Monday, January 30, 2006

Muslim Fury At Danes Growing Over Prophet Cartoons

Good thing the great Clash Of Civilizations is just a neocon scam, or else I'd be getting concerned about this. Denmark has had to warn its citizens to watch their step in Islamic countries. This is because of some cartoons in a Danish newspaper making mock of The Prophet. The growing furor is being likened to that over Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses, though no religious death sentence has been handed down so far as I've heard. (Stand by for Western progressives to congratulate the Iranian mullahs on their "restraint" this time around.)(*click, clickety*; Oops, should have checked first; I was wrong.)

It's just the latest deadly tantrum by world-wide Islam, of course, in its furious incomprehension of the West's tradition of secular irreverence. A warrior faith gets its hackles up more quickly than a pastoral one, apparently.

Here's some literary contrast for you. This is a passage from the novel Silence by the Japanese Christian author Shusaku Endo.

[Father Rodrigues has been captured by the Japanese, while ministering to the underground church in 17th century Japan. He has been forced to listen to his flock being tortured in the pit, in order to get him to apostasize. Finally, he agrees to trample on the "fumie", the image of Christ affixed to a rough wooden plank.]

The first rays of dawn appear. The light shines on his long neck stretched out like a chicken and upon the bony shoulders. The priest grasps the fumie with both hands bringing it close to his eyes. He would like to press to his own face that face trampled on by so many feet. With saddened glance he stares intently at the man in the center of the fumie, worn down and hollow with the constant trampling. A tear is about to fall from his eye. "Ah:, he says trembling, "the pain."

"It is only a formality. What do formalities matter?" The interpreter urges him on excitedly. "Only go through with the exterior form of trampling."

The priest raises his foot. In it he feels a dull, heavy pain. This is no mere formality. He will now trample on what he has considered the most beautiful thing in his life, on what he has believed most pure, on what is filled with the ideals and the dreams of man. How his foot aches! And then the Christ in bronze speaks to the priest: "Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross."

The priest placed his foot on the fumie. Dawn broke. And far in the distance the cock crew.

Our Rock, our Refuge, and our Strength isn't afraid of some editorial cartoons. Nor of the seething mobs who are. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear a big tin of Danish butter cookies calling me from the kitchen...

The Wheels of Justice

It's been more than ten years since the Rwanda genocide, and more than 25 years since the infamous S21 torture prison of the Khmer Rouge.

Yet probably comparatively few people realize that the trials of the genocidaires is ongoing. And there has been no trial of the Khmer Rouge, although it seems to be in the talking stages now.

As a matter of conscience, just so these atrocities won't vanish down the memory hole, keep track of developments here and here. Justice needs to be down, and it needs to be seen done.

Pope Benedict's First Encyclical

I don't have and probably won't have much to say about Deus Caritas Est, as I really don't have the first idea of how to parse encyclicals. But let me direct you over to The Currency Lad's first take. He says he may write more once he actually spends some quantity time with it.

The Seinfeld Vote

So John Kerry and Hillary Clinton are trying to gather support for a vote to filibuster the Alito nomination. This vote is being done on purely and admittedly partisan grounds, since no credible fault has been charged against Judge Alito's judicial qualifications or his integrity. The vote is foredoomed, and it will likely further alienate voters from the Democrats, as the moonbats drag the party further Left.

So, it's The Seinfeld Vote.

It's a vote about nothing.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bill Clinton on Hamas

The former president's suggested approach to dealing with the newly elected government of Terrorstine is the same approach that carried him along so successfully in his political career:

Speaking at the World Forum in Davos, Switzerland, former U.S. president Bill Clinton suggested Saturday the West should be more open to eventual talks with Hamas.

"You've got to find a way to at least open doors...and I don't see how we can do it without more contact," he said.

Hamas might "acquire a greater sense of responsibility and as they do we have to be willing to act on that."

Great. The former leader of the Free World just said that the homicidal ringleaders of the terrorist statelet dedicated to the extermination of the Jews of Israel should be given the chance to Grow In Office. After all, surely no pack of killers is so depraved that they don't deserve a 238th chance. What will he say once the buses start exploding again? Suggest a recall election?

