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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Unsolved Problem of Labor

By On March 30, 2011
Both national and local newspapers have made a great show of commemorating the Triangle Waist Company fire, a horrifying event in which women working in a sweatshop burned alive or fell to their deaths. The Triangle fire was not the only example of sweatshop abuses, but it was the most horrifying, and even a 100 years later it is being used by labor advocates to make a point. But that point may not be what they think it is.

A century later there are still sweatshops not very far from the former building that housed the Triangle Waist Company, which has been absorbed by the spreading blot of the NYU campus. The women who work in these sweatshops are not Jewish and Italian, but Chinese. They make from 1 to 3 dollars an hour -- and 90 percent of them are members of unions.

Many of the NYU students who go in and out of the Brown building, where hundreds of women died, wear trendy clothing made in sweatshops. The clothing is not cheap, it is cheaply made. Those students who wanted a moral alternative bought clothes from American Apparel, which promoted its clothes as sweatshop free, turning the company into a major player in the garment industry. But American Apparel started out by subcontracting its manufacturing to Sam Lim, since then it has employed large numbers of illegal aliens and the lawsuits charging the AA boss with sexual harassment and blackmail, suggest its office workers might envy Norma Rae.

The tale of the Triangle Waist Company is intertwined with that of the ILGWU, the union which represented female garment workers. But the ILGWU no longer exists, instead it has been merged into a restaurant workers union, and even that combined union has half the membership the ILGWU did. The combined union is run by a Yale Phi Beta Kappa grad, whose wife, another Yale alumni, cozily runs the union's health plan. Additionally he serves on the Board of Trustees of Washington D.C.'s high end liberal public policy think tank, the Brookings Institute. It's enough to make the NYU tenants of the old home of the Triangle factory seem downright lower class.

What happened to the unions? A union is an organization, not the expression of the collective will of the workers. It is not fundamentally different than the sweatshops, it just operates on another business model. A sweatshop and a union both run for the benefit of the bosses, they just have a different set of customers, the sweatshop's customers are the brands and the union's customers are the workers. Both the sweatshop and the union win over their customers with ruthless tactics, but the final profit goes to the bosses.

The Triangle era saw ruthless exploitation and conflict between workers and bosses. The bosses suppressed worker discontent and strikes by hiring local gangs for protection or relying on the Democratic party's Tammany Hall machine to send out its cops, at a time when promotion in the New York City police force meant paying money to the boys on top . The workers turned to gangs and to left wing radicals, who built up their unions, took them over and turned them into a trust that controlled entire industries. The trust was integrated into the political machine. Soon the sweatshop workers and owners were both working for the same people.

The ILGWU, which newspapers and labor mythmakers would have us believe that the falling women of the Triangle Waist Company died for, used gangsters like Little Augie and Lepke Buchalter, head of Murder Inc, to maintain control over the trust. And though much is made by feminists of the ILGWU being a mostly female union, it was and in its current incarnation is still run by men who did not tolerate any dissent. When the Depression killed the boom that had powered the garment business, it also killed the ILGWU's trust. Only federal intervention by FDR's labor regulations turned the tide. But that too was only temporary. Once the garment industry was able to begin outsourcing to cheaper labor abroad, the ILGWU began dying a slow death.

The union's business model depended on raising the cost of labor, and charging the workers for doing their organizing for them, which conflicted with the garment industry's need to make clothes as cheaply as possible. Now those same clothes are being made in China or Chinatown. The ILGWU, like so many unions, promised the good life, but they could only deliver temporary raises followed by the decimation of the industry itself. It was enough time for a generation to get on its feet, but not for those that followed it. There are still garment worker union members and plenty of them work in sweatshops while making below minimum wage. This is no paradox. A large membership means wealth and power for those on top. It doesn't necessarily mean anything for those on the bottom. Cheap garments will always be made, whether they will be made cheaply by union or non-union members. They fill a need and as long as people buy based primarily on price considerations, the sweatshop will go on existing.

Sweatshops were built to take advantage of a new business model, that sidelined tailors who worked for individual customers, for mass produced garments by factory workers. The workers could be unskilled and disposable. An owner made the lowest bid for a contract, borrowed money and rented a space and equipment, got workers for as little as he could, and then tried to squeeze blood out of them to make a profit. If he succeeded, then he might be able to do the same thing again, if he didn't, he would be bankrupt. The cheaply made clothes were of lower quality (though of much higher quality than most clothes you'll find at Wal-Mart or K-Mart today) but affordable for millions of people. A successful worker might save up enough to become an owner himself. And plenty of doctors, lawyers and tycoons had fathers or mothers who started out this way.

That is what makes the problem of labor so difficult. Over a hundred women died in the Triangle Waist Company fire, but how many hundreds of thousands of women lived because the garment industry, with all the ugliness of its sweatshops and child labor, provided a way for them and their families to come to America. How many of them would have survived under Nazi or Communist rule?

It isn't a cheerful question to ask, but any moral consideration of the Triangle Waist Company must also raise that question. The possibility that the garment industry still saved far more lives than it took. And that moral consideration is often at the heart of unregulated capitalism. Does its ultimate prosperity justify its abuses?

Today China has slave labor, widespread pollution and a rising middle class. And America has a tightly regulated labor market and a declining middle class. Liberals despise trickle down economics, but prosperity is undeniably trickling away from the regulatory republics of the West and into the maw of Chinese crony capitalists. And the Chinese sweatshop workers in New York, slaving over machines in hot rooms, the way their Jewish and Italian predecessors did, are more likely to have children who will go to Yale, than the Black and Hispanic government employees living on generous union negotiated salaries

New York City has lost 2 percent of its Black residents who are mainly moving to the non-union south, because there are jobs there. The large Black populations in Northeastern cities had come for the jobs in booming urban industries. Particularly during wartime, when so many American workers were fighting in Europe or Asia. When those industries moved abroad, they left behind ghettos full of people who could no longer find work. The race riots had far more to do with joblessness, than with discrimination, as can be seen by looking at the much milder race riots during WW2 when jobs were available.

The liberal northeast is a union paradise, and yet black people are deserting it. They are abandoning strongholds like New York, Chicago and Boston. And it's not just the Northeast, even a Pacific liberal haven like San Francisco is losing its black population. The Federal government is going after Marin County for its lack of diversity, accusing it of violating the Civil Rights Act. But officials have tried to attract Black residents with the usual diversity buzzwords, but how do you do that without jobs? Every article about Black emigration from urban areas uses those same buzzwords and all of them miss the point. Chicago, New York and San Francisco did not suddenly turn racist-- they turned jobless.

While unions can lock in a guaranteed number of jobs at a given salary-- they can only do so at the cost of reducing the overall number of available jobs. You can have a 100,000 very good jobs, a 1,000,000 average jobs or 10,000,000 miserable ones or a 100,000,000 slave labor jobs. The unionized northeast has gone with the.100,000 and China has gone with the 100,000,000. Which is why they have jobs and we don't. That is not to say that we should be imitating China-- rather it is important to understand the dynamic at work here.

Liberalism's celebration of diversity is properly a celebration of capitalism. That diversity would not exist without it. America was built by everyone from indentured English and Irish servants, German, Irish, Jewish and Italian factory workers, Swedish farmers and miners to African-American slaves, and half the world, from Norway to China. Many of them were treated badly, but the larger story may be what they and their descendants achieved here. Liberals like to fit that into a narrative that begins with exploitation and ends with regulation-- but then why are so many of the millions of White and Black workers who depended on major industries out of work?

Their answer is that government solves everything. But let us take a look at another fire that happened not far from the site of the Triangle Waist Company fire and is much less remembered today. The fire on board the General Slocum.

In the summer of 1904, the General Slocum, a  ship taking the women and children of the ethnic German community in Manhattan, for an outing caught fire. But its safety equipment from life jackets to hoses were completely useless. Over a thousand women and children died within sight of the shore. Died in useless and senseless ways that would have never happened had the safety equipment been inspected. But the 'inspectors' were part of the Democratic party's corrupt Tammany Hall network, who were appointed by political patrons to a lucrative office and were notorious for passing anything. Life vests filled with iron bars and rotten hoses on the General Slocum got their approval. The regulations were there, but government corruption ensured that they would not be enforced.

A year earlier, 650 theater patrons had died in Chicago during the Iroquois Theatre fire, again because of corrupt inspectors. Safety equipment was non-existent and the law went unenforced. Charges were leveled against everyone up to Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, but the 'Chicago Way' ensured that justice was not served. And a year later, Carter Harrison was running for the Democratic party's nomination for President.

