Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Muslims Making Toast

Muslims Making Toast
© 2006 Ross Williams

Muslims don't like being offended. I don't blame them; neither do I. If they were in their home and a visitor proceeded to insult their muslimity, they would be justified in asking or demanding the visitor to leave.

The main problem with the current ... errrrr ... "crisis" is that the Muslims weren't insulted in their own home. They were insulted in public. In the public space of a free society: Denmark. I still sympathize with them, but only academically. No one likes to be insulted, not even irrational hooligans who use any and every excuse to inflict violence upon random strangers. Yes, I have sympathy for them, but my sympathy is measured in microns, not miles.

But wouldn't life be wonderful if there were nothing insulting to be found anywhere? Oh, joy! oh, rapture! We could all just freely go through life effortlessly without having to worry about taking or giving offense.

However, comma, ...

Some people's version of effortless and free life is to wear mink coats. And others' versions of ditto consists of no one using animal skins as vanity garments. I smell a conflict. The animal protection people are going to take offense at the animal hide wearers for wearing animal hides, and the animal hide wearers will take offense at the animal protectors if the animal protectors try to prevent animals from being worn as a hide.[1]

Some people's version of effortless and free life is to knock on doors in the neighborhood and pass out pamphlets advertising what a wonderful religion the door-knockers have. Other people's version of ditto is to have no one ever knock on their doors and ply them with religious tracts, or anything else. More conflict.

Some people's version of effortless and free life is to root for the Chicago Cubs and wear Cubs shirts and have Cubs license plate holders and car window stickers, and others' version of same is to follow the car with the Cubs license plate holder into the St Louis-area Home Depot parking lot and ask the Cubs fan if he's having medical problems ... since he has a Cubs license plate holder on his car. Alas, more conflict.

Each of us desires a life in which he will not be insulted, in which his sensibilities were never offended, in which there were no outrages to be found… and yet where he could do just as he pleased. We all wish that. When we don't get it, we struggle. Often against each other.

This is the source of conflict. Everyone's trying to live their lives according to what they, personally, consider to be the appropriate rules, and individual notions of "appropriate" differ. It's insulting to Danes to be told that they can't draw insulting pictures in their own country because people thousands of miles away in other countries will violently object. It's insulting to other people to see printed, thousands of miles away in other countries, pictures that insult their beliefs.

What. A. Predicament!

I'm of the opinion that you can do in your own home that which you choose to do. If the Danes, in Denmark, choose to insult muslims by drawing pictures of Mohammed, then uncork the ink in Copenhagen. It's their time, it's their place, it's their ink. If Danes want to insult muslims by going to Damascus to do it, it's still their time and their ink, but it's no longer their place and the Syrians will probably object to the impudence. And I wouldn't blame them. Being in Syria, the Syrians would have a legitimate authority to curtail whatever their laws allow them to curtail. When in Rome...

I don't even blame muslims for objecting in their own home to the Danish impudence out of Denmark, although it's sorta like having a bad day at the office and settling the score by coming home, kicking the cat and screaming at the wife. It's just that when the Danish impudence dares to suggest that islamist outrage is violent and overreaching ... and then the islamist reaction to that suggestion is violent and overreaching, the islamists have little room to criticize the impudence as unfair or slanderous. If you react to bad days at the office by kicking your cat, then a co-worker who calls you a cat-kicker with anger management issues isn't exactly out of bounds. And that's essentially what the Danish artists did.

It can still be insulting to be called violent terrorists, even if you are one; but if you are one, it isn't unfair or slanderous to be called such.

What is unfair is lumping all muslims together. And I can truly sympathize with the average Ahmed who's going about his daily routine at the office, taxpaying, and being a responsible citizen to hear that because he's muslim he's likely to go jihading at the drop of a hat ... or the scratch of a pen. He'd probably think something along the lines of "Hey! Wuddid I do? Am I minding my own business too loudly for you?"

But, then, we're now in the area of political caricature which, by definition, uses broad strokes to make the political points it seeks to make. To reduce the target of political satire by the necessary exceptions and exemptions and caveats and codicils to make the political point strictly accurate, you've expanded the satire into a policy statement complete with bibliographies and footnotes[2], and exceeded the column inches allotted to the cartoon by several orders of magnitude.

It is well-understood – even in predominately islamic nations – that political cartoons use blurred lines to make points. Ask any of the editors of state-run muslim newspapers about their Jew-as-fanged-devil cartoons.

In our own country, we have well-known universal icons for various groups. All Democrats are known by the donkey; all Republicans by the elephant. All Americans are represented, home and abroad, as Uncle Sam. These are standards in the No Distinction derby. An elephant is depicted doing something foolish or stupid, and every Republican is smeared. There are no caveats; it is understood that because "many Republicans" think or believe a certain thing[3], or behave a certain way[4], it is therefore fair to use the iconic image for "all Republicans" in mocking that belief or action.

A donkey is depicted doing something stupid or foolish[5], and every Democrat is smeared. That is also fair, according to our standards of editorial license.

Uncle Sam is frequently depicted – particularly abroad, where effigies are routinely assassinated[6] – of doing something not merely stupid or foolish, but despotic or tyrannical, and thus every American is implicated with every other – even if they didn’t vote for the guy in charge.

Yet how many Americans go on murderous rampages here at home because they were lumped in with the Americans who support the foreign policy that is despised by, say, Cuba and lampooned in its papers? I can't think of any, but maybe there was a guy upset that Cuba was finally allowed to send a team to the World Baseball Classic who, maybe, kicked his cat or something.

How many school board members went on murderous rampages after last year’s unflattering depictions of school boards from the Dover Intelligent Design case, and the periodic Kansas flare-up? How many Methodists went on a violence bender after all christians were depicted as tyrannical loonies following the Dover deal[7]? or after the whole “those mean ol’ secular humanists renamed the christmas tree” whimper-fest?[8]

It’s one thing to say that editorial cartoons deliberately dismiss the differences between individuals of a group; of course they do, it’s a caricature. Duh. But it’s completely different to say that we shouldn’t [or mustn’t] depict groups in such non-differentiation, as it is “unfair”.

For one thing, you’ve just obliterated editorializing, and the broad literary tradition of satire and farce. Burn Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain and Aldous Huxley; stop recording The Simpsons, South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Chop The Onion forthwith. Saturday Night Live is now dead.

Blogs? mv blog* /dev/null.

Next, you’ve effectively implemented an Absolute Accuracy rule that would make the legalese at the bottom of the new toaster’s owner’s manual seem trivial by comparison. A caricature that doesn’t spell out who or what the specific targets are and, most importantly, who the targets are not cannot be legitimately printed.

This editorial cartoon depicting muslims as terrorists and the islamic faith as supportive of, or contributory to, terrorism is intended to reflect only upon those muslims who are, in fact, terrorists and the islamic faith only to the degree that certain individuals or schools of theology advocate terrorist or violent means to make their point. All others who neither use violence nor terrorist methods, nor subscribe to a doctrine which advocates violence or terrorism, are not being depicted in the caricature contained herein, and are requested to address all correspondence on this matter, all requests for editorial policy clarification and all letter bombs to our legal department.
Yes, I can see where that’s far better.

Do we really need to be told not to use the toaster while standing knee-deep in the bathtub? Are we that artlessly unsophisticated that we need to be told not to shower with a toaster? Wouldn’t it be better for us in the long run to allow those of us who are that ignorant to take baths with their small appliances and let the sparks fly where they may?

[1] “Ya wanna wear a cow? wear the whole cow – and then return it to the pasture”
[2] such as this one
[3] such as Intelligent Design
[4] such as packing school boards in Pennsylvania towns or the entire state of Kansas in order to cram Intelligent Design into the biology curriculum
[5] Perish the thought!
[6] "Sire, the peasants want to hang you in effigy." "Remind me not to plan any trips to Effigy, then." Conversation between Rodney and the King in The Wizard of Id, by Johnny Hart and Brant Parker, way back in the 60s
[7] I can think of two, and so can Perfessor Mirecki, but I don’t know that they were Methodists
[8] No, Bill O’Reilly caterwauling and turning red on national TV doesn’t count

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Temper Tantrums

Temper Tantrums
– or –
Some French Wine To Go With Your Raspberry Danish?

