy, look at all those juicy federally-funded research boondoggles swimming around like 15-pound catfish in a bathtub. If you can’t grab yourself a piece of that pie, friend, you do not have a pulse.

Notra Trulock’s AIM Report 2002; Report #15 hits a bull’s-eye with “Science For Sale: The Global Warming Scam.” As Trulock says “The science was immature, and the door was wide open to all sorts of proposals and projects by scientists promising solutions. High-performance computers were the tools, and the projects promised to be long-term and career-sustaining. Getting funds was easy. As MIT Professor Lindzen has noted, ‘saving the planet’ had a nice ring to it and seemed to portend big bucks at the end of the global warming rainbow.”

But nobody’s pretending the science is there. Even the IPCC's new chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, said in the run-up to Johannesburg that it was impossible to give a "scientifically robust answer" as to whether global warming was to blame for the floods and droughts that have devastated parts of Asia and Europe this year.

The same article notes that “scientists… suspect, but so far have little data to hand, that global warming has already begun to have an impact on the planet's weather system.” But hey, a few more billion in research funding and we’ll start manuf- sorry, looking a little bit harder for that elusive “data.”

All this is Very Bad News not only for scientists addicted to their cushy research grants, but for the leftist anti-American front, as Trulock notes:

“By the early 1990s, there was a convergence between the proponents of big science and the left-oriented activist community. Many of the Left's old myths and socialist dreams had collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union, and many seized on global warming as another path to reining in Big Business and reducing the standard of living and comfort level of the average American. Global warming also offered another avenue for leftists to continue their 'blame America first' campaign.

"Advocacy groups constantly reminded citizens that it is the U.S. that is largely to blame for greenhouse emissions. For example, a newly released study by Environmental Defense blames the U.S. for generating 25% of the world's carbon dioxide and says that American cars and light trucks alone emit more carbon dioxide than almost all the other nations of the world combined.

"Environmental Defense says driving a car, especially an SUV, is the most egregious sin one can commit from a pollution standpoint. Since Americans have demonstrated they won't cut emissions on their own, big government will have to step in and impose curbs and controls on autos and industry in general. Clearly, advocacy groups and lobbyists had found a new hot-button issue to support their fund raising.”

The dearth of any sustainable scientific evidence for global warming, of course, doesn’t deter the Loony Left from charging ahead with the important business of building public policy castles on sand. Trulock: “Likely presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, D-Mass. [sends a shiver down your spine, doesn’t it? Almost like “President Gore?”] in his opening statement at a recent congressional hearing, captured the mood of this group by saying that it is now 'time to shift the focus from the science to the solution of climate change.' By 'solution,' Kerry means mandatory reductions of CO2 emissions and other curbs on industry, particularly automakers.”

In other words, stop looking at the fact that there's no scientific proof of global warming and act as if there is. It goes without saying that Father of the Internet and Love Story inspiration Al Gore believes wholeheartedly in global warming as well.

The sure sign, however, that global warming was just a lot of bumf was Greenpeace’s fervent support. Never ones to bother themselves with the facts of the matter, these intrepid PR warriors of the left took the BBC along as they “travelled to the coast of the Norwegian island of Svalbard, 375 miles north of the country's mainland, to view the Blomstrandbreen glacier, whose retreat, they claim, can be blamed “squarely on human activity.”

"Our addiction to fossil fuels,” Greenpeace thundered, “releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and this is what is causing temperatures to rise and our future to melt before our eyes.”

Sounds dire. Unfortunately for these intrepid disseminators of misinformation Professor Ole Humlum, “a leading glaciologist in Svalbard, 500 miles north of Norway, said in response ‘That glacier had already disappeared in the early 1920s as a result of a perfectly natural rise in temperature that had nothing to do with man-made global warming.’”

Greenpeace spokesman Joe Isuzu declined comment. “It’s too warm in here,” he said, tugging at his shirt collar and tie. “Can’t you guys feel it? I’ve gotta step outside.”

September 25, 2002

Al Gore, In Character.

