Monday, February 28, 2005

In Blog We Trust

BLOG - by Hugh HewittThose of us who haunted the center-right blogs on Election Night 2004 well remember Hugh Hewitt. Right about at dinner time on the east coast the spurious exit polls had created the beginnings of a blog storm of foreboding and despair. But when you pulled up his blog at, you heard the voice of common sense: "Don't panic; exit polls are unreliable. Relax. Wait for the real results. You have a responsibility not to discourage later Bush supporters from going to the polls. Etc. Etc." He was like Dad, coming into our bedroom and turning on the light, saying, "That's not the boogeyman! That's just your coat on the chair. There's nothing under the bed, see? And no monster in the closet." And there we were, sitting on the bed in our Winnie-the-Pooh pajamas, looking sheepish.

And Hugh was right. His was the voice one could trust, which is why his blog (and his radio program) command such a large audience.

"Trust" is one of the main themes of Hugh Hewitt's latest book, Blog. Blogs live and die by the truth (or lack thereof), and for a blog to thrive, it has to sustain the trust of its readers:
The key to keep in mind is that trust drives everything. To build and maintain trust is a tremendously difficult thing, requiring patient attention to detail and discipline over long periods of time. Mistakes by bloggers will be forgiven, but certainly not stubborn attachment to falsehood. As you explore the blogosphere and perhaps enter it or assign others to do so, put the "trust" question on the table and keep it there. (p. 155)
On a similar note, in Canyon News John Armor responds to Steve Lovelady, Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review:
Although tens of thousands, if not more, participate actively, the leaders of the blogosphere number no more than a couple hundred. My experience with these people is that they are much like me. Most have graduate degrees and are professionals. There are lawyers, engineers, teachers, doctors and reporters - among other professions. I have listed those in roughly the numbers they appear, and yes, there are reporters and editors who are members of the blogosphere.

It may be galling to Steve that some of his own have "gone over to the dark side." But the reason is that some reporters still remember the purpose of their profession. The long version, which Steve has apparently forgotten, is: who, what, when, where, why and how. The short version is: get the facts right, first.
In Blog, Hugh Hewitt sets about exploring the nature of this new medium, its brief history, and its future. The tremendous information explosion that has taken place in the last decade is moving so quickly that it is hard to comprehend. I am typing these words on a three-year old version of Microsoft Word, and when I spell-check my text, "blog" and "blogosphere" are flagged as spelling errors. That's how quickly this process is moving.

Hewitt sees an analogy to the current blog explosion in the Protestant Reformation, with the printing press being the technological innovation that drove the process, just as the PC networks are driving the current process. In the blogosphere we have the same democratization of information flow that occurred when Martin Luther printed and distributed his Vulgate Bible.

The lag time between the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg (1449) and Luther's Ninety-five Theses (1517) was about seventy years; that is, it took seven decades for the invention to reach its full potential and trigger an information revolution. Looking at our own time, what would be the analogy? It has been roughly sixty years since the first computers were built, when the discipline of cybernetics was invented and Claude Shannon did his ground-breaking work. Now, three generations later, the Theses are nailed to the door.

In the three centuries following Luther's challenge to the Church, the same information revolution powered an explosion of scientific and technological innovation that ushered in the Industrial Revolution and guaranteed the ascendancy of the Christian West. Also during the same three centuries the Islamic tide threatening Christendom in the advance of the Ottoman Empire was finally stalled and reversed.

When the Turks fell back from the Gates of Vienna in 1683, they were retreating from the technological and cultural powerhouse that Europe had become during the information revolution. Christianity regained its ascendancy; the West regained its vitality; and Islam began its long decline.

The Islamic world was unable to generate the technology and organizational innovations which made the West supreme, but they borrowed and stole what they could. Unable to match the genius of the West, they were always a few steps behind, and could not keep up.

Now, during the Age of the Blog, the same thing is happening: the Islamists borrow the technology and ideas of the West to advance their ends. They cannot build the machines or create the software, but the enemy acquires them and learns to use them against us.

We can only hope that they remain several steps behind us. Our advantage in the West, since the time of Gutenberg, has lain in the free and open flow of information. If each individual is empowered with complete and trustworthy information, as a collective we are undefeatable.

What will the next three centuries bring for us, powered by the new Reformation? Will the old enemy stand at the new virtual Gates of Vienna and be driven back? If so, it will be due to the quality of the information swarms racing through our networks at the speed of light.

In Blog we trust.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Death of Curiosity

In a culture where curiosity has space to roam, play and experiment, its political and economic spheres are vibrant markets for the exchange of ideas. For what, in the realm of man, can move faster than the speed of thought?

But what about those cultures where sanctuary is found in orthodoxy, where the fear of being wrong trumps liveliness, where straitjackets of correct thinking/believing are donned by its inhabitants in order than they might live in security?

What indeed. These polities leave their citizens with two ways to maneuver in the world. Boredom is one option. Mayhem is the other. DavidWarren starts in the middle by conflating these two processes but his take on these phenomena, particularly as they pertain to the Middle East, is insightful:

            Boredom is seriously underestimated as a motive cause in history. And among the more intelligent young, it is always potentially lethal. The madrassas and "universities" of the Islamic world -- places like the venerable Al Azhar in Cairo -- do in fact produce sharp minds. But educated in a strict monotheism that is, if anything, over-focused. The symbiotic relationship between the terrorist gangs, and the Muslim world's madrassas, is almost too easy to explain.