© 2006 Ross Williams

[Note: originally published Feb 4, but blogspot kept losing it.]

If Europe doesn't watch out, they're going to find themselves in hot water. Pan-islamists are ever so mad. Palestinians have thrown themselves to the ground and are kicking their feet and bawling. Morocco and Tunisia are pouting in their rooms. Pakistani juveniles have taken precious time from their regularly scheduled "Death to America" rally to stage a "Death to Denmark" rally. Iran is formally protesting to the EU – turnabout of a sort. Iraqi imams are exhorting Iraqis to protest in the streets. The Saudis recalled their ambassador to Denmark. Libya simply nailed their embassy shut. Even normally placid Jordan is using the opportunity to publicize "the extent of the Danish offense".

But it's not just Denmark where this something rotten is. France is implicated. So's Germany. And Norway. Citizens from these countries are warned that they are nearly as likely to be targets of pan-islamist hooliganism as Americans are.[1]

What did these nations do that it's now open season on their people? Did they implement American-style hegemonic imperialism? wage cultural war upon Greater Islamia by baking ham into danish pastries?


A Danish newspaper dared – dared – to publish a political cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb for a turban.[2] Newspapers in France, Germany and Norway demonstrated free speech solidarity with their Danish cousins and reprinted the cartoon.[3]

I can see the muslim point.[4] How dare we in the West be so insensitive as to depict their religion's founder as being as murderous as their religion's adherents. After all, an idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe it.[5]

Oh, but wait. It wasn't that Mohammed was shown with a bomb for a hat; it's that Mohammed was shown, period.

That's rude. For some reason. It's culturally insensitive. It is, to muslims, equivalent to murdering random people on the street would be to us in the West.

Now, some folks will want to play devil's advocate – ironic turn of phrase – and plead the muslim case; they’d argue that I'm exaggerating somewhat. Publishing a picture of their prophet Mohammed is nothing like murdering random people on the street.

Then why are pan-islamists willing to equivocate one for the other? They are as much as declaring: “We’ll trade you an unflattering drawing of Mohammed for randomly murdered Westerners.” They are the ones setting the price. The cost of caricature is murdered Danes.

That’s what pan-islamists typically do after every outrage they suffer. Listen to their words whenever there’s another random Westerner murdered on the street. What excuse do they use? Essentially, whatever comes to mind.

To pan-islamists, everything is the equivalent of murdering random people on the street. Or on the high seas. Or anywhere else.

Europe used to know that. And not too long ago. For over a hundred years, France was subjected to random bombings by "Algerian" nationalists – even after Algeria gained independence. Why? Because, to pan-islamists, the price of France forcibly curtailing Barbary Piracy on the high seas by occupying the territory that spawned it was murdering random people on French streets.

I may have mentioned this before, but pan-islamists need no excuse to wage war on the West. To them, everything is an excuse. Sell cosmetics in muslim countries: cultural warfare; time to fight. Show Hollywood movies: cultural warfare; time to fight. Dare to be a more successful economic power: hegemonic imperialism; time to fight. Support Israel: Western crusading; time to fight. Whisper the words "self-determination" or "democracy" in a culture built upon the political model of theocratic, despotic fascism: Western crusading and hegemonic imperialism and cultural warfare: time to fight.

It’s an excuse du jour. Support Israel; support the Shah; do enough business with tribal leaders of the Saud family that the Sauds come to rely upon those profits and cater to the West; defend the Sauds; defend the Sauds by putting soldiers in Saudi Arabia; treat war captives rudely; interrogate them by having women ask the questions; put their koran on a toilet seat; lock up their women[6] ... or draw pictures of Mohammed.

We're only a half-generation removed from the celebrated fatwah on Salman Rushdie who[7] dared to write a novel critical of islamist theo-fascist philosophy. Pan-islamists again set the price: the equivalent cost of political criticism is murdering the political critic on the street.

Yes, individual acts of such desperate immaturity take place in the West and by Westerners, but it's rare that the ill-behaved brat is viewed as anything but a criminal. In muslim-dominated nations, he's celebrated. No matter his justification. Anything and everything works. No excuse is unworthy. The egalitarianism of infantility.

Parents of toddlers are fully aware of this behavior pattern. They encounter it every day. But since most toddlers aren't armed with anything more lethal than a fistful of SpaghettiOs®, the results are typically different. The methodology is identical.

Both the pan-islamist and the toddler expect certain things to be provided to them – Western capitulation to their whims or a later bedtime. When those things are not delivered, a temper tantrum ensues. First is the pouting and the wailing and the issuing of demands. "I wanna watch TV!!" "Apologize!!"

Next come the threats. "I won't love you anymore!!" "We will kidnap you!!"

Then come the acts of juvenile destruction. The SpaghettiOs® get flung. The random Westerner gets kidnapped – and a significant number of these get murdered.

The parent who capitulates to the child is the one who loses the battle of wills. The child grows into a demanding spoiled teenager. The nation which capitulates to the demands of the pan-islamist infant is the nation which loses the war. The pan-islamists turn into demanding and spoiled political leaders.

There are a number of things I find darkly amusing about these events. Most notably, and not to put too fine a point on it, I tolja so. This is exactly what I've been saying pan-islamists do, and now they're doing it again. Violence and threatened violence over trivialities. They want to have a war between Greater Islamia and all the infidels in non-islamia[8], and they're going to have one. They'll use any and every excuse to agitate themselves into a war. It's time for people in the West to stop deluding themselves and recognize what's going on. The sooner the better... for everyone involved.

Second, many individual agencies in Europe have already capitulated in this round.[9] The original Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, cravenly apologized – though that is unsatisfactory to the infant imams, who want the Danish government to apologize on behalf of all Danes. The Danish Prime Minister, who has a spine, refuses. The French newspaper France Soir has fired the editor who reprinted the horribly offensive cartoon. France, France, France ... for once you stood up on your own two feet, only to have the demon of Vichy drive you back to your knees. Why does this not surprise me?[10]

Third, I understand it’s culturally insensitive to depict the founder of their religion in a drawing; they believe it can lead to idolatry. But it is a cherished tradition in our culture to mock leaders, all leaders, religious or political or those who are both, dead or alive, in caricature. We do it to our own leaders – and they do too, by the way – so why shouldn’t we do it to theirs? By denying us our own cultural imperative – which in this case consists of being culturally insensitive to them – they are being culturally insensitive to us. Their culture is more important to them than ours is. Neener. But our culture is more important to us than theirs is. Neener neener.

Okay, we’ve demonstrated that we can each stick out our tongues. Can we be done now?

Fourth, most of the petulant grousing, and nearly all of the threats, is coming out of Palestine.[11] Palestine, which gets hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the EU is now threatening the EU. Palestine, which recently elected Hamas hooligans to run their, um, "country", and which the EU considers a terrorist organization and refuses to aid it, is now threatening the EU. Palestine, which desperately needs to continue receiving European money and which might not receive that money anyway because it elected Hamas, is threatening the EU and thus endangering their funding a second time over.

Who, besides me, can spot the whiny, bratty, pre-teen who won’t clean his room or take out the garbage but demands to host an unchaperoned party with 100 of his closest friends and a bigger allowance anyway? Children are notoriously incapable of determining which side of the bread is buttered. It doesn’t matter how old the children are, or what culture they come from.

Who, besides me, is willing to predict that mommy and daddy EU, threatened with the kidnapping and murder of their own citizens and diplomats, will turn right around and raise its allowance, leave the house for the teenagers’ party, and leave the liquor cabinet unlocked to boot?

And who, besides me, is willing to further predict that it won't matter in the long run? Pan-islamists are going to continue to fling themselves to the ground, kick their feet, bawl and carry on like the infantile brats they are, even after getting their way yet again, and in a year, five years, twenty years will stage just one too many temper tantrums and get sent to their rooms.

Yes, eventually, even the Europeans are going to understand – once again – that being the mature one in the house doesn't mean squat if you can't, don't or won't enforce maturity on everyone else in the house. I just hope Europe hasn't forgotten that a good spanking before sending the brat to his room often works wonders.

