Quick Roundup 540

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Anti-Terrorist Fatwa?

David Ignatius reports on a fatwa against terrorism and the funding thereof by Saudi clerics.

The fatwa begins with a clear definition of terrorism, which it calls "a crime aiming at destabilizing security" by attacking people or property, public or private. The document goes on to list examples of this criminal activity: "blowing up of dwellings, schools, hospitals, factories, bridges, airplanes (including hijacking), oil and pipelines." It doesn't mention any geographical area where such actions might be permissible.

What's striking is that the fatwa specifically attacks financing of terrorism. The Muslim religious council said it "regards the financing of such terrorist acts as a form of complicity to those acts ... to bring a conduit for sustaining and spreading of such evil acts."
Ignatius sees this in a positive light, but since the above definition of terrorism would seem to include legitimate acts of self-defense against terrorism by the West, I am skeptical of the motive behind the fatwa. And then, of course, there the small problem of the very non-objectivity of religion severing anything of the sort from a rational consideration of what one ought to do in life, let alone even having force among other Moslems. Ignatius himself notes this as he quotes an American official in passing: "Negative reaction from extremists online shows that they see this as a threat that needs to be responded to."

Ignatius notes that the fatwa was sought by its king, and an Israeli outlet sees it as an attempt by the theocratic Saudi regime to form a legal basis for fighting domestic terrorism. Interesting to note is that Saudi Arabia has also given Israel the green light to pass through its air space en route to a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

I see this as a short-term move for self-preservation by the Saudi regime at best.

Harvard's Madonna-Whore "Debate"

En route to other things, I see that a couple of years ago, New York Times Magazine published an interesting piece about a new "secular" version of the pre-marital virginity movement, which has now spread to college campuses, including some in the Ivy League. The movement resembles both Catholic theology and mainstream leftism in that it attempts to promote various religious tenets as if they are supported by reason.

Unsurprisingly, the end of the piece notes the dullness of a campus debate between two feminist Harvard students, Janie Fredell and Lena Chen -- the one an exponent of the secular chastity movement and the other a hedonistic sex blogger:
By underscoring their similarities and demonstrating mutual respect for each other, Fredell said she hoped to suggest to the audience that perhaps True Love Revolution [the chastity group] was a friendly force at Harvard -- and also deserving of a little respect. The [student paper], though, declared the whole event "boring!" and without open disagreement, the debate seems to have been resolved almost as a beauty contest. Two women sitting side by side, posing a silent question to the audience: which of us do you find more appealing?
What is really interesting to me is that anyone could be surprised by this. Both Janie Fredell and Lena Chen (at least implicitly) agreed that sex is a mindless, physical pursuit -- an attitude that is a symptom of the far-reaching influence of the theory-practice dichotomy in our culture. Both were wrong.

Unsurprisingly, and like many former hippies who have ended up embracing religious views, Chen seems to have been "rethinking virginity" lately.

Two Excellent Pieces

In case you missed them over the weekend, make time to read Paul Hsieh's "Free Speech: Use It or Lose It," and Wendy Milling's, "No Thomas Frank, Capitalism Is Perfect" (via HBL).

From the latter:
Note the subtle trick of [Frank's] op-ed: He attempts to smuggle in an equivocation between the concept of laissez-faire and the concept of industry. The oil spill was an industrial accident. It is unrelated to laissez-faire or any type of political system. Accidents occur in all political systems, and although they are lamentable, they are not any sort of threat to civilization, and they are irrelevant to the choice of political systems. (And if they were relevant, then it is clear which system would be the winner. Observe that the more capitalist the country, the cleaner and safer it is, and the more statist the country, the worse its physical and environmental conditions. The Soviet Union left itself and its satellites toxic wastelands).
That's just one of many excellent points Milling makes.

Commentary -- or Sanity?

That's the choice that confronts television viewers armed with mute buttons when tuning in to the World Cup. Thanks to the mindless drone of vuvuzelas, plastic trumpets that are all the rage in South Africa, every game sounds like it is taking place in the bowels of a beehive.

Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, rejected the idea of banning the obnoxious devices on multiculturalist grounds -- even after players in the 2009 Confederations Cup (also held in South Africa) complained about them. So far, FIFA seems unswayed to reconsider banning them in upcoming matches, even by complaints from fans around the world. Given how lucrative soccer television contracts are, this stands as a testimony to the power of irrational philosophical ideas to override practical considerations of self-interest.

If you don't believe me, tune in to a game for a few minutes.

USA 1, England 1

I was thrilled that our national team managed not to lose to the heavily-favored English side. The moral of that game is simple: Lose focus even for an instant at this level of the game and you will be punished. Both goals resulted from defensive lapses, and revealed both teams to be more vulnerable than many thought.

That was the good news in the opening match of round-robin play. The bad news is that Tim Howard, the outstanding American goalkeeper and the man who did the most to keep us in the game, may have broken ribs.

-- CAV


Mo said...

I have to say the Algerian goalkeeper is the worst in this tournament so far, moreso than the English GK. I dropped my jaw when Heskey was put in the team's lineup as well. Rooney was everywhere except where he was needed the most. Good going for the USA me thinks. English GK needs to be sacrificed. Australia got thrashed big time.

Gus Van Horn said...


What blew my mind was the fact that the English coach didn't know which keeper to start until about an hour before the game. That said, Michael Owen came to Robert Green's defense today, and I can see his argument.

I saw only a small part of Algeria/Slovenia, but did see a good chunk of the South Korea game. Those guys looked much better than I expected them to.


Mo said...

you can watch the highlights on FIFA.com if you do, watch how the Algerian goalkeeper attempts to engage the oncoming shot. its pretty embarrassing me thinks.

South Korea did quite well indeed. So did Paraguay and Uruguay I have to say.

Gus Van Horn said...

Ooh! Not so hot.

Paraguay and Uruguay both played well, but France seemed on the apathetic side and Italy is straddling the border between "experienced" and "over-the-hill." Their keeper left at halftime with a pulled hamstring, but how it got that way was beyond me.

Steve D said...

"No Thomas Frank, Capitalism Is Perfect"

Good article but technically Capitalism is not perfect…no human system can be. I am sure that even if everyone agreed with the correct principles there would still be some errors in implementation.

Thinking about this for a minute and I believe that the correct term is ‘ideal’. Ayn Rand used this term and not just because it is both a noun and an adjective.

“It is not the proper purpose or function of a politico-economic system to override the free will of man, and any attempt to do so is immoral.”

Yes, any attempt to do so is evil and it is just as immoral to override the free will of someone who is wrong as it is for someone who is right. She is right that the conclusion is obvious. Unfortunately, very few people I know come anywhere close to the right conclusion.

Gus Van Horn said...


Regarding perfection: I have to disagree with you here, although you raise an interesting issue.

I would say that part of the context of evaluating a system practiced by humans as perfect is to account for errors in knowledge. We all have these because man is not omniscient.

Which system permits man to correct errors of knowledge (i.e., by not getting in the way?)? Clearly, it's capitalism.


Steve D said...

That's a good point. To some degree this is a semantic issue. I agree that if you define the context correctly you can say capitalism is perfect at least capitalism as an abstract system vs. a particular implementation. I still prefer the word ideal though since it supplies a slightly wider context.

My point is that no system will perfectly protect man's rights. There will always be some errors either in how the laws are designed or applied, even if such errors are small and ultimately correctable. Capitalism (as a system) may be perfect but its implementation at best will only approach perfection.

The key point is that no other system is better or I think could possibly be better matched to human beings.

Gus Van Horn said...


"My point is that no system will perfectly protect man's rights. There will always be some errors either in how the laws are designed or applied, even if such errors are small and ultimately correctable. Capitalism (as a system) may be perfect but its implementation at best will only approach perfection."

Yes, there will always be errors, but is it necessarily correct to attribute such errors to a system? I say not, because capitalism can't make man omniscient: It can only protect his freedom to think, which necessarily entails his ability to make mistakes, be they mis-evaluating a new product or making an honest mistake as a juror.