Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Least We Can Do

The one thing that Hagel, Kerry and Brennan all have in common, besides being Washington insiders, is that they all agree that terrorism is basically a misunderstanding. All three fancy themselves men of the world who know more than the peasants back home because they have spent a few days being shepherded through high level meetings in Brussels, Riyadh and Beijing.

They have spent decades marinating in talking points and they know, for example, that terrorism is due to poverty and that Islamic terrorists aren't really Muslim, they just try to convince us that they are to trick us into going to war with Islam. Most of all they know that we can't beat the terrorists on the battlefield, all we can hope to do is wage a war for their hearts and minds, empowering moderates by resolving grievances until the extremists are discredited and peace reigns on earth.

Every word of it is nonsense, but national policy runs on nonsense. In the last four years the government has run massive deficits to save the economy, compelled everyone to buy health insurance to fix health care and flirted with minting a trillion dollar coin to cover its debts. A policy's obvious ridiculousness only ranks it higher in the estimation of idiots insiders who confuse stupidity with out-of-the-box thinking.

Whether it's domestic crime or the international rise of a terrorist movement, the left clings to its sociological security blanket explaining everything in terms of poverty and disenfranchisement. It doesn't matter to the idiot left whether they are dealing with gangs in Oakland, Marxist terrorists in Nicaragua, drug dealers in Chicago, Communist guerrillas in Vietnam, race riots in New York or Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan; to them it's all reducible to the same tired formula of Imperialism + Capitalism = Poverty and Resistance to be solved with day care centers and grievance commissions.

Leftists love moving to Chicago slums, Afghan caves or Latin American peasant villages, living with the natives, struggling with their toilets and finding deep spiritual meaning in their simple lives. And despite learning to speak their language, badly, and taking enough photos of them to populate a museum, they invariably leave without a clue about who the locals are and what makes them tick. But that's because they assume that they already know what makes them tick. Oppression. And with that covered, they never bother to learn anything of more significance than a greeting and a goodbye.

The one indispensable word that the left uses to explain all the violence is "Misunderstood." Criminals and terrorists aren't bad... they're misunderstood. We think that they're threatening and they think that we're threatening. We think that they're attacking us, but they're really just defending themselves. We think that they want to destroy us, but they just really want us to live up to our ideals.

According to John Kerry, the Viet Cong and the Sandinistas were both misunderstood. We thought that they were Communist terrorists, when really it was we who forced them to become terrorists and Communists. Since then Kerry has continued discovering other misunderstood people, including Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad, and will go on discovering them on a freelance basis.

Liberal misunderstanders take a look at almost any atrocity, and sigh wearily and ask, with the patience of saints, "Don't you understand that we made them do it?"

The Taliban didn't want to go to war with us, but we made them do it because we refused to work with them to extradite Bin Laden. Bin Laden didn't want to go to war with us, but we made him do it by defending Saudi Arabia from Saddam. Saddam Hussein didn't want to invade Kuwait, we made him do it and then we made him pretend that he had WMDs because we made him afraid of us.

By the time the ball of twine is fully unwound, we discover that no one in history ever wanted to fight us, but we made them do it by refusing to do the right thing or by doing the wrong thing and thereby throwing the whole picture out of whack leaving them with no choice but to do what they did. And all of it was just blowback from looting the world of its oil and diamonds and turning it into markets for our products. And when we weren't stealing diamonds and oil, then we were starting wars just so the military-industrial complex could bill the government for some more $145 screwdrivers.

The people who think this way aren't just some smelly hippies sunning themselves at a protest rally; they're the next Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and CIA Director of the United States.

John Brennan knows that you can't beat terrorists on the battlefield. So does John Kerry. And so does Chuck Hagel. And two Johns and a Chuck can't be wrong. Neither could Vyacheslav, as in Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's Foreign Minister, who said, during the tenure of the Hitler-Stalin pact, that, "Everyone can see that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force...Thus it is not only senseless, it is criminal to wage such a war as a war for 'the destruction of Hitlerism,' under the false flag of a struggle for democracy."

Hitlerism was destroyed by force and war. Islamism could be destroyed by force and war, or at the very least by not sending it billions of dollars, but our leaders are much too wise for such a policy. Instead they sign their own Hitler-Stalin pacts and then act surprised when 'Hitler' overruns their mission in Benghazi and kills everyone he can get his hands on.

Liberals face the same divide on foreign policy that they did on crime which splits them between the appeasers and the radicals. The radicals wanted to dismantle the police forces while the appeasers only wanted to neuter them and have them police the streets as gently as possible. Terrorism brings out the same policy instincts in them. The radicals ally with the terrorists, going off to visit them in Gaza and Pakistan, while the appeasers figure out how to fight them as little as possible.

Sending remote drones to kill terrorist leaders is the least we can do short of doing nothing at all, which is why the radicals object to it. The difference between the radicals and the appeasers is that the radicals believe that we are 100 percent wrong... while the appeasers assume that we are only 60 to 70 percent wrong. That gives them a 30 or 40 percent worth of moral elbow room which they can use to arrest drug dealers and snipe at Al Qaeda leaders.

But what both radicals and appeasers have in common is that they don't believe that fighting the war will actually accomplish anything. The appeasers fight it as a formality, for political reasons or as part of some grand chess game for isolating the "extremists". They're no more committed to it than Obama was to his Afghanistan surge. It's always a ploy, a positioning maneuver that will discredit the enemy and force them to come to terms. War to them is just peace negotiations by other means. And when they realize that the peace negotiations aren't happening, they give up on the war.

War to liberals is a strategy for gracefully conceding a losing argument. They don't believe in the war itself, which they feel only happened as a result of a series of mistakes and violations by us. What they would like to do is wind it down at a peace conference where everyone admits they were wrong and shakes hands eager to move on with the business of opening gay bars in Kandahar.  And if they can't think of a way to win the peace, then they have no interest in winning the war.

The essence of the "Hearts and Minds" dogma is a denial that wars can be won in any sphere other than the social context. Wars on poverty can be won, but not wars on people. Once you begin fighting the Nazis, the Viet Cong or Al Qaeda... then you have already lost. Even if you win, the people are bound to rise up and then you'll be stuck playing occupying imperialist. And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when armies are neutered to lose battles while wining hearts and minds, getting stuck in the middle and losing both kinds of wars.

Our three new leading foreign policy figures who will be expected to advance American interests around the world are different, but they are basically the same. They have that blank distant look of dimwitted men who fancy themselves intelligent, They think that the talking points that they have borrowed from the Saudis explain everything and the war is a chess game that we can win if we just outmaneuver the misunderstood terrorist Islamist by aiding the misunderstood political Islamists proving once and for all that you don't need to fight to take over a country, you can just run for office.

Stalin could not comprehend that German tanks were headed his way, no matter how many Soviet agents passed along the word. Liberals, whether they come from Massachusetts or Nebraska, are similarly unable to understand that the planes really are headed for them. They have gotten too bogged down in thinking of this as a war of ideas, of ideologies, where they are always more right than we are, to see that this war isn't about us, it's about them.

This isn't a war of ideas, at least not the kind that we can play a part in. Islamic theological debates are as abstract and irrelevant to us as Communist debates over the finer points of Historical Materialism. It can be helpful to understand them if you're making a detailed study of the enemy, but most wars really come down to a group expanding its power and territory through conquest. It can't be won by making Al Qaeda look bad with some Saudi inspired "Hearts and Minds" campaign. It can only be won on the battlefield.

Kerry, Hagel and Brennan are men of nuance. They know better than to try and win wars by winning them. Instead they believe that we can only win by losing, triumphing through appeasement and securing a permanent peace by letting ourselves get kicked around while fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. They are not interested in what we can do to win, but in the least we can do to wait out the war until the inevitable force of progressivism finally reaches deep into Kandahar, Riyadh and Tehran bringing with it gay bars, mandatory abortion coverage and the brotherhood of all mankind.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Murderer's Honor

The story of Islam is a murder mystery. It's not the kind of murder mystery where you wonder who did it, but when it will end. The detective peering with his magnifying glass at a scrap of fiber left behind on the carpet or a curly piece of hair caught in the door isn't really trying to sort out who did it. He knows who did it. The great mystery that consumes him is how to make the killer stop.

This isn't a story about right and wrong. Right and wrong aren't serious propositions in the arid deserts where the murderer comes from. Right is power. Wrong is not having power. A man is right because he has power. A woman is wrong because she doesn't. A Muslim is right because he has power. A Christian is wrong because he doesn't.