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,183551,00.html
[2] The cartoon[s] are located here: http://www.faithfreedom.org/Gallery/Mo_Cartoons.jpg
Come get me, pan-islamists.
[3] It’s time to buy french bread, danish pastries, German beer … but I’m drawing the line at Norwegian pickled herring.
[4] …if I tilt my head way over to the side, cross my eyes, cross my fingers, give myself a lobotomy and wish real hard
[5] Richard Bach, in his book One, I believe
[6] it's ironic to me that a culture that subsists on locking up their women on a daily basis in thousands of ways is offended by Americans locking up a handful of their women who've been aiding terrorists
[7] gasp!!!
[8] "If they want a war of religions, we are ready," Hassan Sharaf, an imam in Nablus, said in his sermon. http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/02/03/cartoon.wrap.friday.ap/index.html
[9] At least one US news agency has preemptively surrendered: “CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam.”
[10] Actually, the owner of this froggish newspaper is an Egyptian, but it gives me the opportunity to reflexively tweak France. The French media and government officials have been extremely critical of the pan-islamist nonsense – for once – and need to be congratulated. I’ve bought a bottle of French Beaujolais.
[11] "Whoever defames our prophet should be executed," said Ismail Hassan, 37, a tailor who marched through the pouring rain along with hundreds of others in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Bin Laden our beloved, Denmark must be blown up," protesters in Ramallah chanted.
An imam at the Omari Mosque in Gaza City told 9,000 worshippers that those behind them should have their heads cut off.

Not to be too smug, or anything, but to all those people who claim no connection whatsoever between Hussein and bin Laden … Hussein was the patron of Hamas, that’s factually undeniable. Hamas loves bin Laden. Do you really need to get beaten over the head with reality? Pan-islamists do not discern meaningful differences between their factionalism when it comes to their relationship to the West. The longer we see differences between them that they don’t even acknowledge, we’re going to be playing catch-up. They see themselves at war with us – all of them against all of us. Many in the West insist on seeing a difference between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists”. That is a recipe for failure.

The Energizer Cartoon

The Energizer® Cartoon
© 2006 Ross Williams

I’ve got to admit, I was expecting this whole tempest in a toilet to dissipate by now – to be flushed, as it were. Much as the “koran abuse” issue has been flushed. …also, as it were.

But it just keeps going… and going… and going.

State-owned television in Syria and Iran have been reporting that the cartoons were published by the Danish government, not a privately-owned Danish newspaper. The concept of private ownership is a Western decadence we all suffer under. We can understand their confusion.

Let’s briefly review the history of this titanic struggle. In September 2005 a Danish newspaper, hearing that a children’s book author couldn’t get illustrators for a book about Mohammed because the illustrators were afraid of muslim reprisal[1] the newspaper asked broadly if the West was self-censoring out of fear, and requested political cartoonists to caricaturize Mohammed to illustrate the point.

Twelve of the cartoons were published, many of which intimated that islam is a religion of violence, and one of which suggested Mohammed is the ringleader of the violence.

As we know, the strident areas of islamic control have rioted and fire-bombed.

In other words, they object to the Western perspective that islam is largely violent, and to… um… “illustrate” that point, they respond violently.

Boy, that sure showed us, huh? Don’t we all feel silly now?

At any rate, it was a Danish newspaper that originally published the cartoons. It is understandable that muslims who don’t appreciate unflattering depictions of their religion or the blasphemous depictions of their religion’s founder would object to all things Danish.

The cartoons were later reprinted in Norway, Germany and France. It is understandable that offended muslims would protest the Norwegian, German and French things as well.

The cartoons were not reprinted in Austria, yet the Austrians are also being protested.

…an Austrian is currently the President of the EU, which is supposed to be responsible for all things that come out of Europe. We’re now getting into the territory of irrational extensions to what might be considered sound infantilism.

I’ve previously asserted that pan-islamists need no reason to wage war against the West; they’ve been waging war virtually non-stop for 1,300 years, and they’re going to use any excuse to do it. Cartoons as causus belli is fairly grasping. I’ve also declared that the rationalizing weenies in the West need to wake up and understand that this pan-islamist excuse-grasping is actually occurring – listen to their words, for godsake, if you don’t want to believe me; pan-islamists are actually saying this for themselves.

Now let’s review our own nation’s role in this.

The US has declared that publishing the cartoons was irresponsible in the first place. In other words, the US sided, in word if not deed, with the muslim rioters.

And today we get this.[2]

The Danes started this; it was fueled by Norway, Germany and France. So here’s what Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had to say about it: "But let (U.S. President) George Bush and the arrogant world know that if we have to ... we will defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices.”

How did we get mixed up in this? We very specifically avoided complicity.

But Nasrallah throws Uncle Sam out with the bathwater: "Defending the prophet should continue worldwide, let (U.S. Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, Bush and all the tyrants shut up.”

Again, the reason the US is mixed up in this is that the philosophy of The US is Always Wrong is not confined to American neophytes. The US is, at this moment in history, the top dog in the junkyard. Alpha-nation. It is human psycho-sociology to knock the king off the hill. For no other reason than that we will always find smaller nations grumbling about US primacy.

Also, we’ll find other former top dogs grousing about us. …France.

That much is a given. In addition to that basic reality, you’ve got the mindset of the Middle Eastern peoples having a huge grudge against “the West”. And it far pre-dates the Crusades. It predates Alexander the Great, also.

Then, there is the religious tomfoolery to consider. Islam was built on the point of a sword. It calls itself the “religion of peace” but that is only when they are in charge. Their theology has written into it that islam is predestined to rule the world – the islamic messiah[3], the “Mahdi”, is prophesied to lead islam to world domination. For 1,200 years, that was taken literally, and still is among most of the muslims. It is only in the last century that “moderate islam” has suggested that “ruling the world” might be metaphorical. Luckily for us, most of the moderate muslims live in the West, and most of them in the West live in the US and Canuckia.

So we’re to blame because we’re the most powerful nation; we’re to blame because we’re a Western nation; we’re to blame because we’re a christian nation.

They were bound to blame us eventually.

In a way, I’m surprised it took them this long. Normally, “US” stands for “usual suspect”. Anything goes wrong in the third world, blame the US. As long as the US is the pre-eminent world power, that will be the way it works.

Denmark offends Greater Islamia. Denmark is in Europe and Europe is “the West”. The most powerful nation in “the West” is the US, so blame the US. The buck stops here.

Muslims dodging responsibility for their hooliganism by randomly assigning blame to others is understandable – to the degree that childish petulance is understandable. I understand my kids; I don’t let them get away with being brats [often], but I understand them.

What’s so hard to understand? My kids are children. Duh. Pan-islamists have been acting like children for 1,300 years. They’re culturally childish and irresponsible.

And they’re flailing: "Long live Islam. Destroy Denmark. Destroy Israel. Destroy George Bush. Destroy America," some of the protesters shouted.[4]

You couldn’t ask for a more succinct roadmap through their childish worldview. No matter the outrage, blame Israel and the US – usually in that order. No matter the provocation, the solution is destruction. The cartoons simply put that in a thousand words.

I can see where they’d be offended that others see this in them. Bothers my kids, too.

[1] Salmon Rushdie and Theo Van Gogh, anyone?
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/02/09/cartoon.protests/index.html
[3] no, Mohammed isn’t the messiah, just a prophet
[4] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/02/10/cartoon.protests/index.html

Grassroots Pomposity

Grassroots Pomposity
© 2006 Ross Williams

The Conservative US government has issued its official position on The Danish Cartoon Controversy, courtesy of the State Department, by saying, essentially: "We believe in freedom of expression, however..."

Yes; "however", you don't. Not if you're willing to rescind it the moment people beyond your control are willing to go on a rampage.

The US Liberals, not having a leader to speak of, and relying upon grassroots input to determine which way the wind is blowing, I figured that perhaps, just perhaps, the Liberals might actually prove they have some substance in their spine besides half-formed Jell-O®. If any do, they seem to be silent.

The Liberal comments I've been reading in online message boards are taking a different path to the same conclusion made by the Bush Administration. "We believe in freedom of expression, however..."

Yes, "however", you don't.