In order to see this more clearly, it is important to go back to the beginning, when curiosity begins to be suppressed. Several examples would serve to demonstrate the results -- the development of the human being within the family comes to mind on the microcosmic level; for the macrocosm the development of a culture will serve. Let's take, say, Islamic culture as the model. For a model which uses both, one could take the Muslim child as he develops within his family.

First, he has to be given the reasons for his incessant "whys" -- particularly those "whys" which begin with "why do I have to," the ones that are answered "because Allah wills it so." There is little wiggle room here, little mental space in which to play with ideas that don't jibe with the received wisdom of his family. Children, who instinctually recognize their dependence on the grown-ups, surrender their questions in exchange for emotional security. Not a bad trade for the very young. Unfortunately, the consequence for the child is boredom of a most exquisite nature. The world is small, predictable, and increasingly colorless and uninteresting.

And then... and then... along comes adolescence with all its attendant turmoil. Boredom driven by hormones and the idealism of youth transmogrifies to mayhem -- and it's off to jihad we go. By now, this hypothetical child is thoroughly immured in the necessity for submission ("Islam," after all, means "submission"). The drive for perfect submission degrades and perverts the most human of qualities: the desire to know. Perfect submission in Islam is a public thing, it drives out fear, replacing it with deadness so that the human heart is perverted to desire personal honor above truth, love or fidelity.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Democracy's Purple Finger

Sometimes, what doesn't happen is more important than what does. And sometimes not. Sometimes experience supplies the necessary context to know which things to leave out and which to include in your strategy. A simple version might be "know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em."

On the topic of elections in the Middle East, you know the drill by now: first the received wisdom said that the Middle East wasn't 'ready' for consensual government. Then they said it wasn't ready right now, that January was much too soon to allow elections in Iraq. Then they said... oh, never mind. You know only too well what they said, droning on and on predictably as the crowd thinned and tip-toed away, leaving only the ghosts of the Empire's colonial governors as audience.

All the blather about Bush's lack of nuance, his bull-in-a-china-shop diplomacy, his cowboy idiocy. All the secret novenas murmured by the Left, praying for failure and death and destruction just to make themselves right. And now here comes...

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, deciding by fiat that there will be multiple-candidate elections in his country. And why? Was it the Iraqi elections? Was it the Syrian-mandated madness in Lebanon? Was it because the Secretary of State stood him up for their date with destiny? Who's to say... perhaps it was the critical mass of all these events. Perhaps he's hoping that his consensual-democracy-by-fiat will persuade Condoleezza to show up in those boots.

Whatever the reason, change is in the air. It can no more be stopped than can the sweet clean air of Spring when April sweeps in...

May the Egyptians share the glory of the purple-fingered fate of freedom.

Surely God has a sense of humor? A finger dipped in purple ink? Ukraine dressed in orange? Let us just say that there will be more colors to come. Let us just say that God was not a decorator in His former life.

Whatever her dress, Democracy has arrived, a bit shabby and out of breath, in the Purple -- I mean Fertile -- Crescent.

        The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

                -- Omar Khayyam

Read 'em and weep, Saddam.

The Tipping Point

Today the AP reported (via Haaretz) that Egypt is about to implement democratic reform:

     CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the constitution changed to allow multi-candidate presidential elections in September, making a surprise reversal yesterday that could mean he will face a challenger for the first time since taking power in 1981.

It was the first significant move toward political reform in decades in Egypt, a powerhouse in the Arab world that has had one-party rule for more than half a century. The announcement came amid increasing calls for political reform from the domestic opposition and from the United States and after historic Iraqi and Palestinian elections that brought a taste of democracy to the region.

Opposition figures and reform advocates welcomed Mubarak's announcement, but some feared it may only be a superficial change to appease pressure at home and abroad. The step came as a dispute sharpened with the United States over Egypt's arrest of one of the strongest proponents of multi-candidate elections.

Does any sane person believe that this would have occurred if President George W. Bush and the American military had not liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from the grip of brutal tyrannies? Can anyone assert with a straight face that election reform in Egypt would have occurred if Iraq had not just experienced its first democratic election, with millions of Iraqis braving the threat of death to stain their fingers with purple ink? Could anyone not acknowledge that Condoleezza Rice's decision to cancel a trip to Egypt (in order to express her government's displeasure at Egyptian autocracy) had no effect on President Mubarak's decision?

This may be lip service on the part of the Egyptians. It may come to nothing; after all, centuries of autocratic habit make a change of course difficult and hazardous. But Egypt has confirmed that George W. Bush is correct: all human beings everywhere aspire to liberty, and the spread of democracy is indeed the calling of our time. Expedience will require us to settle for less, and bide our time. But the principle is affirmed.

The Left will likely never acknowledge the significance of this event, or even that it has occurred. The shrill chorus of those who hate "Bushitler" will not be silenced. But the truth will be here, for history to record.

We have passed the tipping point.

Madame Secretary Fires a Shot Over the Jib in Hijab

Image can determine reality, though more often it simply reflects it. The Muslim women who not only wear the burqa, but embrace it as a point of security, look to observers like sufferers of the Stockholm Syndrome -- i.e., they identify with the strictures of their oppressors in order to procure emotional and physical security for themselves while managing a precarious intellectual assonance with a demeaning and limited situation.