When a woman has power and a man doesn't, then the man has been dishonored. When a Christian has power and a Muslim doesn't, then the Muslim has been dishonored. There is only one answer for dishonor, death. Kill the one who has dishonored you so that you can feel powerful again. The men with the magnifying glasses will call it extremism, but it's much simpler and much more complicated than that.

The powerful need not compromise. They have honor. Those who have no power but do not compromise also have honor. The extremist does not compromise whether in power or out of it. Therefore he always has honor. The extremist is willing to die for the power and honor of Islam.

Islam is never powerless, but is always compromised in some way short of perfect purity.  Perhaps it fails to drive out all the non-Muslims and doesn't force women to cover their eyes. Or maybe it tolerates chess and kite flying. Even the crudest Salafist finds some human norm short of total and complete extremism. He compromises and the seed of that compromise gives birth to a movement that will not compromise even on that. Each Islamic movement carries within it the seeds of its own extremist counter-movement and that movement too will carry its own seeds of death. The Islamic revolution devours its own children forever for honor's sake.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute honor is the search for absolute power. A power so pure that it transcends the human means necessary to achieve that glorious end. A purity so total that it will elevate the smuggled cocaine, the rapes and murders, the torture and the broken oaths to the golden truth that the ends of Islam justify all its mangled means.

The murderer kills because he wants power. He goes on killing for honor's sake. When the blade slips or the victim pulls a gun, then the murderer skulks off into the night nursing his grudges and pledging that he will return or his children will return or their children, on and on through the ages.

All this may have started because the murderer wanted a goat, a gold coin or a wife, but it continues because it is now a matter of honor. A moment ago the murderer only wanted a gold coin, but having failed to obtain it, it is now a matter that will not leave off for all the gold coins in the world. Murder transmutes the gold coin into honor. The motive no longer matters. It is all about the end now.

The more the murderer is resisted, the angrier he becomes. The failure to kill forces him to take refuge in myth. He begins inventing glorious stories of his battles complete with poems and epic battles. There are sacred deaths with drops of blood falling like jewels and doves ascending into the sky. Every man becomes a lion and every enemy a monstrous eater of children. Eventually the story becomes his whole reason for being. It is a tale that is passed down through the tribe until countless of the murderer's descendants derive their identity from the story. Until they are all murderers.

Having been thwarted, the murderer cannot stop. The failure to kill has left him powerless, no better than a woman or an infidel. It causes him to doubt the worth of his religion and his people. It robs life of its sweetness. The only way to heal his trauma is to finish what he started. The only way for him to be at peace is to be at war.

Speak to him of peace and he will not listen, except as a ploy for finishing the unfinished murder. Peace is for the powerless. To desire peace is to admit to weakness. It is to give in to the prosaic mortality of the ordinary life. Before he began to kill, the murderer might have been satisfied with the ordinary life, but it is no longer good enough for him. Nothing will do but the knife and the blood and the screams.

The murderer will lie about wanting peace, but he will not make peace. To lie in order to kill is honorable, but to live in peace is not honorable. Peace narrows the borders and closes off horizons. What was once a green territory that the grandchildren or great-grandchildren might overrun in a hundred years is suddenly forever lost and forever foreign. How can he be asked to make such a terrible concession?

You might as well ask the sailor to stay on the land and the explorer to put up his feet in front of the fire. The murderer isn't a mere murderer, he is a romantic at heart, and whether he lives in a mud hut or a tacky palace decorated with giant portraits of himself, in secret he imagines himself a sultan or an emir. And if not him, then his children or grandchildren.

The land he sits on is merely land, he wastes it for the most part for what good is it to him. He may write poems about the beloved land, but it isn't the land he loves, but the idea of conquering it, killing for it and dying for it. And when there is no need to do any of the three, then like an amorous adulterer of the soil he goes seeking for other lands to conquer, to kill and die for.

This is his story and the myth that governs his life. He is not a builder. In his part of the world, it is the slaves who build. It is the men who have no power and no honor who work a set schedule, lifting bricks and arranging girders. Nor is he a farmer, that too is work fit only for serfs. He makes a decent merchant, cheating and being cheated in turn in a ritual mercantile combat. In a pinch he might be a shepherd, wandering the hills aimlessly, and watching his flock nibble the sparse desert grasses down to a wasteland, killing and eating them when it suits him like a little grubby god.

Whatever his profession, he fancies himself a warrior and the kind of war that he prefers is the raid. Village against village. Riders against caravans. Hijacked planes against skyscrapers. If he wins, then he gains honor. If he loses then he gains honor by vowing vengeance, for even the worst of losers can always hang on to his honor by threatening to kill the winners.

And that is where the murders become a mystery, at least to those detectives whose little magnifying glasses can make out the grooves on a thread, but not the distorted rage on a murderer's face. The more they try to convince the murderer to stop, the more he kills. There is a pattern here, but unlike carpet fibers and footprints, it is not one that they can understand.

The men with the magnifying glasses want their lives back. So does the murderer. And the only way he can get it back is by taking theirs. The institution of the feud has lapsed in their world, but it is the defining one in his. Both detective and murderer are trapped in a cycle, but the murderer has a way out. All he has to do is kill them. The detectives cannot do the same thing. There is no room in their rational world for such a crude solution. They try to break the cycle with words. He tries to break it with bombs and bullets. And the cycle of violence continues.

Failure goads the murderer. The more he fails at killing, the more he aspires to it. On his tenth attempt he is ten times as motivated as on his first attempt. Like all people he has his ups and downs, but he always keeps on trying harder.

Each time he fails, he tells himself that the game wasn't fair, the other side broke the rules, rigged the contest and undermined him. He spins complex conspiracies of spies and saboteurs in which the mind of the enemy is as convoluted as his, and that only fuels his outrage. How dare his victim plot so cleverly to undermine his own murder! Outraged, he spins his own convoluted plots, playing Wiley E. Coyote to an oblivious Roadrunner who is occasionally baffled to learn that he is alleged to have controlled every major public figure in the Middle East or seeded the Nile with trained sharks.

"Sure," says the murderer. "You didn't expect him to admit it, did you? I wouldn't in his place."

In this way the murderee takes on an outsized importance until he, she or it comes to represent every obstacle that the murderer has ever faced in his life, every nightmare and night terror. Whatever crimes the murderer commits, he is certain that the murderee has committed even more of them. The murderer's dark side steps out of the shadow and takes on the role of his victim so that the act of murder becomes an act of purification that purifies nothing for the dark forces that the murderer tries to kill are still inside him even while his victim bleeds on the floor.

Eventually the murderee fills the world. Rushdie was only a minor writer until a series of random events caused his name to come to the attention of a shaky Iranian leadership looking for a scapegoat. And then Rushdie became an obsession for the Iranian regime. Rushdie filled their world. Likewise the average Muslim did not spend any time thinking about the Jews, who were always despised, but like most non-Muslims, weren't of consequence. Having conquered their lands and their persons, they could go about ignoring them, aside from the usual thefts, murders and assorted cruelties. But then, after making numerous compromises, the honorless Jews, the sons of apes and pigs, defeated armies far stronger than them. The murderers were robbed of their honor. And when the murderer is Muslim and the victim is non-Muslim, then the honor of the murderer is the honor of the whole Muslim world.

And there can be no peace now. Not tomorrow or in a thousand years. Not with the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Galilee and the grimier parts of Tel Aviv. Nothing will do but for the murderers to finish what they started, the aborted murder, the unfinished crime and the unconsummated honor killing to end all honor killings. Nothing will do but death.

A murderer will forgive many things. You may kill his son and rape his daughter, so long as the blood price or the honor price changes hands. You may do the same with all of his many relatives and their relatives, as is so often the case in these dirty little wars that are really packs of murderers roaming and raiding, firing at each other and falling back, and then waiting for the mourning women to come out and wail over the bodies of the dead. You may even cheat him as much as you like, for he will probably cheat you worse, even while you fancy that you are coming out ahead. But what you cannot do is take away his honor.

Do not mock the murderer's gods, for they are his power, or refuse his hospitality, for it is how he shows that he has more than you, or make him feel small and weak. Though he may smile afterward, he will never forgive you for it, the insult will go on chafing his heart until it overflows with that species of black blood that tastes of bitterness and death.