But – and this is apparently critical – not because freedom of expression should be rescinded because people beyond Liberals' control are willing to use their offense-taking as an excuse to go on a rampage. Instead, and pay careful attention to the wording here, freedom of expression should be rescinded because people beyond Liberals' control have no choice but to use their offense-taking as an excuse to go on a rampage.

Yes, we're back to American Liberal excuse-making for third-world hooliganism.

A smattering of rationalizations found in public commentary[1]:

"if one is so insensitive as to desecrate the core beliefs of another's faith, then they'd better be ready for the repercussions, as horrible and unlawful as they might be. Shame on those that created these atrocious, hate mongering depictions." - "M.Black"

Yes, if she only hadn't worn that provocative skirt, she wouldn't have been raped ... Shame on her!

"I believe the danish paper shouldn't have published those unfair depiction of muhhamad since they are not simply criticism on Muslim faith, but unfair allegations that all muslims are terrorist and that their faith encourages them to act violently, something for wich there's no proof" - "Paul"

Nope. No proof at all, Paul, unless you accept exhortations from their clergy to act violently as encouragement to, like, act all violent or something. Except for being wrong, you're absolutely right.

"it has nothing to do with cartoons or religion, but with accumulated resentmemt against the West because of suppression and broken promises. Period." - "Tarjei Straume"

Right, Tarj; Greater Islamia is perfectly justified in being resentful of the West for continually refusing to quietly submit to repeated attempts at islamist domination for 1,300 years. How dare we defend ourselves!

"If you defend the 'right' of the cartoonists to 'express' their 'beliefs' by drawing these cartoons, then you must defend the 'right' of those Muslims who choose to 'express' their 'beliefs' through violent means." - "Bill"

Yep, you "heard" it here first: "rioting", "firebombing" and "murder" are "First Amendment" "issues". They're just expressing themselves. Awwww. Ainnit cu-u-ute.

"I'm afraid that the story isn't about freedom of expression vs respect for religious beliefs, but rather that when moderates protest peacefully nobody cares." - "Carlos"

In other words, capitulate to our totalitarian demands for you to stop saying we’re violent or else we’ll get violent.

"Before you group all muslims together due to the extremists you have to also remember, every religion\society has its extremists. ... Look at the abortion doctors that have been killed by right-wing extremist here in the US. Also consider Timothy McVeigh." - "Greg"

Indeed they do, "Greg". But at last count there's one religion/culture which uses the auspices of that religion/culture to exhort extremism. It ain't the US; we prosecute anti-abortion murderers and domestic terrorists.

"I don't condone the response of our Muslim sisters and brothers, but I understand it. Moreover, the inability of many Westerners to understand is, of course, part of the clash between the cultures." - "Bill" [again]

I don't condone the actions of my children when they kick each other and punch each other and pinch and smack and slap each other in the back seat. Furthermore I understand it as well. The understanding goes as follows: they are children acting childishly. Understanding their childish actions does not preclude me, their father, from stopping the car and swatting a fanny. I am obliged to take some tangible action to enforce that which I've declared to be the ground rules of being my child. Refusing to do so is irresponsible of me; ducking behind the mere abstract refusal to condone their actions is an academic dodge.

I further understand the puerile pan-islamists: they are childish ideologues acting childishly, and often with high-caliber weapons. That understanding does not preclude me from calling it what it is, nor should it preclude our government[s] from doing the same. We either have freedom of expression or we do not; if we do, then it is our individual and collective responsibility to support it. If we subordinate our freedoms the first time someone threatens mass violence in response to "rude", then we are ducking our responsibility. And probably out of fear. Which means we just lost our rights.

"above and beyond the legalities, some things are too hateful to say- it's just *wrong*." - "Jim"

Thanks for doing our thinking for us, "Jim", and being our moral arbiter. You wanna do our breathing for us, too? How about paying our bills for us as well, since you're all-fired hot on treating us as the children the pan-islamists are acting like...

"Had some arrogant editors in Europe thought about that for a bit, there might be a few more people alive today." - "Chris"

Those who are dead are, to date, protesters who were storming embassies and military bases, and were killed by riot-control or fellow protesters. To consider their deaths to be the direct result of "arrogant editors" is to remove responsibility from any individual who takes righteous indignation to violent extremes. We have just declared the pan-islamist rioters to be less than juvenile; they are now brainless automatons who have no control over their actions, or responsibility for themselves.

It is well-known in the psycho-sociology of infantilism that one child looking at another is a High Crime. Maybe my youngest daughter is right; when her older brother looks at her and she hits him for it, it is his fault.

"Within the historical context of Western atrocities against Islamic peoples and the current economic and political oppression by Western powers..." - "Michael Bissett"

Crack a history book, there, "Michael". One that discusses Middle Eastern history prior to 1948.

"Free speech doesn't mean there won't be consequences to your expressions, but that is what good manners are for. I believe it's called being civil. That said, I must admit that good manners can be deceiving. The British were some of the most civilized barbarians ever to roam the planet." - "Jack O'Boyle"

I just thought this one was amusing and deserved a reprint. Thumb's up, "Jack".

"What positive social, economical, or political result was to be elicited from the cartoons? ...there should be some positive output to any expression, and if that was not the case here, then the authors of these cartoon were nothing more than 'provocateurs of violence', and instruments of hate-mongering." - "Faye"

What positive social, economical [sic], or political result might be garnered from your comments, "Faye"? Without some sort of positive output from your statement, I can only conclude that you are a provocateur of violence, and mongering hate.

What’s good for the goose, toots.

The longer we rationalize why some people don’t need to act civilized, the longer they won’t. The longer we refuse to defend ourselves and our way of life, the longer we’ll be in someone’s crosshairs. And probably the crosshairs of those who refuse to act civilized.

[1] http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/02/holy_exceptions.html#comments

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Of Cartoons and Cowardice

Of Cartoons and Cowardice
© 2006 Ross Williams

This just gets weirder and weirder. The war of words over hand-drawn pictures has escalated beyond the kindergartenish, and beyond the few recalled ambassadors and rock-throwing demonstrations.

Embassies have now been torched and people have died.

Random quotes from on-line news:

A Saudi cleric said Thursday, “This is great. The Muslim nation is fired up."

Um ... Mr Saudi Cleric ... there is no "Muslim nation". There are, as our hyper-discerning culture-centric weenies would say, "nations which happen to be predominately islamic".

Therefore, Mr Saudi Cleric, you are denying the identity of Jordanians, and Yemenis, and Afghanis, and Libyans by wrapping them up in your one-size-fits-all “Muslim nation”. What happens if the Iranians, or the Syrians, or the Indonesians don’t feel the same way about the Danish cartoons as you do? Huh? Dijja think of that?

Oh, but they do feel the same, don’t they? Hmmm. So … pan-islamists are, as the term implies, pan-islamists. They have a unity beyond borders that far surpasses anything we in the West could conjure up for ourselves. They really are united, aren’t they?

So it really is a “Muslim nation” isn’t it? And us worrying about Iraq when Osama is in Afghanistan really is pertinent. Isn’t it?

Golly, I hate being right all the time.

Speaking to Iranian air force personnel, Khamenei [said] the cartoons were a scandal, particularly as they came "from those who champion civilization and free expression."

The caricatures amounted to a "conspiracy by Zionists who were angry because of the victory of Hamas," he said, referring to the Palestinian militant group that won a surprise landslide victory in last month's elections.

For those who don’t remember, Khamenei – not to be confused with Khomeini – is Iran’s “supreme leader”. He is Iran’s Pat Robertson, if you will. Or Iran’s Al Sharpton if you also will. In either case, overbearingly self-righteous and deigns to speak for god. Just imagine if either Robertson or Sharpton assumed the non-diselectable leadership of the US … that’s Iran.

No wonder Iran needs nuclear power over and above what they can generate with oil. They’ve perfected time travel, and need to keep the machine powered up. Hamas was elected in January of 2006. And because “zionists” were pissed about it, they conspired to draw unflattering cartoons of Mohammed in September of 2005. Izzat how it works in your world, Ali? In your “muslim world”?

Once again, any old excuse will work. Just pull whatever comes to mind out of your ass, fling it around the “muslim nation”, and see how many pan-islamists you can get to dance around the flagpole. And see how many Americans you can get to join you.