Both these events were at least as horrifying as the Triangle Waist Company fire, and had a much higher death toll. But they are not remembered because not only do they fail to make a pro-labor point, but they actually make a much more dangerous point about the inherent corruptibility of government authority. They remind us that regulation is law and law is enforced by men through a bureaucracy overseen by political patronage. And that such systems are no more moral or ethical, and no less greedy, than that of the sweatshops. As we confront a 15 trillion dollar deficit and an uncontrollable orgy of greed by politicians and public sector unions who are their electoral base, we are reminded of that every day.

The only answer may be that there is no answer. It is men who make moral choices, and it is the individual, whether in a corporation, a union and or a government who does or does not do the right thing. The problem of labor cannot be solved by creating more organizations, as that only creates more hierarchies which also treat workers as cash cows. They cannot be solved through passing laws in one country, while its citizens purchase the benefits of slave labor from another. There may be no solving it at all. And on the former site of the Triangle Waist Company, students pass holding iPod's made by abused workers in China whose economy is nevertheless threatening to dominate the 21st century.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Known Unknowns of Libya

By On March 29, 2011
The Libyan war may be dumbest war we have ever stumbled into. It is a war where the Secretary of Defense has admitted we have no national interest, a war where we don't know on whose behalf we're fighting or why we're even there. A war that the White House did not bother to run by either congress or the American people, except after the fact. A war that appears to be fought at the behest England, France, their oil companies, and a motley collection of Libyan rebels ranging from former regime thugs to Al Qaeda.

A week after launching it, the administration still can't get its own story straight as to why we're fighting it at all. According to Obama, he went in because he refused to wait for images of mass graves. Other things he refused to wait for were basic intelligence, stated objectives and congressional approval. It took us ten years to decide to remove Saddam, it didn't even take Obama ten days.

Was there any indication that there would be the implied genocide that comes with mass graves? Hardly. On Feb 22nd, Libyan diplomats began claiming in broken English that Gaddafi was committing 'genocide'. Since they had trouble with the language, it's an open question if they even knew what genocide was. And since Libya is an Arab-Muslim country and the civil war is fought between Arab Muslims, who exactly would Gaddafi be committing genocide against? The Tuaregs are the closest thing Libya has to a minority-- and they're fighting on his side. If there's a possible genocide here, it would be of the Tuareg people by the rebels if they win.

But if Obama was too afraid that there might someday emerge pictures of mass graves, why then did he oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein? Mass graves in Iraq are not hypothetical. And photos of them are available. Yet Obama who campaigned on his opposition to a war in which there were mass graves and in which every option had been exhausted after a decade-- now leaps into a war to avoid the possibility that he might ever have to look at photos of mass graves.

This isn't about Obama being too queasy to look at mass graves. If that were the case we would be invading North Korea, Sudan and the cartel run parts of Mexico. Gaddafi is not doing anything that half the Middle East isn't doing, and unlike our close ally Turkey, he's doing it without employing chemical weapons. We aren't in Libya because it's an extraordinary human rights situation, but because our decision making process has become a thorough and complete mess.

What kind of war is it, when a week after it begins, the NATO commander admits that he's examining the possibility that maybe we're actually fighting for Al-Qaeda. Our main enemy in that other war, which we're neglecting in order to begin a war on yet another front. The very minimal condition for any war should be to make sure that we aren't fighting on the same side as our enemies. The only condition lower than that would be to make sure we aren't pointing the guns at ourselves. A war where we can't do that is a very bad war indeed.

But don't worry. While we may not be sure who the rebels are yet, Obama has already proposed arming them. Or rather he's not ruling it out. Which is to say all options are on the table, except the reasoned and lawful ones.

Bad is the operating word in the UK, where RAF instructors are being rushed off to the front lines because of a shortage of Typhoon pilots, and with no aircraft carrier to deploy them from because it's been cut up for scrap, while the Royal Navy flagship is being put up for sale on the military version of eBay. If you're going to start a war, as Prime Minister Cameron has, you should be prepared for it.

But Libya isn't the kind of war you prepare for, it's the kind of war you stumble into. One bad idea mushrooming into another one. An error in judgement by world leaders escalating into a bombing campaign. The only thing missing is Peter Sellers trying to strangle himself. This is how liberals think all war happens, and so that's the kind of war they foisted on us.

European governments with Libyan oil contracts prematurely celebrating a rebel victory, only to see the rebel advance turn into a retreat, scrambling to save the situation by making sure that the rebels win. Before really figuring out who the rebels are. We are bombing Libya, not because of the specter of mass graves, but because key European leaders made a wrong guess about the outcome of a civil war and their political futures and energy supply hangs in the balance.

Despite our No Fly Zone, Gaddafi is still winning. Which means that now we have to get even deeper, to justify our original course of action. Now we may supply the rebels with arms and begin hitting Libyan armor. Then we'll have to start bombing armed camps. And if the rebels still can't pull it off, how many more steps will it take before we start sending the troops in?

The credibility of Obama and key European allies is on the line. The Arab League has already made sure to stake out positions on both sides of the fence. Russia is against it, except when they're sort of for it. China expects to benefit no matter what happens. It's probably the safest bet of any player in the game. Obama and Sarkozy have elections coming up, and they need a win. But their only possible Victory Condition is either Gaddafi getting on a plane or going in the ground. And the latter is clearly more likely to happen than the former.

It's not that Gaddafi is worth saving. He isn't. He isn't even worth the cost of a cruise missile. But it's doubtful that his replacements, most of whom either worked for him or think the Taliban didn't go far enough, will be any better. And what's worse is that we haven't done the due diligence to decide that one way or another. Our military people are just guessing. And they know that it doesn't matter. The politicians have committed themselves, which means that even if tomorrow Libya's rebel council were to appoint Osama bin Laden as its chief, some way would be found to rationalize and normalize the whole thing.

That's how the dominoes of stupidity work. Sarkozy and Cameron fall on Obama, he fingers his chin and tugs on his earlobes while pondering the NCAA draft picks. Samantha Power shows up eager for an opportunity to put her interventionist ideas to the test, with the promise of international support. Obama checks his calendar and decides that they can get it done while he's vacationing with his family in Rio. Imagine Will Smith filling in for Peter Sellers, and you get some idea of how ridiculous and poorly thought out this whole farce really is.

Libya isn't just an optional war, it's a war we began fighting before we even knew we were fighting it. It's a war that's being renamed even as it's being escalated. Odyssey Dawn sounds like an exotic perfume. What about Kinetic Military Action, it sounds like a feature for the latest video game. Anything but an honest admission that this is an undeclared war on behalf of the losing side in a civil war. The side we decided to choose before we even knew what that side was.

And that's the real crime here. The revelation of how little thought and concern went into this war. How the major players, stumbled into this thinking only of themselves. Sarkozy and Cameron dreaming of oil contracts, Samantha Power of forcing her interventionist vision on the world, and Obama, hoping a few billion spent on bombing Libya will help him in the polls. The criminal thoughtlessness behind Obama's decision to go to war-- mirrors the criminal thoughtlessness of his party in turning him into a viable candidate after a few months in the Senate.

The confused leaders of the ad hoc coalition all expect Gaddafi to do the reasonable thing, but that's how they got into trouble to begin with, when they assumed that Libya would be just like Egypt which would be just like Tunisia. But Gaddafi isn't Mubarak, he isn't even Saddam Hussein. What he is, is authentically crazy. Not the usual crazy that's so commonplace in the Arab world. This isn't Baghdad Minister of Information crazy, or GPS Shark crazy or any of the usual melange of conspiracy theories, cunning ploys and contradictory beliefs that are commonplace among regional leaders. No, this is actual insanity. That means it may be possible that Gaddafi will get on a plane tomorrow and fly to Malta and announce that he is resigning to build an entry portal to paradise. Or more likely he will just hang on to the bitter end, spending his fortune on arms and mercenaries. And we will spend ours firing cruise missiles at pickup trucks.

Which means this war may turn into Grenada or Iraq-- or anything in between. It may be resolved tomorrow or three years from now. There really is no way to know, because of how much we don't know. The tactical maxim that 'no plan of operations survives first contact with the enemy' is more relevant here than ever, because of the sheer ignorance and lack of planning that went into this war. Liberals mocked Rumsfeld's 'Known Unknowns' and 'Unknown Unknowns', and here they find themselves in a war filled with 'Unknown Unknowns', things that they didn't even know they needed to know. Like how wars really work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sitting in the Dark

By On March 28, 2011
Forget the World's Fair, we now have a new way to celebrate human accomplishment. Instead of going to see a vision of the future, we turn off the lights and sit in the dark for an hour. Earth Hour shows how far we have come from celebrating human accomplishment to celebrating the lack of accomplishment. For all its pretentious activism, environmentalism is a movement that promotes inaction. Don't build, don't create and don't do-- are its commandments. Turn off the lights and feel good about how much you aren't doing right now. Slacker morality at its best.