The House of Saud has never forgiven the House of Washington for helping aid its power. It draws a blood price from it every year, but it cannot rest until the House of Washington falls. So too all alliances must one day end in betrayal or death. There is no room in the green country of the horizon for two tribes to rule. Nor is there room in the inner palaces of honor with their bejeweled tapestries and arabesque curves for a helping hand. The Sultan and Emir, like Allah, can have no antecedent. Like Mohammed, he must be the final revelation of power over a powerless world.

And the murderer? He cannot sleep. The man he tried to kill has filled his world. Once he wanted gold or goats, but now it is honor he wants. On his bed, the murderer dreams of killing a man whose only crime was humiliating him by refusing to die. The murderer rolls over and smiles. Tomorrow, he will kill. Tomorrow, he will regain his honor.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Salman and Khomeini's Excellent Adventure

When professional writers get together what they talk about are not the great ideas that some of their readers imagine, but mostly the mundane business of their work; the good and bad reviews, the writers, agents and editors they hate and those they like, and the relationships in their incestuous industry.

Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie's memoir of his years in hiding, is such a collection of industry talk, full of the good and bad reviews he received, the famous people he attended parties with and his opinion of every writer, lover and editor he came in contact with. There are plenty of meditations on his years in hiding and his relationship with his service branch protectors, but Rushdie is a creature of the publishing industry and the literary circles that made him famous and kept him influential, and the book is more about that world than it is about the reasons he went into hiding and stayed in hiding.

All biography is at its heart fiction and Joseph Anton is a triumphant work of fiction as its author labors to make Rushdie's numerous marriages and infidelities seem like the natural outcome of a stressful situation and the neurosis of his many wives. Any writer who crosses Rushdie or whom he crosses receives that same treatment. How much of it is true, is impossible to know.

Joseph Anton is Rushdie's way of settling scores, some probably justified, some probably not, with countless reviewers, writers, politicians and wives. Throughout it all he manages to maintain the persona of an affable man wronged by unfair attacks and allegations, though toward the end when discussing his breakup with Padma Lakshmi, he begins ranting incoherently about Scrooge McDuck.

What Joseph Anton isn't about, is Islamism or even freedom of expression. Rushdie does his best to make his ability to write and live freely as the acid test of freedom of expression, and he has a case considering that silencing him was the first major move to enforce Islamic law in the West. But it's less a case of a courageous reformer speaking out, than a mildly famous left-wing writer discovering that circumstances had placed him on the firing line.

Rushdie occasionally delivers stirring defenses of freedom of expression and at one point even holds all of Islam, as it is practiced today, responsible, he appears to learn very little from the experience. At one point, he is introduced to an elderly Enoch Powell, who warned against immigration, and remembers wanting to punch him on an earlier occasion. It never occurs to him to overlay his experience on the Rivers of Blood that Powell warned about.

While no one would expect Rushdie to embrace Enoch Powell, he never makes the most elementary connections between the decline of the liberal society he grew up in and the rise of Islamic identity. When his parents announce that they are moving to Pakistan because they feel more comfortable there as Muslims, he flatly rejects their explanation and never even accepts it as a possibility. Rushdie sneers at his various Muslim persecutors in the UK and their Labour allies, but never delves into the difficult question of why UK Muslims came to be represented by people willing to have him killed.

At several junctures, he condemns the left for buying into the notion that "the people cannot be wrong". Forced to confront it, he recognizes it as an intellectual trap that invalidates the left's claim to reason and principle, but he never addresses who those people are and why they want him dead. If the majority of Muslims in the UK, as he documents in the book, reject the freedom to blaspheme, then what hope is there for the freedom of writers like him if Islamic immigration continues.

Freedom of expression, he insists is necessary for society, but rather few Muslim countries have it and rather many Western countries do. Toward the end of Joseph Anton, he mumbles something about the Arab Spring being a popular secular revolution, a conclusion that is completely wrong.

India, which only has a Muslim minority refuses him entry and bans his book, but Rushdie does not consider that the shameful reaction of European countries with far smaller Muslim minorities who only try to dissuade him from coming would have been far worse if their Muslim minority becomes as big and dangerous as India's. Against this he holds up fragments of support from isolated Muslim writers. But he has nothing to offer against a Muslim majority that hates him and wants him dead.

Rushdie rejects religion and insists on viewing Islam as a cultural heritage rather than a belief. And he fails to understand that Muslims hate him all the more for that trivialization of their belief system. Insisting that Satanic Verses is actually an endorsement of cultural Islam, he does not understand that it is exactly such secularization of religion that makes Islamists want to kill him all the more.

Despite everything that he goes through, Rushdie never budges from the verities of the left. He describes his friendship with Edward Said, and fails to see how Said's Orientalism corrupted the academic discourse of the left into cultural relativism, and even claims that Said intervened with Arafat on his behalf, while describing Arafat, the terrorist who turned the West Bank and Gaza educational systems into Islamist propaganda mills, as an Anti-Islamist.

Shielded by his celebrity circle, Rushdie staggers through the experience, going from British literary circles to Hollywood, while maintaining that his fight is a universal one, while knowing quite well that a writer or artist without his connection would have had a great deal of trouble surviving that same experience. Celebrity and celebrities are Rushdie's only asset and the freedom of speech they protect does not extend beyond his own pen. And despite his record of activism on the left and a circle of left wing icons like Harold Pinter and Susan Sontag on his side, he still loses the left.

All that Rushdie really proves is that a famous leftist with enough famous leftist friends can still go on being invited to dinner parties, with police escorts, even while terrorists are plotting to kill him, and can still get his books published, even when no publisher wants to touch them, but that he can only find a measure of freedom by going into exile to a country whose politicians pander less to the Muslim world.

Salman Rushdie cannot address these issues. Instead he flees to the United States at the earliest opportunity, which with its comparatively smaller number of Muslims, at least in the nineties, is a relative safe haven, only to eventually be confronted with the terrorist attacks of September 11. His flight from Islamic immigration in the UK takes him to the next battlefield of Islamic Imperialism.

Rushdie is thoughtlessly of the left. An immigrant to the UK, he absorbs the left-wing politics of an earlier age that leaves him unprepared for the post-colonialist left that has come to dominate the UK. There are moments in the book when he references this shift without spelling it out or admitting that the freedom of expression he values so much was the privilege of an old secular left that was being edged out by the very kind of multiculturalism that his political activities promoted.

In hiding, Rushdie is equally clueless about Iran, mobilizing international efforts to get Iran to lift the Fatwa, until finally coming to terms that it will never do so, and will at most fail to actively enforce it, before going on to live his life with the recognition that he can never truly be safe, but that he also cannot allow himself to be a prisoner of terror.

Rushdie accurately gets a grip on the futility of defending one's reputation against a series of Islamic attacks that isolate an individual and transform him into the problem, realizing instead that he must make common cause on a principle while continuing to live his life. It is a lesson that Israel has still  failed to absorb. Like Rushdie, Israel's attempts at peace negotiations only lead it to be branded as the problem when its attempts at diplomacy through Western nations are turned around to pressure it into making an infinite series of concessions without the violence ever coming to a stop.

As a dogmatic leftist, Rushdie would not appreciate a comparison with the Jewish State. Despite all the betrayals and apathy, the author of Joseph Anton is still a party man and his resentments are selectively expressed. Thatcher and the Tories are repeatedly attacked, even though he makes it clear that Labour, despite being friendlier, can't do much more than provide him with security and make diplomatic overtures to Iran. The Independent attacks him over and over, and to balance that out, Rushdie constantly brings up the Daily Mail, as if a tabloid and the voice of the intellectual left were equivalent representatives of the political landscape of the left and right.

Joseph Anton, the fictional alias of Rushdie in hiding, remains mired in pettiness. He writes angry letters that never sends. He writes other letters that he does send. He has affairs. He complains about money and the lack of privacy. But these are understandable. Less understandable is his insistence on inserting snide remarks and putdowns aimed at a bewilderingly large number of people, both before and after the Khomeini Fatwa, which are often absurdly petty in nature and have no other function except to stain someone he encountered along the way. It is this sort of pettiness that some of his critics denounce him for, and bizarrely that does not stop him from engaging in it.

Rushdie imagines the fatwa aimed at him as the first blackbird landing on the bars of a school playground, followed by a whole swarm of them on September 11. It is the most compelling of the images in Joseph Anton, but these blackbirds have no origin. They just appear. Throughout the book, Salman Rushdie treats modern Islamist movements and their view of Islam as historical aberrations. Mohammed and his legions do not appear among his blackbirds, which would be understandable given his experiences, but it does not seem as if Rushdie is aware that the current conflict is not some historical aberration, but an inevitable extension of the past.