Geez! I hate being right all the time.

But Iran’s on at least one right track, sad as it is to say.[1] One of Iran’s state-owned newspapers has put out a call to cartoonists to deny in caricature the existence of the Holocaust, to test the West’s commitment to free expression which is demeaning and insulting and sacrilegious.

Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who rules only at the pleasure of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, has denied the Holocaust ever occurred, and threatened to remove Israel from the shores of the Mediterranean and blow Israel all the way to central Europe or the United States. …probably with a fan powered by the electricity generated by the nuclear plants Iran wants to build. Now, of course, the West has righteously insulted Greater Islamia by drawing pictures of that which muslims consider beyond mocking or criticism – the Prophet Mohammed. And in the name of freedom of expression.

Turnabout, being fair play – which, frankly, it is – a suitably beyond mocking or criticism parallel to test that idealistic commitment was proposed. What, in the West, is farther beyond criticism than the Holocaust? Certainly not Jesus. Art galleries in New York City have paintings of Jesus as Osama bin Laden. Jesus has been depicted as a homosexual in stage plays, and Robert Maplethorpe dunked a crucifix in urine, took a picture of it, hung it up in Cincinnati and called it art. Got paid by the government for doing it, too.

Mel Gibson didn’t need government funding to piss off not only a whole bunch of christians who didn’t like his movie about Jesus, but nearly every Jew on the planet for adding fuel to the “christ-killer” fire. But apart from the odd boycott and a few angry letters to the editor, Western christians don’t do much when they get righteously indignant. They certainly don’t go on firebombing sprees and torch a half or three-quarters of a dozen iconic edifices of their disgust.

Nope. In America, atheists do that.[2]

Jesus even died in a Christmas Eve shoot-out while saving Santa in Baghdad in a South Park episode.

So it’s fair to say that Jesus is fair game in America and the rest of the West. What isn’t fair game is denying the sacrosanct Holocaust. It severely pisses off the Jews, some of whom are still running around finding ex-Nazi guards to roust out of their wheelchairs and put on trial. It makes christians quake with the nervous trepidation of collective guilt. Even the atheists in America draw the line at Holocaust denial. Something about being sympathetic to others who’ve suffered from christian bullying.

As I say, I really hate to admit it, but the pan-islamist dopes have a point. We’re good at preaching “freedom of expression” here in the West, but when push comes to shove we prohibit expressions which contravene the secular or sociological orthodoxy every chance we get. Try getting a “nigger” in edgewise anywhere but on a rap CD. Try staying enrolled in a Pennsylvania college after you call a chubby chick a water buffalo. Try burning an American flag in front of the local VFW on Memorial Day.

Every one of those free expression offenses has a group which will proudly and publicly defend the offensive. But deny the Holocaust? Your defenders will be wearing white robes and hoods.

For that reason, mocking caricatures which deny the Holocaust would be a very good test of our faith in free expression. Hell, even mocking caricatures or jokes about the Holocaust which accept it as fact would work. Some of us took on the pan-islamist cultural untouchables, can we not take on our own?

Our Constitution, and the constitutions of the other Western nations, guarantees freedom of expression; that’s the justification for printing insulting caricatures of Mohammed. We can say and write what we want to, unless it violates someone else’s rights. Someone else’s legitimate rights, that is, not their desired rights. Most people desire a right to be free from insult or ridicule, but that “right” is not protected. Thus water buffalos are as fair a target as Jesus.

Having to hear religious or social blasphemies is also not protected. The great conspiracy theories – multiple gunmen in Dallas, or a lone gunman, depending on your conspiratorial perspective; the US Navy shot down TWA 880; Clinton murdered Vince Foster; Bush invaded Iraq to steal oil – are all living testament.

Yet when someone uses freedom of expression to offend persons or groups we’re hyper-sensitive to – American Indians and African Americans are two group which leap to mind – or groups that we’re overly solicitous of – Jews, for example – or groups who are ready to torch anything and everything they view as hostile – like pan-islamists are – we back off, and we tend to subordinate our legitimate rights to the infantile desires of the easily offended.

That’s what the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, sought to prove last September. They succeeded marvelously.

The US State Department, speaking on behalf of the nation which was the birthplace of free expression, and in a fit of mealy-mouthed mincing, has declared that even though the US supports freedom of expression, expressions “which incite religious or ethnic hatred” are unacceptable. In other words, you can insult others unless they really, really object.


The US defends our right to incite domestic political sectarian hatred, judging by the content of the nation’s op-ed pages during election cycles. Judging by NEA funding patterns, it’s acceptable to incite anti-christian hatred, as well. What’s the harm? Christians have long ago stopped marching onward as soldiers in any great numbers and become political lobbyists.

Jews? still on the Nazi hunt. Muslims? playing Queen of Hearts on the croquet pitch.

Is Ahmadinejad right about us? God help us if he is, because the Constitution seems to be useless.

[1] Yikes! I’ve commended France and I’m giving nodding assent to Iran, all in the same week. It really is the End Times, ainnit?
[2] If current events match the recent past, at any rate: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/02/07/church.fires.ap/index.html

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pre-Game Warm-Ups

Pre-Game Warm-Ups
© 2006 Ross Williams

I'm either prescient or I'm not, but in any case I enjoy watching the posturing that goes on before the first pitch. In baseball or world politics, both.

Personally, I believe Iran is setting itself up for a Third Millennium Thermopylae. For those who missed that class in Western Civ, Persia tried taking advantage of the European factionalism and invaded Greece. That required they send their entire army of a few hundred thousand soldiers across the Hellespont, through Thrace, across Macedonia and down the pass at Thermopylae. The Greeks knew they were coming and sent 300 Spartans[1] to meet them at the pass.

Three hundred Spartans... two hundred thousand Persians... some folks might call it a mismatch. It was, actually. The pass at Thermopylae was two-chariots wide; Greeks were armored with body-length iron shields and helmets, the Persians with woven reeds and dishtowels on their heads; the Greeks were armed with spears and short stabbing swords, the Persians with long, curved scimitars that required a full swing to do any damage. ... in the two-chariot wide pass at Thermopylae which didn't offer enough room to swing a dead cat. Or a even dead kitten.

Yes, it was a mismatch. The Persian army was decimated. As they've always been whenever they faced European forces.[2]

Latter-day Persia is squaring off against Western forces again, trying to take advantage of current European factionalism. At this point it's merely a war of words. Persia's chances are fairly good if that's all they're going to sling around. When Persia needs to turn tail is when the words turn into bullets and bombs.

But it would do most of us well to watch the words, and who's slinging them. That's what most of us – by which I mean "Westerners" – do not do well. We aren't good at paying attention to the pre-game. By the time the game is actually going, we don't know who's in the line-up, why the star player is sitting on the bench, who's not going to be used out of the bullpen and why, and then most of us criticize the manager for making bone-headed moves that we don’t understand because we weren’t paying attention in the first place.

If we'd pay attention to the pre-game show where most of this was covered, we’d know that what we think are bone-headed moves probably aren’t, and we wouldn't be making a fool of ourselves in the late innings. We're in what might very well be the pre-game show for the next Persian ass-kicking. It's time to pay attention. Here's the lineup:

Persia is now called Iran.

Persia's king is named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he is Iran's President. He used to be the Mayor of Tehran, and before that he was the "student leader" of the group that seized the US embassy in 1979.

Persia has been trying to build nuclear bombs, and had its nuclear facilities turned off by the UN's nuclear inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Persia has recently turned on their nuclear facilities, claiming that – with a double-digit percentage of the world's known oil supplies sitting under their sand – Iran needs nuclear power for electricity.

Nobody believes Persia wants to make electricity with enriched uranium, and Britain, France and Germany have been extremely critical for several years about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Persia's king recently declared that the Nazis never exterminated 6 million Jews, so Israel needs to be moved to Europe or North America. He as much as volunteered to do the moving.

Europe – and particularly France – has been accusing the United States of ignoring potential Iranian threats to peace and stability; American pseudo-enlighteneds have therefore been doing ditto.

Persia and Syria are the state sponsors of the terrorist group Hezbollah, which operates in Lebanon against Israeli interests.