While we take the electric light for granted-- to be able to read and write after dark by a clear light is a technological achievement that has transformed our civilization. Animals are governed by day and night cycles. Artificial light made it possible for us to work independently of the day and night cycle. There is no way to measure the increase in knowledge gained. And there is no better measure of the unthinking contempt of the environmentalist movement for that achievement than a call to turn off the lights and sit in the dark.

Like all environmental gimmicks, Earth Hour is perverse and hypocritical. Far more energy is consumed promoting it, then is saved by practicing it. Websites switch to black, even though broadcasting black on TV sets or displaying it on monitors actually consumes more energy. Turning off electricity to major landmarks well after working hours, and then turning it on, costs more than letting it run. So does getting 90 million people across the United States to turn their power on and off at a scheduled time. The energy savings of turning the power off, is more than offset by turning it on again. And since power companies draw down on their more expensive 'green' generators first, Earth Hour actually results in a shutdown of 'green' power.

But its sponsors don't claim that Earth Hour saves energy or prevents us from polluting the globe with every breath of carbon we exhale. Like every environmentalist stunt from flying rock stars around the world on jet planes to give Earth Day concerts to carving thousands of statues made of ice and then leaving them to melt in a public square, it's meant to bring awareness. And awareness is just compliance misspelled.

The WWF, who are behind the Earth Hour farce, have learned that alarmism and shrill attention seeking are reliable fundraising methods. One of their uglier moments was a 9/11 ad that showed hundreds of planes headed toward the World Trade Center, to highlight just how much more important their work is than fighting terrorism. Franny Armstrong of Age of Stupid, which was promoted by the WWF, ran a 10:10 campaign in the UK, whose ads featured environmentalists murdering dissenters, including a group of schoolchildren. The ads are just ad, but London's leftist former mayor, Ken Livingston had said of Age of Stupid, "Every single person in the country should be forcibly sat down on a chair and made to watch this film."

That is the dark side of environmentalism, an ugly violent side that emerges easily. The most active non-Muslim domestic terrorist group is environmental. The undercurrent of violence finds easy purchase in environmentalism's creed that the only real problem with the world is the people. No amount of turning off the lights is enough. Eventually you come around to having to turn off the people.

The Nazis were among the most enthusiastic environmentalists of their day, even the term 'Ecology' was coined by Ernst Haeckel, whose racial views served as precursors to Nazi eugenics. But while  Nazi environmentalist believed that we were all really animals, they insisted that they had come a good deal further than others from the ape kingdom-- modern environmentalists believe that we are all worse than animals. In their view we are both natural and unnatural. Natural because we come from the ape and unnatural because we are intelligent. We live on the planet, but we don't belong on it. So the environmentalist view of man has become ominously similar to the Nazi view of the Jew.

The incompatibility of productive man with the natural world is as much as a fundamental tenet of environmentalism-- as the incompatibility of the Jew with Germany was to the Nazis. Everything we do is destructive, because of what we are. We are tool builders, inventors and producers. And the environmentalist movement is aimed at convincing us to stop being these things. To turn off the lights, make do with less and march back to the caves with a few clever ad campaigns and a catchy tune. Zero Population campaigns and calls for mandatory one child families are the eugenics of environmentalism. The old eugenicists were concerned with improving the human breed by promoting the reproduction of some, and preventing the reproduction of others. Environmental eugenics treats all of mankind as an inferior race.

And not only mankind, but the animals that man has domesticated and bred-- cows, dogs and cats. Why do you think PETA kills thousands of dogs and cats a year, opposes house pets, promotes the euthanasia of wild cats, pet spaying and its staffers have even been known to kidnap animals and then kill them. (Which is why campaign posters for PETA should feature Cruella DeVill, not some random actress looking to shore up her environmental credentials.) Or why the Global Warming crowd has made cow emissions into their whipping bovine. The environmentalist movement does not believe in animal rights, it doesn't care about the cruelty of eating a hamburger-- its goal is to eliminate domesticated animals.

Environmentalism is not motivated by a love for all creatures-- but by a romanticized idea of natural wildness over human cultivation. It prefers the wild meadow to the wheat field, the swamp to the garden, the wolf to the dog, and the tiger to the house cat. This preference is not scientific, it is emotional, rooted in an antipathy to industrialization and human development. It wraps itself in the cloak of science, but it is actually whole reactionary, a longing for a romanticized past that never existed. In the environmental bible-- man is the source of all evil. The transition from the nomadic to the domestic, the village to the city, and the craftsman to the factory, their version of original sin.

The environmentalist began with a distaste for human civilization and a fetishization of the rural, even though like Rousseau or Tolstoy they had nothing to do with a need for actual labor. The champions of "naturalism" were inevitably artists and writers who were enthusiastic about being in touch with nature. Then came the "Nature Faker" crafting myths about the genius and high moral standards of wild animals. Domestic animals in such stories were always wicked and dumb, while wild animals lived deep and spiritual lives out in the woods.

The world was divided into two polar opposites, the green and the gray, in an apocalyptic struggle. Either man would drown the world in industry, or he would return to a natural way of life through a lethal virus (Mary Shelley, The Last Man, 1826), a devastating war (H.G. Wells), oppressive social policies (Edward Bellamy) or eco-terrorism (The Monkey Wrench Gang). As time went on, the scenarios became more stark and the outcome apocalyptic culminating in the two great environmental myths, nuclear winter and global warming, that served the same purpose for environmentalists as apocalypses do for all religions. A time when the sinful order is overturned and the earth is renewed to make way for the faithful.

Man is the environmentalist's devil. He must be beaten, broken and subjugated. Even the animals he has bred, who are the spark of his genius, must be taken out and killed. Take away his food and his power. Blame him for the natural cycles of the planet and the inevitable extinction of species that goes on whether he is there or not. Take away his technology and his inventions. Smother his religion and his faith. Tell him that the humblest bacteria is better than him, for it is dumb and follows its natural instincts, while he insists on using his mind. Take away his primacy and his learning. Put out his lights and leave him in the dark.

It is happening now as we speak. The environmental movement is tenacious, fanatical and deceptive. Its creed is the undoing of all human progress as the Kingdom of Gaia on earth. There is money to be made from that, as there is in all revolutions, money to be made by selling indulgences and endorsements. Wealth moving from the sinners to the faithful to atone for their sins against mother nature. But underlying the petty and the great inconveniences of living under an environmental regime, from dirty clothes to high taxes, the obligation to listen to the hypocrisies and false pieties of the Gorean clergy of environmentalism heating their mansions while the poor freeze on energy rations, is that darker reality. Environmentalism is an anti-human movement with a vicious hostility toward the civilization he has built. Whatever he has built, it must destroy.

The gap between darkness and light is a profound symbol in every civilization. The light of knowledge pitted against the shadow dark of ignorance. The light reveals, but the darkness hides. Civilization and the moral code exist in the light of awareness, but the darkness is home to unthinking bestial things. To call for a return to the darkness is a profound bit of symbolism. It is a ritual act laden with unknowing meaning. A civilization that celebrates a return to the darkness for even a single hour is longing for a return to a more profound form of darkness. A darkness of the soul.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saving 1 Billion People from Themselves

By On March 27, 2011
The West is almost as in love with improving the world, as the Muslim world is with conquering it. These two contradictory impulses, the missionary and the warrior, intersect in the Clash of Civilizations. The Muslim world has two approaches to the West, underhanded deceit and outright terror. The former are considered moderates and the latter extremists. The West has two approaches to the Muslim world, regime change and love bombing. With regime change we bomb their cities to save them from their rulers and with love bombing we shamelessly flatter and appease them in our own cities.

Westerners worry a great deal over who runs the Muslim world. Muslims do not care very much who runs Western countries. They prefer weak liberal leaders to strong ones, but they do not overall think there is a difference between them. Even the emplacement of a Hussein in the White House has not improved America's ratings in the Muslim world. That is because Muslims are religiously and culturally antagonistic to the West. Whether John McCain or Barack Hussein Obama are in the White House-- America is still a non-Muslim country. It is and will the subjective of xenophobia no matter how much it flatters the Muslim world.

Westerners focus their animus on Muslim leaders, on a Saddam, a Gaddafi or an Arafat-- not recognizing that the hostility toward us comes not from the leaders, but from the people. We can remove all the leaders of the Muslim world and replace them with muppets, and it won't noticeably change the underlying sentiments on the Arab street. And very soon the muppets will also start chanting, "Death to America" because it's the popular thing to do.