We're fast running out of road to kick the can down, Mr. President. Some facts of life just can't be spun.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas Pre-election spin on NPR All Things Considered

According to an interview with a Palestinian academic from a Ramallah thinktank, the election was going to be about corrution. From January 19th's All Things Considered:

BLOCK: I'd like to ask you about what could be seen as a contradiction. Your most recent report says that Palestinians' will for a two-state solution has never been as great as today. And I'm trying to figure out how to square that with the public support for Hamas, which has also vowed that Israel as a country has to be destroyed. How do those two things get reconciled?

Mr. SHIKAKI: It does create a certain contradiction with the rise in support for Hamas. However, I would say that that is true if one is to consider the peace process as the most significant driving force for voters, which unfortunately isn't. You see, if there was progress in the peace process, it would be, but there is no progress in the peace process, as I said earlier. The ability of Fatah to deliver on the peace process does not exist. Fatah has been accused by the public, perceived by the public of being corrupt, being unable to deliver good governments or clean government. Hamas is perceived as uncorrupt. The incorruptibility of Hamas is a great asset for Hamas particularly at a time when the public thinks that fighting corruption should be the top priority of the Palestinian political system.

And a little soft soap, to soothe NPR's reality-based listenership, who might have been getting disquieted at having their murdering Palestinian mascots actually gain control of the Palestinian proto-state:

BLOCK: And would you expect to see any public repudiation from Hamas of their core belief that Israel should not exist?

Mr. SHIKAKI: I do believe that Hamas will soon begin to drop over this issue. And one way I believe in the mid term that I see Hamas beginning to address it is by saying that Israel exists on de facto basis and that Hamas will be able to recognize it as such, on de facto basis. But I believe Hamas will do its best to stay away from statements like Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist or that it recognizes Israel on a de jure basis. I think this is something for the long run and not for the short term.

BLOCK: Khalil Shikaki, thanks very much.

Mr. SHIKAKI: You're welcome.

Yes, thanks for the fig leaf, professor.

The Taiping Rebellion

And while we're speaking of China, did you know that the last Christian war of religion in history of any size took place in that country, about 150 years ago? This 1996 book review in First Things of God's Chinese Son: The Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, gives the fascinating details in brief.

Google Censors Self to Accomodate Chinese Government

Nobody can say "no" to that huge market, it seems. And encouragement is once again given to the world's tyrants, who see in China the possibility of securing prosperity and popular contentment without surrendering dictatorial control of the society. The Information Revolution was supposed to sweep aside boundaries and liberate the isolated. So seeing its most prominent agent knuckling under to the Chicoms is shameful.

Readers of First Things will no doubt know that there is a religious dimension at play, too. Allen D. Hertzke has an article in the March 2000 issue, "What I Learned In China."

For three weeks in September of 1999 I traveled the length and breadth of the People’s Republic of China, lecturing to scholars, students, journalists, and even government officials. Sponsored by the U.S. Information Service, the branch of our foreign service that "tells America’s story" to the world, my lectures developed the theme that one cannot understand American politics without comprehending American religion.

Because the subject was religion and the U.S. State Department had just issued a report critical of religious persecution in China, these lectures often evolved into extended discussions, often debates, about the religious situation in China, the nature of a free civil society, the concept of religious freedom, and the meaning of faith in the modern world. Plentiful opportunities for quiet, one–on–one conversations also allowed me to hear personal accounts, whether of suffering during the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen crackdown, or, with striking regularity, of the continuing struggles of religious believers in this one–party state. These encounters—some of the most poignant I have experienced as a scholar—opened a window into Chinese life and thought that I could not have anticipated. The following are some lessons I learned from this experience.

He goes on:

What I discovered is that Chinese intellectuals are also groping for moral and religious clarity. I met scholars looking for ways to make Confucianism, traditionally hostile to commerce, more compatible with modern capitalism. I was asked whether, and how, religion might provide moral restraint in a market society. I was asked about how religion might produce "social capital"—social ties and trust among people—to help smooth the process of modernization. One perceptive student even asked if communism is a religion. Yes, I said, it is the god of the twentieth century that failed.

Yet the Communist Party clings to power, attempting to fill the vacuum with consumer goods and nationalist pride. The blossoming of religious movements, however—from Falun Gong (the banned meditation cult that blends elements of Buddhism, martial arts, and strict moral messages) to Islam and Christianity—suggests that the party’s solution will not be adequate for China’s restless people.

There'll be no censoring that search.

You can read the whole thing here.