The secular Muslim author cannot admit that Islam is violent now because its past was violent. He asks where newness comes from into the world while exploring the birth of Islam, yet he cannot ask that same question about the blackbirds and the Islamists, the Ayatollahs and the Fatwas whose hit squads come looking for him.

The answer is that Islam isn't new. It wrapped the codes and ethics of the desert in a religion pieced together out of the religions of the day. Islamic violence is similarly not new. Very few new things happen and even fewer of them happen in the Middle East. It isn't newness that Rushdie encounters, but the oldness of a world that he chose to leave behind when he decided to stay in the West.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Building Our Own Media

There have been suggestions floating around that some of the bigger donors should buy a newspaper, a television network or a women's magazine to counter the media's grip. There was a time when a powerful media outlet could be bought or created by conservative owners and function and wield influence over national policy. Time Magazine in the Luce era is one example. But that was when the media was a patchwork of publications and radio stations where powerful owners often set the tone.

Today the media is more of an integrated beast that is mostly localized on the internet. It's a giant echo chamber for talking points developed by left-wing think tanks and memes popularized by social media mobs.

NBC News these days is less relevant than Buzzfeed. You could buy NBC News, but then what would you have? A white elephant operation whose dwindling viewers are older and either share its biases or don't care. If it shifted to the right, it would have exactly the same image as FOX does, no matter what its standard of programming was. If it tried to be genuinely non-partisan, there would be the difficult task of finding staff who are honestly non-partisan. And its image would constantly be under attack by the left every time it dissented on a major story.

Imagine if Donald Trump bought the New York Times. The New York Times doesn't derive its influence from the quality of its content, but from the quantity and scope of it. That quantity and scope seem dizzying to those who don't know any better, much like Thomas Friedman's familiar mentions of three countries and their airports in one paragraph makes him seem like a man of the world who must know what he's talking about because he has been to so many countries.

The New York Times influences other papers and outlets to adopt its tone on a variety of topics from musicals to foreign affairs. That makes them, in current ad jargon, Thought Leaders, which is just as Orwellian as it sounds. That cements the Times' place in the culture. But it's a position that would vanish in a second if Donald Trump took over and began influencing content. All that would be left is an expensive and unprofitable white elephant without any of the influence.

What we think of as the mainstream media is an integrated whole. It's not really a series of outlets, but a culture of left-wing activists and more mainstream liberal reporters and pundits who provide content to those outlets. Buying one of the outlets would punch a hole in their content network, but only a partial hole because the outlet would still likely be reliant on wire services and would mostly cover the same stories that are driven by that same network, but occasionally from a conservative angle. It would essentially be another FOX News.

The content distribution network would reform around it, shut it out, as it has shut out FOX News, though many of its members would still work for it, and continue driving the tone and content of the media's coverage of any issue. And it's the content network and its culture that is the real enemy.

This isn't just true of official news outlets, but any tastemaker outlets, such as women's magazines, which would once again be shut out, ridiculed and marginalized as the media culture works to wipe out the credibility of rival opinion-makers and the cool of rival tastemakers. And since both news and fashion depend on consensus, trying to challenge it with a single outlet will only make a limited difference. It will have an impact. FOX News certainly has. But that impact will be limited, unless, like talk radio, it becomes a culture of content creators creating a consensus across different outlets.

What we are battling is a consensus creation machine. That machine spews out news stories and memes always making sure to integrate the consensus into as much of its coverage as it can. That way the latest consensus on gun violence can be rolled out everywhere from snarky blogs to drive time news to network news to magazines and sites catering to women, car owners and science fans.

Each group will have the consensus targeted to their demographic. NBC News will talk about the dangers of school shootings. Blogs will describe gun owners as psychopaths. A site aimed at women will talk about how often abusive husbands shoot their wives. The science site will discuss the latest technology for gun locks thought up by a 9th grader from San Francisco. Most of you have already seen this consensus manufacturing and distribution machine in action.

The good news is that the internet has allowed the right to develop its own form of consensus distribution. The problem is that it's mainly ideological. Conservative news sites and blogs create and pass along a consensus, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but it doesn't tend to go any higher up the ladder than FOX News or Talk Radio. Buying a major outlet would give it another place to go, but it wouldn't fundamentally change the uneven balance in the media culture war.

The Breitbart approach of directly attacking the consensus by creating stories that the media is forced to acknowledge, thereby shaking its consensus, is invigorating. But the left's success has largely come from the creation of a media consensus culture. Challenging it is not impossible, but it will take a lot of work over a long period of time, rather than a quick fix solution.

Buying an old media outlet, like a magazine, a newspaper or a news network is a poor value. These outlets have an aging readership and a white elephant infrastructure. Their only truly valuable part is their brand. And the brand will begin taking a vicious beating the moment it drops out of the left's consensus network. The brand does have value. Newsweek in conservative hands would have been a useful weapon, but not a consensus-killer.

The consensus is a swarm, it's a mob. Fighting it with one outlet is like trying to fight off bees with a baseball bat. Some bees will be swatted and you'll be stung and the outcome will depend on whether you can absorb more venom than you can kill bees. It makes for a nice last stand, but not much else.

Countering one consensus with another is a problem that requires crowd solutions. And they already exist. The conservative consensus of social media, blogs and news sites is the talk radio of the net. Conservative news sites already distribute that content, and while they could use better designs, the basis structure of the consensus is in place. The next step is to begin expanding the consensus into the non-political sphere to target not just low-information voters, but people that are not strongly political.

Buying a woman's magazine is of limited use now. Communities of interlinked conservative fashion bloggers whose content is indexed and collected by professional front end sites can have the same result at a fraction of the price and while turning a profit. Apply the same approach to everything from science, Latino, local and car sites, and you suddenly have something that is becoming a match for the mainstream media and its culture of consensus. And all this can be done at a fraction of the cost of buying Cosmo or NBC News or the New York Times.

We aren't fighting media outlets, we're fighting people. You can't fight people with money. You can only fight them with people. And the people are here. We just have to use them.

The Romney Campaign's big mistake was relying on big dumb sledgehammer media tactics, spending more money to do less, while neglecting the people on the ground. If the Republican Party is to compete, then it has to learn from that at every level. Think small. Look at the individual. Bring together committed individuals into organizations where they cooperate and make things happen, instead of viewing them as piggy banks for end of the year donations. That is what made the Tea Party work. It is the only thing that has any hope of revitalizing the Republican Party and the right.

A culture war is a shouting match. It's not so much a war of ideas as a war of slogans that are embedded in everything. The left has too much top-down control to be directly beaten at that level. It can be challenged and occasionally humiliated, as Breitbart had done, but it still remains in place. If the left is going to be beaten, it will be from the bottom up by empowering the people who want to fight, rather than just building more expensive operations while ignoring the ground game.

Conservatism will only win out by empowering committed people and giving them the tools to organize in various ways and on various levels to challenge the consensus. It is the organization part that is most important and it is the place where the establishment can do the most good by providing the framework and the tools to package individual contributions into a professional group package.

Creating an alternative media is as simple as channeling the conservative consensus into segmented professional outlets through brand-creation, web design and a certain degree of start-up funding, much of which can be supplemented by advertising for successful sites. These sites need not be and should not be competitors for existing political sites, rather they would be general topic sites that would target specific demographics, with relevant content for their group, whether it's video gamers or people looking for reality show coverage, while also embedding a certain political worldview.

Rather than trying to compete with a single major outlet or with a hundred conservative political outlets all targeted at the same base, the goal would be to expand that base and influence opinions across a wider range. It would be easiest to start with those groups that are already leaning our way, for example young white men and women, and expand an existing lean into a consensus. Similar efforts should be made with Chinese-Americans and Indian-Americans, two groups that came out big for Democrats and whose population share is growing, but whose interests lie with us.

All this is feasible. It's just a matter of shifting from frustrated attacks against mainstream media to becoming the mainstream media. The licenses and print distribution networks that make the media so powerful and that account for much of its sunk cost are becoming less relevant in the age of the mobile internet readership. All that's left are brands supported by an integrated content distribution consensus. And brands are based on content and can be challenged with content. The content exists, so does the talent, all that is needed is to package and channel it into our own media.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

You're In the New Army Now

Sending women into combat, like the end of the ban on official homosexuality, has been met with worried remarks about its impact on the "warrior culture". But the new military that the left has been building for some time now is not interested in warriors; it wants peacekeepers.