Take the Neo-conservative's favorite Egyptian democracy activist Sandmonkey who has rediscovered that the best way to campaign is by accusing the other guy of being a Yankee-Zionist stooge. That's politics as usual in a country where everyone accuses everyone else of being a pawn of the Great and Little Satans. By linking the Muslim Brotherhood to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia to Israel, he can accuse the Brotherhood of being stooges of Israel. Senseless but it's the default position. It's easier to campaign on who hates America and Israel more, than who has a workable reform program.

This is a snapshot of why regime change, whether by armed force or supporting democratic revolutions, won't save the Muslim world. You can't save people from themselves. Not without drastically changing who they are at the same time. But we can save ourselves from them.

The Muslim world is not backward by their standards, it is backward by our standards. It refuses to make the 250 year leap that the West did, but that is because it does not like the trade-offs that come with it. And that is its choice to make. Individualism, freedom and tolerance are not acceptable values in the Muslim world. And totalitarianism, theocracy and repression are not acceptable values in ours. The Muslim world has no obligation to accede to our cultural standards or tolerate us, but we accordingly have no obligation to accede to theirs or to tolerate them.

There is always a gap between civilizations, but rarely has the moral gap yawned so starkly as it does now. We are as eager to bring the Muslim world into the light, as they are to drag us into the darkness. And the momentum is on their side. We don't have the answers that we think we do. Democracy is not the solution. Neither is embracing Muslim culture with open arms. They don't have the answers either, but they have something better. Unrestrained violence and the desperation of a failed culture struggling against the tidal pull of that failure. Like a drowning man, if we try to save them, then they will pull us down with them.

We are not so wise and so perfect that we can claim to know how to save 1 billion people from themselves. Right now we are experiencing a good deal of trouble saving us from ourselves. We cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of reforming the Muslim world as well. Whatever spiritual or cultural redemption waits for them, must come from themselves. It will not come through a change of government or lavish praise. Only through a growing moral awareness that they need not subjugate others to feel pride and honor in themselves and their culture. There is no telling when or if such an awareness will come. There are animal rights campaigns in China and anti-rape campaigns in Africa-- but no progress on human rights in the Muslim world. It is likely that China will be vegetarian before non-Muslims are treated as equals in the Muslim world.

It has been made manifestly clear that Muslim violence against us, both individual and collective, will not cease any time soon. That further such violence is informed by the scriptures of their faith and a basic xenophobia toward people who are different from them. And that while some Muslim countries and individuals claim to harbor no violent intentions toward us-- such claims often prove false under the pressure of domestic unrest or growing religiosity.

If the Muslim world has raised up a wall of sand against freedom, tolerance and the recognition of our common humanity-- then it is best for their sake and ours that they remain on their side of that wall of sand. If they refuse to coexist with us, either locally or globally, then that is their choice. They may have their paradise of hefty-bagged women, towering mosques and cowering infidels-- so long as their bigotry and oppression remains on their side of the wall of sand. When they breach that wall, then we have the right to treat them as they would treat us, not according to our laws, but according to theirs-- as they do to us, so shall be done to them. It is not a pretty doctrine, but it is a just one. And it is an overwhelmingly fair code that men should live by the laws they make for others. There can be no hypocrisy or misunderstanding in such a code. And it teaches more finely than any other the consequences of evil.

But as we write and read, talk goes on of how to save 1 billion Muslims from themselves. Removing their tyrannies, some cry. But what will they replace them with? More tyrannies. Governments reflect their peoples, not perfectly, but as broken mirrors. No tyrant who does not reflect what his subjects prize in this world can long endure upon his throne. If 1 billion Muslims wanted to be free, they would be. The tyrants are expressions of their condition, not repressions of their moral will. The Muslim world does not differ on whether there should be tyranny, but on what manner of tyranny it should be.

Of course no generalization applies to every person in a country or a culture. But they do apply to groups that self-identify that way, proclaiming that the Koran is our Constitution, where popular will represses women and spews hate at religious minorities. How does one protect them from the damage that they do to their own character? And how does one save people from their own hate?

The most fundamental error of the West toward the Muslim world is that of condescension. Western governments may see Muslims as minorities, but they see themselves as majorities. And throughout the world they are majorities. Muslims in America, Europe, Israel, Canada or Australia do not see themselves as minorities, but as natural majorities who have the right to impose their will and their way of life. Unlike refugees who come from cultures where they are minorities, Muslims come expecting to have things done their way. And when the West accedes, that only affirms the Muslim sense of privilege.

The West condescends to Muslims, and Muslims condescend to the West. Both reassure the other that everything is fine. But the West's condescension is based on wishful co-existence, that of the Muslim world on progressive conquest. If diplomacy is the art of saying, 'Nice Doggie' while looking for a stick, then the West isn't looking for the stick, and the Muslim is. Therein lies the problem.

The West's missionary impulse toward the Muslim world is not only misplaced, it is positively dangerous. How can the West convince the Muslim world to believe as it does, when it no longer knows what it believes? The Muslim world lacks such weaknesses. It cannot be crippled by moral quandaries, ideological contradictions, philosophical crises or doubts about the future. Its members do not recognize contradiction, rather they embrace it, until those contradictions explode in violence. Western codes are black and white, Muslim codes combine all shades into one. When the Muslim world is confused or in doubt, it resolves these feelings with violence. The West does not resolve them at all. While the West broods, the Muslim world slits throats. The problems of the Clash of Civilization cannot be postponed much longer. They are our problem. We cannot save 1 billion people from themselves, but we can save ourselves from them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Massacre of Meaning

By On March 26, 2011
When terrorists planted bomb in a bag near a bus station killing a Scottish Bible translator studying ancient Hebrew, and wounding dozens more including six Americans -- Reuters decided it was time to explain to its audience what that peculiar Hebraic term, "Terrorist Attack" meant.

"Police described the explosion as a “terrorist attack” — Israel’s term for a Palestinian strike," Reuters elucidated. Reuter's term for a terrorist attack turns out to be "Palestinian strike", which suggests a labor rally by terrorists demanding more virgins in paradise and more euphemistic media coverage. If such were their demands, then they got their wish.

Terms like "terrorist" have been replaced by "militant". Militant does not tell us anything more than terrorist does. On the contrary it tells us much less. Terrorists carry out violent attacks, but militants can refer to anyone from zealous environmentalists to homicidal killers. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "militant" as "Having a combative character", which covers a rough third of the human race. And a full two-thirds on a bad day.

Why resort to imprecise language over more precise terminology? To avoid offending the people who plant bombs that kill bible translators, while dulling the impact of the event for their reading audience. A terrorist is a terrible person, but a militant is just worked up about something.

Vague language becomes the paradigm. Reuters isn't saying that they recommend that people say "Palestinian strike" rather than "terrorist attack", that would reveal their stake in the game. Instead they treat "terrorist" as a provincial term that might confuse their audience, explaining implicitly that the proper term is "Palestinian strike". The lesson is implicit, not explicit. An unstated correction that they are supposed to take heart.

From a fact based perspective, a bombing at a bus station is more obviously a terrorist attack, than it is a Palestinian strike, particularly as no Arab Muslims had been arrested yet. But it is not the facts that are being served here. It is the narrative. "Palestinian strike" equates to "Israeli strike". Two mirror images of the same. No difference between leaving a bomb at a bus station and hitting a bunch of terrorists firing rockets into Israeli towns and villages. One strike is as good as any other. Except that the latter get detailed coverage and the former get vague euphemisms

For that same reason comes the mention of this being the, "the first such bombing in Jerusalem in seven years", which sounds nice and peaceful. Just terrorists, pardon militants, scratching their seven year homicidal itch. The massacre of students at the Mercaz HaRav school doesn't qualify, that was done with an AK-47, but what about the trash pipe bomb just this month that took off a sanitation worker's hand? Well it wasn't "such" a bombing, was it. One was in the trash, the other at a bus station. Leave enough wriggle room and language can mean anything. If there's a bombing at a fruit stand tomorrow, it will be the first time in seven years too.

In his essay on politics and grammar, Orwell warned that "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible." A study of the media corps circa 2011 tells us that we can eliminate the 'largely' altogether and just turn it into the dictionary definition. The media doesn't report on terrorist attacks because it wants to, but because it has to. They have occurred and they are by definition news. Which means they are obligated to fill out a few paragraphs mentioning them. And that they do. Muddied by the vaguest terminology they can find, along with justifications for the act, casting blame on the victim and mentioning that it's the settlements which are the true obstacles to peace.

The muddle spreads. Phrases such as "cycle of violence" or "militant attacks" come to be used by people who are in no way trying to excuse terrorist violence, and yet are unable to escape the widening degradation of meaning. Language designed to rationalize the irrational and defend the indefensible goes mainstream. It becomes part of how we think. We use words to express meaning and by taking on such ready-made phrases, we turn over the duty of understanding to their makers. When we use them, it is their worldview that passes through our lips.