In fact, just to "send a message" to whoever may be snooping, click through to the article from Google China, here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Elections

So. The party of suicide bombers, the party of shooting kindergartners in their beds, the party whose hands are smoking with the blood of hundreds of murdered Jews--this party is now in control of a whole actual national government.


Let's have a song, shall we? I've posted this littley ditty around the blogosphere for a couple of years now, but it deserves its own post, and there's no better occasion than the election of Killbot Nation.

To the tune of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way":

Splodeydopes are
causing us dismay
Hamas is gettin' dire
Screw the peace creeps
It's way past time to say
Time to open fire

And we don't need the UN
Crying 'cuz the story's sad
'Cuz the Hellfire Missile Way
Is better than the way we had

Well he's threatening this
And he's threatening that
Sayin' we're easy prey
TV airs his chatter
The Apache swoops in and the taxi goes splat!
Car swarm's on the way
But nothin's left but splatter

And we don't need the UN
Crying 'cuz the story's sad, uh huh
Hellfire Missile Way
Is better than the way we had
Hey, hey, hey, hey

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cardinal Schoborn and Pope Benedict XVI

Today I gave a book talk to a group of senior citizens at a local church on the book The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. It's pretty good for an "instant" book, taking us behind the scenes of John Paul II's final weeks, explaining how the new pope was elected in the conclave, offering a potted biography of Joseph Ratzinger, and speculating on where he is likely to take the Catholic Church next.

I'm not going to review it here, but I would like to note that I learned something new about a familiar name: Christopher Cardinal Schonborn. I have seen his name in First Things, and blogged one of his articles, here. In this book I learned that he was one of the main movers behind the candidacy of Joseph Ratzinger. Interesting...

Google Ads

Is there some kind of rule that Google ads have to represent the opposite of whatever you're posting about? I post against creationism; pro-creationism ads appear. I post for the War On Terror; anti-war ads appear. And it's not just me. Tim Blair at least gets curvaceous animal rights activists in his big, colorful blog ads, owing to his high traffic, no doubt. No wonder no one makes any money off of the things.

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Intelligent Design Bill in the Utah State Senate

One type learns from books.

One type learns from observations.

And one type just has to urinate on the electric fence himself.

UPDATE: This ID proponent in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania is of the second type. Smart fellow!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Progressive Opinion" Then and Now

Ever since 9/11, conservative commentators have tried to make analogies for the new struggle against Islamic terrorism with aspects of the Cold War, or of World War II. None of the parallels are 100% exact, to my mind. The military balance is overwhelmingly one-sided, the enemy is more or less stateless, and there is no possibility of detente--Osama's recent offer of hudna notwithstanding.

But one element is, if not identical, following a similar pattern as in the past. The dissenters from national policy, with a sprinkling on the Right but mostly congregated on the Left, are holding true to form. The jihadis will kill them as quick as they will the next Westerner, but progressives in particular have been in a furious froth to deny the blunt facts of the war we are in.

It satisfies some need of self-identification in progressives, to view themselves as lone, besieged voices of reason and conscience, struggling against a mass of conformist, right-wing pod people, pointing the way into the golden future, glimmering just ahead. No one likes to think of himself as a carping, weak reed of a fault-finder, who's just along for the ride. Yet it is striking how often their "consciences" leads them to cheerlead for civilization's enemies.

Dissent contributing editor Paul Berman wrote this about the swelling left-wing support for Palestinian suicide bombers, in his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism:

And those events in the spring of 2002--the chanting marchers, the applauding intellectuals--typified a hundred other events all over the United States and even more in Europe, not to mention Latin America and other places. A cold cloud seemed to have gathered, and the plunge in temperature was obvious, and out of the cloud dribbled sinister droplets of appreciation for suicide murders--a perverse appreciation expressed by civilized people who, not two or three months earlier, would never have imagined themselves expressing any such opinion.

And three quarters of a century earlier, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote this, about Western progressives' love affair with Stalin's Soviet Union:

There were earnest advocates of the humane killing of cattle who looked up at the massive headquarters of the OGPU with tears of gratitude in their eyes, earnest advocates of proportional representation who eagerly assented when the necessity for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat was explained to them, earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-God museums and reverently turned the pages of atheistic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across the Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town planning specialists who stood outside overcrowded ramshackle tenements and muttered: “If only we had something like this in England!” The almost unbelievable credulity of these mostly university-educated tourists astonished even Soviet officals used to handling foreign visitors.