The old army fought for a nation. The new one fights for vague concepts such as human rights or international law. Its goals are as intangible as those of the ideology it serves. It doesn't fight actual enemies, but concepts and social problems. It fights against climate change, poverty and obesity. It fights for education, tolerance and the right of everyone to the gender of their choice. It isn't really the army, it's the hall monitors of the United Nations, the State Department, NATO and every liberal group on the planet.

Their ideal new soldier is not a warrior; he speaks three languages, appears non-threatening and can direct refugees, hand out aid to them and quickly pick up the local culture and religion. He is uncritical when witnessing child molestation, human sacrifice or any other quaint local custom. He is willing to die, not for his country, but to win the hearts and minds of the locals. He will not fire in self-defense if there is a single unarmed man, woman or child within twenty miles.

American soldiers have played the role of peacekeepers before, but in the new military that is their only role. They are the Peace Corps,  riding in under a U.N. flag when the video game boys back across the ocean have used remote drones to take out that portion of the enemy force that didn't manage to find a human shield in time. Their mission is to set up generators, dig wells, patrol roads and smile a lot, unless smiling is not approved of by the local culture.

A warrior culture is supplementary to peacekeeping requirements. Warriors try to kill things. They want to win wars, instead of accepting that conflicts can only be resolved through negotiations and that their presence is a negotiating tactic, not a fight for survival.

The new soldier is a policeman of the world, watching crimes that he isn't allowed to stop. He is a diplomat with a gun. He isn't there to shoot anyone, except as an absolute last resort. Rather he is there to represent the United States on that great mission that is the only task of worth in a fatherless country, to be a role model. He is there, smiling and handing out candy, to convince the locals that even though we bombed their country, frightened their sheep and wiped out a lot of their smuggling income, that they should not hate the United States of America.

The old army projected the hard power of killing the people who wanted to fight us until they were either dead or willing to switch to competing with us by making transistor radios and electric shavers. The new army projects the soft power of winning over the locals so that they don't want to fight us anymore. It's not about winning wars, it's about preventing the need for wars; even when already in the middle of a war.

To do all this our military has to become less American and more European, less imperial and more multilateral, an international consensus building exercise with bullets that aren't meant to be fired. It has to become more tolerant and accepting. It has to lose the "warrior culture" and swap it in for the urban liberal culture that values consensus over performance and ideological conformity over all else.

The left is not comfortable with an army that is out of step with its values. A large standing army is a dangerous thing. Neutering it will take generations, but the left just won another four years in which it can have its way with national defense. And its way is to hollow out every institution, religion, workplace and family until they exist for no other reason than to pass on and implement its ideas.

The only way that liberals will ever accept the military is through the liberalization of the military into a force that projects their social values and fights to promote them abroad through human rights peacekeeping operations, rather than national defense. And when the peacekeeping force arrives in Timbuktu, Aleppo or Ramallah, it has to carry with it the liberal standard and convey to all the natives that the United States is wonderful because it represents gay rights, girl power and the wars on obesity, poverty and cholera.

The natives will not be impressed, nor will the men and women who will have to do far more shooting and dying than the plan called for, but Washington D.C. will be gratified, and the worst of the bunch, the ones who eagerly take to the party line and do none of the fighting but all of the talking will move up the promotion ladder, those who do not will be tried for war crimes in a new army that reflects the liberal belief that war is the ultimate crime.

Much of this has already happened. The United States no longer fights wars, it engages in military reconstruction projects. The aftermath of World War II has become the template for every war with the conflict as a prelude to the nation-building exercise. Occupation becomes the purpose of war and also the bloodiest part of the war. And the wars can hardly even be called wars because they are never truly fought.

The "Shock and Awe" punch is always pulled as the jets fly overhead but never hit hard enough in the new soft power age. The war is taken to the enemy just enough to cost a lot of lives, but not enough to defeat him. Instead of a definite trajectory, there is only an endless twilight, a holding action being fought by a new generation of men realizing that like their fathers, they are no longer in it to win it. The real war is being waged by politicians using troop deployments as counters for cobbling together coalitions of the people they are fighting into a working government.

Yesterday's insurgent is tomorrow's ally arriving to be armed and trained as a police officer or soldier and the day after tomorrow's enemy, unexpectedly turning his weapon on the men who trained him. There is no sense in such wars, and less honor and fulfillment in fighting them. These are not the wars of a warrior culture, but of the police patrols in the more dangerous parts of Detroit, Miami or Chicago. Long senseless conflicts in which victory is not even a relevant concept, and the only hope for going home lies in following the rules of community policing when breaking bread and working out truces with the local gangs and their drug dealing warlords long enough for them to throw together a sham government that will allow Washington D.C. to declare another humanitarian mission accomplished.

The new general has all the problems of an empire, without any of the power and freedom of action of an empire. The new colonel is looking to write a book about the lessons he learned from meeting other cultures in the hopes of getting the attention of the boys upstairs who are always concerned with finding new ways of winning the hearts and minds of the people sending soldiers home in body bags. The new captain is growing a beard and learning Urdu. The new lieutenant is making sure that all the transsexual servicethings are comfortable and serving in a friendly welcoming environment. And the new soldier is there to represent a country that he no longer recognizes in a country where everyone is trying to kill him.

Warrior culture is still necessary, even mandatory, but it's also outlawed. Like the urban police force, the ethos must be smuggled in under a disguise of community policing and midnight basketball. It's there because without it nothing will happen except a tripling of the murder rate. It's there despite the social reformers and social workers, the progressive policymakers and the visionaries in ivory towers. It's there because when things get bad enough, the politicians who demonize guns and shame the little boys who still want to play cowboys and aliens during recess need them to save the day. And that's the new army too.

The new soldier is expected to be a psychological cripple or a social worker with nothing in between because there is no longer any room for the warrior, only the worrier, the neurotic who knows that he is moral because he is always questioning everything except his own intelligence and his premises. He knows that he will more likely be honored for cowardice under fire, than courage under fire, and that the greatest honors will go not those who dare, but to those who exemplify a political quota. And yet among the ranks of the new soldiers, the old soldiers still predominate, doing the hard thankless work of keeping a national defense establishment that does not care for them from falling apart.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Afternoon Roundup - Going for Broke


According to Hillary Clinton’s long-delayed Benghazigate testimony, the State Department just did not have enough money to provide security for a mission in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

It did however have 16 million dollars to spend on 2,500 kindle book readers at the drastically inflated price of $6,600 per device.

It had $79,000 to spend on Obama’s books and $20,000 on a portrait of Obama. The US Embassy had $150,000 to spend on a book about the ambassador’s residence.

There was $4.5 for art in embassies, but no money for Benghazi security.


Mullah Baradar’s capture by the CIA in coordination with the ISI was really the only serious victory won against the Taliban in recent years.

While Baradar is often referred to as second-in-command of the Taliban, with Mullah Omar’s whereabouts and aliveness still uncertain, he was in practice the leader of the Taliban.

Now Pakistan plans to release all Taliban prisoners, including Baradar.


Under Socialism, you don’t have to pass a law, you just have to use your economic control to make the companies enforce the law.

Growing government control over banks and investment companies, directly and indirectly, allows those institutions to be used to target firearms manufacturers.

Cerberus was bullied into dropping the Freedom Group which includes Remington and Bushmaster. Now Rahm Emanuel is demanding that TD Bank and Bank of America end their lines of credit to firearms manufacturers unless they come out in support of Obama’s war on the Bill of Rights.

The Party that claims to be upset at corporate influence over politics is trying to forcibly create a corporate lobby in favor of abrogating the Bill of Rights by exploiting their leverage over banks and the leverage of banks over private companies.

Obama Inc Trying to Use Banks to Destroy Gun Manufacturers


I considered writing an article after the disastrous results in Israel's election, but I really have nothing to say about it. Covering Israeli politics is like picking through the trash. Your hands get dirty and all you have for your efforts are trash.

Nobody really wins in Israeli politics, except the left, which keeps retaining its fading grip on power through every dirty trick in the book from fake third parties to paid voter fraud. Once again the fake third party strategy paid off, and considering the above-average voter turnout, the voter fraud was no doubt very extensive.

Mostly though the right self-destructed, as it has in the past, with Netanyahu continuing his program of staying in power by sabotaging the right and flirting with the left. The election boiled down to people on the right denouncing each other in attack ads in increasingly petty ways and the left profited. What could have been a national turning point, instead means more of the same.