Often Muslim men (and women) point to the Western images of feminine fashion, whose trend of the last thirty years has become degraded to such an extent that ten year old girls dress like prostitutes and think they're 'cool.' This vogue of trash fashion leaves nothing to imagine and even less to desire. Muslim men in Western culture blame these 'fashion statements' for their gang-raping of Western women and children. "It's not our fault; they advertise their goods and we are men, we cannot help it." That defense is as old as it is limp.

And now comes the Honorable Madame Secretary of State for the United States of America, striding forth in a long, severely cut black coat with gold buttons. A skirt at the knee. Shiny black boots with three inch heels. No trash trends for her, and no boring sack suits with pearls and sensible heels. Madame Secretary, you may have started a revolution among Muslim women.

Now it remains to be seen in what manner Hillary will respond.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A One-Way Valve

In Commentary, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross discusses the plight of Muslims who convert to Christianity:

      In fact, thousands of Muslims in the West embrace Christianity each year, and the courage they must muster to do so is of an entirely different order from the bravado of someone protesting against supposedly pervasive social prejudice. These converts stand accused, rather, of apostasy, a transgression against Islam whose consequences, even in the sheltering confines of the West, are always serious-and sometimes deadly.

In the Islamic world, there is a broad consensus, both popular and scholarly, that apostates deserve to be killed. A rich theological and intellectual tradition, stretching as far back as Muhammad and his companions, supports this position. Though official proceedings against those who reject Islam are fairly rare -- in part, no doubt, because most keep their conversion a closely held secret -- apostasy is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Comoros, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen.1 It is also illegal in Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, and Qatar.

The greatest threat to apostates in the Muslim world derives not from the state, however, but from private individuals who take punishment into their own hands. In Bangladesh, for example, a native-born Muslim-turned-Christian evangelist was stabbed to death in the spring of 2003 while returning home from a film version of the Gospel of Luke. As another Bangladeshi apostate told the U.S. Newswire, "If a Muslim converts to Christianity, now he cannot live in this country. It is not safe. The fundamentalism is increasing more and more."

This trend is not confined to the traditionally Muslim countries. In the Times Online, Anthony Browne describes what happens to British Muslims who dare to convert to Christianity:

      While those who convert to Islam, such as Cat Stevens, Jemima Khan, and the sons of the Frank Dobson, the former Health Secretary, and Lord Birt, the former BBC Director-General, can publicly celebrate their new religion, those whose faith goes in the other direction face persecution. Mr Hussein, a 39-year-old hospital nurse in Bradford, is one of a growing number of former Muslims in Britain who face not just being shunned by family and community, but attacked, kidnapped, and in some cases killed. There is even a secret underground network to support and protect those who leave Islam. One estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western societies have lost their faith, which would mean that in Britain there are about 200,000 apostates.

There was a time when Christianity exhibited a similar intolerance towards apostates, when those who rejected the Christian faith risked torture and death. But such conditions are now several centuries in the past. The worst an apostate Christian faces today in most places is ostracism and being disowned by his family; Muslims, however, are doomed to live in the Middle Ages.

Consider the process from the point of view of Islamist Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad. This is an excerpt from an interview he gave in Britain:

      Q: What would be the rights of Christians in a restored Caliphate?

A: As citizens, in terms of welfare and security, education, etc., they will be equal. They will be exempt from national service, although they can volunteer. They will pay the Jizya poll-tax for security and signifying that they submit to Islamic law, except if they join the army. This need not be levied with humiliation. Nor is it levied on women, children, clergy, elderly, etc., only on mature, working males.

No private schools will be allowed, and there will be an Islamically influenced national curriculum. No new churches will be permitted, but existing ones will be allowed. Private consumption of alcohol will be permitted, but not its public sale. All state officials must be Muslims, save for the Caliph's assistants to advise him about relations with non-Muslim citizens. Muslims could not convert to Christianity on pain of execution. [emphasis added]

Since Islam aggressively proselytizes, this one-way valve of conversion ushers new believers into the Ummah while ruthlessly preventing their escape from it. If one adds to this process the demographic advantage which Muslim nations currently enjoy, one would expect the Ummah to expand. In the West, Islam is spreading fairly rapidly, notably through the prison system, where Saudi-funded chaplains find a susceptible population of idle young men. Given the virulent strain of Wahabbism being promoted, it is not surprising that Islam should find such success among those prone to violence.

There are no reliable statistics on the growth of Islam in the West, either by conversion or migration. Indeed, some European countries refuse to collect such statistics, preferring instead to avert their eyes from the growing menace within their borders.

If the efforts of the faithful against the apostates are successful, and the number of conversions into Islam exceeds the number of conversions out of it, all of our JDAMs and armies and elections and alliances are of no use; the victory of the jihadis is assured.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Examining the Questions

Over at Shrinkwrapped the good doctor is contemplating this question:
Why is it that some people have so much trouble questioning themselves?
He goes on to consider New Sisyphus' answer to this problem and then describes the distortions and dissonances the Left must create and maintain to shore up an increasingly Ptolemaic cosmology... Presumably he includes here the impotent fury which resides the descriptions of Bush as simian, slimy and sinister. Now there is a bundle of contradictions for you.

The closed universe of the American Left - and of European Socialism, which it resembles - is not only gated shut, it is shrinking in relevance and meaning. The choice of issues it chooses as "burning" are conflagrations fewer and fewer are showing up to watch. Smart politicians (read "those who might wish to be re-elected") are moving right in order to keep up with their voters. The trivialized and trifling -- academia and media -- don't need to leave the enclave. But thanks to the dynamic movement that life is, no one needs to bang on the gate anymore in order to request a hearing.