Analogies don't prove anything, of course. But they sure are eerie sometimes.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lileks on Iran

A fair use excerpt from his Newhouse column:

The American left believed in Iraq's WMDs and terrorist links in the '90s because that gave them much-needed hawk cred; it was Viagra for their dovish side. But they've spent the last two electoral cycles preaching defeat, insisting that when the Bush administration says something's a threat, it's a lie, a diversion tactic, an election ploy, a floorwax AND a dessert topping.

Oh, they'll suggest that Iran should have been the main target in the first place, but if the U.S. had invaded there in '03, we'd be looking at huge casualties, an occupation that continued to this day (quaqmire!) and evidence that the Iranians were still years away from a bomb. Years! And we invaded on that slender pretext? Impeach! [...]

But if the mullahs looked brittle and nervous a few years ago, now they look downright insane -- and determined to turn their nation into a collective suicide bomb.

If there are attacks that set back the program, and they don't inspire a wave of nationalism that strengthens the mullahs' hands, and the threat is pushed off three years, and the Bush administration ends with the neutralization of the region's worst actors -- well, you can imagine what the progressives will say:

"What about North Korea? You did nothing about North Korea. We're no safer than ever. Oh, one more thing -- don't you DARE do anything about North Korea."

You can't win. But we must.

Something tells me that we've got a date with destiny, and that destiny's going to squirt our eyes full of pepper spray before the date's over.

The Catholic Moment?*

In this First Things blog post, Jody Bottum waves his antennae and senses Something In The Air. He suggests that, although Catholics have no more or less actual national political power than earlier, they are now the de facto mainline church in America. The ideas being disseminated by the Catholic Church's conservative wing are afoot and maybe ascendant in the world, exerting influence quite separately from the Catholic Church as an institution.
...fifty years of work by sociology professors has assured us of the assimilation of Catholics, and two hundred years of polished epigrams from Enlightenment-style philosophes have informed us that religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, belong to the childhood of mankind. [...]
And yet, the nation has need of something, which—almost by default—Catholicism is providing. This is Toqueville’s kind of thesis, of course, about the American experience, but it feels right. The United States has always required some source of moral imagination in the public square that does not derive from either the politics of democracy or the economics of capitalism. For a long time, the mainline Protestant churches remained that source, even though they were often as sprawling and as envenomed as American Catholicism now is. And when, for a number of fascinating reasons, those mainline churches collapsed, the nation was left with Catholicism.

See Mr. Bottum's article in The Weekly Standard for how this is playing out in the Alito Supreme Court nomination.

*Richard John Neuhaus fans will get the allusion, I trust.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Which I Land a Turn in the Spotlight and Score My Biggest Blogging Success to Date.

My traffic is much more spiky than steady. Not that I'm complaining; I understand that, if you want to lay claim to people's attention, you've got to earn it. When your traffic is as low as mine, most of the enjoyment of blogging will have to come from simply seeing yourself in print. I actually spend most of my blog time in the comments section at other blogs--that way I know at least one other person will be reading my gems! I do enjoy having visitors here though, and have enjoyed getting acquainted with the repeat commenters.

I conceived this blog in a fairly narrowly defined way: a running commentary on thought-provoking articles from the journal First Things, in a slightly more light-hearted manner than might be commonly found. I've since been finding myself drifting into a little media criticism, a little citizen journalism, a little standard punditry, not much in the way of diary. (Except for these little endzone dances of yours. --Ed.) I enjoyed high traffic days with this vodka-lanche and this panda-lanche. Now, I've gotten my highest traffic spate yet, for this bit of satire.

It started out as a lizard-lanche. Just a link buried in the comments, albeit with a catchy headline, drew hundreds of my fellow lizardoids to visit. Unlike past posts though, this time I aggressively shopped my brainchild around the 'sphere, mailing it to some favorite bloggers, and just posting it in comment threads here and there. I got a Simberg-lanche, a Sanity-lanche (no relation), even a Snoopy-lanche. Traffic's been streaming in, and now I'm even Flavor Of The Day over at John Hawkins' RightWingNews!

Well, welcome everyone. Like the button up there says, enjoy your visit.