I agree with Ann Coulter, how Al Gore got passed off as “brainy” is one of the great feats of legerdemain in recent memory.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan’s blog for passing on Henry Hanks’s collection of Gore quotes. First from 1991:

“I want to state this clearly, President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein's survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus that the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop.”

And just this week:

“Now, back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War, and I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration's hasty departure from the battlefield even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, groups that we had, after all, encouraged to rise up against Saddam.”

Muhammad Would Have Been Proud.

No, Islam’s not a violent religion.

Authorities say they don't know who committed this latest atrocity against Christians. Of course the only question is exactly which Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40 are responsible. What do you want to bet they laughed and shouted "Allah is great!" as they shot each of these people?

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) - Gunmen entered the offices of a Christian welfare organization in the southern port city of Karachi on Wednesday, tied workers to their chairs and shot each in the head, officials said. At least seven people were killed and another was critically injured.

The shooting was the latest in a string of violent attacks against Christians and Westerners, who have been increasingly targeted since Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to crack down on Islamic extremist groups and join the U.S. war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in neighboring Afghanistan.

"Today's incident shows that the government has failed to protect us," said Bishop Victor Mall, head of the Diocese Church of Pakistan in Multan, an area in Punjab province that has spawned a number of militant Muslim groups. "People in our community now feel more insecure," he said. "Our people are being killed."

The killings took place at the third-floor offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice, or Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf, a Pakistani Christian charity that does work in the city.

Victims were tied up in chairs with their hands behind their backs and their mouths taped before being shot point-blank in the head, according to Karachi Police Chief Kamal Shah.

All seven of the dead were Pakistani Christians, contradicting earlier police reports that three of the victims were Muslim. One worker who survived the attack later died in a hospital, police said.

Shah said police found eight empty shell casings, one for each of those shot. He said five of the dead were found seated in a main room at the office, and the sixth was tied to a chair in the bathroom. He said police are questioning an office assistant who was tied up and beaten by the attackers, but not shot.

The Christian group has been in operation for 30 years, working with poor municipal and textile workers to press for basic worker rights, and organizing programs with local human rights groups.

This month, police in Karachi have arrested 23 members of Harakat ul-Mujahedeen Al-Almi, which is believed behind a June bombing outside the U.S. Consulate, a suicide car bomb in May that killed 11 French engineers, and aborted plots to attack McDonald's and KFC restaurants in the city.

A string of violent assaults on Christian organizations have killed at least 36 people and injured about 100 since Musharraf's decision to join the U.S. war in neighboring Afghanistan.

On Aug. 9, attackers hurled grenades at worshippers as they were leaving a church on the grounds of a Presbyterian hospital in Taxila, about 25 miles west of the capital, Islamabad. Four nurses were killed and 25 other people wounded. Two men alleged to have supplied guns and grenades to the attackers were arrested in recent days, police said Tuesday.

Four days before the Taxila attack, assailants raided a Christian school 40 miles east of Islamabad, killing six Pakistanis including guards and non-teaching staff.

And on March 17, a grenade attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad's heavily guarded diplomatic quarter killed five people, including an American woman, her 17-year-old daughter and the lone assailant.

During the arrest of two of the Al-Almi militants, police found maps of two churches and a Christian school in Karachi, along with weapons and explosives, Interior Ministry officials have said.

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“How can such things happen?” some wonder. Consider:

There are just south of a million students – boys, of course – at Pakistani Islamic schools around the country. The Wall Street Journal sent a reporter over to see what sort of “education” they were receiving. In the Journal’s October 2, 2001 issue is printed a chilling interview with an 11-year-old attendee of one of these schools.

The boy is asked whether a man has ever walked on the moon. "This isn't possible,” he answers. What is two times two? Silence. Eager to impress, though, he announces that he knows dinosaurs exist: “The Jewish and American infidels have created these beasts to devour Muslims.”

This is the education millions of children are receiving. Given such a culture of force-fed hatred and ignorance the only question is not why incidents such as this are happening, but why more don’t happen.