One wonders if they even notice that the neighborhood is emptying out. Except for some fellow traveling jihadists, they will die alone. Unmourned.

The sadness lies in the fact that it didn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Co-Opting Jihad

Islam may be unique among world religions. It appears to be the only one which admits no tolerance, no 'dialogue', no comparison of texts to see what other Holy Books besides the Quran have to say about our journey here and its possible meaning. But to the Muslim there is no other Holy Book, the Quran is the only one. It exists to be recited, not analyzed, redacted, or personally interpreted. Any other use is apostasy and the consequence is death. Death by Allah.

Islam is a rigorous belief system; not for the faint of heart. For more than a thousand years Moslems has fought and conquered infidel lands, wreaking havoc and death in its application of righteous jihad. Civilizations have fallen before its inexorable power. The prospect of death by the sword has stricken terror into countless hearts, has turned more than one fervent soul toward Mecca.

Now, in our time, Islam sallies forth yet again to deal death and destruction to unbelievers, to follow Mohammed's teaching of Allah's will regarding the annihilation of those outside the Quran's teachings. The fierce followers of Allah bring down tall buildings, blow up children, televise beheadings, hide in mosques and hospitals, and stand belligerently astride the universal commonweal of civil and martial law, slashing the bonds of common agreement among nations.

After WWII, Muslims began to immigrate to infidel Europe in large numbers. Once there, they acclimated without assimilating. The Quran says that where they do not dominate, they must live in Dar al Sulh, a temporarily peaceful behavior and mind-set which allows for interaction with the unbeliever until such time that Islam comes to predominate, at which point the infidels can be dealt with in justice and truth. Muhammed's truce with Mecca is the best examplar of this approach.

When the time is ripe, when Allah wills it, Europe will become Dar al Harb, Islam at war, though again this is but a temporary stopping place along the way to Dar al Islam. This is the final destination, the place where infidels will convert, or become subjects under Islam, or they will die. In the perfect Islamic vision there will be no expulsion since the whole world will be Allah's; there will be no fair field that is not an Islamic field, no unclean place to send unbelievers except to the sword. And thus, finally safe from apostasy and evil, will the world be subject to Allah's will once and for all.

This world view is, obviously, a closed one. Absolutist, terrifying to those who are forced to yield, and impossible to turn aside. Except...

...who would have thought anyone would consider tunneling into the cave instead of out of it? Yet the Muslim Boys in London are doing exactly that. Feral and intransigently criminal, the Muslim Boys appear to be afraid of nothing. And they love Islam. But here's the catch for their 'brother' Muslims: it's Islam on the bruvs' terms, not on Mohammed's.
...what makes them unique is that they are so-called "converts", whose perverted interpretation of Islam is central to their identity as killers and criminals. Their stamping grounds are the estates of south London, where they hole-up in safe houses, living ascetic lives in stark contrast to the " blingbling" lifestyle of other gangs.
The beginning of their story, one of deprivation and neglect with its eventual outcome in prisons for robberies, assaults, murders-all the behaviors of the thrown-away underclass young male in Britain-has become commonplace, as has their introduction to Islam as an alternative "life-style." Their 'conversion' and eventual banding together seems to have begun in the jails where Muslims do so much missionary work. The discipline and rigors of Islam have great appeal for those who have known little of either. Thus, less than two years ago, there emerged a group of "hardcore"

Afro-Caribbean "Muslim converts" {who} began violently "taxing" the south London criminal community. Dressed in long, flowing black leather coats, as in the film The Matrix, and initially dubbed "the Taliban Terrorists", these were exconvicts who had been turned on to Islam in prison, and who began to use the austere discipline of Islam to fashion a criminal network with a "higher" purpose.

Their first targets were other criminals - especially local drug dealers and pimps - who were ordered to pay "protection money". If the dealers refused, they were held at gunpoint, often facing the muzzle of a MAC-10.

In the early days, there were about 25 hardcore members, plus 40 " footsoldiers". They had come out of a gang called the SMS, the South Man Syndicate, and now began to rope in other crews, such as The Brotherhood and the Stockwell Crew, evolving into an umbrella crew called the PDC, Poverty Driven Children. To this day, gang members refer to themselves as PDC, regarding the Muslim Boys as a term used by outsiders.

By January 2004, the gang had managed the unique feat of uniting the bitterly divided south-east black criminal-fraternity against them.
The emnity of other criminals doesn't deter them. Nor does police action. One thing which does anger them-mortally so for their victims-are peers who fail to convert to their way of thinking, or who backslide. They are dealt with summarily and without mercy. Forced conversions are a new twist on an old terror; for the bruvs, it's all a part of loyal family feeling. David Cohen, a journalist from The Evening Standard, reports this conversation with "Winston," a Muslim Boy who agreed to be interviewed:

Here's how gang member Winston describes "conversion". "You got to be Muslim to be in our group," he tells me. "If you not down [cool] with Muslim, we visit your home, maybe strip you naked in front of your f***ing mother, we put a gun in your mouth. We give you three days [to change your mind], then, if you not down with it, we f***ing blow...
The remonstrations of imams that the bruvs are not "true" Muslims fall on the deaf ears of the Poverty Driven Children. For the bruvs, the imams are there to serve, and their functions are simple: open up the mosque when told to do so by the bruvs. When asked about his belief in Islam, Winston's description of his spiritual life at the mosque is to the point
... I ask Winston whether he believes in Islam... he prevaricates. "Sort of," he says. "I converted when I was in prison. I found it relaxing, we got better food. Now we all go to mosque together. If I refuse, they blow [shoot] me, innit. I pray twice a day: before I do crime, and after. I ask Allah for a blessing when I'm out on the street. Afterwards, I apologise to Allah for what I done."