Common sense from L'Osservatore Romano

A heartening article from the Vatican's newspaper:

Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation. [...] God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

American Islamic Leaders Warn Of Anti-Muslim Backlash Following Next Month's Nuking Of Tel Aviv

The idea for this post is cribbed from commenter Angus Jung over at Scott Burgess' place. (Thanks to Tim Blair for identifying him.) The post itself is a pallid imitation of the kind of news satire that Rand Simberg and Victor Davis Hanson are geniuses at. Steal from the best, I always say...

Bleurters News Service, (WASHINGTON)

The D.C. Islamic Eternal Justice Endeavor against War and Stereotyping (DIEJEWS) yesterday issued a strongly worded statement condemning a rising backlash against Muslims following next month's nuclear bombing of Tel Aviv, Israel by Iran. The press release warned against an increase in anti-Muslim discrimination, hate crimes, and government harassment following the destruction of the unofficial Israeli capital city next month, as announced by the Iranian government.

"We call on all Americans of goodwill to hold fast to our traditional American values of tolerance and diversity," the statement said in part. "No justification is possible for the heightened tensions and increased suspicions against innocent Muslims following next month's tragic events. The chilling of Islamic-American relations will overshadow the great strides made since 9/11 in rolling back jingoism." The statement stopped short of calling the nuclear bombing of Tel Aviv by the Islamic Republic of Iran a terrorist act, but called for "restraint by both sides" in future crises.

"Next month's nuking of Tel Aviv and the subsequent dancing in the streets by Muslims worldwide have nothing to do with Islam," DIEJEWS spokesperson Marysuellen al-Shahid said in a telephone interview. "We condemn what's going to happen. People claim they are doing it for Islam, but it's really in spite of Islam. The first people to suffer, after the victims, are the Muslim community. There is no justification for such a horrible crime in Islam, any other divine faith or even the court of human conscience, no matter how many sermons have been preached in mosques calling for exactly this. People have to remember that even though the Revolutionary Council of the Islam Republic of Iran has nuclear weapons and will use them, they are only a tiny minority of Muslims, who are peace-loving. In fact, the Arabic word for "peace" means the exact same thing as the English word for peace--but do the news media ever report that? And can you speak up a little? I can't hear the phone so good through this burka."

In a related development, Nevergreen University announced that, in advance of next month's attack and backlash, all students will be required to attend a "sensitivity workshop" on various aspects of Islamic life, beliefs, and customs. Students will "graduate" by coming before a panel from the university's Islamic Studies department and apologizing for the battles of Tours, Malta, Lepanto, Khartoum, and the Gates of Vienna. The panel will grade them on the sincerity of their regret, and grant extra credit for not being able to name the victorious Christian commanders.

"Obviously no one approves of vaporizing a whole city of Jews, no matter how much they deserve it," said university vice-president Batson D. Belfry. "But you never know when the reactionary upbringing of many of our students may impose a simplistic, black and white judgmentalism on quite complex matters. Next month's anti-Muslim backlash is extremely hurtful to our Muslim students, and to all members of the university family. So, we want to get a headstart and try to challenge the students' preconceptions about 'right' and 'wrong', and yes I am making those air quote thingies with my fingers. Minds are like ICBM re-entry vehicles--they function best when properly aimed and programmed."

Friday, January 13, 2006

James Frey's A Million Little Pieces

Well, what's the problem? The book is a tale of what a lowlife degenerate the author was, right? So what's a little--or a lot of--mendacity on top of that?

You tryin' to say that Truth matters, or something?

The Bishop Is Off Message

While clicking around searching for an NYT news item on Intelligent Design that I procrastinated in blogging earlier this week, I chanced across this column in the west coast Catholic Sentinel. It's by Bishop Robert Vasa, who is otherwise unknown to me. Although I haven't perused his archives, it seems the bishop either hasn't read or isn't buying Christoph Cardinal Schönborn's attempt to reconcile the science / religion chasm that ID has opened.

Like I said, I have no familiarity with Bishop Vasa, so it would be wrong of me to call his column a tissue of misrepresentations regarding the nature of science and of the Pennsylvania judge's ruling in the Dover case. But there are quite a lot of seeming misconceptions in there. Too many to fisk, in fact, so let me just post a couple of pull quotes:
While the theory of evolution is deemed true science, the theory of ID is labeled right-wing fanatical religiosity, which has no place in the public marketplace.