Axis Of Just As Evil.

Okay, we've all seen this, but it's still pretty funny.

“… in speech, Bush calls Iraq, Iran and North Korea ‘Axis of Evil.’”
- New York Times, 30 January 2002.

Angered By Snub, Libya, China, Syria Form “Axis Of Just As Evil.”

BEIJING – Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the “Axis of Evil,” Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the “Axis of Just as Evil,” which they said would be “way more evil than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis” President Bush warned of his State of the Union address.

Axis of Evil members, however, immediately dismissed the new axis as having, for starters, a really dumb name. “Right. They are ‘Just as Evil’ – in their dreams!” declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. “Everybody knows we’re the best evils... best at being evil... we’re the best.”

Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded, although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil. “They told us it was full,” said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“An axis can’t have more than three countries,” said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. “This is not my rule, it’s tradition. In World War II you had Germany, Italy, and Japan in the Axis. So you can only have three – and a secret handshake. Ours is wicked cool.”

International reaction to Bush’s Axis of Evil declaration was swift, as within minutes France surrendered. Elsewhere, peer-conscious nations rushed to gain triumvirate status in what became a game of geopolitical chairs. Cuba, Sudan, and Serbia said they had formed the “Axis of Somewhat Evil,” forcing Somalia to join with Uganda and Myanmar in the “Axis of Occasionally Evil,” while Bulgaria, Indonesia and Russia established the “Axis of Not So Much Evil, Really, As Just Generally Disagreeable.”

With the criteria suddenly expanded and all the desirable clubs filling up, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Rwanda applied to be called the “Axis of Countries That Aren’t The Worst But Certainly Won’t Be Asked to Host the Olympics;” Canada, Mexico, and Australia formed the “Axis of Nations That Are Actually Quite Nice But Secretly Have Nasty Thoughts About America,” while Spain, Scotland, and New Zealand established the “Axis of Countries That Be Allowed To Ask Sheep to Wear Lipstick.” “That’s not a threat, really, just something we like to do,” said Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell.

Wondering if other nations of the world weren’t making fun of him, a cautious Bush granted approval for most axes, although he rejected the establishment of the “Axis of Countries Whose Names End in ‘Guay,’” accusing one of its members of filing a false application. Officials from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chadguay denied the charges.

Israel, meanwhile, insisted it didn’t want to join any axis, but privately world leaders said that’s only because no one asked them.

September 24, 2002

Facts, Beliefs, Theories, Opinions or Feelings?

See any difference between the five entities above? No? You’re not alone.

You may have noticed the link to Lindbergh Kidnapping on the right-hand side of this page. It takes you to the Lindbergh Kidnapping Discussion Board, a message board dedicated to analyzing the 1932 disappearance of Charles A. Lindbergh’s son Charlie (some folks think the child was kidnapped). It’s easily the class of the field of online message boards dedicated to the case, but unfortunately that’s not saying much.

A few Easters ago my wife and I were visiting my parents and I happened to catch the show Vanished with Peter Jennings. The segment I saw had to do with the disappearance of Charlie, and the doubts concerning the official verdict that German immigrant carpenter Richard Bruno Hauptmann had kidnapped and killed the child.

When we returned home I checked out a book on the case, then another, then another – and I was hooked. I bought all the books I could on the case. I corresponded with the New Jersey State Police museum in Trenton to acquire evidence, reports and other materials. I visited the museum and looked at some of the evidence for myself. I visited the National Archives in D.C. and went through the FBI’s case files. I toured the case sites in the Bronx and Manhattan. I visited friends involved in case research. I corresponded with published experts on the case. I wrote a manuscript I'm hoping someone'll publish.

But most of my education on the case came from arguments on the message boards. Putting a theory together and having someone bring up a fact which blows it all apart is a great experience. You pick up the pieces, incorporate the new fact and go from there. And it’s true – you always learn more when you’re proven wrong about something.

Yet the level of debate, even on the best board devoted to the subject, has a curious lack of intellectual and factual honesty. It puzzled me greatly – why would anyone lie during a debate? We’re all here to learn and have fun, people, liars are flies in the ointment.