Obama's own statement was a masterpiece of vagueness and word juggling. "The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once", quoth the One. Does he not know which groups are responsible. There aren't so many, that naming them in a sentence would be laborious. But it would be politically inconvenient. That's followed by a call for "all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties". Whoever those parties may be. It's fairly certain that one of those parties is Israel, but the rest are a diffuse unknown. The equivalence capper comes with the condolences "for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday".

But when Biden wanted to denounce Israel a year ago, he was quite clear about it, saying, "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem." The White House can be quite clear about who it's condemning and why when it wants to be. In that same essay, Orwell wrote that, "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity". That is obviously true of the White House, whose vagueness grows in proportion to its insincerity.

Take the statements of Netanyahu and Abbas that Obama quoted during his UN address. "Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity." And President Abbas said, "We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause." They both sound nice, but there are fundamental differences. Netanyahu used "I" to accept responsibility, Abbas used "We" to shift it. Netanyahu can be held accountable for failure, but Abbas can't.

Netanyahu agreed to compromise to achieve peace. Abbas agreed that "we" will work really hard to see that the negotiations achieve their cause-- whatever that cause may be. Negotiations generally achieve results. But negotiations with terrorists are only meant to serve their cause. Not achieve or effect-- but serve. The negotiations are servants of the Palestinian terrorist cause. And they will only engage in them to the service of their interests. Sabotaging those negotiations often serves the cause well too.

It's not the only possible interpretation, but deliberately vague language leads to multiple interpretations. Insincerity always needs a thousand boltholes. Escape hatches from meaning. And it is the liars and hypocrites who need to flee meaning the most.

Dante's Inferno reserved the ninth circle of its hell for hypocrites and corrupt politicians. Today we reserve the ninth for the fourth estate. And some of the fourth estate has already wound up there on its own. Which is to be preferred, the liar or the hypocrite. That depends on whether you would rather read the newspaper or listen to a White House statement. It's propaganda either way, but with different flavors of nuance. The hypocrite pretends to be moral, the liar does not. Both invert morality, but the hypocrite does it with sleight of hand.

Time Magazine's Karl Vick, who reportedly holds a standing job offer from Goebbels, ended his first paragraph on the massacre of the Fogel family with a clumsy mixture of Der Sturmer and Der Reuters, writing of the Israeli response-- "events lurched forward with something very like vengeance." Events can lurch forward with a vengeance, but that is not the same thing as the pursuit of vengeance. Vick would like to get across both meanings, while not being accountable for either.

Vick's itemized list of Israeli "vengeance" consists of condemning the massacre, approving home construction, filing a complaint with the UN, fundraising for victims of terrorist attacks and calling on Abbas' PA to stop promoting violence. As "vengeance" goes, this is really not it at all. That's where Karl Vick has to work at transforming Israeli complaints and fundraising for murder victims into horrible acts, while minimizing the crime itself.

Vick's first tool of vagueness is the Impersonal Passive Voice. The last refuge of the moral coward from his moral reckoning.

The actual killing of the Fogel family is described as "The murder by knife of three children". Who killed the children? The knife did. Blame the knife. No reference is made to who actually perpetrated the attack. Terrorists don't kill children, knives do.

The impersonal passive voice is most often used by those trying to minimize accountability. And Karl Vick determinedly goes into 'impersonal passive voice' every time the murder of the Fogel family comes up.

"The slaughter did not eradicate the family", Vick writes. Apparently the perpetrator was someone named 'The Slaughter'. Farther down, "The means of entry into the settlement". Whose means of entry? We just don't know. Still further down, Vick finally breaks down and mention that the attack may have been carried out by people, "the identity of the attackers remains unknown". Like so much else.

But Vick isn't trapped in some hopeless verbal pacifism. He can assign blame perfectly well. So long as it's to Israelis. Vick charges Netanyahu with making certain "that the attack would, in fact, have a direct impact on Israel's West Bank settlements" and making "the clearest effort to transmute the deaths of the Fogels into politics". Again the perpetrators of the Fogel's deaths are missing, but Vick shows no such reluctance when it comes to Netanyahu. But then in Karl Vick's twisted worldview, Netanyahu is "in fact" guilty of much worse than killing children, he's guilty of being the prime minister of a country fighting terrorists.

"Jewish settlers and Palestinians have clashed many times since Itamar was built", writes Vick. But why are the Jews listed first? To place the emphasis in the right place. A sentence later Vick notes that there have been three sets of murders by Muslim terrorists, and after the latest murder, five Muslim cars were torched by Jewish residents. Vick caps this off with an absurd quote from a spokesperson for the radical left-wing B'Tselem organization about Ithamar being an ongoing scene of mutual violence. Mutual violence meaning that Israelis get murdered and Muslim cars get burned. And so vagueness triumphs again.

In an article in which, Vick manages to describe the Sabbath as "enforced rest" and "enforced public silence"-- he finds nothing bad to say about the other side. When he is forced to describe their violence, he slips into passive voice and dense formalities. Thickets of words that he knows will have little impact. But when he encounters something as awful as a Jewish house or the Sabbath, then he finds properly violent metaphors to describe them.

Propaganda complicates the simple and simplifies the complicated. Context is brought to material unfavorable to the cause, while being stripped away from already favorable material. A story about a terrorist bombing needs tinkering with, but one about collateral damage in an Israeli strike against terrorists needs none. The choice of context is utterly revealing. It is the difference between reporting and promoting. The way words are used is the way that meaning is created. To massacre meaning, all you need to do is kill the truth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Afternoon Roundup - The State of Dysfunction

By On March 25, 2011

Obama's Libyan adventure has thrown a confusing wrench into the gears of the liberal reelection machine. Up until then it had been a fairly straightforward campaign, with the media touting an imaginary economic recovery, blaming a Republican congress for obstructionism, flirting with a government shutdown and organizing a labor pushback against economic reforms. Maybe taking some credit for Cairo. Simple enough. But Libya complicates things.

The Nutroots already weren't too happy about Iraq and Afghanistan, or Gitmo or the return of military trials. The left's anti-war energy had already completely dissipated. But they could always close their eyes and blame Bush. But there's no blaming Bush for Libya. For the war without congressional approval or a complete lack of planning, no exit strategy and unclear objectives. This is your War(TM) on Obama(TM).

Still wars boost the White House occupant's numbers... at least temporarily. Except Obama hasn't really utilized the imagery, failing to address the nation, instead declaring an undeclared war in between giving NCAA picks and while abroad on a trip to Rio. The optics were terrible. How could they not be. And calling it a "Kinetic military action" just brought back bad memories of man-caused disaster.

The Gallup poll numbers marginally back the war, by 47 percent, the lowest numbers for any military conflict in 30 years. Compare that to 76 percent for the War in Iraq. Reagan picked up 71 percent support for bombing Libya. Obama can barely get to within 20 percent of that.

The next lowest contenders are Clinton's adventures in Kosovo (%51) and Haiti (%54), which may highlight the problem. Support for military engagements comes heavily from conservatives. Liberal presidents lose much of that approval. And hard core liberals disapprove of most conflicts. That leaves liberal presidents with a much narrower base of support. But that's not what happened here.

57 percent of Republicans approve of bombing Libya, and only 51 percent of Democrats do. That's right. Bombing Libya has more support from Republicans than from Democrats. And a solid majority of independents opposes. And the Democrats are going to need those independents badly. Yet 44 percent of them disapprove of the Libya op.

Obama has lost independents and a third of democrats on Libya. That is not good news. And Americans are nearly equal cynical about Egyptian democracy. That leaves Obama with nothing in the way of popular foreign policy accomplishments to tout. Nothing. Zero. Zip.

But let's take an even closer look, which third of Democrats has Obama really lost?

Going by all the huffing and puffing from Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann, you might think that he lost liberals. The Nutroots have been big on anti-war action. But has Obama really lost them?

Rasmussen shows 45 percent support, 34 against for the war among not just respondents, but likely voters. Those numbers are similar enough to Gallup. But here's where it splits from Gallup and gets interesting.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Democrats and a plurality (42%) of voters not affiliated with either major party support the president's decision to use U.S. military force in Libya. Just 36% of Republicans share that view. Liberals agree more strongly with the president's action than do moderates and conservatives.

According to Rasmussen, support breaks down along political lines, with the further left supporting and the further right you go opposing.

Other R numbers show only 34 percent of likely voters supported action on Libya and 47 percent of voters think Obama should have gotten congressional approval. Only 28 percent think Libya is important to national security. 42 percent say it's not. Not terribly comforting numbers for O.