"Deemed"? "Labeled"? "Public marketplace?" There's that little matter of proof, which evolution has mountains and ID has none. And if someone's sensibilities are bruised, what of it? It darkens my day to think that faster than light travel is impossible, for example. Facts are no respecter of feelings.

The truth is that there are many things that we know intuitively as human beings, which cannot be the subject of scientific verification or explained as purely [random chance] or the result of [unintelligent design]. At the same time, it must be granted that it is also possible to misinterpret purely random events or events with purely natural causes as being supernatural. I suspect, trying to imitate the judge’s reasoning, that the conclusion that cuneiform tablets, which seem to contain ancient writings, originate from some kind of ID may not be an acceptable hypothesis. Why should we believe that it took some form of intelligent life to create those tablets? It seems to me that the conclusion that they are the product of some human life form is a leap of faith that is hardly consistent with UD or RC philosophy. If it is possible and scientifically held that simple bacteria developed, as a result of UD and RC, with complex DNA strands that scientists can now unravel and read, then it stands to reason that the same folks must argue that the cuneiform tablets must have had a similar UD and RC origin.
This isn't skepticism; it's rejectionism. It's pure and simple "La-la-la-la-I'm-not-listening-I'm-not-listening-Oh-say-can-you-seeee..." rejectionism!

Bishop Vasa would do better to study up on the Thomist position that Cardinal Schonborn staked out in this matter. It has its own problems, but at least it has a venerable history, and won't make the Bishop look so ridiculous.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Iran Resumes Nuclear Program; I Resume Soiling Myself

Psalm 17:8-10:

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

9 from the wicked who assail me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.

Nothing good will come of this.

There is no purpose for an Iranian nuclear program other than to kill the Jews. This is more or less from the horse's mouth. As Mark Steyn said in a recent piece, one parallel between the threats the mullahs have been making for the past several years and Mein Kampf is clear. A war-weary world does not want to believe that the threats are serious. Yes, they do mean it; they just can't do it. Yet.

So now the United Nations is readying sanctions. Big whoop, even if they don't get torpedoed by Russia, China, or France. The Europeans will never get tough with Iran, since their own restive Muslim minority populations have proven very willing to cause trouble all out of proportion to their numbers. We can expect no help or support from the transnational Left either, the way they've been fist-pumping over Palestinian suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilians these past five years.

No matter what happens to Israel, and thereafter to us, the Left, the Europeans, and the Ummah will be of the same opinion, with greater or lesser equivocation:

You deserved it.

So let us not lean on any weak reeds, in the trials to come.

The military option for us is dauntingly...daunting. It'll take more than shooting a few JDAMS down the chimney to solve this. I don't think the Israelis can take out the sites by themselves. The 1981 Osirak reactor strike was a marvel of planning and daring, but the IAF was operating right at the limits of its capabilities on that mission. I once met an American soldier who was later sent to Israel to help train them on their new, improved Patriot missile system. I hope that thing is now a viable anti-ballistic missile weapon. (You'll recall that it was a flop in that role, in the first war with Iraq, since it was intended to be an anti-aircraft battery.)

(As for thinking of the Iraq war as a distraction, ask yourself: Which country is more likely to be an asset in a future confrontation with Iran: A democratic Iraq, or a Saddam-dominated Iraq?)

The civilized West has so much to lose if Iran succeeds in nuking Israel. The role of the Jews as the canary in the coalmine of civilization is an idea that resonates deeply with me. The looming horror of this escalation of The Jihad is turning my stomach to icewater--yet it has to be faced, and faced down.

Have another Psalm, while I go dry-heave:

Psalms 9:13-14

13 O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,

14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of the Daughter of Zion
and there rejoice in your salvation.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"This war paradigm is, like, reeeally harshing my mellow here, man..."

While clicking around in Google's news aggregator, I happened upon this news item in a neighborhood newspaper in Florida. It was an admiring story on a peace event at a local church, featuring Jewish, Christian, and Muslim speakers calling for interfaith dialog, activists plumping for a Department of Peace, and a call-in appearance by Dennis Kucinich. On the surface, just an instance of your normal mainstream Protestant useful idiocy.

But as I've mentioned before, these are inappropriate times to be indulging feel-good follies like this. In the days of the Cold War, the mass graves of Communism were hidden out of sight and out of (progressives') mind, and the frontlines of the conflict tended (but only tended) to stay out of public view. Bloc politics were stark, unnuanced things, with lots of room in the interstices for those inclined to triangulation. Religious progressives could flatter themselves that they were witnesses for peace, voices of conscience, full of righteous prophetic wrath at Uncle, full of excuses for Ivan, save for the occasional, pro forma denunciation of the Socialist Sphere.