The verminous Deri is back in a big way, back from prison and taking Shas back into left-wing politics. Surreal articles describe a center-right coalition with Haredi parties. In practice such coalitions are common, but defining the Haredi parties as being to the right is wishful thinking.

While Iran develops its nuclear program and the Palestinian situation worsens, we can look forward to more years of screaming fights between the Haredi-Dati Leumi-Secularists. A fight that Netanyahu has bizarrely chosen to enlist in. We can also look forward the endless social justice debates as the Tel Aviv parties continue to hijack national politics for their own petty pseudo-Euro antics.

And that's why I have nothing to say about it. Israel's politics aren't in the worst place that they could be, but they're still in the trash. Lapid's fake party, like the preceding ones, will fall apart. There will be more accusations of corruption, more police investigations and more media employees of tycoons going on about the influence of tycoons on politics. And so it goes...

If there was ever a wrong time for a culture war, it's now. The fall of the Second Temple shows how that went last time around. But history is a cycle. It's a wheel. It goes to the same places it came from.


Despondent after George W. Bush won re-election, a small group of billionaire Democrats met in San Francisco in December 2004 to reflect on John Kerry’s failure to capture the White House. George Soros, Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter B. Lewis, and S&L tycoons Herb and Marion Sandler were angry and depressed.

They felt they had been taken—seduced by the siren song of pollsters and the mainstream media who had assured them that the capture of the executive mansion was theirs. But despite giving millions of dollars to liberal candidates and 527 political committees, the donors came away with nothing. At about the same time, another group of wealthy Democratic donors was meeting at a hotel in Washington, D.C., feeling the same way. “The U.S. didn’t enter World War II until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor,” political consultant Erica Payne told the meeting. “We just had our Pearl Harbor.”

Determined to bring the Democratic Party back from the political wilderness, Soros and the others decided they needed a long-term strategy to regain power. Former Clinton official Rob Stein urged them to copy conservatives who had spent four decades investing in ideas and institutions with staying power.

We just had our Pearl Harbor too. And we need that long-term strategy before it's too late.


When Mitt Romney brought up Mali in the presidential debate, the reference was met with sneers from the left and bewilderment from the media. “Despite Romney Claims, Mali is No Afghanistan, Expert Says,” is how US News and World Report headlined the rebuttal. Three months later, it’s become increasingly clear that not only is Mali turning into Afghanistan, but North Africa is sliding down the same muddy slope.

The only thing that Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy had learned from the wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq was to avoid the public turning on them by minimizing their casualty footprint. By avoiding troops on the ground, the trio thought that they had dodged all the problems that Bush and Blair had with Iraq. It never occurred to them that the reason Bush and Blair opted for occupation and reconstruction was to try and tamp down the resulting chaos. Despite their best efforts, their own people are coming back in body bags from Libya and Mali. And the killing has only begun.

...from my article, "North Africa Is the New Afghanistan"


The Anti-War movement was moving into high gear even as the Vietnam War was fading away. Americans troops were leaving Vietnam in large numbers and the last American offensive in Vietnam had begun the year before. But for the Anti-War movement, the actual war was only a pretext for undermining their country and promoting themselves.

Few men fit that description better than John Forbes Kerry who had not needed a weatherman to know which way the winds of political fortune were blowing. Vietnam Veterans Against the War became the platform for an aspiring Congressman seeking to remake his image. Despite its name VVAW was as bent on attacking the men fighting the war, as the war itself. Its publicity stunts, such as Operation RAW or Kerry’s own Senate testimony, were calculated to cast returning veterans as war criminals and murderers.

Toward the end of 1971, VVAW was balanced on the edge of its own irrelevance. The publicity stunts had brought it fame and undermined America’s position in negotiating a departure from Vietnam, but the departure was still underway. Rather than speeding it up, Kerry and VVAW had slowed it down to make the most of their moment in the sun, but once the public and VVAW’s membership realized that the war really was ending, so would their popularity.

While some in the VVAW were career radicals, Kerry was a radical careerist. Leftist politics were his way up the ladder, but he never let them get in the way of his own career.

... from "John Kerry: Unfit for Duty."


“We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews,” Mr. Morsi declared. Egyptian children “must feed on hatred; hatred must continue,” he said. “The hatred must go on for Allah and as a form of worshiping him.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Thursday defended the Obama administration’s gift of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt despite Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s newly-surfaced comments.

“President Morsi has issued two statements,” Kerry said, “to clarify those comments...  But not everything, and this is always the complication in dealings with the international sector, not everything lends itself to a simple clarity, black white, this that, every time.”

Nuance. It worked for Chamberlain. It will work for Kerry who will have to navigate the difficult task of being neither black or white, but yellow.


“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,” North Korea’s National Defense Commission said in a statement released by the official news service.

“Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words,” it said.

This comes not long after another one of Kerry's great diplomatic breakthroughs with North Korea.

A prominent U.S. senator met Friday with North Korea’s nuclear envoy who promised to live up to commitments made in an agreement last week with the United States.

Democrat Sen. John Kerry said that the North Korean also made a “profound statement” about wanting a different relationship and not wanting to fight with the United States.

“They said that they will live by the agreement that they made last week, that we can count on that,” Kerry, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told reporters.

We can count on it. We can. Yes we can.


Colin Powell left the Republican Party on bad terms, twice, washing out of the Bush Administration, and then running to Obama out of spite at not being picked by McCain. Four years later he has nothing to show for it. The Republican Party hasn’t gotten into the White House, but neither has Colin Powell.

Powell can’t wait around another four years to see what happens in 2016, so he has nothing to lose. In 2008, he still maintained the pretense of being an objective observer looking for a transcendent figure to unite the country. Now Powell sounds shrill and angry. The accusations have become irrational and petty.

Colin Powell is pimping himself out on everything from gun control to false accusations of racism, showing how eager he is to do any of the dirty work that the Democrats might have for him.

The Colin Powell we see on the Sunday morning shows is a bitter man, angry over not getting as far as he wanted to go. It isn’t racial bitterness that Powell projects, but personal grievance. 

Colin Powell Isn’t Embarrassing the Republican Party, He’s Embarrassing Himself


France is increasingly upset by what it sees as limited Obama administration support for the war it is waging in Mali against al Qaeda militants.

The U.S. has yet to decide on whether to agree to France’s request for U.S. planes to refuel French fighters in flight, they said. France has a small fleet of aging refueling tankers and says more are needed to maintain the tempo of air operations in remote Mali.

Obama administration officials have said they support the French campaign but want to get a clear picture of the mission and the rebels being targeted in French strikes before providing more assistance.

Obama Refusing to Provide Support for France’s Fight Against Al Qaeda


Amran Jhah Syed Ali, a 23-year-old unemployed Pakistani asylum seeker, visited the home of his Italian fiance with his Chadian friend. They took advantage of the opportunity to empty a bottle of vodka between them.

This touching scene of multi-ethnic fraternisation was brutally interrupted when the Italian woman pronounced the name of Allah in vain. Her “fiancé” then attacked her after having broken the vodka bottle in fury.

The woman took refuge in her bedroom, where she locked herself in and called the carabinieri for help, at around 1 am, while the fiancé tried to break the door down.

Among the local newspapers, the Gazetta Iblea had the headline : “Paki handcuffed in the name of Allah”.Insula Report is more balanced and without doubt more exact: “Rage in the name of Allah and vodka”

Drunk Muslim Attacks Italian Fiance W/Broken Vodka Bottle for “Taking Name of Allah in Vain”


He has no trouble smashing police car windscreens with milk crates but it seems Muslim rioter Omar Halaby is not fit to work, receiving a $200-a-fortnight disability support pension.

In documents tendered to the Downing Centre Local Court, Legal Aid lawyer Sophie Edin said Halaby suffered from “certain disabilities” which had seen him claim the pension for the past three years. Ms Edin told the court. “He has literacy issues, a short attention span, things to that effect.”

We ain't no delinquents, We're misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good!


Here lies the empty head of the professional liberal. The present isn’t a year or an age, it’s a moment. A passing fleeting thing.

1791 is an eternity away. A period of time that is so vast that he can hardly conceive of it, not because of the chronological distance, but the cultural distance.

How far away is 1791? To Matthew Modine, its an infinite distance measured by every liberal social gimmick that he is wedded to. The modern liberal is not an American, he is a citizen of Liberalvania, a fanciful magical kingdom where money is infinite and everyone gets gay married and then breaks into showtunes. It’s not a real place, it’s a state of mind.

