Around the Web on 11-22-06

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Since I will be spending time with family tomorrow and Friday, I will take a break from blogging on those two days, returning some time on the weekend. Since I'll be away, I decided to do my normal weekly roundup early.

Rangel's "Draft" is Really National Service Slavery

Mark my words. And when this becomes apparent, Republican resistance to it is going to soften.

Yesterday, I posted again on Rangel's proposal to reinstitute the military draft because I saw yet another weak objection to it at a prominent conservative blog. In addition to noting the weaknesses of that argument, I anticipated how the national debate over the proposal might progress since Rangel has admitted that he is not thinking exclusively along the lines of military service when he says he wants to make everyone serve the state for two years.

Given that Colin Powell and John McCain -- to name just two prominent Republicans -- both favor national service, how likely will other Republicans be to take a stand against Rangel's "draft"? If volunteering for the military can substitute for it? If the military gets to cherry-pick from the draftees? If some of the draftees get to serve in "faith-based" initiatives?
The more I think about this, the more worried get that unless more and better arguments are made against this horrendous idea on moral grounds, the more likely we Americans are to get blindsided by a bunch of politicians pulling the bait-and-switch of a national service measure Republicans foolishly support in the initial guise of an anti-war draft proposal by a Democrat.

Andy over at Cozy Corner gives this a go. He rightly notes that, "[T]he draft is a form of institutionalized slavery," but he undercuts himself by conceding that the draft is morally defensible "for the survival of a nation". The flaw in this argument is that it forgets what the proper purpose of a government is: the defense of individual rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to one's own life. If a nation does not do just that, it does not deserve to survive.

When one of America's Founding Fathers said, "A republic, if you can keep it," he very succinctly stated how crucial it is for the people to take self-government seriously. Andy (like very many others) sees clearly that a nation cannot defend itself without an army. But what good is such a "defense" if said country denies the rights of its own citizens to decide for themselves whether to risk combat?

We must not only be willing to serve in the military or at least offer strong support to those who do (or find another means of self-defense, like hiring mercenaries) in order to remain free, we must consistently adhere to the principle that servitude is wrong. Once we make even one exception, we open the door to countless others.

The government is only our servant. It cannot make us as individuals do what it takes to remain free whether that is to bear arms or to uphold the principle of individual rights. Those jobs lie with the master, us. Government force cannot replace a people's desire to be free or their responsibility to think and act accordingly.

Net Neutrality: Gateway to Censorship

Myrhaf gives us a timely update on efforts by the Democrats -- and we all knew they were coming -- to impose government control over alternative media.
Such an innocuous name: net neutrality. Who could be against that? And the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006 sounds so fair! What bigot would dare oppose nondiscrimination?

Under the cover of these happy fuzzy words the Democrats are about to slap price controls on internet providers. Americans should be happy, as the consumers in the Soviet Union were under price controls. Oh, wait -- there were long lines and empty shelves? Scratch that.


But making the internet better is not really the point of all this legislation. Giving the state power over the internet is the point.
There have been rumbles about this for quite some time, too.

Although Rangel's "draft" threatens to impose two years of slavery on every American, the threat of censorship is by far the greatest danger we face, for only the free exchange of ideas permits rational debate about politics to occur, and only reason permits us any hope of examining and correcting past mistakes.

Keeping our freedom of speech is Job One for the foreseeable future in the current political climate.

A Small Victory

On the Freedom of Speech front: the California Supreme Court recently made a ruling that is clearly applicable to bloggers. "Websites that publish inflammatory information written by other parties cannot be sued for libel, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday."

News from the Front

Oh yeah. I nearly forgot, there's a war going on.

Quick, remind the President!

Negotiating with terrorists will be far less effective at achieving peace even than participating in this "Global Orgasm for Peace". (There's a "liberal orgasm" for you, Mr. Limbaugh.)

Japanese Submarine Accident

Bubblehead posts an update on the recent collision of a Japanese submarine with a tanker, complete with a photo of the damage. Money quote: "Note for non-submariners: The rudder is supposed to be vertical."

Wah!, Part I

So the United States is "the most unfriendly country to visitors".
Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.

To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.
Gosh. I wonder why. Before I get to my point, though, there is the following not unrelated story.

Wah!, Part II

Six imams have the audacity to act indignant when they arouse suspicion aboard a plane flight and are escorted off in handcuffs, which is standard for passengers who do not obey orders from the flight crew.
A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused.

"They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.


"CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew," Hooper said. "Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's one that we've been addressing for some time."
As I said about a similar incident, in which a Middle Easterner wearing an Arabic tee shirt in an airport raised Cain over being told to wear something else:
While we all have freedom of speech in America, we are not entitled to express our opinions through the use of someone else's resources. This is why I cannot simply plant a campaign poster in my neighbor's yard. This is why [Raed] Jarrar should not have my tax money at his disposal (if he does) to finance his various foreign junkets. Nor I his money for my causes. Indeed, Jarrar himself seems to apprehend this point: He has closed the comments on his blog. This is no more an infringement of my freedom of speech than JetBlue's imposition of a rule against Arabic script would be an infringement of Jarrar's. If he objects to the notion that an airline can have "no Arabic script" as part of a customer dress code, then he has some explaining to do. [bold added today]

But even if our government actually protected the right of a carrier like Jet Blue to bar certain forms of dress on its flights, all the above still does not mean that the government would properly just ignore suspicious-looking characters with an interest in domestic aviation. Not after the atrocities committed in the name of Islam on September 11, 2001.
So these imams were allegedly praying. Let them pray, but do not force an airline to ignore the fact that they are Moslem or pretend that their religion does not rightfully arouse suspicions among most Americans. If they haven't the foresight to schedule a flight around prayer time in an overwhelmingly non-Moslem country which has been repeatedly attacked by Moslems, then tough nuts. Have these nincompoops never heard of red-eye flights? Or trains? Or automobiles?

