Around the Web on 10-5-06

Thursday, October 05, 2006

With an unexpectedly light schedule this week, I have devoted some time to a few blog improvements I have been wanting to implement for quite some time. Most of these changes were of the "under the hood" variety, but one change that I hope my visitors will find particularly helpful is the vastly improved link list.

Hmmm. I guess that means the first link in my big weekly roundup is to ... another roundup.

A Writer's Next Move

Toiler sticks up for science fiction/fantasy and promises more of the same soon.

But he also leaves those of us who would like to write more often with this cliff-hanger.

It seems that I've hit a road-bump on my writing path, and I'm in the process of planning my next move. More news to follow...
Although I don't feel free to blog about such things (because they are often work-related), I am sympathetic and curious to see how Toiler approaches his problem.

Is Gitmo a "Skinny Farm"?

But for the fact that I'd just pointed to a Rich Lowry piece on the subject, I very nearly blogged about the cushy treatment the detainees at Gitmo have been getting after reading the Mark Steyn piece that caused the prophets Cox and Forkum to unearth yet another cartoon of theirs whose absurdity has been matched by later events. Allen Forkum quotes Steyn:
If you're hoping to hear about the old wooden chair under a bare lightbulb swinging on its cord, here's the reality: The detainees are interrogated on either a La-Z-Boy recliner or a luxuriously upholstered sofa -- blue plush with gold piping.

As for being emaciated [like the actor in the poster for "The Road To Guantanamo"], it's the only death camp in history where the soi-disant torture victims put on weight. In contrast to the undernourished thesp in the movie version, the average gain at Gitmo is 18 pounds. The Afghan detainees were the chunkiest Afghans I've ever seen. If they ever make it home, their old comrades -- the lean wiry warriors of the Hindu Kush -- will wonder why a party of Florida retirees has suddenly shown up. These Pushtuns are pushing a ton.... [bold added]
The cartoon will be featured in their forthcoming book, Black & White World III.

Bill Frist (Taliban, TN)

First, I complain about the alarming similarity between Bill Frist's domestic policy and that of the Taliban:
Religious fanatics with morals police: If you won't beat 'em, join 'em, eh, Dr. Frist?
And then, within a few days, I learn that he's in favor of allowing them to "help" govern Afghanistan again! Craig Biddle quotes the Los Angeles Times:
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the war against Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan could never be won militarily, and he urged support for efforts to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" into the government.
Well. You certainly can't accuse Senator Frist of inconsistency between his stands on foreign and domestic policy.

Did Ayn Rand win the Cold War?

Jim Woods asks the above intriguing question:
n a 1966 letter, Ronald Reagan said that he was "an admirer of Ayn Rand." Both Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (1947) on communist infiltration into Hollywood. Given Mr. Reagan's professed admiration of Ayn Rand, their concurrent efforts in opposing communism in Hollywood, her intellectual leadership on this issue in Hollywood, and Mr. Meese's crediting this period in Mr. Reagan's life with American victory in the Cold War, I find it credible that Ayn Rand was directly the foundation for the ideas that won the Cold War. I wonder if any research has been done to strongly substantiate this link between Ayn Rand's ideas and those effective actions of President Reagan in facilitating Soviet implosion.
And that reminds me. If I recall a recent conversation correctly, there is a whole chapter in The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics about her anti-communist work. Time to try ordering that again!

No Excuses for Terrorism

Andrew Medworth has a long, but very worthwhile post in which he reviews a British television documentary called No Excuses for Terror and explores the phenomenon of religions preaching peace, yet spreading by the sword.
There are many issues of Islamic theology, jurisprudence and tradition surrounding the interpretation of such verses, which, again, have been covered elsewhere (for example Robert Spencer's Onward Muslim Soldiers, Chapter 4). (These include the doctrine of naskh, where later "revelations" are said to "abrogate" or override earlier ones, and the contextualisation of Qur'anic teachings by the actions of Mohammed, the teachings of his early followers, and the Qur'anic commentators.)