But in the present conflict there is no possibility of a balance of power. The enemy considers the death of his victims to be religiously meritorious, and his own death to be an ascent into paradise. There is no attempt on his part to humor the peaceniks' delusion that "everyone wants peace," as the Sovs would do with their "peace offensives" from time to time. The reasons to resist the blandishments of the Christian peace lobby are even more pronounced now than they were back in the Nuclear Freeze days: Losing the resolve to fight off The Jihad now increases the chances of a catastrophe that is beyond lamentation later.

In other words, peaceniks should really get a grasp on the idea that pacifism is morally acceptable only as a personal choice, not a government policy. They have no right, none, to offer my and my family's throats to the scimitar, for the sake of assuaging their flaming, self-congratulatory "consciences".

Let's finish with a laugh: One of the Peace Secretary's functions, from Kucinich:

The secretary of peace would have direct contact with the United Nations.


What for?

What the @#$% for?

Certainly not to protect America from the Religion of Peace©.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Too sick to offer much of anything tonight, sorry. Have an Auden quote:

"Heartless Cynics," the young men shout,
Blind to the world of Fact without;
"Silly Dreamers," the old men grin,
Deaf to the world of Purpose within.
-- W. H. Auden, "New Year Letter"

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The New Criterion

If you are unaware of the existence of The New Criterion, then pray correct that lacuna in your opinion journal diet.

I have usually found New Criterion's weblog, Arma Virumque, to be oddly inferior to the rest of the magazine, though, and to comparable blogs at other journals. The current group of posts, on Jeffrey Hart's Opinion Journal column, is substantial enough. But much of the time that blog strikes me as mostly long on snark and short on pith. But hey, a blog's for letting your hair down, after all. So long as the journal itself retains its current high quality, I can't complain.

Huge P.S. The New Criterion was founded by art critic Hilton Kramer and (IINM) higher education critic Roger Kimball. Kramer's is an interesting story. I don't usually do this, but here is my review of his The Twilight of the Intellectuals , taken from my Amazon webpage:


In a 1994 interview on C-SPAN's Booknotes, reporter and critic John Corry told how politically one-sided the _New York Times_' newsroom was in 1980. In that year, of all the reporters and editors on staff, he only knew of one person who voted for Ronald Reagan, and that was the paper's art critic, Hilton Kramer. Kramer left a couple of years later, continuing his art criticism in the _New York Observer_. But he also set out to do battle with the cultural Left, that "herd of independent minds", in Harold Rosenberg's famous phrase. Eventually, he founded the _New Criterion_, an intellectual journal, which features some of the finest cultural criticism on offer today. This book, Twilight of the Intellectuals, is as much a retrospective of his often lonely mission, as it is a survey of the political climate of American intellectual culture in this century.
_Twilight_ differs from Paul Johnson's _Intellectuals_ in treating only 20th century intellectuals. Plus, Kramer's high culture background allows him to provide the reader with more insight into his subjects' worlds, as opposed to Johnson's uniform tarring of his as scoundrels (mostly accurately, though). Kramer even expresses some nostalgia for some of the people here, such as Kenneth Tynan, giving him his artistic due over the political divide.

But in the main, his work here is a series of political polemics. "Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion," is how the Catholic intellectual Richard John Neuhaus described the mindset that Kramer battles here. Throughout, Kramer selects his old articles with the intent of fixing the truth about influential leftist intellectuals firmly in the cultural memory. People like Lillian Hellman, Alger Hiss, Dwight MacDonald, Mary McCarthy, and such are all known qualities now, and do not need to be refuted afresh. But they still hold places of honor in institutions where like-minded intellectuals cluster, so the task of telling the truth about them is an ongoing one. The progressive myth surrounding Hiss is still so thick that Kramer felt compelled to include two essays about his case.

His praise of Sidney Hook, the lone ranger of socialism, is fulsome, and deservedly so. Hook did much of the heavy lifting in building the Marxist mindset among American intellectuals in the Thirties, and then atoned for it with a long, noble and lonely career as an anti-communist cold warrior. He oddly tags Hook for a philistine, though, for having pooh-poohed an anti-communist arts festival with the comment that artistic greatness could appear in dictatorships, too. Hook was right on that point, though, in my opinion. A musical program of Shostakovich and Prokovieff at their best would more than stand comparison with a program of contemporaneous Western composers, caged birds though the Soviet artists were otherwise.