Then I read an interesting first-person account which goes a long way towards explaining the woeful state of debate on such topics as the Lindbergh case in online forums today:

Professor Mark Goldblatt, who’s been teaching freshmen at CUNY and SUNY for the past twenty years, observed that the two great problems with students now entering college – although speaking of college kids his observations hold for those participating in online discussion boards as well – are that they don’t know what they should know, and they assume they know much more than they actually do know.

People being so “utterly ignorant of their own ignorance,” as Goldblatt says, is a worrisome trend because “unlike in the past, ignorance is no longer tempered with humility. Rather, after years of psychotherapy disguised as pedagogy, ignorance is now buoyed by self-esteem – which, in turn, makes [people] more resistant to remediation since they don’t believe there’s a problem.” Such individuals infest what are supposed to be collegial online exchanges of fact, and pollute otherwise valuable conversations.

Goldblatt has noticed, in an observation which holds true for society at large, that among his students “more and more of them are arriving in my classes with the impression that their opinions, regardless of their acquaintance with a particular subject, are instantly valid – indeed, as valid as anyone’s. Pertinent knowledge, to them, is not required to render judgment.”

This is the blueprint for an extremely common form of "debate" to be found on the Lindbergh case and others:

1. Stupid, baseless opinion in direct contradiction to the known facts is expressed.
2. A documented factual correction is posted.
3. Aggrieved author of #1 rounds on author of #2 for his "arrogance" and "intolerance."
4. Blithely ignorant poster repeats opinion now shown to be fact-free with renewed zeal.

Such a brain-numbing pattern is instantly recongizable to anyone who’s tried to have a serious, honest discussion about the Lindbergh case online. Few posters on any forum know or appreciate the difference between a fact, a belief, a theory, an opinion or a feeling; to many posters their feelings or opinions about the facts as actually more valid than the facts themselves – and woe betide you if you suggest that maybe this isn’t the way to run a debate.

This isn’t demarcating between those who believe the way I do and those who don’t on the board. The most honest case aficionado I’ve ever run across I share almost no opinions with, yet he comes by his opinions via his examination of the facts. He’s wrong and I’m right, of course, but his sticking stubbornly to how he honestly sees the facts is vastly preferable to someone ignorantly agreeing with me.

“Want to scare yourself?” Goldblatt writes. “Sit down with a half-dozen recent public high-school graduates and ask them what they believe. Most are utterly convinced, for example, that President Kennedy was murdered by a vast government conspiracy. It doesn't matter to them that they cannot name the presidents before or after Kennedy. Or the three branches of government. Or even the alleged gunman's killer. Most are convinced, also, that AIDS was engineered by the CIA - even though they cannot state what either set of initials stands for.

“Most will voice passionate pro-choice views on abortion - even though they cannot name the decision that legalized it. Or report the number of judges on the Supreme Court. Or define the word ‘trimester.’ Most will happily hold forth on the hypocrisy of organized religion - even though they cannot name the first book of the Bible. Or distinguish between the Old and New Testaments. Or state the approximate year of Jesus's birth (a trick question).

“Most will bemoan global warming - even though they cannot name three greenhouse gases. Or convert Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius. Or say what planetary phenomenon causes seasons.”

Luckily the more mushbrained Lindbergh posters tend to congregate on other boards, whereas the board linked here tends to attract those more given to the factual side of things – which explains why this board is more sparsely attended than other boards, but produces more worthwhile contributions in a week than others do in a month of Sundays – but I’ve even seen posters here criticized for pointing out where the undisputed facts of the matter show someone’s opinion to be wrong.

I used to think it was just a Lindbergh case junkie thing. I guess I was wrong.

Pricing “Free” Speech Out of Chesterfield County.

Want to practice your American right of free speech in Chesterfield County? Bring your checkbook.

