Around the Web on 9-7-06

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I have a few things I ran into on the web yesterday. And then? Several parts of this lineup practically wrote themselves.

Democrat: More God!

I haven't paid much attention to it yet, but the race for governor in Texas this time seems like it is shaping up to be very odd. There are two conservative candidates -- incumbent Rick Perry and Republican-turned independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn -- and two liberal candidates -- Democrat Chris Bell and independent throwback to the seventies Kinky Friedman. I like none of them, but I especially detest Friedman.

Chris Bell strikes me as the odd man out. Strike one is that he's liberal and this is Texas. Strike two is that he loses the charisma race (for that part of the electorate) to Friedman. Strike three is that he has decided that there will be no secular candidate in this election.

"Jesus had the most radical social agenda in the world," Bell said during a campaign stop at Southwestern University on Tuesday. "Why don't Democrats ever invoke that?"

Bell said his Christian faith has in part inspired his political agenda, which includes calling for an increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7 an hour.

"A lot of the issues that are driving this debate as far as I'm concerned come down to questions of morals and values: How are we going to take care of the less fortunate, the more vulnerable individuals in our society?" Bell said after his speech.
Of course, Bell is right on the money. Socialism is really just a derivative of Christianity which has been stripped of its explicit mysticism.

In that light, rather than complain that this represents yet another step towards our politics becoming dominated by religion, I think I will applaud Bell for working to be more open about the fact that his party really is not qualified to represent itself as a "secular" option.

If America's secular foundation is to survive, anything that can make the threat of religion more apparent sooner rather than later is a good thing.

Thanks a heap, Chris.

How to approach terrorism?

The most unusual proposal I have seen yet for dealing with the problem of terrorism remains the idea (not without some merit) of applying piracy law to the problem.

Yesterday, I saw Arnold Kling give the problem of terrorism a shot. While he does make some good points, including that our government's ability to deal with traitors and spies requires it to designate an enemy, he makes a grave error.
One way to identify the enemy would be with a formal declaration of war. Unfortunately, because the enemy is not a sovereign state, a formal declaration of war is inappropriate. When America declares war, we expect our armed forces to engage in large-scale, brutal assaults until the opposing government surrenders. We cannot defeat terrorist enemies simply by declaring war on a sovereign government and overthrowing that government.
His solution to this "problem" involves Congress declaring terrorist groups as enemies, which I see as a dangerous precedent. He basis this on the mistaken idea that state sponsorship of terrorism is somehow not a casus belli.

In fact, terrorism would quickly become marginalized without state sponsorship. Why not declare war on all state sponsors, lay waste to the worst offender of the bunch, and then do the same thing to the next should the message not be heard or heeded? Kling's idea of declaring terrorist groups "affiliates" to a main enemy seems worth looking into -- but they can always be designated affiliates of the state sponsors. Why go through a middleman at all, especially when it introduces a new and potentially disastrous wrinkle into existing law?

Or we could just follow Craig Biddle's short prescription....

Dalrymple on Passenger Groundings

Theodore Dalrymple discusses recent refusals of passengers on recent airline flights to fly with suspicious characters on board and makes the following observation.
The Islamists will use the episode to dramatize not the consequences of what they themselves preach but rather the West's insuperable prejudice against Muslims. The extremists want a polarized world with a fight to the finish, which they assume they will win, having, as they suppose, God on their side.
The Islamists? How 'bout the "moderate" Moslems with whom we are supposedly "in this together"? None other than the first Moslem Miss England said this very thing recently!
[Hammasa Kohistani] said: "The attitude towards Muslims has got worse over the year. Also the Muslims' attitude to British people has got worse.

"Even moderate Muslims are turning to terrorism to prove themselves. They think they might as well support it because they are stereotyped anyway. It will take a long time for communities to start mixing in more.

"People may feel I am just a sugar coating on the situation. I am a symbol to show it's not really that bad.

But at the same time, she said, "there is this hostility" which comes "mainly from the Government".
Miss Kohistani failed to elaborate on how useful it would be to such "moderate Muslims" to "prove themselves" if they died and killed all the witnesses to their great heroics in the process or on whether she thought such addled thinking was also somehow the fault of the British government.

al Qaeda's "Invitation"

While I have a great respect for Robert Spencer, his article on the latest "convert or die" enticement to membership in that most exclusive club, the World's Most Beautiful Religion -- How could we be so thick-headed over here in the West? -- was a complete waste of time.

We already know what our enemy wants. They want to kill us unless we obey them. Given that they have not succeeded in giving us a very good reason why we should take orders from people who want to kill us, it is clear that the only proper response is to make the Islamofascists unable, by force, to carry out their threats.