Winston becomes angry when I show him the Brixton mosque's denunciation of his crew as "bogus Muslims", crushing their statement in his fist. "F***ing cheek!" he says. "Mocking us. There be retribution for this!"
Islam is learning a bitter lesson in underclass Britain. It is a lesson the Catholic Church learned in Haiti, when the African population subverted Christain saints to their own native religious needs. Try as they might, the Catholic missionaries never prevailed; voodoo and Catholic saints were intertwined in a complicated but completely Haitian worldview. It worked for the Haitians; it subverted the Church. Now, in Britain, the Poverty Driven Children are re-imagining Islam for their own needs.

Unfortunately for the terrorists in Islam, a new generation of jihadists just upped the ante.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Judeo-Christian Values

In my previous post, Naming Ourselves, I posed the question: Who are we? In today's Jewish World Review, Dennis Prager has supplied part of the answer: we are the collective embodiment of our common values. Speaking of Christianity and Judaism, he says:

Both religions are based on the Hebrew Bible, which Judaism and Christianity hold to be divine or divinely inspired. Clearly, then, they will share values...

One way to understand Judeo-Christian values, therefore, is as values that emanate from a Judeo-based Christianity. Christians have always had the choice to reject the Jewish roots of Christianity (which, when done, enabled Christian anti-Semitism), to ignore those roots, or to celebrate and embrace them. American Christians have, more than any other Christian group, opted for the latter.

(...) Judeo-Christian values combine the two religions' strengths - the Jewish emphasis on moral works in this world with the Christian emphasis on keeping G-d at the center of one's values and works.

(...) In sum, despite whatever differences they have, Jews and Christians need each other and Judaism and Christianity need each other. The Judeo-Christian values system has become a uniquely powerful moral force. Among its many achievements is that it is the primary contributor to America's greatness.
Read the whole thing: The case for Judeo-Christian values: Beliefs vs Values.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Naming Ourselves

Ever since the 9/11 attacks the center-right blogosphere has resounded with calls to name our enemy: Islamic fascism. The Bush Administration is reluctant to do so, preferring as an opponent the more sanitary “terrorism”. It is not necessarily political correctness at work here; for the indefinite future the United States has to make common cause with regimes in very ardently Islamic countries such as Pakistan and Jordan. To include “Islamic” in the naming of our enemy would make the work of our diplomats that much harder.

But there is no denying that we are in a religious war, and that our enemy is Islamic. The enemy has decided to war on us for religious reasons, because we are infidels. Our enemy is Islamic, even if it is not all of Islam, and our enemy is at war with anyone who does not submit to Allah. He is even at war with those fellow Muslims who reject his narrow Wahabbist brand of Islam.

But who are we? 

If we do not answer this question ourselves, we allow the enemy to define us. We are the infidels, the heathens, the agents of Satan, the tools of the Jews, the spawn of apes and pigs, cowards who wallow in hedonistic filth and prostitution. Our enemy has a very clear idea of his adversary.

But who are we? 

We are not only Americans, we are Britons and Australians and Indians and Czechs. We are not only Christians, we are Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists. We speak many languages, though English seems to be our common tongue.

But who are we? 

We believe in human liberty, in the inherent dignity of each human being. We acknowledge the right of each person to choose his own path in life, as constrained by the equal right of his fellows. We do not believe that being born to a particular race, nationality, or sex confers any special limitations or privileges upon a person.

We treasure the accumulation of the products of the human intellect across all time and cultures, and value the thorough education of our young.

We believe in the sanctity of private property, and acknowledge that the right of the individual to hold and trade his property as he sees fit contributes to the common good. We believe that the various forms of consensual government, in which rulers are chosen by the ruled, are, though imperfect, the best models for a humane polity that have yet been devised.

But who are we? 

We are people who never deliberately inflict torture and death upon innocent civilians. We are people who do not believe that God directs us to behead a helpless victim and record the act on video. We are people who do not blow up a busload of children to make a political point or express a grievance. We are people who do not find in indiscriminate slaughter of fellow humans any kind of political solution.

We are a humane people, one that goes the extra mile to accommodate those with whom we disagree. We are also a people who, when our children are threatened with harm, respond with unprecedented, unquenchable, and tireless ferocity.

But who are we?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

It's Steam Engine Time

In my most recent post, The Enemy Within, Part III, I explored the ways in which religion and science have parted company, and the resulting emergence of the religion of Orthodox Secularism. In today's Jewish World Review, Cal Thomas takes on the same issue:
Historically, Christians dominated the professions, not solely by force of law, but by the power of their ideas and example... What happened to rob music, philosophy, law and science of such great thoughts and expressions? In part it was preaching that asserted engagement with "the world" would taint the believer and so it was best to separate one's self from its "corrupting" influence. The result has been similar to what happens when a feeding tube is removed from a comatose person. The patient starves to death.