Last Friday I wrote about a few racist wingnuts calling themselves the World Church of the Creator who secured permission – as if any should be needed to exercise a Constitutional right – to meet in a public library in the village of Chester in Chesterfield County, Virginia. The county’s Board of Supervisors grudgingly allowed these American citizens their American rights, but cleverly devised a means to bar future free speech from Chesterfield County – make it financially prohibitive for people you don’t happen to like to speak in your county.

“More than 500 protestors and at least 100 police officers showed up at the village library,” reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning. The newspaper devoted half the front page, including an eye-catching above the fold photo to a group interested only in all the free publicity it can get. And yes, as if on cue, Ray McAllister devoted yet another entire column to a group he decries for their tactic of expecting newspaper columnists to provide free publicity for their pathological views by writing about them.

Evidently the fact that these WCC morons are allowed to peaceably assemble and say whatever they want to say is the WCC’s fault, and not the fault of the nation’s Founding Fathers, who would probably be pretty embarrassed to be from Virginia about now. Rather than lecturing its citizenry on Constitutional basics the county board decided to cave in and find ways to deny American citizens their rights of free speech in the future.

Accordingly, “it was decided last Wednesday to require organizations to pay for their own security, including police, fire and medical services, in the future,” the T-D reports. “That should certainly change the attitude of some groups,” crowed Supervisor Arthur S. “First Amendment Forever” Warren. Just for good measure groups personally distateful to Mr. Warren would be required to make a deposit.

If that isn’t enough to keep unpopular opinions out of the People’s Republic of Chesterfield County, organizations could also be held liable for portable toilets, extra trash bins, parking and traffic control. No doubt The Richmond Times-Dispatch will soon institute a policy of charging groups it would prefer not having to cover standard ad rates after writing about them.

In addition to John King, the WCC's Head Idiot of Virginia the T-D reports that sixty people were allowed in the meeting room, the majority of them protesters. Five present spoke out in support of Mr. King’s stupidity. “A few” WCC supporters stood outside.

So Chesterfield County would require a meeting that drew, let's say fifteen attendees to hire a hundred cops. The Thought Police win again, and another American right goes by the boards. Friends, providing security for citizens engaged in lawful activities is the responsibility of government, not the responsibility of citizens going about their lawful activities. Or at least it is in those parts of America where the Constitution and Bill of Rights still apply.

Kelly E. Miller, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, is mulling a restriction that only groups with no history of violence can use county facilities to meet. Which will be strictly enforced against the V.F.W. and Sons of the Confederacy, I’m sure.

"That's My Silence!"

A friend and I were discussing recently if John Cage’s musical oeuvre was one big joke or what. I decided if it is a joke, it’s a good one.

Copyrighting music is one thing. Can one copyright silence?

According to Reuters, novelty composer Mike Batt put a track called "A Minute's Silence" on his latest album Classical Graffiti, performed by pop-classics group The Planets. The piece was credited it to "Batt/Cage."

John Cage, it will be remembered, “wrote” 4’33”. The piece, which premiered at Woodstock, New York, on August 29, 1952 according to an excellent, thorough study by Larry J. Solomon, is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, during which the pianist simply raises and lowers the lid on the keyboard to signal the three movements. The idea, Cage explained, was to have the audience realize that there is no such thing as complete silence – during the “performance” of 4’33” the audience is to listen to the “real” music, the sounds all around them.

Edition Peters, publishers of the late Cage's work, accused Batt of plagiarising Cage’s silence on Batt’s record. One imagines Cage himself laughing at the idea of somebody copying someone else’s silence. Cage had a keen and dry wit and the humor of the situation would have amused him greatly.

The brouhaha is over, however. Nicholas Riddle, managing director of Peters, told Reuters Batt had paid an "adequate sum" to the John Cage Trust by way of settlement.

Any commentary one might offer on this absurd contretemps could not be any better than a quote from John Cage himself: "I have nothing to say and I'm saying it."

September 23, 2002

Religion's Chinese Snakefish.

Thanks to a good friend for alerting me to Rod Dreher’s review of Robert Spencer’s Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest-Growing Faith. I haven’t yet read the book, but the review is fairly thorough.