This recent round of threats disguised as "invitations" does bring up an important issue. Eric Scheie discussed the videotape in the context of the recent forced "conversion" of two Fox News personnel southwest of Israel and said the following:
The conversion was intended primarily not as conversion, but as propaganda.

Seriously, does anyone really think they converted these guys simply to add two more Muslims to the 1.5 billion? They did it because they want to show the world that Americans are weak people who can be converted to Islam by the sword, and that conversion by the sword works.

These people are our enemies in war, every bit as much as were the Communists during the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Perhaps more so. When an enemy in war seizes and uses a citizen in a propaganda war, it is necessary for that citizen to state the truth and counter the propaganda ploy lest it work. Were I forced to "convert" in a video, I would do everything in my power to make it known that I had been forced to lie, that I did not believe what I had been made to say, and that the video was nothing but propaganda.

I certainly hope the captives will at least do this. I don't know anything about their religious views, so I cannot assert that they have a religious responsibility.

But I think that considering their status as public figures, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig have a bit of a moral responsibility to help counter the perception of this video as a propaganda victory for squalidly barbarous technique of conversion by the sword. I can't make them do that, but if they don't, there may be lingering questions about whether the method works.
He also raises the issue, as others have, of how this might affect the reliability of media coverage from Moslem areas in the Middle East.

On top of falsified reports filed by Moslem "stringers".

Diana Hsieh and Nick Provenzo ...

... recently made worthwhile posts on both Steve Irwin and Founders' College.

On Irwin, Nick sums it up best:
... Irwin's pro-green positions weren't what was most striking about the man. Instead, it was his zeal and joy for life that set him apart. Wouldn't it be nice to be so in love with what you do and who you are with that your every sentence is an act of passion and exuberance? I'm not saying I wish a world of larrikins, but who would you have to be to pull it off a life like Irwin's and have it be real? To see something interesting and think, "Wow, that's absolutely incredible! To be able to share your excitement and vitality with others? To teach millions of people about what it is that fascinates you? [bold added]
And on the Founders' College debate, both bloggers made similar points, with which I fully agree. I'll quote Diana on this one:
I'd like to echo a bit of two comments upon those posts by NS. It's important for Objectivists to critically evaluate the merits of the projects undertaken by Objectivist intellectuals. Such projects are becoming more common, yet not all of them will be wise. Personally, I do try to limit my recommendations to that which I know (or reasonably expect) to be substantially worthwhile.... I certainly don't promote anything and everything -- for the simple reason that not everything done by Objectivist intellectuals is of genuine value -- to anyone.
Looking at the comments on Noodlefood and at a forum referenced by Noumenal Self in a followup post, I was a little surprised at how negatively some reacted to his criticism. It may have sounded somewhat harsh to hear it coming from an Objectivist at first, but regardless of whether his points have already been anticipated by Gary Hull's group, the issues will not just go away. As Nick said, I'd be grateful to NS for taking the time to bring them up had I not thought of them myself. (In fact, as a blogger and potential supporter, that is exactly what I did!)


... makes an interesting point on fighting the battle of ideas:
It's easy to promote principle when you're benefitting not only in the long term, but also the short term. It's those moments when you're willing to forego short term gain to stand by your integrity that you truly show people you're principled.
Two Veterans Return

Blogging has been light lately at Egoist and The Charlotte Capitalist, but I see that both bloggers are going to get busy soon.

Some New Faces

I've quietly added several new names to my sidebar over the long weekend. Be sure to pay Andrew Medworth, Cozy Corner, The Kalamazoo Objectivist, and Rational Animal visits.

Harry Potter is the Devil!

At least if Helen "Mama" Boucher were acting in the capacity of Chief Exorcist to the Vatican, asinine pronouncements like this would be more entertaining than they already are.

B00k Pr0n

Via Isaac Schrodinger:
Yesterday I came across a truly gorgeous book of photographs by Candida Hoefer titled, Libraries, a title which pretty much says it all, because that is just exactly what it is, one rich, sumptuous, photo of a library interior after another. It's like porn for book nerds. Seriously. They are gorgeous photos, nearly all without visitors and just begging to be entered. (ha. sorry.)
Go there!

-- CAV


Gus Van Horn said...



I appreciate your giving my readers a flavor for how goofy Friedman is, but I very nearly did not publish this comment since I find long passages that are marked up as hyperlinks instead of simply containing a word or two AS hyperlinks extremely annoying.

But not as annoying as Friedman.

In any case, I'm not all that worried about Friedman, especially if what this post (See how nice that looks and how easy to read it is?) says about Texas election law is correct. Namely: He's NOT going to win in Texas. (That's wishful thinking on the part of liberals who think we're a bunch of illiterate rednecks here. And a handful of Libertarians waiting for Bob Marley to fall out of their noses.) He's going to get Rick Perry reelected.