Culture is starving because too many with a worldview that differs from the prevailing one have withdrawn their nurturing influence. It doesn't help when such people are persuaded it is better to criticize institutions and their products, rather than going them one better.
Read the whole thing: Shedding light in dark places.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Enemy Within, Part III

A Great Reawakening

My last post on this topic left unanswered the question: Do we have adequate weaponry in our spiritual armory to fight this enemy? The enemy possesses a self-righteous zeal born of overweening spiritual self-confidence. Can the West muster the spirituality to counter the mortal evil of its foes?

America is the most religious and spiritual of the advanced Western nations. Although Orthodox Secularism is ascendant in the permanent federal bureaucracy, the media, and academia, average Americans believe in God and attempt to live life accordingly.

Religious belief seems to be good for you: study after study indicates that believers are statistically more likely to be healthy. Suite University reports:
Recently there has been research that shows that those that attend religious services are healthier than those that do not. Observant individuals live longer, suffer less from chronic diseases and recover more rapidly from serious surgery. They also have a more positive attitude toward living.
Given this information, out of self-interest, a rational person would believe in God. But rationality seems to lead people away from religion to the Church of Orthodox Secularism. After all, some of the tenets of the major religions, as revealed in their scriptures, run contrary to modern science and reason.

So reason is not the vehicle for awakening faith; people are converted not by argument, but by experience. St. Paul was not convinced not by the arguments of Jesus' disciples, whom he zealously persecuted, but by being struck blind, knocked off his horse, and later healed miraculously. Elijah convinced witnesses of his authority by calling down fire to consume the holocaust. Prince Gautama thought and travelled and discoursed and discussed, but the light never came to him until he sat down under the bo tree and simply awakened. As Walt Whitman wrote:
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration!
...Gentlemen, to you the first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.
Part of the problem is childhood's conflation of God with the image of The-Old-Man-With-A-White-Beard-Sitting-On-A-Throne-In-The-Clouds. An intelligent person will, without even thinking about it, reject the idea of God when it carries with it such atavistic mental baggage. As a child grows up and abandons his belief in Santa Claus, so does the thoughtful person grow up and surrender his childish idea of God. Unfortunately, all too often, our culture leaves him with no coherent replacement.

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the reliance of established religion on scripture. Even without being fundamentalist, even without requiring that the believer accept every word in the Bible as literal truth, established religion, by working through scripture, tends to channel thought into a mindset that is two millennia out of date. This is a conundrum which cannot be easily solved, since abandoning scripture would leave only individual revelation to guide the believer, producing a Faith of All Against All.

And yet there was a time before scripture. Whatever the eternal verities might be, they were there before the first Hebrew scribe borrowed glyphs from the Phoenicians and recorded their experience of the Word of Yahweh; these verities will still be true æons from now when the sun gutters out. Though the scripture itself is likely to be fallible and flawed, since it was written down by fallible and flawed humans, nonetheless, the underlying verities remain.

Perhaps it is this freezing of belief in scripture that has stilled the voice of revelation within the human heart. In the last six centuries our conception of what it means to be human in the created Cosmos has changed so drastically that the received wisdom of the Holy Books can hardly speak to us about the nature of the universe.

But suppose, just suppose, a new revelation could somehow come into the world, the world as it exists now at the dawn of the 21st century. Imagine a revelation that could speak to the whole of interconnected humanity, one that could withstand the scrutiny of modern science. What form would this awakening take?

Intuition tells us that it would have to be experienced as a fulfillment and extension of some, if not all, of the existing major religions, in the same way that many Jews of the first century could adopt Christianity as a fulfillment of their faith, or that Hindus of the sixth century B.C. could become followers of the Buddha. It would have to available to the whole world, and not just a single tribe, province, or region. It would have to encompass all that modern science accepts as true; after all, the Bible included all the science of its time. A new awakening would address the sensibilities of intelligent secularists, their understanding of what is important, of what is right and wrong, and of the place of human intelligence in the larger scheme of things.

Above all, it would be true. People do not adopt fervent religious beliefs because they are logical, or because they know them to be in their own interests; they come to them because they are completely, unequivocally, and obviously true.

Everyone has a religious belief, whether he is aware of it or not. Every person has a faith of some sort, a set of premises about the nature of reality and his position in it. An absolute atheist has absolute faith in the non-existence of God; minimally, an indifferent secularist believes that the world existed before him and will continue after him, and he believes in a reality beyond the bounds of his senses.

Imagine a colorblind man who says, "I don't believe in this 'blue' you're always talking about. Sure, there are different wavelengths of light, but there's no such thing as 'blue'". How could he be refuted? There is no way to prove him wrong, but the truth of "blue" does exist; I know that it exists, because I have experienced it as "blue".

Mathematics begins with assumptions -- including both postulates and theorems based on previous proofs -- and performs operations on them using a set of shared rules, proving new theorems. Thus, a mathematician starts by defining his terms. Rather than prove the existence of God, we will define Him:
1. Given that I exist, and
2. that other entities exist besides me, and
3. that there are sets of entities in this cosmos which are larger than I am, then
4. God is defined as the largest of all such sets, one which includes all the elements of all the others.
The necessity of proving the existence of God is therefore obviated, and theological mathematicians can then spend centuries deducing His other attributes.

In fact, as a corollary to Gödel's Theorem, the existence of God cannot be proved, nor can God be understood. A complete description or proof of a consistent and coherent system cannot exist within that system. Our mathematics and logic tell us that belief in the existence of God must remain an act of faith.