Who’s Up for Another Celebrity Lecture About Gun Control?


The media maintained its embargo on President Morsi’s speeches until the New York Times chose to run a piece highlighting both the Memri released video and a second video, featured on Bassem Youssef’s show and now also translated and released by Memri, until the New York Times ran a piece on both videos. This was followed by a condemnation from the White House.

This is a show. A carefully staged show whose purpose is to divert attention from something else. And there are a number of candidates for what that something else might be.

The most obvious one is the Hagel nomination. The timing of the two are closely intertwined. Morsi’s comments had been around for a while. A staged condemnation of them however would allow the White House to posture as pro-Israel at an extremely critical period.

What is Really Behind Obama’s Condemnation of Morsi?


Obama’s CIA Director Pick Called for Censoring the Media

Man Banned From D.C. For Protesting Obama Inauguration

Mayor Bloomberg Doubled New York City Debt to $110 Billion

Communists Confess They Were Behind Israel’s Social Justice Protests

UN Giving Syrian Government $519 Million for Humanitarian Assistance

Muslim Brotherhood Using Benghazi as its Political Base

Algerian Attack Was Carried Out Using Weapons and Gear Provided to Libyan Rebels

Mexican Mafia Leader Sentenced for Trying to “Ethnically Cleanse” Blacks from California City

Newly Liberated Libya Rejects Attack on Mali Islamists


Baalzebub (pron.: /biːˈɛlzɨbʌb/ bee-EL-zə-bub or /ˈbiːlzɨbʌb/ BEEL-zə-bub; (Hebrew: בעל זבוב, Baʿal Zəvûv Arabic: بعل الذباب‎, Ba‘al az-Zubab;, literally "Lord of the Flies"; Greek: Βεελζεβούλ, Velzevoúl; Latin: Beelzebūb), with numerous archaic variants, is a deity that was worshiped in the Philistine city of Ekron.  

...from Lemon Lime Moon

21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. -- Exodus 8

...from American Digest

The Jewish translation of that is a bit more intimidating than flies, but gnats are a good starting point.


This kind of mendacious demagoguery flourishes when the press is biased and/or cowed, and fails to challenge the political leaders.  Every appeal from the leadership gets to be emotional; government is discussed in unaccountable, irrational, and even hysterical terms, as when the president postulated, in his speech on gun restrictions during the same press conference, that the victims of mass shootings had been “denied their rights” by the shooters.  The distinction between committing crimes against individuals, which the citizens can do, and denying the people’s rights – which only government can do – is one of the most important concepts underlying the American system of government.  But Obama elided it out of existence on Wednesday, in his quest to depict the use of firearms as, principally, a means of injuring others.

from the Optimistic Conservative


It is the inherent, ineluctable nature of a state of zero in a person that a man who is lacking in character and values must be a destroyer. He becomes something when he is able to demonstrate his capacity for destruction. He must act to sustain the illusion. Destruction is his own proof of power.

from Rule of Reason

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

All The Difference in the World

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived back in the Senate, after dodging a few falling safes, multiple banana peels and an ornery dog named Henry, to give a carefully prepared histrionic rant which can be summed up, "I do care a lot" and "None of this was my fault" and "What difference at this point does it make?"

The last isn't a sarcastic restatement. It's what she actually said.

It might make a difference to a Coptic Christian whose trailer was blamed by the leader of the free world for a series of Al Qaeda attacks against American diplomatic facilities and who was sent to prison on the orders of members of the administration.

That fellow of many names, now serving a year in prison, is the only one to actually get locked up. The ringleader of the attack walks the streets of Benghazi freely. A drone could make short work of him, but no drones are coming his way. Instead a car bomb, planted by Libyan enemies nearly took him out. Some of the other Benghazi attackers were killed by the Algerian military during the siege; doing the work that Obama won't do. If the Benghazi terrorists finally die, it will most likely be at the hands of the French, the Syrian army or Libyan rival militias.

Benghazi, Obama said, during his appearance with Jon Stewart, the man of many grimaces, was a bump in the road. And that's all it was. The Obama campaign bus drove over four bodies and reached its destination in an armored parking garage somewhere in D.C. An irritated Hillary Clinton, who is prepping for her own bus tour in 2016, has every reason to demand to know what difference it makes now to discuss who lied about what and who failed to secure the Benghazi mission.

The election is over, and her testimony was delayed until after the fat lady held up her talking points at the debate and sang. Al Qaeda is dead, except for the parts of it rampaging across Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Pakistan, and a decade of war is coming to an end or just beginning. It makes no difference now which one of those it really is, just as it makes no difference, whether, as Clinton said, it happened "because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans?"

Dead is dead. The Benghazi four are dead. Stability in the Middle East is dead. Hope is dead. Victory is dead. It's time to discuss the serious stuff. Like finding the right title for Hillary's next biography, ghost-written and set for release around 2015, right after the Dems suffer a Congressional setback from angry NRA voters and just before the next election to position her as the new voice of hope.

"Bumps in the road" is one option. It really communicates that Hillary has been through a lot and driven over a lot of hard roads full of potholes and people who were only there because the Republicans refused to fully fund her infrastructure and outreach programs. But "What Difference Does It Make?" best captures the zeitgeist of the time. That sense that nothing matters once you've won.

What Difference Does It Make?: Hillary Clinton in Peace and War" will show up on shelves with a cover of her in some distant country looking out at the exotic landscape or surrounded by properly foreign children. It will be packaged along with a public speaking tour of colleges as Hillary promises to teach the leaders of tomorrow how they too can make a difference her way. The tour will use up Hillary's store of funny and inspiring stories from her meetings with foreign leaders and human rights activists, most of which will be made up, but what difference does it make?

Everyone will pretend to be inspired by her. Suddenly it will be of paramount importance (circa 2015) that young women have a president of their own to look up to. It'll all be fake, like her career, but what difference does that make. The real campaign slogan, at this point, might as well be, "Hillary, why not?" and "You know it's going to happen anyway."

Over in Cairo, leading senators visited Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi and tried to explain to him that ranting about Jews being the bloodthirsty spawn of apes and pigs who must be driven out of the Middle East is “inappropriate” if he expects to be considered a force for stability in the region. In response, Morsi told the senators that he respects all religions and that the only reason the New York Times belatedly mentioned the story a month later is because the apes and pigs control the media.

Afterward Senator McCain called for $480 million in economic aid to the Morsi regime and Obama sent him a bunch of tanks and jets, because really what difference does it make?

Morsi knows that he can say whatever he pleases and still get the F-16s and Abrams tanks and the billions of dollars in aid, and so it makes no difference at all what he says. 

Sure at some point in the near or distant future, Morsi might use those weapons to, "free the land from the filth of the Jews”. And then the Christians. And when that happens, someone will sit down in front of a Senate panel and explain that they really do care a lot, that it wasn't their fault and that assigning blame makes no difference at this point.

Much as it might be nice to think that if Obama wasn't in office, that we wouldn't be sending planes and tanks and money to Morsi, that's wishful thinking. McCain would have embraced the Arab Spring in the White House, the way that he embraced it in the Senate. He would have bombed Libya and would probably have been bombing Syria last year. Romney might not have backed the overthrow of the Egyptian government if he had won in '08, but he would still be shipping the same goodies to Morsi in the name of maintaining regional stability if he had taken his inauguration oath this week. The difference is that unlike Obama, he wouldn't have known what he was doing or why.

Hillary Clinton knows it quite well. Most of her stories may as fake as her biographies, past and present, but she's served in the Senate and hung out in the White House. And if McCain had won, she would be sitting on a panel blasting whatever hapless McCain appointee was holding down the SOS desk for failing to properly secure whatever half-assed intelligence operation was taking place there.

This mutual hypocrisy makes any genuine concern difficult to sustain. It reduces all hearings to bouts of political investigations, to prospective 2016 candidates shouting at each other over what they would have done. And then there's nothing left, but to ask what difference would it make if she had secured the Benghazi mission, if Obama had dispatched timely rescue forces or if we had stayed the hell out of Libya. If would have made a large difference to the dead, but not a whole lot to Hillary 2016.

France is fighting in Mali now and it's getting about as much support from Washington, as the dead of Benghazi did. The drones aren't flying here either and neither is much of anything else. Obama Inc's people have said that they support the French operation but that they're still waiting to get a "clear picture" of the mission, the enemy and how much this will offend the Morsis of the Muslim world.