Vigilis said...

Gus, Texas being a large state it is only fitting for it to field candidates of equal distinction. Since I never attempt to interfere with or even comment on state issues outside of my own, I thank you for the entertaining manner in which you presented your choices.

As to Craig Biddle's prescription for dealing with Islamist maniacs, I am totally positive plans are now in place for the U.S. to adopt something very similar as a next to last resort.

The frustrating thing for clear thinking folk has been trying to determine what Washington considers the intermediate efforts that have yet to be tried, and must fail before Biddle's solution is finally implemented. There are more than two steps to go and I cannot reason even the next.

Gus Van Horn said...


I laughed aloud when I read your remark on Texas fielding candidates of equal "distinction".

As for Biddle's prescription.... If Bush does anything like it, he seems beholden to the notion that he must be able to say "I tried diplomacy first."


Apollo said...

On Craig Biddle’s prescription for fighting terrorism, I’m not sure I agree with all of it.

I agree 100% with points 1, 2, and 5.

On point 3, I disagree with Biddle on three issues:

First, I’m all for blowing buildings up, but I don’t think that those places will be occupied by many people when the fighting starts.

Killing people is what matters here, not destroying buildings.

If we are going to bomb Iran we should bomb them with nuclear weapons and/or saturation bombing.

Second, I don't believe technology is the solution to all our military problems. If we want a better military we wont just need more and better technology we will need to implement a better military doctrine, that is people and idea centered. I recommend, maneuver warfare. :)

"Machines don't fight wars. People do, and they use their minds." - Col. John R. Boyd

And last, we will need to commit our men to fight it out on the ground. Especially if we want to find nukes and destroy their military. If we do commit them, it wont be just technology that will bring them victory it will be their own fighting skills.

On point 4, again I don’t think technology will be enough to gather good enough information on our enemies. We will need good Human Intelligence on the ground. Nothing beats that.

In a war against Iran our goal is to eliminate the threat they pose against us, but what exactly are we going to target? Is the threat only from the government and the military? Or does it also come from Iranian society? If this is the case, I believe that we should seek to destroy Iran systemically; we should target every important center that allows Iranian society to function as a cohesive whole. We should target specific individuals (their “Prime Movers” if you will), intellectual, economic, and communication centers, etc.

Our assault should be a combination of a massive and unrelenting invasion(battle of encirclement) using every ounce of force that we have along with nuclear weapons and other high damage “tools” we might have at our disposal.

Gus Van Horn said...


I also agree with the essence of what Biddle says, but not all of it. I'll compare notes with you on where we disagree.

Point 1: I am not entirely convinced that remaining in Iraq, now that we are there, is entirely without merit. But if we stay, we should be in charge. The Iraqis are clearly not ready for self-government, except perhaps, the Kurds.

Point 2: We all agree.

Point 3: I'm not sure we necesarily have to destroy the iranian army if we totally demoralize it and the Iranian people. This is not a reliance on technology only, but also takes advantage of psychology.

Having said that, we would probably have to use ground troops for some objectives in a war against Iran -- and especially if we wait until they have nukes.

Point 4: The purpose in dropping leaflets is psychological.

Your point that nonmilitary targets is true and important, but I doubt Craig Biddle would disagree with that.

And your point on good human intelligence is also ture, but I don't think applicable to this point.

Point 5: We're all on the same page.

I disagree that we necessarily would have to encircle Iran or anyone else to be effective. Reducing them to a pathetic, stone-age, and (most importantly) impotent existence should suffice. But that is a question of tactics.


Apollo said...

"Point 1: I am not entirely convinced that remaining in Iraq, now that we are there, is entirely without merit. But if we stay, we should be in charge. The Iraqis are clearly not ready for self-government, except perhaps, the Kurds."

I agree with you 100% percent. In fact, I would give them their independence from the rest of Iraq If they let us help them write their constitution. It would be like ours, of course.

"Point 3: I'm not sure we necesarily have to destroy the iranian army if we totally demoralize it and the Iranian people. This is not a reliance on technology only, but also takes advantage of psychology."

Not sure what you mean by this, but it sorta sounds like you want to defeat iran through maneuver,not attrition.

And that is exactly what I mean when I said that "we should seek to destroy Iran systemically" as opposed to systematically.

"I disagree that we necessarily would have to encircle Iran "

I mean to say that we should fight battles of encirclement against the Iranian Army. Not encircle all of Iran :p

Gus Van Horn said...

Fair enough. On point 3, I THINK we're in agreement, provided you don't think we necessarily have to use ground troops to destroy Iran's army.

OR we're talking past one another.