First off don't be alarmed by the book's title. Islam is nowhere close to becoming the world’s dominant religion, thank God. Philip Jenkins, author of the recently-published The Next Christianity tells The Atlantic Monthly that “[A]s far as we can see from the numbers right now, Christianity is going to continue to be the world's most numerous religion, at least until the end of the twenty-first century. Christianity is growing most quickly in the areas that are probably going to be the great centers of population, if not centers of power, in the new century.”

Traditionally America has been live and let live when it comes to religious faith. Do what you want, just leave me alone seems to be the dominant attitude. But what do you do when someone’s religion forbids them from leaving you alone? I don’t mean Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door, I mean Muslims who have grasped the fact that their religion clearly and explicitly instructs them to wage war against non-Muslims.

What to do when a group takes advantage of religious or electoral freedom to end freedom? If a democratically-elected political party promised to end democracy should it be allowed to do so? Islam is a religion the free practice of which, as Spencer shows, necessarily entails the destruction of non-Islamic people. Should such a faith be allowed in a religiously pluralist society? How to deal with religion’s equivalent of the Chinese snakefish?

The facts themselves are not in dispute. Anyone who maintains that Islam is a religion of peace is simply willfully ignorant. Muhammad himself was a military commander who taught that it was okay to kill non-Muslims. Those who say oh, Islamic terrorists are misreading “true” Islam have in Dreher’s correct estimate “largely resisted critical analysis of Islamic writings, practice, and history.” Simply put, the terrorists aren’t the fringe Muslims. They’re the ones who read the Qu’ran the closest.

"The culture of tolerance threatens to render the West incapable of drawing reasonable distinctions,” Spencer writes. “The general reluctance to criticize any non-Christian religion and the almost universal public ignorance about Islam make for a lethal mix." It’s the same problem over and over and over: Liberal Westerners have the hardest time in the world understanding that not everyone is really deep down a hey, anything-goes American, a world of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Friends, “true” Muslims, the ones with their nose in the Qu’ran do not want to share American values. They do not want penthouses in Manhattan. They want to obliterate Manhattan. They wish to do to America exactly what they did to Afghanistan.

“If Spencer is right,” Dreher says, “the West faces a primitive, violent, and fiercely chauvinistic religion whose followers, to the extent that they are pious adherents to its teachings, cannot be reasoned with, only resisted. Islam is at its core inimical to democracy and human rights as we in the West understand them. To expect Muslims to drop their belligerence toward the West, which has existed since Islam's founding in the 7th century, is to expect them to jettison core values of their faith — something for which there is no precedent in Islamic history.”

It's not mere favoritism to draw distinctions between Christianity and Islam. The Reformation did a world of good for Christianity -- both Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Many observers today believe that an Islamic Reformation would do it a world of good, allow more "moderate" strains to flourish and modernize Islamic teaching. Maybe so, but it's not going to happen according to Spencer – “A book [the Qu'ran, which claims] literal perfection tends to resist any interpretation that diminishes the literal truthfulness of any of its statements." That would include those statements allowing Muslims to beat their wives, enslave infidels and rape infidel women – all justified under Qu’ranic law and still happening in Muslim lands today. One remembers the soccer stadium in Kabul which under the Taliban served as the public execution arena.

A friend of mine in the Middle East is a full-time journalist reporting on Islamic persecution of Christians and other non-Muslims, frequently to death, throughout the Muslim world today. She never seems to have a slow day. In my own experience living four years in Istanbul, a wonderful city where we had many friends, a convert from Islam to Christianity can expect at best to be shunned by his family and lose his job. There are a few cases every year of families showing up with baseball bats to “talk” the person back into Islam. Some choose to jump from windows to die on the street rather than face them. And Turkey is the least "Islamic" of the Muslim countries, Islam there is a mile wide and an inch deep.

As Spencer says, Islam cannot be other than a religion of violence: "Of course, most Muslims will never be terrorists. The problem is that for all its schisms, sects, and multiplicity of voices, Islam's violent elements are rooted in its central texts," Spencer writes. Go back to Muhammad the military commander himself. Islam has always been spread by the sword.