Because Lebanon is what it is, Lebanon has little interest in participating as a proxy or pawn in the pan-islamist posturing against Israel. What Lebanon is is: heavily christian, tired of losing wars against Israel that are started by pan-islamist ninnies and which Lebanon is goaded into joining, tired of being treated as the red-headed step-child of every Arab-state neighbor which has expansionist notions – by which we mean Syria – and it wants to be left the hell alone.

Syria is severely implicated in the assassination of Lebanese politicians who have been telling Syria to get bent, and in the "suicides" of their own politicians who have been blamed for Lebanese interference.

Lebanon used to be to France what Cancun is now to America ... before the Palestinian Partitioning, and before Lebanon was goaded into joining anti-Israeli wars, and before they lost every one of them, and before the Syrian-inspired civil wars and two decades of Syrian occupation, and before Hezbollah was set up to turn Lebanon into a staging area for terrorism.

France kinda wants their playground back, and doesn't like Syria or Iran monkeying around with Lebanon, or using it as a Hezbollah-proxy battlefield.

France recently announced to the entire world in general – meaning Iran specifically – that if any terrorism targets French interests, France has no moral qualms about using nuclear weapons in retaliation against the state-sponsors of that terrorism, particularly if that state-sponsor has or is attempting to get nuclear weapons of its own.[3]

Persia's King recently announced to the world in general that if anyone – meaning France and the rest of Europe – tried stopping Iran from getting nuclear power – by which they mean nuclear weapons – that they would hold "the crusaders" responsible – by which they meant the US and Israel.

There's a few more players on the field, of course, but this identifies most of the big names. It's interesting to note the near-unanimous European position on Iran, which manifests itself in UN disapproval of Iran. It's interesting, because there was exceptionally similar European/UN disapproval of Iraq throughout the 90s as well, even up through late 2002, until it became obvious that the US was prepared to actually do something about it besides bloviate.

If the US does something about Persia besides bloviate, how long will it be before other nations in the west forget their complicity? How long will it take before the American dilettante pea-brains accuse the US of orchestrating the entire episode for some conspiratorial neo-con plot or other? The US really wants Persian oil as a bookend to the Babylonian oil we’re stealing from Iraq, or we’ve resurrected the Shah and want to put him back on the throne, or we’re fulfilling some zionist prophecy from an End Times religious cult, or something.

Iran has already stated that if France does anything, it will be America’s fault and they’ll take it out on Israel. It won’t take more than a half ounce of typical undergrad rationalization to conclude that it really was America’s fault and Israel needs to pay for it because not even France can do anything that isn’t approved by the US. America must really be as all-powerful as Iran says, which means that, golly, Iran is only trying to assert its own independence and that makes Iran the good guy here by standing up to the mean ol’ US.

Never mind that today these same people are claiming that we should be concentrating on Iran instead of Iraq, because Iraq was never a threat, and that we should have listened to Europe on Iraq anyway. They’ll change their story on Iran if and when the US puts its money where Europe’s mouth is. …again.

How do I know this? Because they changed their story on Iraq. All through the 90s, when the UN was defining Iraq as a “regional threat” to peace and stability, and the UN was finding boatloads of chemical weapons, chemical weapon factories, biological weapon programs and nuclear weapon parts in Iraq, America’s neophytes were claiming Hussein to be not merely a menace to other nations, but a genocidal crackpot who kills his Kurds and religious dissenters. Something should be done, Europe demanded. Yeah, something should be done, just like Europe says, American simpletons shouted.

Well, we did. And it wasn’t six months before the first vague quacks of quibbledicking could be heard. If there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the quibbledicks demanded to know in late 2003, where are they? Iraq was never a threat, the quibbledicks asserted; they were just an annoyance. Sure, Hussein was mean to his people, the quibbledicks rationalized, but being mean doesn’t necessitate war. If we invaded every nation with a mean leader…

The babies that were dying in the 90s because Hussein refused to follow the UN’s European-inspired sanctions magically became, in 2003, babies killed by evil US hegemonic imperialism. The Kurds being killed by Hussein were suddenly killed by Iranians using US weapons. The Shi’a that Hussein killed were forgotten.

The tiniest whispers of rationalized reality became the cacophony of The US is Always Wrong. And all it took was millions of Americans to not pay attention to the scouting reports before the game started. The weapons of mass destruction were there in 1998; the UN found, literally, tons of them. Where did they go? That’s a good question. I wonder if Syria has a good answer.

The US did listen to Europe in the 90s when they were babbling about Iraq. We went along with European-inspired sanctions, and the European-inspired Oil-for-Food fiasco – that the US abided by but Europe didn’t. And it was our fault. All of it.

Europe is now babbling about Persia; Persia has become the new Middle Eastern focus of European scorn… as Iraq was 10 years ago. Millions of unobservant American parrots are channeling their European doppelgangers and demanding to know why we aren’t actually doing something about Persia. Or else they’re scoffing at our inability to do something about Persia because we’re all quagmired in Iraq.

Europe is warning that it will be necessary to deal with Iran, and they’re probably right. Our faux-scient know-it-alls are scolding us for not being wise to Iran[4]. But if we do something about Iran, it won’t be a year before it all becomes our fault for doing something about Iran. Europe will have changed its mind and we’ll be scolded by our ignorant masses that we should have listened to Europe’s new warning: deal with North Korea instead, who is the real problem, and not Iran which is nothing more than a nuisance. Or maybe the real problem will be, by that time, the Darfur mess – which is a purely internal Sudanese matter. Or maybe it will be the Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba socialist trifecta coming up on the outside.

No matter what we do it’s wrong. That much is certain. If we listen to what Europe says now, we will have been advised to listen to Europe after they change their minds. If we listen to Europe later, we will have been better advised to listen to them now. If we don’t listen to Europe at all … well, Europe changes their minds often enough that whatever we do will be in step with their exhortations at some point.

As always, the fans who find their seats in the 5th inning after drinking overpriced beer for the first 4 will be right about everything. They always know more than the manager does. That’s the way baseball works.

And world politics.

[1] plus a handful of others who didn’t really figure in the battle. Sorry Thebes.
[2] Those who did pay attention to this class in Western Civ will want to quibble; they'll triumphantly declare that the Spartans lost their entire force. Right, they did. 300 Spartans and tens of thousands of Persians died at Thermopylae – give or take 2,500 years of historical exaggerations. Then they’ll quibble that the Persians conquered Athens … which was evacuated. What can’t be quibbled is that the remaining Persians met the united Greek army on the plains of Plataea, and ... well, Xerxes, the Persian king made it home. Mostly because he fled before the battle started. The rest of the Persians fertilized central Greece.
[3] The desire to point out the situational hypocrisy of France rears its head yet again. Not because I'm necessarily indignant about France being a hypocrite in international affairs, because national interests require hypocrisy in the short term to ensure survival in the long term. France knows what it's doing, and why; I know what France is doing, and why. My desire to point out France's situational hypocrisy is aimed at the neophytes and simpletons who actually believe that France is any more noble, altruistic and morally defensible than the US.
[4] aren’t these the same people who scolded Bush for including Iran in the Axis of Evil®? By golly, they are…

Madame Retiree

Madame Retiree
© 2006 Ross Williams

Sandra Day O'Connor finally gets to retire. After twenty-some-odd years on the Supreme Court being the lone voice speaking for women in America she gets to hang up her robe, put on her house coat, and knit sweaters and bake cookies for the grandkids. Hooray.

Some people will quibble that Ruth Bader Ginsburg also speaks for women on the High Court, but that's entirely debatable. Ruth speaks for some women, certainly; particularly those who believe in emasculating the United States. In a "think locally, act globally" turnabout, Ms Ginsburg famously declared – in some vague reference to environmental protectionism – that she didn't care where the notion came from, if it's a good idea it's a good idea, and she'd vote on rulings even if it violated US law and US Constitutional precept.

Tha-a-at's the kind of High Nine justice we all want. Isn't it? If a US industry follows US laws but pollutes anyway, our Supreme Court ought to apply the laws of, say, Sweden to punish the US-law-abiding US industry. The US shouldn't pollute, after all, and who knows how to control industrial pollution better than nations with no industry to speak of; it is intuitively obvious that we should follow Sweden's pollution-control laws.