His estimation of Saul Bellow may be a little unfair. Bellow has never been known for being a brawler, which may explain Kramer's disappointment in his seeming acquiescence to PC attacks against him. One _Herzog_, one _Mr. Sammler's Planet_, ought to be enough to ask from any writer's career, without also being called upon to spend creative energy in opinion journal polemics.

A print reviewer of this book commented on how entering the culture wars must have retarded Kramer's potential as a critic, by draining his powers. I don't know about that, but he makes a convincing Horatius At The Gate, giving battle to the herd of independent minds, who marched in leftist lockstep so disgracefully, for so long.


Neuhaus vs Hart

So I logged in to the First Things blog one day, and found a dust-up between Richard John Neuhaus and Professor Jeffrey Hart, over a column Hart had in The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal. Hart's responses were posted over at The New Criterion's blog, Arma Virumque. Sundry other commentators have chimed in at both blogs.

I have no particular take on the matter; indeed, I probably don't know enough to comment intelligently on it. But a very good one stop round-up of the relevant posts, along with some informed comment by Mark Comtois, is available over at Spinning Clio.

I know of Prof. Hart because he was one of the first scholars to warn about the onslaught of political correctness in higher education. I think he had something to do with the founding of the anti-pc National Association of Scholars.

Interview With The "Darwinist"

Here's an interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett in Der Spiegel. This is the same Daniel Dennett whom the First Things editors Jody Bottum and Richard John Neuhaus have been inveighing against. This is the first thing I've read by him, and he does seem to be quite the reductionist. He's spot-on about the self-contradictory claims of Intelligent Design, though. How can they accept the idea of DNA while rejecting evolution? Oh, that's right--the X factor in all ID hypothesizing is "...then a miracle happens."

Update: For some reason, I'm getting a lot of visits from people surfing in by way of searches for this Spiegel interview. Funny thing is, the search term is not "Dennett" or anything, but is instead the full address of the online interview. Strange...

Anyway, welcome; and I hope you find your visit worthwhile.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Nazi Archaeology--Verboten for Modern Scholars?

Apropos of nothing, here's an ethics puzzle for you. I have seen people asking whether we should examine and possibly profit the research from the human experiments performed by the Nazis in concentration camps. It doesn't take much mulling to answer in the negative, in my opinion. That body of research is too stained for anyone of any moral sensibility to touch. Burn it all, unread.

But there is a similar scenario we can pose that is not quite so stark, or not obviously so. It concerns the archaeological investigations by Heinrich Himmler's Ahnenerbe, or Ancestors' Heritage, which was part of the SS. This division was tasked with building up the mythic status of the German Volk by digging up the glories of the ancient German past. It employed real archaeologists, unlike the cranks and pseudoscientists in the Nazis' racialist theorizing about anthropology. They did excavate and restore a number of ancient Germanic settlements. In fact, Hitler felt they were doing too good of a job:
"Why are we trying to bring to the attention of the world the fact that we have no past? Isn't it enough that the Romans built massive buildings, while our forefathers still had to live in miserable huts? Himmler has now started digging up the remains of these miserable dwellings, and is enthralled by every pottery shard or any stone axe he finds. The only thing that comes out of that is, that it is now clear to everyone that we were still throwing stone axes and huddling around the fire at a time when the Greeks and the Romans had for a long time reached the highest cultural level. In reality, we should keep quiet about our past, but instead Himmler is creating a quite unneccesary fuss with his activities. The Romans of our days must be highly amused over Himmler's discoveries!"

That from Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich, 1970.

So, your question. Would it be right or wrong for modern scholars to avail themselves of this body of scholarship? (In actual fact, I do not know whether Nazi archaeology is cited today or not.) We would of course reject the racial purity and superiority claptrap that the Nazis loaded onto their finds. The ancient Germanic tribes were and remain a legitimate area of archaeological inquiry despite the Nazis' projection of their racialist dreams into them. Just like genetics remains a legitimate field despite the Stalin-approved quackery of Lysenko. So, would the raw data from the finds be morally acceptable for modern scholars to work with? Why or why not? Just asking...