But it wouldn't have been hard for Obama to improve on them. A few minutes in the Oval Office, some props, remembering Libyan terrorism, working in the Lockerbie bomber's welcome back party, some reassuring words about how much O loves the boys and girls in uniform. Boilerplate stuff, but it would have kicked up the numbers. So why didn't Obama do it?

Theory 1, he's a coward. He plays dodgeball on military issues, because he doesn't like the military and doesn't want to be associated with any wars. If he has to start a war, he'll do it from Rio.

Theory 2, it never occurred to him that he would need to get public support, just as it never occurred to him that he would need congressional support. It also never occurred to him that committing military personnel is a serious matter.

Pick your own theory. I suspect it's a combination of both.

In Chile, Obama puts forth his doctrine, defending the Libya mission by claiming that humanitarian interventionism is the “core principle that has to be upheld.”

But where was the humanitarian intervention in North Korea, where Khaddafi's actions would be a slow news day. And does anyone really believe we'll be going into Syria.

But after spending the Bush years marching around with "Dissent is Patriotic" banners, the best MSNBC/HuffPo goons like Cenk Uygur can offer is a new motto, "Dissent is Unpatriotic". Will that convince anyone? I don't think so.

Final bit of Libyan good news, that whole rebellion thing may not be working out much

Rebel fighters who once vowed to seize Tripoli from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi instead have retreated from their forward positions to defend their homes, saying their rebel council isn't leading them, they don't trust their military commanders and their army is divided.


His friend and fellow fighter, Mohammed Saleh Ojadee, 23, a mechanic shop owner turned rebel fighter, offers a more ominous prediction. He said he fears that the power vacuum, and the constant feeling of mistrust here, could spark a civil war, based on vengeance for acts of betrayal that happen during this uncertain period.

"The continuous unrest that is happening in Benghazi has never happened before. We are not used to it. I am afraid people will lose hope living under that pressure and turn on another," Ojadee said. "We need a leader."

Democracy. Right. This is absolutely going to work out well.
Al-Amin Bilhaj, a leading figure in the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and the President of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) recently traveled to Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebel movement, according to Hresha.

Really. Really well. Just like in Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt... a shocking and completely unpredictable turn of events has occurred. A turn of events that absolutely nobody could have ever conceived of happening. An absolute impossibility.

The Muslim Brotherhood is taking over.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

Again absolutely unpredictable. Except National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy did predict it. Repeatedly.

Back in the beginning of February, McCarthy wrote, "Don't Count on Egypt's Army"

Read the Twitter accounts of Jan 25 activists and you see chaos, anger and despair. Why?

The new government that the protesters made possible went ahead and banned protests. You're reading that correctly.

The Egyptian cabinet approved yesterday a decree-law that criminalises strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupt private or state owned businesses or affect the economy in any way. The decree-law also assigns severe punishment to those who call for or incite action, with the maximum sentence one year in prison and fines of up to half a million pounds.

First rule of assassination is kill the assassins. First rule of a coup, make sure you can't be overthrown the same way.

And the authorities are abusing and humiliating arrested protesters.

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on March 9, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

But luckily Hillary Clinton's State Department is working on a plan to hand out a cell phone app that will erase address books from arrested protesters. Problem solved.

Now welcome to the new Egypt. The referendum was a showdown between the liberal activists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Guess who won and by how much.

Before the vote, Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood leader and spokesman, appeared on a popular television show, “The Reality,” arguing for the government’s position in favor of the proposal. With a record turnout, the vote was hailed as a success. But the “yes” campaign was based largely on a religious appeal: voters were warned that if they did not approve the amendments, Egypt would become a secular state.

“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”

A banner hung by the Muslim Brotherhood in a square in Alexandria instructed voters that it was their “religious duty” to vote “yes” on the amendments.

In the end, 77.2 percent of those who voted said yes.

The people voted. There's your Egyptian democracy.

Kristol concluded his attack on Krauthammer and Beck in mid-Feb by writing, "Egypt turns out to have its votaries of freedom. The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them."

Well we have. And the butcher's bill for that is growing.

Turning to the broader picture now, Western Rifle Shooters Association hosts an essay by Ann Barnhardt that gets right to the point

Given this reality, there are exactly two tactical options for the civilized world to choose from.

1. Completely isolate the muslim world. Let them have their caliphate but in a state of total quarantine.

This would involve establishing massive physical perimeter barriers on land and maintaining blockades at sea for all muslim territories. Presumably this would stretch from Morocco to Indonesia, and would be massively expensive both to construct and secure. In addition to this, all muslims would have to be expelled from all civilized nations and forcibly returned to muslim territory. In order for this to work, all civilized nations on earth would have to unite in solidarity against islam and cooperate fully and completely in building, maintaining and securing the borders.

Additionally, the quarantine would have to be TOTAL, meaning absolutely no interaction – including economic interaction. Therefore, before this strategy could be undertaken, the civilized world would need to completely free itself of any dependence on oil pumped from muslim territory.

2. Fight a Final Crusade and exterminate islam from the face of the earth once and for all.

Yep. I said it, and I mean it.

This option isn’t really an “option” at all, because this is where we are heading whether we like it or not. There is going to be a massive, final war between islam and the civilized world at some point. The only real question is, how long are we going to stall it off? A week? A month? A year? A decade? A century?

...There's a good deal to read at the link above

Finalizing the roundup, New Zeal covers the Right to Protect rationale for Libya.

Washington Rebel brings us the Beck Doctrine

Lisa Graas looks at more violence against Christians in Ethiopia

Elder of Ziyon reports that Iran is lending Syria's massacres a helping hand

Israel Matzav and Gateway Pundit have a recollection of Israel that won't make it into the celebrity profiles. Quite a difference from today's celebrities who would volunteer to help the terrorists.

Jim Campbell at Dancing Czars also urges people to join him in calling for the release of PFC Corey Clagett.

Finalizing the roundup. Earth Hour. Which is the hour where we sit in the dark and paint buffalo on the cave walls.

And in one of the dumber things ever, the IDF will be going dark for 'Earth Hour'.

Israel's military is observing "Earth Hour 2011," the IDF Spokesperson's Office stated from darkened offices on Thursday. As a result, the lights at numerous IDF installations - including the Kirya, Tel Hashomer, and Tzrifin bases - were turned off.

This is the fourth year in which the IDF has turned off lights for "Earth Hour," and the first year a group of officers and soldiers will take part in the main "Earth Hour" concert at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Soldiers from the IDF's Technology and Logistics Branch, who are involved in environmental protection and energy conservation on a daily basis, will participate in pedaling the bikes that will provide power to the concert.

Please note, that rockets are falling on Israel, yet instead of retaking Gaza and dealing with those responsible, IDF soldiers and officers have been assigned to provide power for the concert by pedaling bikes.

This isn't just insanity. It's complete madness. This is how civilizations die, murdered by the idiots and lunatics at the top, whose lunacy takes the form of embracing fashionable ideas, while ignoring practical realities.

You might think this is just Israel, but it's not.

The Indian army is participating in it.

Earth Hour has grown big in India with 11,500 schools committing to the campaign and almost all government institutions, including the Army, participating in it.

There have also been touching individual efforts. One man in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, is spending Rs 15,000 of his own money to run the campaign while students of a school without power in Madhya Pradesh will light candles to observe the day.

Now this is a country with a 65 percent electrification rate that is shutting down power for what? Because a country with 65 percent electrification rate is using too much power?

The Philippines military will also be joining Earth Hour, to take a break from fighting those pesky Muslim terrorists.

Even under Obama, the US military has somehow avoided participating in this.

“Use 60 minutes of darkness to help the world see the light,” says UN Sec General Ki Ban Moon.

This completely rational statement that is no way absurd can be the final word on the topic. Except for Al Gore. (Director Blue)

Former Vice President Al Gore is asking Democratic activists to send donations to House Democrats’ campaign arm as a check on the “extreme elements in control of today’s Republican Party.”

But in line with the spirit of Earth Hour as elucidated by Ki Ban Moonbeam, wouldn't the best way to support the Democratic party be by not supporting them?

Think about it, only by not sending them a check can you help them see the light.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Second Time as Farce

By On March 23, 2011
 It was Hegel who said that history repeats itself because nations and governments fail to learn from it, but it was Karl Marx who added that history repeats itself a second time as farce. Which makes it all too appropriate that Obama is repeating the Bush era as farce.

For years American liberals accused George W. Bush of being dumb and unserious-- only to elect a man who actually is dumb and unserious. Who announces a war in between his NCAA picks and a trip to Rio. Who has spent more time playing golf, than directing the war effort. Who spends more time in front of the mirror and the camera, than on policy.