These do not concern us here. The fact of the matter is that, as is well known, Islam has been spread by the sword, and non-Muslims throughout history have repeatedly been given the choice to convert to Islam or face the consequences (either second-class citizenship under Muslim rule [dhimmitude] or death), and they have justified these actions by reference to Islamic theology.

Part of the issue may be that dhimmitude does not seem to have been considered to be a banned form of religious compulsion, even though it unmistakeably constitutes "compulsion in religion"; again, that is an issue of Islamic theology, which does not concern me here.

I want to make a broader point about the role played by religious teachings which purport to preach peace, a point which applies equally to Christianity -- which purports today to be very peaceful, with teachings like "turn the other cheek", "love thine enemies" etc, and yet was frequently spread and defended in a very violent manner.

Both Islam and Christianity contain teachings which seem to say something along the lines of "don't decide for yourselves who is good and evil; leave the judgement to God, and He will deal with them in the hereafter". Christianity has the well-known "judge not, lest ye be judged" (Matthew 7:1), and more general admonitions to submit to God's will rather than relying on your own reason.


The question I wish to address is: why have these verses been consistently ignored throughout the early centuries of religion? Why did religious tolerance not develop until the time of the Enlightenment? [links dropped]
And, on the subject of religious teachings and violence, ....


Robert Spencer, thoroughly smacking down Dean Esmay in the process, writes an excellent piece on the Moslem doctrine of abrogation.
The three-stage theory of the revelations about jihad, culminating in the command to fight to impose the Islamic social order over the world, is bound up with abrogation, as the earlier stages give way to the later. This is the view of Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Kathir, the compilers of the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, and a host of other traditional and mainstream Muslim commentators. Here is a brief contemporary Muslim explanation of the principle. Only Dean Esmay thinks I made it up.
This should be required reading for anyone who takes any guff about there being "no compulsion in religion" seriously.

Self-Censorship: It's YouTube this time.

The Gaijin Biker reports on the latest unfortunate example of creeping dhimmitude.
Michelle Malkin reports that YouTube took down a video she posted there, expressing her criticism of militant Islam. (It's available on her site here.)

Yet YouTube seems to have no problem hosting viciously anti-Israel propaganda videos. Check out some examples here, here, and here. (The last one in particular is so full of Jews-are-taking-over-the-world paranoia that it's almost a parody.)
In an update, he reports that some LGF readers came up with the wrong answer: Enough of them flagged one of the anti-Israel propaganda films as offensive to get it pulled. They should instead be complaining to them about the self-censorship of the Michelle Malkin video.

Westergaard Hangs Tough

For a refreshing change of pace, I am pleased to report that Kurt Westergaard, who drew the infamous caricature of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, is neither in hiding nor backing down. Baron Bodisssey quotes Mofi:
So, on Danish television yesterday [September 24th], Kurt Westergaard, the artist responsible for the most famous of the Mohammed cartoons, the 'turban bomb', met with Kasem Said Ahmad, who is currently the foreman of the Islamic Faith Society. The meeting was billed as an attempt at 'dialogue' (a word that has been very popular of late) but failed in this when Kasem Said Ahmad, failing to receive an apology from Kurt Westergaard, stood up and walked out.

Kasem Said Ahmad is quoted at JP as explaining, "I became angry and walked away. We were never even close to each other and nothing I had expected came from the meeting. I had thought he would apologise having regretted what he did".

The meeting took place at the artist's home and it is the first time Kurt Westergaard has stood forward on television to explain his drawing. If it were me, I'd be more than slightly concerned that Kasem Said Ahmad knew where I lived. The man is an uncompromising extremist and I am not surprised his only reason for wanting 'dialogue' was to get an apology.
I must say that there is one thing that puzzles me here. Why did Westergaard, of all people, even bother meeting with Ahmad.?It should be clear by now that what the Moslems mean by "dialogue" is exactly what he got. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate the point.