I thank US Airways for being attentive to the concerns of its passengers and fully support its right -- which our government does not adequately defend and may infringe further -- to refuse service to anyone for any reason it pleases.

Perhaps if our government would fight a ruthless war abroad and respect property rights at home -- rather than indiscriminately hassling all foreign visitors -- we would not have our ill-deserved new reputation.

A New Genre?

Software Nerd asks an interesting question: Why aren't there more business novels?

Good Photographer

Robert Tracy introduces and provides a link to the site of a talented, self-taught photographer, Chris Kamphaus.

Fault Lines

There is a short, but interesting article at MSNBC about fault lines in the Democratic Party.
But the tectonic plates move in dangerous ways when the topics are taxes, trade, torts and terrorism. [George] Miller voted against reducing the federal tax code's "marriage penalty"; [Ellen] Tauscher was for it. He was against liberalizing trade with China; she was for it. He was against limiting awards in lawsuits; she was for it.

Then there is terrorism -- and Iraq. Tauscher, with her lower Manhattan ties and her swing district (which includes two of the government's most important defense-research labs), voted to authorize the war in Iraq and is wary of the consequences of a too-hasty exit. To Miller, the war is an unsalvageable blunder. Coming of age in antiwar San Francisco, his view is framed by Vietnam. He voted against authorizing the invasion. He admires Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for having come forward last year to denounce it. "Everyone discounted the criticisms of people like me because we were the 'antiwar crowd'," Miller says. "Jack gave the Democratic Party a place to stand."
Tauscher is a mixed bag to be sure, but if there are more people like her in the party (and this article is accurate), that would be a very good thing.

What's Up ...

... with Oak Tree? I can still access individual entries from my feed, but the main page of the blog is FUBAR.

Army, Navy, Air Force, Missionaries

Nick Provenzo reports on an unwarranted use of our military: spreading religion.
The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. manufactures a Jesus doll that is less a toy and more a tool with which to preach Christianity to children. For example, the toy quotes the Holy Bible with statements like "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." The doll's manufacturer offered to donate 4,000 of its dolls to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, founded by the Marines in 1947 to ensure that needy children received some toys for Christmas.

The foundation, supported today by the Marine Corps Reserves as part of its official mission, opted to refuse the Jesus dolls on the grounds that the Marines don't profess one faith over another, and that the doll was an inappropriate gift for a non-Christian family. And that's when all hell broke lose.

In response to its decision, the foundation was peppered with so many calls of Christian outrage that The Washington Post reports that it became impossible for the foundation to perform its mission -- which is simply to give some hard-luck kids something nice to play with on Christmas Day. Caving in to the pressure, the foundation reversed itself and agreed to accept the Jesus dolls, and will simply have to make an extra effort in addition to its already large commitments to ensure that these dolls don't go to families that don't want them.
The purpose of our military is to defend the United States from foreign threats. Not to serve as an overseas welfare agency (to which many conservatives rightfully object) or as a religious order. This is an outrage.

"Saying Justice"

As an atheist, I have noticed that religion often coopts many legitimate tasks of cultural transmission, like education, sponsorship of art, and various cultural ceremonies.

A corollary of this is that many times, those of us who do not follow a religion find ourselves lacking a viable alternative to a common, at least partially worthwhile cultural practice that has been traditionally prescribed by religion.

In that vein, Craig Biddle notices that the positive role of the Christian custom of saying grace at Thanksgiving -- in reminding us of how fortunate we are -- is compromised by the fact that it fails to do justice to those who make our prosperity possible.
To say grace is to give credit where none is due -- and, worse, it is to withhold credit where it is due. To say grace is to commit an act of injustice.

Rational, productive people -- whether philosophers, scientists, inventors, artists, businessmen, military strategists, friends, family, or yourself -- are who deserve to be thanked for the goods on which your life, liberty, and happiness depend. This holiday season -- and from here out -- don't say grace; say justice: Thank or acknowledge the people who actually provide the goods. Some of them may be sitting right there at the table with you. And if you find yourself at a table where people insist on saying grace, politely insist on saying justice when they're through. It's the right thing to do.
Thank you, Craig, and Happy Thanksgiving!

And to all who stop by, ....

Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, re: "Rangel's 'Draft' is Really National Service Slavery"

Your conclusion about Republican resistance softening is totally wrong. This is why:

In brief, the draft we were accustomed to is not only broken, it would be illegal to ressurect for males only nowadays. Lawyers agree with me on this. Their ilk handicapped us in the first place.

You will also come to see this absurd status is unfortunately correct. It was overlooked during the thrust to give women equal rights in the workplace.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Vigilis at Molten Eagle

Gus Van Horn said...


Happy Thanksgiving back at you.

You make some interesting points, but I am under the impression that you think the draft can be "fixed". If so, I have to disagree with that. The draft cannot be fixed any more than slavery, imprisonment of noncombatants without a trial, or any other act by the government that deprives a law-abiding citizen of life or liberty.


Mike N said...

I think grace can be replaced with some kind of toast. It can be real simple like "To the fruits of the productive efforts of rational people everywhere." Of course, you can formulate your own.

Gus Van Horn said...


That sounds like an excellent way to "say justice" to me, and is along the lines of what I would do (and recommend, especially in most instances of mixed company) myself.

Now that I think of it, it would be very easy to err on the side of being overbearing or proseletyzing with this. I hadn't even thought about that! Thank you for leaving your comment.


Inspector said...

I didn't say anything; I just ATE.

Actually, after tasting it, I said, "This is delicious. Good job, everyone."