They accused Bush of running an imperial presidency-- and that is exactly what they got the second time around. A war without even the thinnest facade of congressional involvement. Without Dick Cheney being anywhere in sight. They accused Bush of having a Nazi collaborating grandfather, and their own grass roots efforts to elect an Un-Bush were funded by a philanthropic Nazi collaborating billionaire.

They falsely insisted that Bush went to war for oil. And now their Great Hope has actually gone to war for oil. For BP's 900 million dollar Libyan oil deal, which Prime Minister Cameron endangered when he precipitously rushed to back the Libyan rebels who seemed on their way to victory, only to crumble at Gaddafi's pushback. After all those years of calling Blair, Bush's poodle-- Obama turned out to be Cameron's poodle. They're no doubt laughing about it in London.

Back when Gaddafi was securely in power, BP lobbied to free the Lockerbie bomber to avoid Gaddafi's threat to cut all commercial ties with the UK. What a difference a year makes. Now the only thing that will save BP is a good old fashioned war. Gaddafi had already called on Russian and Chinese oil companies to replace Western oil companies. Not to be left out, the Libya rebels quickly created their own oil company reminding everyone of what this is really about.

History repeats itself as farce. But who's laughing now?

There is a reason why Europe yawns at Turkey's use of chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels, while sending in the jets when Gaddafi bombs rebel positions. Why the genocide in Sudan was not interrupted by a No Fly Zone, and top European firms still do business with Iran through proxies in Dubai. It's not about human rights. It's not even about the threat potential. If it were, North Korea or Iran would be in our bomb sights. Right now Syria is massacring protesters, but don't look for military intervention there either. That's not what it's about. It's about the bright boys deciding that Gaddafi stands in the way of the future, just like Slobodan Milosevic once did. Genocide, ethnic cleansing and terrorism are minor crimes, compared to obstructing the emergency of a stable order and the fat profits it will bring.

Obama's justification for the bombing to congress, citing, "Qadhafi's defiance of the Arab League", and the "international community", as well as "the authority of the Security Council" should send chills up anyone's spine. The idea that the US has become the 'Enforcer' for the Arab League is an ugly enough idea, though it is a remarkable moment of honesty about just who's calling the shots in US foreign policy.

But more meaningful still is the end of that sentence which hinges that trail of justifications on, "efforts to preserve stability in the region". Which is another unexpected moment of honesty, as long as you understand that stability has nothing to do with democracy, human rights or preventing bombs from falling on orphans. It's about keeping the trade going and the oil flowing. Keeping the violence down to a dull roar and maintaining predictable economic conditions. No oil price fluctuations, no crazy demands from a lunatic and an advancement of the new order of the January Revolutions.

This wasn't an intervention in response to genocide or WMD's. Gaddafi is fighting a civil war with few blatant atrocities. Two weeks ago the UN death toll was at a mere 1,000. That would have been a slow month in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But NATO set similarly low standards for declaring genocide in Kosovo. And all the weepy reports and heartstrings tugging was meant to disguise those simple facts. Just as news reports on Libya describe massacres in vague terms and cheer on the bravery of the rebels without telling us who they are.

We're told what we need to know, that Gaddafi is bad and the rebels are good. And while it's hard to argue that a world without him might be a better place, it's unclear what Libya will be like without him. The US and Europe have been encouraged to believe that they will be dealing with former members of the US governments and the Libyan human rights people they have been funding. That may or may not be the case. In Egypt, the Jan 25 twitter activists just got stomped into the ground. With enough members of the old regime around, Libya may experience a more stable transition. Most likely it will trade in one civil war for another. And the African mercenaries will be back hunting down Islamist rebels. If the Libyan air force bombs them, we won't say a thing. So long as the oil keeps flowing on schedule.

When a panicked Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program to avoid going the way of Saddam, European oil companies fared poorly at the bidding, while US companies got the inside track. But last year many of those companies, including the influential ChevronTexaco, pulled out, tired of the corruption and the bribery. BP however remained, holding on to its 900 million dollar deal, even lobbying for the release of one of Gaddafi's mass murderers. The Iraq War had intimidated Gaddafi, but its collapse had him feeling his oats again. Irrational demands followed. And the toadying of the American and British governments to his family only fed the beast.

France's Sarkozy now sees a chance to push his Mediterranean Union, by doing what France routinely does, and yet what President Chirac (now facing trial for embezzlement) lambasted the US for in Iraq-- unilateral intervention. Libya was formerly under French rule, and France is fairly casual about invading its former colonies to restore order. That the new coalition to bomb Gaddafi met in Paris is an ironic concession to its Francocentric nature. This war is a French project, in partnership with the UK, with the US along to provide the brute muscle.

Sarkozy needs to catch fire with French voters, almost as badly as Obama does with US voters. He is polling behind Marine LePen and his UMP party barely outdrew the National Front in local elections. He has failed to rein in domestic Islamism, but bombing Libya is easy by comparison. And gives him the illusion of placing his fingerprint on history's page. Then there's France's Total S.A. oil company which has its own presence in Libya. Between its dirty deals with Saddam Hussein and Iran, Total SA makes BP look good.

Three years ago, Gaddafi was pitching his tent in the heart of Paris, on Sarkozy's lawn. Back then Sarkozy denounced "those who excessively and irresponsibly criticised the Libyan leader’s visit" and his aide explained that Gaddafi's visit was a good thing because it brought billions of euros and tens of thousands of jobs to France. But now Monsieur Gaddafi is Le Monstre.

And what were those jobs and billions of euros coming from? The sale of French fighter jets to Libya, from the country which took the lead in going after the Libyan air force. Considering the poor performance of Libya's air force, Gaddafi would be justified in asking Sarkozy for a refund.

Two years ago, UK PM Gordon Brown was expressing his "admiration and gratitude" for Gaddafi. Now Cameron had to interrupt a Middle Eastern arms sales tour to call for a war on Gaddafi for his suppression of rioting rebels. Pity then that the UK had actually been selling some 350 million dollars worth of military equipment, including a good deal of crowd control gear.

Now France and the UK are stepping in to save the Libyan rebels from the military equipment that they themselves sold to Gaddafi.

Did Gaddafi dramatically change over the past few years? No. The circumstances did. In 2008, Gaddafi was being cooperative and welcoming to Western oil companies and arms dealers in a region ruled by tyrants. By 2011, he was no longer cooperative and it suddenly seemed as if a wave of democratic change was sweeping the region. That made him into an obstacle. Had Gaddafi quickly suppressed the uprising, Sarkozy and Cameron would have kept their mouths shut. But Gaddafi's real crime was to start winning, after the Europeans had decided he was going to lose. Now they intend to make sure he does. It's as cynically simple as that.

Sarkozy and Cameron are committed. The price of oil is also the price of political power. Western economies rise and fall on the price of oil. Falling oil prices after the Cold War helped spur economic development, and rising oil prices will prevent any recovery.

With an election in 2012, Barack Hussein Obama also stands to personally benefit from stabilizing oil prices. But that may be giving him credit for intelligence he doesn't have. What he does have is a need to be the center of attention. And given a choice between backing a fairly safe war, or standing shamefacedly on the sidelines, the choice wasn't surprising. Hillary Clinton needed to end her term as Secretary of State with a bang. It's not her husband's Kosovo, but it's the closest she can come to being Madeleine Albright. Everyone involved has now gotten their war. It's not a very impressive war, but even a small war is better than nothing.

The Libyan rebels range from Gaddafi's own regime cronies to Al Qaeda, to various professional human rights activists and rebels of the sort that all Arab countries collect after a while. And they're all eager for our support, so long as we don't ask any difficult questions. Such as who besides Gaddafi was responsible for human rights abuses and whether they intend to protect equal rights for all peoples regardless of gender and religion. And of course we won't be asking any bothersome questions like that.

Instead we will act as mercenaries for the Arab League, European oil companies and a trio of cynical leaders who embraced Gaddafi one minute and turn him into the world's worst criminal next. Those who wonder why Israel is constantly denounced by Europe while Muslim tyrants are pandered to, need only understand this simple fact. There is neither trust nor honesty in foreign policy.

Bush's invasion of Iraq, ill-considered as it was, had a basic germ of idealism in it. That idealism is wholly and completely absent from European foreign affairs, which is precisely why it stirred so much cynicism and rage. Bush genuinely believed that Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world could be made better if we just showed them what was possible. But Bush is gone now, and this is about trade, money and power. That iron triangle whose shape is regional stability and whose name is hypocrisy.