It’s not that Muslims will become terrorists and suicide bombers en masse, that is not the fear. The fear is that the Islamic society will do nothing to stop terrorists and suicide bombers. It’s ingrained in them that violence is the way things happen, and it’s violence against Christians and Jews, so it’s not really bad or anything.

I think of my Muslim friends in Istanbul. They would never practice terrorism -- I can think of only one Turk who has so far been publicly associated with al Qaeda. They would not consider it proper Islam. Yet they can see where others do, and their attitude is well, that's his view. It's an option on the table. They take the same attitude towards Islamic terrorists that I take towards people in Catholic holy orders -- not my cup of tea, something I'd never do, something I'm not convinced is a proper expression of Christianity, but hey, that's their view. It's on the table.

“Spencer may be wrong,” Dreher writes. “I doubt it, but I'd like to hear a convincing refutation of his arguments – but he is asking questions that few others have the courage to. And until we hear from this supposed vast silent majority of peace-loving Muslims, the answers Spencer gives go a long way to explain the hatred, violence, backwardness, and fanaticism endemic to the Islamic world.”

Dancing Your Way To Happiness.

If you're a woman in a good marriage who goes to church -- and country dances -- you're about as happy as is humanly possible.

Digby Anderson's piece in The Wall Street Journal today might have slipped away in the great gray wash but for the headline -- "How to Be Happy." One does not pass up an article which promises to clearly spell out what almost the entire Western culture wants you to think it can provide.

Alas, I lose out on the first condition of true happiness: Being a woman. Anderson's column is a eulogy for the work of Oxford-based psychologist Michael Argyle, who for the last 20 years of his life "systematically questioned people as to what made them happy." Argyle found that women are happier than men, and that a good marriage is "the single institution which produced the most happiness," as Anderson writes: "Going to church comes shortly after a good marriage." Oh well, if I can't hit the trifecta I'm glad my wife can.

Argyle found that another powerful source of happiness is a leisure or charitable pursuit to which you're fairly seriously devoted -- golf and Rotary Club qualify, watching TV and slinging invective on a blog do not. Yet if you really want to be as happy as can be, take up country dancing. Anderson reports that Argyle "consistently" found country dancing to be the leisure activity which produced the most happiness among its adherents.

The pursuit of happiness, as (British) Anderson says, is "a right best not much used." I'm trying to remember the exact Hawthorne quote, something along the lines of "Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always just out of reach, but which will come alight on you when you're doing something else," something like that. It's as fatuous and doomed an enterprise to "pursue" happiness as an end of itself as it is to pursue "peace" or "money" as ends in and of themselves. All three are byproducts of other activity.

Anderson sees a need to take a few shots at the "liberalism-leftism" approach, about how it almost explicitly promises world happiness will follow on the heels of multiethnic (but not multi-viewpoint) diversity, Third World debt relief and abortion on demand. He makes the point that those things found in 20 years of research to produce genuine happiness, solid heterosexual marriage and regular church attendance, are both under attack from today's lefties. He notes that pursuing happiness itself, "for oneself or on someone else's behalf [i.e. social engineering, the left's leisure pursuit of choice]" is foolishness.

That may be so, but frankly I find conservatives guilty of pursuing happiness for its own sake as much as any liberal. Granted conservatives tend not to see the need to inflict the pursuit of happiness on the huddled masses as frequently or zealously as liberals do, but in their own way they can produce as much unhappiness for themselves and those around them with their equally selfish pursuit of wealth, status and personal ambition. Argyle found that a little more money does increase short-term happiness, but that lots of money does not buy lots of happiness -- contrary to what most conservatives and liberals both think.

Besides, I'm in such a good mood I think I'll ask my wife if she wants to take up country dancing. I don't know if she'll be able to stand all the happiness.

"Just Like Us, Really."

How long will the intellectually bankrupt keep trying to foist off the idea that the rage of Islamic terrorists is due to the fact that they’re not as rich as Westerners? Probably north of forever, of course, but that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.