But why stop there? If the US follows its laws and all the international laws relating to the treatment of unlawful combatants captured during hostile action, but some people think we're still rude anyway and sue the US, our Supreme Court ought to apply the rules of – why not? – Syria in dealing with pan-islamist militants.

The US shouldn't be rude, after all ... and who knows better how to deal with islamist militants than nations which breed them like flies?

Ginsburg’s critics might foolishly accuse her of ignoring rule of law, but that is simply preposterous. Ruth Bader very, very firmly advocates rule of law. Just not necessarily the rule of American law.

But at any rate, it's safe to say that Ms Ginsburg doesn't speak for all American women. Sandy, on the other hand, has been nearly unanimously hailed by men and women of the left, right and center. Last summer, she wanted to retire to her front porch, and the President nominated some schlub to replace her. The guy was whizzing through the Senate and it looked like O'Connor's grandkids might finally get hand-knit sweaters for Christmas… only to have the Head Robe die on us.

Liberals have long-claimed Bill Rehnquist was bad for the country, and I guess they finally proved their point. Rather than waiting to die until a junior Justice was replaced by a sound judicial candidate, he died prematurely thus selfishly absconding with that candidate for himself. What happened was a right-wing-whacko Chief Justice was replaced by a centrist, and leaving the centrist Sandra Day unable to retire. As I say: bad for America. Apparently. For some reason.

Of course, O'Connor still wanted to retire, so the President nominated a right-wing-whacko to replace her. And he'll make it. If you're keeping score on the Court, we've lost a centrist and a right-wing-whacko and we've gained a right-wing-whacko and a centrist. If you're anybody but a US Liberal, this is a wash. A draw. Even steven. Tie game called on account of tedium.

...if you're anybody but a US Liberal.

If you're a US Liberal, losing a centrist and a right-wing-whacko and gaining ditto is a loss. It's a two-vote swing in "the balance that the Supreme Court has upheld in all the years that Justice O'Connor has served there" ... to quote John Kerry, who can't add.

To further quote the innumerate Kerry: "What could possibly be more important than an entire shift in the direction of the Supreme Court of the United States?"

Um, Mister Senator? The shift in ideological composition of the US Supreme Court over the past twelve months is bupkus. You know what bupkus is, doncha John? It’s the number of Supreme Court nominations you got to make in your first term.

But that’s the level of idiot rhetoric being dispensed. Zero net change is a huge slide down some mythical slippery slope into the desperate legal backwaters of, oh, say, 1972.

By many accounts, the Court has three Liberals: Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter.

By many accounts, the Court has three Fascists: Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

By many accounts, the Court has three centrists: Kennedy, Roberts and Stevens.

Of course, by some accounts, those alignments shift, depending on your personal thoughts on what constitutes Liberal ideology or Fascist. I’ve heard many people describing the High Nine as fabulously fascistic after the infamous Kelo decision. However, the “fascists” on the Court which allowed local governments the power to seize personal property through eminent domain to hand over to private developers were the Liberals, Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter, joined by the centrists Stevens and Kennedy. The Fascists Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist [pre-Alito] and the centrist O’Connor were the ones caught voting on behalf of the Bill of Rights.

So it’s all a matter of perspective. If you have any, the Court is just about as evenly split as you can get without using a measuring spoon and a meat grinder. If you don’t have any, every case, every nomination, becomes a Lopsided Landmark in Waiting.

Rational citizens among us might legitimately wonder why the legally-perspectiveless haven’t stressed themselves to premature hair loss, ulcers, strokes and coronaries. Personally, I can’t wait for them to start dropping dead, even though I know they’d just be replaced by equally obtuse “court watchers”. But that’s the environment we find ourselves living in. And it’s annoying.

Not to mention insulting.

The hugely vast majority of Supreme Court decisions are about things that neither you nor I hear about, but will affect us. The Court rules against some corporation, which has to pay a fine or change their business practices, and suddenly their prices go up. We don’t know why; “ah, inflation … what can you do?”

The Supreme Court cases we hear about usually don’t affect us at all. The Kelo case – New London CT was allowed to abscond with the private property of Susette Kelo for the private benefit of land developers – which wanted to tear down houses to build …houses. Which would be sold for private profit. Unless you are Susette Kelo or any of the several dozen other landowners who were eminently domained, this ruling has no effect on you in any way other than to make you mad.

If you’re a commercial or residential developer, it would likely make you glad. But unless you are the New London Development Corporation, it also doesn’t affect you.

We all heard about the High Nine ruling on the attempt in 2005 to pass a federal law to force the state of Florida to keep Terri Schiavo plugged in. Virtually every American heard about that and had an opinion one way or another, yet virtually every American failed and refused to be Terri Schiavo, her husband, her parents or her siblings – who were the only people affected.

We’ve all heard about our current administration’s incursions into the Bill of Rights, by way of our rude treatment of Gitmo non-POWs, and Jose Padilla, and warrantless phone tappings of terrorist phone calls into the US. Yet unless you are one of the few hundred Yemeni hotheads caught playing war in Afghanistan, the Puerto Rican hothead who wanted to help them, or the handful of Americans their terrorist friends keep in contact with, none of the past or future Supreme Court rulings on these will affect you.

Right, right, these past and future rulings “will make it easier for the government to abuse the Bill of Rights”. Yet who can name any of the several court rulings which allowed warrantless and random roadside stops, searches, sometimes seizures and occasional compelled evidence, all absent probable cause? Who can name the similarly multifarious rulings which allowed the universal and warrantless searches and often seizures at airports and courthouses – of all ironic places?

Rulings which affect us … we are ignorant. Ruling which don’t … we trot them out at the drop of a hat and act all ideologically outraged about them. But ideology does not equal reality.

Which brings us to perhaps the most notorious example of High Nine irrelevance to daily life: Roe v Wade. Despite the ridiculous claims of the pro-abortion crowd, abortion does not affect “every woman”; despite the claims of the anti-choice activists, abortion does not offend “every American with a conscience”.

There are, by rough and popular estimates, 1.5 million abortions performed annually in the US. By rough and popular estimates, there are 150 million females in the US. Most Americans, apart from Senator Kerry, are math-capable enough to understand that abortion affects about 1% of our females. You don’t need to be Masters or Johnson to know that abortion affects zero percent of the males in the country – another roughly 150 million people.

Abortion affects just about ½ of 1% of Americans. Yet it dominates about 75% of the debate – if we can legitimately call it that, and we can’t – of our judicial nominees. Strident loudmouths on both edges of the issue have dominated the discussion since the mid-seventies, and those both stridently for and against don’t even comprise a majority of Americans. Together, they’re about one-third of our population.

An issue affecting 0.5% of Americans, dominated by one-third of us, and taking up three-fourths of our class time … again, Senator Kerry excluded, most of us can immediately see a problem. The numbers simply don’t make sense.

This means that the words which describe the numbers won’t make sense, either. And this is where the Senate has shown its greatest talent. Joe Biden is reportedly close to finding a question mark in his allotted Judiciary Committee question period. Ted Kennedy, fresh from scolding Mr Alito about belonging to a Princeton University boys club, finally quit his Harvard University boys club. And Dick Durbin may be realizing that he actually needs to stop asking questions long enough for an answer to be shoe-horned in.

I may be wrong about Durbin.

We have a new Supreme Court justice, we have the same Court balance that we had last year at this time, the sky is not falling, and the only thing that has changed are a few names. Let Sandy O’Connor bake her cookies.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This Just In

This Just In
© 2006 Ross Williams

Hamas won the elections.

Well, near enough. They got almost 50% of the vote, which means that in the multi-party politics of Parliamentary democracies[1] they're the odds-on favorite for running the show.

Here's how it works in democracies that are not the US: there's 15 or 20 different political parties, all roughly equally divided among the voters. When people go to the polls they vote for a party, rather than a candidate, and when the votes are all counted, seats in Parliament are apportioned according to the percentage of votes that party got in the election. If the Communist party received 22% of the votes, they get 22% of the seats in Parliament. If the Fascist party received 20% of the votes, they get 20% of the seats. If the Radical Green party got 19% of the vote, they get 19% of the seats.