It is why we are now spending billions of dollars on regime change in Libya, while ignoring genocide elsewhere. It's why a man who denounced the overthrow of Saddam, who actually did commit genocide, is now part of a campaign against Gaddafi, who has not. We are ensuring stability. The stable order. The mold of convenience. Get your war on with Obama and see Iraq repeat itself a second time as farce. Marx would have been proud.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Little Energy is a Dangerous Thing

By On March 22, 2011
The word has come down from on high, and the word is "No More Nukes". By 'on high', I mean the editorial page of the Washington Post, and by 'word' I mean the unconsidered acknowledgment of a popular impulse. Nuclear power is as dead as offshore oil drilling was after the BP gulf leak. As dead as politicians want to make it. But you can't kill an idea, just pass it on to someone else. While the Washington Post wrings its black and white hands, China explores Thorium reactors. Thorium may not be the solution, but giving up certainly isn't.

That's why China is doing a much better job of "winning the future" than we are. Their leaders actually set real world goals and explore every possible way of getting there. Meanwhile our leaders have become more dogmatic than those of a Chinese dictatorship, less open to new ideas, and always eager to pound the table for their dogmatically unworkable ideas. If there had been a Sputnik moment, it should have come in 1985 when our trade deficit with China began.

China's investment in high speed rail isn't the 'Sputnik Moment', the booming economic machine that allows it to invest in unprofitable, but promising technologies like high speed rail is. Obama mistook one for the other, which is as foolish as assuming that a billionaire is successful because he has a private jet, rather than understanding that he has a private jet because he is successful. But when you're over-leveraged, buying a jet won't make you successful, what it will do is bankrupt you.

The People's Republic of China is doing what all new companies with a hit product do, try to expand and diversify-- to avoid an economic shift that will hit when it can no longer count on that trade imbalance built on cheap labor and the value of the dollar. On the other hand, we're doing what all big companies do when they have no plan for the future-- investing in rebranding with a trendy new CEO, a shiny new slogan and lots of big unworkable plans that we partly fund and then don't follow up on.

The real issue isn't nuclear power or high speed rail, it's that we don't plan for the future. And we don't let anyone else do it either. Congress gobbled up pieces of paychecks for social security, because the average person couldn't be trusted to plan for their own retirement, and then showed how trustworthy it was by spending Social Security surpluses over and over again, dooming it to insolvency. Had the directors of a private pension fund behaved that way, they would be facing time in a minimum security facility. But no politician will be dragged before a judge to explain what he did with all that money. Instead the retirement age will be raised, benefits will be cut, wealthier workers will be penalized because they can be-- and politicians will go on repeating the lie that social security is solvent.

The Chinese leaders are no better at math than we are. They can add up the numbers just as well we can, but they actually look at the result. While our leaders have long ago taken refuge in post-modern ideas, in which morality is relative, numbers are imaginary and following a rigid ideological agenda is the solution to every problem. The Chinese understood that too. They had the Little Red Book, we have the Big Green Book. And there it says that instead of addressing social security and creating a friendlier business climate-- we should subsidize high speed rail and green technology. And that will solve everything, because that's dogma. And no one says no to dogma.

The worst of it all is the unseriousness. The unwillingness to think and plan ahead.

A year ago it had become common wisdom that nuclear power was now a credible alternative. Everyone from Paul Newman to Obama had come around to promoting nuclear power as a safe clean alternative. Now after the tsunami, nuclear power is dead all over again. A year from now when memories of Japan fade and another oil spill happens, nuclear power may make another comeback. What does that say about a policymaking apparatus with the attention span of Paris Hilton? Can people who think that way lead a competitive nation, or just ride herd on a collapsing dinosaur by snatching up popular ideas the way a magpie gathers pennies. There's no call for a Sputnik moment here, just an IQ test.

There is no such thing as clean and safe energy. Energy is inherently dangerous and polluting. Start with a basic campfire out in the woods, and you risk ending up with a forest fire that can swallow thousands of acres of forest. And that's with a small fire meant for cooking marshmallows. Now imagine the ridiculousness of pretending that we can have safe power when our goal is to power half the eastern seaboard. We can have cleaner energy, but the cleaner it is, the more expensive it is. Which negates its usefulness. You can build a campfire with two bucks worth of supplies. Now imagine a cleaner campfire that costs 2,000 dollars worth of supplies. Would you use it to roast marshmallows? Of course not. That's why Green Energy is touted side by side with energy efficiency, cleaner energy means more expensive and less available energy. And that means poverty.

All forms of affordable energy delivery have their downside. Coal, gas, oil and nuclear. They all have a human cost. And there's no real way around that. Technology isn't magic. It's a set of implemented techniques that work around the laws of the universe to achieve human ends. It doesn't give us what we want, but what we need. And there's always a price to pay.

China cares nothing about pollution, we care a great deal about it. So we regulated and regulated, until most of our factories moved to China. Now we have cheap imports, but no jobs. Which would have been a fair deal, if we had chosen it. But instead it was chosen for us by leaders who insisted that we didn't have to compromise on either one. We could have tough pollution regulations without losing a single job. Well we couldn't. And when that happened, the leaders came back and said that we didn't need those jobs anyway. The government would pay for us to go to college and get better jobs, cover our mortgages and pay our bills. All we would have to do is pay taxes. And now we have mountains of debt and no jobs.

We didn't want nuclear power either. It was too dangerous. So we just went on buying oil, much of it from countries that want to destroy us. And so we had few nuclear plants and lots of new enemies springing up out of the ground. Now we're involved in a global and a domestic war against them. And nuclear power is back to being too dangerous. So is domestic drilling. So is foreign oil. So is coal. So is everything. And there you have the problem. It's all dangerous. And it's all no good. The easiest decision is to plow more money into half-baked Green Energy proposals, until the next crisis happens. The next best thing to doing nothing.

Real leadership is planning for the future by balancing risk against reward, setting goals and achieving them. A truly frightening amount of time has passed since we had leaders who did anything like that. Instead we have leaders who focus only on the rewards, and are completely unable to rationally evaluate the risks. Or even consider them. If a goal meets with their approval, then it's considered risk free. When they are forced to confront the risk, they either go into denial or just cut and run. Like children, they can only see the positive outcome. Negative outcomes either don't exist for them or as so frightening that they refuse any course of action which can lead to them.

Children take refuge in dogma. The 'right' course must yield successful results. Everything has to pass an ideological test to determine where it fits. A 'right' policy must work for the circular reason that it is right. If it fails, it's only because of sabotage from wrong-thinking people. Which means that we must redouble our efforts to implement the policy. That is how the Soviet Union ran itself into a ditch. But these days we're using the same blinders. Trying to control the marketplace by picking winners in line with dogma. 'Green energy' is the future because we're funding it. And we're funding it because it's the future. Nuclear, coal and oil are bad because they're greedy, dirty and wasteful. Solar and wind are clean and natural.

A child's reasoning. This is what our energy policy looks like. This is what all our policies look like. "Stop terrorism by telling them how much we like them", "Reform the Muslim world by making them have elections", "Stop hate by passing laws against it", "Pass laws to make everything cheap" and "Take away everything dangerous so people don't hurt themselves or each other". Do you wonder why liberals so often use children to articulate their ideas? Is there anything in the wisdom of the liberal program that doesn't sound like it was thought of by a six-year old?

We no longer consider whether things will work-- instead we decide that they must because we want them to. And so we don't have an energy policy, instead we run back and forth between oil, coal and nuclear-- disapproving of all of them, while tossing away just enough money on Green Energy for it to bite, but not enough to actually get anywhere. The arguments go on and lead nowhere. Because the only meaningful policy can be formulated from an understanding of risks and rewards.

Imagine trying to pick out a car or an insurance policy using the same process, instead of evaluating the product on its pros and cons, two factions would imagine their ideal car and their ideal insurance policy, compare and reject the actual products for not meeting those standards, and then spend the next twenty years trying to make their ideal car and ideal insurance policy, with each administration jettisoning the work of the previous one for its own better alternative. An energy policy? It's a miracle that we still have streets.

Japan chose nuclear power for reasons of energy independence. As the only country to experience nuclear war, they certainly knew the potential consequences. They made the decision and are living with it. And while that policy was not always responsibly implemented, no policy ever is. In the throes of a disaster, the Japanese people and their government have behaved calmly and soberly-- a stark and vivid contrast to the hysteria and foolishness of our media and politicians who caper around like poodles every time some event of note takes place somewhere in the world.

Japan made a decision, we never have. Our search for a safe decision has found that doing nothing is the safest decision. More half-assed regulations, more half-assed grants, more half-assed policies that all add up to nothing. We cannot measure risk and so we either act in a foolhardy manner or do nothing at all. A little energy is a dangerous thing. A lot of it is even more dangerous. The authorities do their best to emphasize that they are in charge. The people and industries are overregulated and prevented from exercising any initiative. We are moving forward, by way of the down escalator. The Sputnik moment came and went in the 1980's. It's not the technology that evades us, but the decision making that would move it forward.


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