It amazes me that here you have an enemy who has spelled out his goals and beliefs more clearly than Hitler did in Mein Kampf. In the words of Hussein Mussawi, former leader of Hezbollah quoted by Canadian journalist Mark Steyn: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." That sounds pretty clear to me, especially since their actions are backing up their statements.

Yet everybody – by “everybody,” of course, I mean “a few idiots who still don’t get it yet who seem to have column inch upon column inch as their disposal” – is still trying to find some way to blame it all on America? Dispensing with the worst “Ha ha, America got what it deserved!” ejaculations from the liberal media immediately after 9/11, it seems that the left’s settled on the idea that no, the Muslims don’t really hate us as much as they say they do and show they do, the real reason must be that they’re not as wealthy as we are.

How patronizing. How condescending. How ignorant. How perfectly in keeping with the liberal media. They of course have no values beyond materialism, so they assume nobody else does either. This is why it’s not surprising that religious people in the West seem to be the ones who really understand what Islamic terror is all about; you have to have values greater than narcissistic greed to understand these people. You have to understand that Islamic terrorists aren’t running suicide bombings in order to get more Starbucks outlets in Riyadh.

Friends, the hijackers and those who control them have told us over and over why 9/11 happened: They hate us for who we are. They hate us not for what we do – people who really believe that 9/11 was some kind of logically-thought out quid pro quo need to explain why America, which was at the time (and after the attacks) the #1 provider of international aid to Afghanistan, and not Russia.

Why didn’t they go after Russia? Muslims worship much more freely in America than in Russia, the Russians are the ones who invaded and killed all those Muslims and America helped throw the Russians out – then we repeated the favor of saving Muslim lives in Somalia and Bosnia as well, and protected Islamic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Even if they really hate us because we’re a friend of Israel so what? They get to determine who our friends are? Yes we tend to support the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East, that earns us 9/11? If anything America acts as the only real restraint on Israel.

This idea that 9/11 is an expression of the rage and frustration of the have-nots against the haves is probably the silliest of the lot. As Mark Steyn points out:

“The story of the last 30 years is the emergence of ‘a new world middle class,’ as Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin calls them in his study The World Distribution Of Income. This class is made up of some 2.5 billion people in the developing world, whose standards of living now approach those of the West. That's to say, roughly half the people in the developing world are doing pretty well economically. As Virginia Postrel wrote in The New York Times recently, taking the world's population as a whole, in 1998 ‘the largest number of people earned about $8,000 -- a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's.’”

So why hasn't the Middle East shared in this economic growth? Again from Steyn:

“Because they're failed states run by kleptocrats who govern by clan and corruption and whose starting point is to exclude half the population -- the women -- from the economic life of the country.”

For which they hate America? Gee, I guess it’s easier than taking the blame yourself for your own failures, just attack the guy who has what you want when you're too lazy and backwards to get it for yourself. As I said shortly after 9/11 the Arab world is incapable of a World Trade Center itself, but they think they can gain some sort of gruesome equality by knocking ours down. To those who understand the Arab concepts of shame it makes a lot of sense. And no doubt there is an element of economic revenge in Islamic terrorism, but a small one: Osama bin Laden was a very wealthy man, and most of the al Qaeda masterminds come from the moneyed, educated classes.

But accepting the brute fact that nothing we can do will quell Islamic hatred of America precludes the fond hope liberals have of buying the terrorists off so they'll leave them alone. Liberals love to believe that everyone else in the world is “just like us, really,” or at least morally equivalent, since their world view is grounded on the mistaken assumption that people are basically good, and can be brought around to reason, or failing that can be bought off with bribes under the rubric “economic development grants.” Here in America this mindset leads to such failed polices as racial quotas (called “affirmative action”) – as long as they don’t actually keep rich white liberals’ kids out of Harvard. Translated overseas it becomes the notion that the way to solve the problem of 9/11 is to let them talk (which is called “establishing understanding”), agree that yes, you have some interesting points there, write a check, go home and forget the whole thing.