The quest for a clear picture was also the pitch made by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Barack Obama whenever they were asked about the Great YouTube Trailer Terrorist Attacks of 2012. What some cynical people might see as lies or calculation inaction, was just an effort to fiddle with the rabbit ears of intelligence agencies to get a clearer picture.

The picture will never come in crystal clear, but then it's not meant to. Like one of those artfully stylized big box TVs showing test patterns in the window displays of retro boutiques, it just adds a little style and mystery to the careers of those responsible. The real story will go on dripping out bit by bit, and it will go on not making a difference.

This really isn't about Benghazi, which could have been secured for a fraction of the $16 million that her State Department spent on overpriced Kindle book readers and the $4.5 million it spent on art in embassies. You could have dropped the cost for fully protecting the Benghazi mission into the billion that State spent on global warming. Or the dough that Howard Gutman, campaign contributor and Ambassador to Belgium who shares some of Morsi's views, spent renovating his embassy into a shining example of Green Sustainableness could have instead been spent on fortifying the mission.

This isn't even about Hillary 2016. It's about the Middle East where bad policies make a world of difference. And it's about a political establishment that rewards the Hillary Clintons for the disasters they make while punishing the Michele Bachmanns for the truth that they tell, because it is unable to come to terms with its own mistakes.

Carter gave us the Mullah-ridden Iran and began pouring money into the Pakistani terror machine of the ISI. Obama gave us a North Africa that is beginning to look like Iran and has shoved handfuls of cash, weapons and support at any Islamist whose views and affiliations stop just short of Al Qaeda, even if he happens to be Al Qaeda's best friend.

But what difference does it make when few Republican senators can discuss what the Brotherhood really stands for and its impact on the Middle East and the West? What difference does it make when Romney could not even begin to explain what was really going on in the region beyond a few talking points that he had memorized? What difference does it make when Hillary Clinton can give her performance, knowing it will get rave reviews from the media, and then look over her ghostwriters'  latest proofs from the chapter on Pakistan that focus on microfinance and sustainable energy?

Crimes don't make a difference unless there are people who can expose them for what they are. Many of the things that we consider unacceptable behavior today had to be criminalized.Democrats have criminalized many ordinary things, such as buying cough syrup without a photo ID or making a movie that offends Muslims, but they have decriminalized other things, such as funding and arming terrorists and endangering the survival of the free world.

Reversing this process and reversing Hillary 2016 requires men and women who can show why what happened in Benghazi, in Cairo and across the region makes a difference. Why it's more than just another random occurrence that can be shelved until the end of time when the clear picture that Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and assorted administration officials talk about finally develops. It will make a  difference when there are enough people who realize that in the last four years, these policies have made all the difference in the world and paved the way for replacing the war of drones and hijackers with a global war on the scale of the first two.

Then the difference that Hillary dismissed and that her colleagues in Obama Inc. have held at bay for another four years will finally be made.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No Enemies to the Left

The disastrous results in Israel's election are yet another example of the right cannibalizing itself. It's not the first time this happened in Israeli political history or American political history or European political history. It's an ongoing theme whose motto is still, "No enemies to the left."

What the "mainstream" conservatives fear most of all is a drift to the right. Some of this is the whimper of whipped dogs. Every party to the right of Stalin has had to spend decades fending off accusations that it was the second coming of the Third Reich, the KKK and Genghis Khan. The Pavlovian training has taken hold and every conservative echelon is expert at going into damage control mode when it senses that its own right might do something that would give the left fuel for their accusations.

But there's another factor at work here. It's cultural. Mainstream conservatives have become another arm of the urban technocracy. They want many of the same things that liberals do, but with less regulations and more tax shelters. They aren't interested in major changes, only the minor ones that will keep the system going. Even when they are dedicated reformers, their vision extends no further than a bunch of high tech cities full of immigrants going to universities and then inventing things.

They are competent, rather than imaginative. The left repeatedly outmaneuvers them because the left is always pushing to the left, while they are content to put a chair against the door and wait for those crazy hippies to get off the LSD, cut their hair and give up. But to their surprise the left never does.

The leaders of mainstream conservatism aren't angry, and they dismiss the people who are as loons. When the left does something oppressive or defeats them, they don't get mad, they get ironically amused. They make detached observations citing Trollope. They are as much a part of the jet setting elite, as their liberal colleagues, and they have an exit strategy, whether it's Singapore or Thailand.

They aren't liberals themselves, but their conservatism is an outmoded thing that was only fit for a conservative society. In a conservative society, they are the old guard. In a liberal society, they are still the old guard, standing for the values of moderation, civility and not getting too worked up about things that can't be changed. In a liberal society, what they conserve is not conservatism, but the liberalism of their youth.

The one thing that worries them is the ascendance of the right. They don't much like their own base. It's angry, noisy and ignorant. It doesn't understand the rules of the game. And it represents a threat to their careers.

They may draw cartoons and sing a few songs, but they aren't revolutionaries. They don't want a culture war. And they don't really want to change the way things are. They may not approve of the politics of their children, and they gasp in horror at debt ratios and proposals to privatize things, but overall they like the way things are. And they imagine that it can remain that way, hanging forever in mid-air, never going further left or further right, a perfect balance that will endure for all time.

They have a simple arrangement with the right. They pledge allegiance, faintly, to its beliefs, mouth the right words during elections, promise to ban abortion, build settlements and leave the EU, and then they shake their heads ruefully and go back to the club regretting the necessity for participating in this clown show. Between elections they sometimes put their intellectual firepower at the disposal of these ideas, though never when these ideas appear to be polling badly, especially with the young.

In exchange the right, the real right, those angry people with quaint ideas about personal freedom, moral revival and national greatness, are expected to know their place. And their place is behind the sawhorses at the rally and in line at the voting booth. When that changes, then they attack their own right with far more vehemence and violence than they ever employ against the left.

The left does not worry them all that much. In a way the left has become their career. The opposition defines their work. Its radicalism ensures that they will always have a base, no matter where that base comes from.

There will always be victims of government regulation, baffled casualties of the culture wars mourning their lost children and men and women who woke up one day from their routine of work and parenting to find out that the country had been stolen from them. There will always be mugging and terror victims who suddenly begin thinking about the big issues that they never really thought about before. And those people will be their base, will sign their checks, buy their books and come to hear them speak.

As long as the left does its work, the moderate conservative leaders will always have a place, if not in the sun, than in the comfortable shade. They have no real enemies to the left. Their enemies are to the right.

The left can raise their taxes, make them jump through regulatory hoops and turn their children into idiots. But the right can take away their positions. The left turns them into dinosaurs every twenty years, but the resurgence of the right can do that in two years. Their job, the job they take on to protect their job, isn't to keep down the left, but to keep down the right so that it doesn't embarrass them in front of the left or break apart the comfortable conservatism that they have built up.

A revolutionary right would not be conservative. It would be a revolutionary movement that is less concerned with talking about how much better things were X years ago and more concerned with forcing a return to the way things were. It would not do this in the name of conserving anything, because it recognizes that there is hardly anything left to conserve, it would do this because it is natural and good, but more so it would do it because it is the only way out of the long fall.

When such movements or figures emerge, often unready for the spotlight, it is the mainstream leaders who gang up and destroy them. In liberal societies where fighting the left is a dangerous sport, an activity constrained by the image concerns imposed by media overlords and social media meme mobs, right on right violence is the one safe sport. It is where they can unleash their full range of attacks, destroying those whose crime is the courage to seek real change, rather than their idyllic urban technocracy of skyscrapers and dot coms.

When the bloody work is done, and the mainstream conservatives have their scalp, a political figure whom they can use to prove that the right is completely unready for mainstream politics and should leave the hard business of running for office to the experts, then the experts waddle out to the face the left, lose or break even, and then formulate a plan for winning by going to the left.

It's a sad state of affairs that repeats itself time and time again. The names changes, the issues change, but the battles remain the same. While the left becomes radicalized, the right becomes marginalized. Even when the moderate conservatives win, their triumph rests in managing a system and a culture that serves the left, more than it does them. And toward the end, they become what they have hated, drifting slowly into liberalism, denouncing in angry fits of rage the resurgence of the right.

Thus conservative movements and parties cannibalize themselves. The left believes that there are no enemies to the left. And so do the leaders of the right. And when they are through fighting each other, then often the left wins by default.