Not everyone has to be struck blind on the road to Damascus in order to come to faith in God. God exists for me because He is immanent in every moment and every particle of the world around me; I wake every morning to His photons passing through the windows of my eyes, and every night I pillow my head on His darkness to enter the underside of His conscious cosmos. No argument can dissuade me from this knowledge, and nothing can take it away from me.

To quote Whitman again,
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
The world that reveals itself to our senses and our understanding is the process of God unfolding. According to the Bhagavad Gita:
Brahman is the ritual,
Brahman is the offering,
Brahman is the one who offers to the fire that is Brahman.
When one sees Brahman in every action,
That person will find Brahman.
When we in the West awaken to the process, we will find our place in it, and our place is the struggle against an evil manifested in the world. It is, to quote President Bush, "the calling of our time".

Friday, February 04, 2005

Returning Phone Calls

The community of unaccredited journalists has entered into the lists once more to do battle with the off-hand treason of a 'credentialed' member of the MSM.

This time it is no light-weight anchor reading someone else's fabrications on the air. Instead the blogosphere finds itself arrayed against the Chief News Executive of CNN, Eason Jordan, who has his own claim to make re: the perfidy of the US military.

This time the setting was the World Economic Forum in Davos, in a panel discussion entitled --with delicious irony -- "Will Democracy Survive the Media." Here, Mr. Jordan
asserted more than once that he knew of twelve journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted.
When pressed to substantiate these claims, Mr. Jordan "seemed to back pedal quickly," even though his assertions were backed up by other members of the audience.

The allegation may be the beginning of a firestorm: this was a public forum and the debate, growing more heated, was also being taped. Even now it is likely being shown on TV across the Middle East. That's bad news for the US, which must attempt to refute his remarks. As the WEF blogger notes, such claims "make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park." However, the outcome may be weighted in the favor of truth since there were present at the panel discussion these men: the panel moderator, David Gergen of Harvard, and U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, a member of the panel; in the audience was US Senator Christopher Dodd.
All three observed Mr. Jordan's " wavering" when confronted on his statements, but they also saw the "passion" in his assertions and the vocal agreement from other members of the audience. More on that in a moment.
Who remembers "The News We Kept to Ourselves"? In this narrative, written in 2004 and printed in the New York Times, Mr. Jordan recounted disturbing stories about the routine torture and sometimes gruesome deaths of his employees. These people suffered because they were CNN employees, under suspicion by Saddam Hussein and his security forces. Mr. Jordan had a decade of memories from his dozen or more visits to pre-war Iraq.
One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.
The reader of these haunting events is sure the account will end in a flash of outrage. CNN's chief news executive will tell us how he shouts "Basta!" and removes his new organization from Iraq. Except he never does. Under the cover of his need for "access" Mr. Jordan's CNN stayed on in Iraq until being summarily booted by Saddam Hussein in October 2002. In a CNN story about the expulsion Mr. Jordan proclaimed that "CNN will not compromise its journalistic principles in exchange for CNN access to any country." This new-found Olympian integrity seems to have been generated by Saddam; it did not extend to preventing the torture and deaths of his Iraqi employees in the previous decade. They appear to have been expendable --in fact,were expended. Aa small price to pay for exclusive American 'access' to Baghdad for ten years or more. As the New Sisyphus points out
CNN's continued presence continued to put Iraqis at risk, a risk CNN was self-evidently complicit in. CNN could have reported all these stories and refused to collaborate with a terrorist regime, but instead it chose to remain and to repeat, daily, the sordid lies so familiar to anyone who has had the misfortune to lie in a totalitarian regime.

Nothing wrong here. Reports of terror are so many American lies. The people here love Saddam. During the entire run-up to the Iraq war, the nation's leading news network had evidence of the kind of cruelty and torture President Bush accused the Iraqi regime of ("Axis of Evil," what a moron!) and chose to do and say absolutely nothing. This from a network that would go on to hype the criminal activities of a few renegade soldiers at Abu Ghraib as the Worst War Crime of All Time.

Every time a person watched a CNN report on Iraq up til April 2003, that person was being lied to. Every time you watch a report on CNN about Syria, North Korea, Iran or Zimbabwe, you have to know that this is an organization that has proved itself "ready to do business" with murderous regimes in order to file those reports.
WEF calls on Congressman Frank and Senator Dodd, witnesses to Mr. Jordan's perfidy, to

clear up this mess, use your power and authority as elected leaders and make transparent what really happened. You must do this to respect the 12 journalists killed and let the world know how and why. Here is another challenge, and this one is for CNN...What the hell happened?
And New Sisyphus says he

called Mr. Jordan's Atlanta office to "ask him what the hell he was thinking when he was covering up human rights abuses for access, and more, what was he thinking when he took to the pages of the NY Times to admit it.
What indeed, Mr. Jordan? And why did you find it tolerable that Iraqis suffered and died so that you could have access to Baghdad and report a tyrant's lies? By what moral authority do you have standing to accuse the US military in a public forum of "targeting" journalists? You, sir, stand accused by a number of thoughtful people of targeting both the truth and common human decency.

You did not return New Sisyphus' phone call. Perhaps you will do so if the American Congress calls for an appointment.

See you in Committee.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Craven Calumny at CNN

At the risk of adding our voices to an already crowded chorus, we protest a CNN executive's repeated portrayal of US soldiers as murderers and torturers of journalists. According to the WEF blog,
During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

...Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group).
It turns out that this was not the first time that Mr. Jordan has slandered the American military; last November he accused the military of torturing journalists:
"Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces," Mr Jordan told an audience of news executives at the News Xchange conference in Portugal.
Coming from the man who admitted that CNN censored itself in its coverage of Saddam's Iraq in order to maintain its access in Baghdad, this is adding insult to injury.