Civil Wars Near Israel

Little Green Footballs notes that Lebanon and the collection of encampments of Arab squatters often called "Palestine" both seem to be in the process of self-destruction.

al Qaeda's Self-Score: F

Power Line has some entertaining news. It seems that al Qaeda's leadership is a little worried about the progress of their war. John quotes from a translation of a letter obtained from a "safe house" in Iraq (Editor's comments are his.):
The path is long and difficult, and the enemy isn't easy, for he is great and numerous and he can take quite a bit of punishment as well. [Ed.: This is very different from how al Qaeda wrote about the U.S. after the flight from Somalia.]

I command you, my brother, and I am your brother and I have nothing except these words that are between the two of us and God as the third party, that you send messengers from your end to Waziristan so that they meet with the brothers of the leadership, and the rational and experienced people and the shaykhs here, because you have a greater chance to send messengers (brothers that you choose) than your brothers have here. [So al Qaeda's leadership is so pinned down that they can't even send messengers to Iraq.]

I am now on a visit to them and I am writing you this letter as I am with them, and they have some comments about some of your circumstances, may God guide you, with due confidence, affection, respect, and esteem. They wish that they had a way to talk to you and advise you, and to guide and instruct you; however, they too are occupied with vicious enemies here. [That would be us, I assume.] They are also weak, and we ask God that He strengthen them and mend their fractures. They have many of their own problems, but they are people of reason, experience, and sound, beneficial knowledge. [Note: al Qaeda's leadership is "weak."]

Know that we, like all the mujahidin, are still weak. We are in the stage of weakness and a state of paucity. We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength, or any helper or supporter.
John notes further that the letter implies that al Qaeda's leadership is or was hiding in Waziristan, a region of Pakistan. We should follow them there, post haste.

Tasteless? Who, exactly?

I found it odd that Jason Roth got a complaint from a reader that this piece was tasteless. Sounds like someone was barking up the wrong tree there.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

"Hollywood Party" by Lloyd Billingsly also provides some info on Rand's anti-Communist activities in the 1940s.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Grant.

American Individualist said...

Yes, "Hollywood Party" is a good source on Ayn Rand's influence in anti-communist activities, and in this regard, see also Chapter 10 of "Journals of Ayn Rand," entitled "Communism and HUAC."

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, Joe.

The Ayn Rand Bookstore site is down as I reply, but I found info on the book here. The existence of this book somehow completely escaped my notice, so I really appreciate your having brought it to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Gus! I'm not sure if your work-related issues resemble my little "bump in the road", but I've posted a plan for getting over mine. It's here.

There will be more bumps, of course.

By the way, who ever said that "the joy is in the journey", anyway? I'd like to get my hands on him, whoever he is!

Gus Van Horn said...


Ah! You mean this hump! I hadn't been back yet.

I'm not a fiction writer, but I recently hit a similar hump on a longer piece. I agree that one solution is to write more things that will give you the skills to tackle more ambitious pieces, but in my case, I've tried a "dose of distance". I haven't touched what I wrote for some time and basically walked away from it on the premise that I might let it die. (I am not saying you necessarily have to be this draconian.) This helps remove psychological bloicks to other writing and, in this case, may have helped me figure out how to save the piece.

Of course, I now have another problem: getting in terested enough again to save the old piece!


Anonymous said...

I know. Putting distance between yourself and a problem can sometimes deliver amazing results.The funny thing is, after all of my attempts to make sense of my present problem, I may look back in a year or two and say, "No, that wasn't my problem at all. It's obviously this other problem."

Sometimes I think that's the only way to solve some very difficult dilemmas.

Gus Van Horn said...

I hope your smaller projects go well, in any event.

But yeah. That "joy in the journey" guy could use a dictionary as far as I can tell.