Each party has candidates whose names are then pulled out of a hat, or rated by some kind of seniority system, and the seats in Parliament are handed out like door prizes to the lucky – or not so – few. So Parliament is seated, but there is still no "government". There's merely a fractious legislative body. They still need to accomplish the mundane tasks of naming a Prime Minister, and all the lesser ministers. This is done by, essentially, passing laws.

You can immediately see the problem. There is no legislative majority; the legislators were chosen as party faithfuls after a vote based entirely on party, not by the voters by candidate name. So what happens is that in order to create a "government" out of these disjointed party blocs, insider political brokering and back-room cigar-y power deals go on until a coalition of 51% of the seats in Parliament can be created. This is why nations like Canada, France, Germany and Israel have "ruling alignments" called the bizarre things they're called. Germany doesn't stoop to having a "Prime Minister", however; they have a "Chancellor". That apparently makes all the difference.

Various parties get together and make deals such as: "We'll trade you Prime Minister for Defense, Interior and Treasury." "Unacceptable. We have a larger share of Parliament, we need more Cabinet positions – Prime and Interior for us, Defense and Treasury for you..." "Okay, deal."

In our little example, we might see the Communist-Fascist-Radical Green coalition. And on the surface, it seems preposterous. Just keep in mind, though, that political philosophy aside, the methods each uses to effect their political goals are essentially identical: un-nuanced, centralized dictatorship. A pinko-greenie-black shirt government is very ... Italian.

So that's the deal with the Palestinian elections. Hamas – heretofore known as "crushingly impoverished rabble who still manage to be rich enough to buy guns and bombs and bullets" – has won a majority of the seats in the Palestinian, um, Parliament. That honor, if it can be called such, used to belong to the Fatah party – until recently headed by Yassir Arafat. Arafat, as we all know, was the corrupt and ineffectual but much-loved presidential mouthpiece for Palestinian anti-semitism. This version of anti-semitism wanted to push Israel into the sea the same as Hamas, but Fatah wanted Israel to help with the heavy lifting. Because Fatah recognized Israel would need to assist in its own destruction, Fatah has been considered relatively diplomatic. To many in Palestine, the fact that Fatah has recognized Israel's existence means that Fatah is filled with traitors.

Except for Arafat. You can't say that about Arafat, because, ... well, because.

Arafat is now dead; his political leadership of a devastatingly poor and beleaguered people has left his widow a very wealthy woman – in a suburban Paris apartment – and his much-loved corruption and incompetence was replaced by the somewhat less corrupt, but equally incompetent Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is merely tolerated.

For decades Fatah has been called "the moderate voice" in Palestine, and it has ruled the "Palestinian Authority", the nascent political body purportedly in charge of the Palestinian people, including Hamas terrorists who resist any political authority, including their own. It seems Hamas now has the political authority they have long-resisted.

And the first thing they did with their political power is to stage a rock-throwing take-over of the Palestinian Parliament building. That's right; Hamas won control of the Palestinian legislature in an election – and hence will control the Palestinian version of "government" – so the first thing they did is rush the Parliament building as an armed rabble and pelt "the opposition" with stones.

If that doesn't bode well for the Palestinian people's future, I don't know what does. And it's not like the Fatah politicians were claiming a fraudulent election and refused to concede defeat, either. They had all resigned. Hamas simply did what they do best: militarism. Not coincidentally, they did it in such a way as to ensure success: wait until the building is virtually empty and then storm it. Typically, Hamas undertakes its military operations when their target is filled with Israeli Defense Force units, and the Hamas "soldiers" end up as dark red grease in the treads of IDF tanks.

So Hamas finally won a military engagement: they took over the Parliament building they'd just won the keys to. Give them all a medal!

The question now on everyone's minds is: what’s next? I can see many results coming, some chilling, others worthy of National Lampoon script-writers, and those in between. Here’s a few:

For decades, Hamas has been more or less subordinated to the politics of Fatah – although the victims of Hamas bombings in Haifa might want to quibble. But it's not seriously debatable that this election has stripped away any formal pretense of subduing Hamas terrorism. It could be 1948 all over again. So the first possibility is that a new "government" run by Hamas will replace the simmering Intifada with an openly declared war on Israel, and the results will be, predictably, the same as ever. Israel will kick the Palestinians' ass all over Gaza and the West Bank – as is their legitimate responsibility to Israeli citizens when being attacked – and thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, of Palestinians will die in the inevitable carnage. Much of the rest of the world will react with horror at the one-sided slaughter and condemn, yet again, Israel for being good at self-defense rather than at the Palestinians for being incompetent murderous brutes. Many Middle Eastern nations – such as Iran and Syria – will rattle their scimitars and may even participate, with the same results as before: embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Jews.

The possibility of escalation into a world-wide war is somewhat more plausible in 2006 than it was in 1948 or 1967. Can you say "biblical prophecies"? I knew you could.

Or Fatah and Hamas might stage their own Arabic Armageddon and beat each other to death and save Israel the trouble. Hamas invasions of their own Parliament building and Fatah-led Gaza riots against future Hamas rule sure seem to be leading up to it. They might eventually succeed in doing more than breaking windows and burning cars.

What is it with Arabs and cars? They're either burning them in Paris or Gaza riots or blowing them up in Iraq. If you were from another planet and weren't hip to the politics, you might think Arabs were trying to rid the world of automobiles and innocent people just get in the way.[2]

Next, and perhaps more likely, is that Hamas will be left alone in their task of government creation – and without any formal training or experience in public policy-making or administration. Fatah has flatly rejected Hamas' request to help form a government, and Israel certainly won't help. Hamas has operated for decades on the principle that there's no political problem that can't be fixed with a judicious dose of paramilitary hooliganism – witness their first acts of political power against their own people – and it is very likely that they will use old habits in new situations. If the only tool you have is a belt of explosives, you tend to see every problem as a Tel Aviv bar mitzvah.

It is very possible that Hamas will apply its ham-handed tactics in their own government policies meant to govern the Palestinian people, and the Ramallah voters will learn for themselves what every Israeli citizen has known since The Partitioning. It would be better to be governed by a corrupt and incompetent Fatah than a corrupt, incompetent and dangerous Hamas. Giving Hamas power may very well be the act that causes their demise... from the inside out.

Then again, giving Hamas political power may just inspire them to grow the hell up, cut their hair, get a job, buy a house with a mortgage and become boring old taxpayers who grouse about another tedious dinner of fattoush and hummus with the Saeeds, and kvetch about the creeping secularism of the school board which wants to educate girls up to a 6th grade literacy. Chevy Chase is getting a bit long in the tooth to play the role of Ahmed Salim, one-time bomb-making rapscallion from Gaza City, but recently named Interior Minister of the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Will Ferrell seems to have assumed the Chevy Chase mantel for acting roles too embarrassing to be listed on a resume.

We open with Ferrell looking dazed and confused as he rummages in a crate among RPGs, Kalishnikovs and plastic explosives. He finds what he's looking for and places family photos – him with seven fully burqad women – on the desk of his Interior Ministry office. Steve Carell, the new Ambassador to Israel, stops by and they reminisce in flashback to their days of mirth and prankstership of blowing up cafes in Jerusalem and rocket attacks on Jewish settlements in Gaza. Ah, Intifada ... what a hoot.

But alas, they are older now, and while not necessarily wiser, they have responsibilities and the weight of governing takes its toll. Their lives become budget appropriations, pot-hole repairs[3], endless meetings with the Prime Minister – Jeremy Piven[4] – to discuss minimum wage legislation, and the like. Gone are the terrorist hijinx of their youth. Directed by Michael Lembeck.

It ends with a weary Ferrell defending the direction his life took from his son, who accuses him of becoming mainstream, while his Jewish mistress serves him bagels and lox.

Don't scoff; stranger things have happened. Menachim Begin and Yassir Arafat actually shook hands once, and they won the Nobel Peace Prize for it.

[1] yeah, Palestine, a democracy. Who knew?
[2] "He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans." Navin R Johnson, The Jerk
[3] blast crater repairs, whatever
[4] yes, he's Jewish, that’s why they call it acting