Like many Americans who spend a lot of time abroad (and especially among Europeans), Mr. Jordan seems to have become accustomed to badmouthing his country with little fear of any consequences. But this time is different.

Hugh Hewitt is right: it is time for CNN to come clean and either present its evidence for these charges, or repudiate Eason Jordan's claims and fire him.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Columbia Joins the Umma

By the process of tracing a series of links through the labyrinth of cyberspace a whole universe of meaning may emerge.

First,from a Horsefeathers post, MADRASSA ON MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, the reader clicks on a letter to the editor from an alumnus to the Columbia Spectator, a letter in which he decries the University community's "silence... in response to a statement about Israelis made by MEALAC professor Hamid Dabashi" in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.

The letter writer's excerpt is interesting enough to merit a closer look at the original document. From the Spectator, via a short ride on Google, the traveler arrives at the offending article. The Spectator letter writer had indeed been appropriately "disgusted." What follows here is a particularly malign excerpt from Dabashi's windy (thirty seven verbose pages) account of his journey in Palestine in July, 2004. After a visit of several days, during which time he reports in detail about the numerous "teenage" Israeli military he encounters, Mr. -- sorry, Dr. -- Dabashi is at the point of leaving. He's at the airport, where security is heavy and searches are thorough. Why do you suppose the Israelis are so meticulous about security? This question never crosses the good Professor's mind.

I sat on the edge of the counter and awaited my fate. I looked around me. The place had an uncanny similarity to an airport, but the garrison was a fully fortified barrack, with its battalion of security forces treating all the transient inmates with equal banality. It was not just coloured Muslims (note: Dr. Dabashi is Iranian. No darker than any of the other people there. Check out his picture on Electronic Intifada) like me that they treated like hazardous chemicals. It was everyone. "One," as in our quintessential humanity, melted in this fearful furnace into a nullity beyond human recognition. What they call "Israel" is no mere military state. A subsumed militarism, a systemic mendacity with an ingrained violence constitutional to the very fusion of its fabric, has penetrated the deepest corners of what these people have to call their "soul." What the Israelis are doing to Palestinians has a mirror reflection on their own soul -- sullied, vacated, exiled, now occupied by a military machinery no longer plugged to any electrical outlet. It is not just the Palestinian land that they have occupied; their own soul is an occupied territory, occupied by a mechanical force geared on self-destruction. They are on automatic piloting. This is they. No one is controlling anything. Half a century of systematic maiming and murdering of another people has left its deep marks on the faces of these people, the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they handle objects, the way they greet each other, the way they look at the world. There is an endemic prevarication to this machinery, a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture. No people can perpetrate what these people and their parents and grandparents have perpetrated on Palestinians and remain immune to the cruelty of their own deeds.

I sat there frightened -- frightened not by any specific danger, not by the massive machinery of death and destruction that surrounded me in that checkpoint and beyond that checkpoint into every nook and cranny of the occupied Palestine I visited, not by any specific machinegun hanging from a thin neck, frightened by the miasmatic mutation of human soul into a subterranean mixture of vile and violence that preempts a human being from the simplicity of a human touch, of a human look, of a human voice. Where did humanity end in this colonial settlement and machinery begin? Is this the reason why Israel as a collectivity is so indifferent to what the rest of the world thinks of it? Is Ariel Sharon accidental or integral to these people? They were not subjecting just me to this sub-human behaviour. They were indiscriminate to names, passports, identities, nationalities. All humans to them were not just potential but actual bombs, with different timing devices set to trigger their explosion at varied, but certain, intervals. How can a people live with such fear without becoming fear incarnate? Not a single sound of laughter, not a single sight of a leisurely walk, no one crying for a departing loved one, no one joyous at the arrival of a friend, no human rush to catch a flight, no two strangers exchanging flirtatious glances. Before I had left New York I had just watched Orson Welles' adaptation of Kafka's "Trial" (1962) -- and I felt I was in the midst of that nightmarish labyrinth of deceased shadows and sinuous insanity. I lifted my right hand and touched my left elbow, while looking at myself doing so. I was dead cold.

Never fear. After a thorough examination of his person and personal effects, Dr. Dabashi makes his flight in time. In fact, they held the plane for him, though he doesn't seem pleased about it. His flight is marred by the presence of so many other passengers around me... talking relentlessly, almost all at the same time, to my tired ears and nauseous headache in an indecipherable combination of Brooklyn English and relentless Hebrew.

It's difficult to say if Dr. Dabashi's anti-Semitism is his most telling trait or if it is his narcissism. In these thirty-seven pages the first person appears in some form almost five hundred times. Except when he is excoriating the Israelis, Dr. Dabashi's reality is almost totally self-referential. In fact, his self-absorption might be of clinical interest to a curious psychiatrist.

Then there is his purple, roiling prose with its profusion of metaphors. In just this snippet, we have airport as garrison, fearful furnaces that "melts the human soul into a nullity," and "military machinery" that is "unplugged" yet dangerous. And all these frightened, freighted metaphors are on "automatic piloting"(sic). Well, that gives you the idea.

The good professor is badly in need of two things: a psychiatrist and an editor. It's hard to say which he needs more.

You decide. Read the whole thing.

Another visit with Dr. Dabashi is obviously in order. Stay tuned.