Saturday, June 24, 2006

An Excess of Zeal? (Or Why The New York Times Screwed Us All Over)

I'm sure you all know about the bruhaha over the NYT publishing a story on a classified Treasury Department plan to thwart terror funding, that was leaked to them by government officials. I've always believed that the press has the right, even the moral duty, the act as a check on government power, and keep the public informed, when they need to be informed, even in wartime. With this, on the other hand, I'm left wondering why they would release this. This isn't the NSA wiretapping story. This isn't Abu Ghraib. This is a terror-fighting tool that is unquestionably legal (they have warrants), and looks to have really worked. Now, it appears that the program may have been blown. The obvious question is, why publish it? What's the public interest?

Now I'm not one to in any way advocate prosecuting journalists for these sorts of things. Legally, the New York Times has done nothing wrong. The same cannot be said of those government employees who leaked classified info. I reject the idea that the press should be somehow suppressed, because as I've said, that undermines the rights of the free press. We don't want to go down that path. I'm left wondering what the Times' motivations are, besides the "public's right to know," and disdain for Bush.

For some, the answer is crudely simple. The NYT has sided with the enemy. I reject that in its entirety. The press generally believes in their role as a check on government abuse. If illegal or possibly illegal things are being done, let justice be done though the Heavens fall, they say. In most cases this is a good thing, but in wartime especially, we need a free and responsible press. Let me be clear:I don't think the NYT, or the press in general has somehow allied themselves with the terrorists. The problem is, they often see themselves as journalists above all else. The public's right to know, as they see it, trumps civic responsibility. If a plan to fight terrorists that works is undermined, so be it. Let's also not forget that Bush isn't really counted as an ally in that realm, and in many cases he's an outright foe. We all know how Bush Derangment Syndrome does a number on rational thought, like all ideological pathologies.

It seems to me that many journalists are so committed to the profession and the institution, that it becomes almost a religious commitment. The fact that a successful anti-terror tool has been compromised is not considered. The fact that this program is 100 percent legal is irrelevant to them. Their excess of zeal, often mixed with established biases, lead to these things happening. Honestly, I could defend a lot of the other stories on principle, particularly the wiretapping story, but this makes no sense. The public interest is undermined, because things that should be secret are now known, and thus compromised. All this being said, I still defend the press' right to inform. While I wish that many in the press would look beyond their zeal for being journalists, and anti-Bush zeal, and consider the effects their reporting might have on the country that buys their papers, any such cure for this problem would be worse than the disease.

While I don't think that it was necessarily the Times' intent to aid the terrorists, that doesn't change the fact that they may very well have.

UPDATE: I've changed my position slightly, regarding prosecution. It seems that they can be prosecuted for publishing this, and now that I think about it, probably should be.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Great Debate, Or A Partisan Ploy?

The House is debating the Iraq War as I write this, particularly a House resolution that essentially rejects a premature withdrawal from Iraq. As a supporter of the war (and therefore an opponent of premature withdrawal), the language of the resolution doesn't really bother me, but the underlying intent is manifestly partisan. This isn't as bad as when the Murtha resolution was "debated," but this whole thing, with such partisan photo-opping, is just unseemly. Let me say again that I firmly oppose a pullout, but I recognize that many people sincerely believe in that position, although they are flat out wrong on the issue. The fact that so many support a premature pullout is regrettable, but this just smells like a stunt.

Democracy Arsenal has a good piece on the politics of this thing, as well as the text of the Resolution.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hollywood, Do Your Duty!

The word on the street is that Deadwood, one of the best shows on TV in a looong time, may not make it past a two-episode fourth season. This is unacceptable. I'm with Bob Cesca. Come on, Hollywood fat cats, do your duty!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why Zarqawi's Death Is A Big Deal

From Christopher Hitchens:

"For the defeatists and pacifists, these are easy questions to answer. Colin Powell was wrong to identify Zarqawi, in his now-notorious U.N. address, as a link between the Saddam regime and the Bin-Ladenists. The man's power was created only by the coalition's intervention, and his connection to al Qaida was principally opportunistic. On this logic, the original mistake of the United States would have been to invade Afghanistan, thereby forcing Zarqawi to flee his camp outside Herat and repositioning him for a new combat elsewhere. Thus, fighting against al-Qaida is a mistake to begin with: It only encourages them."

I think that (for once) Colin Powell was on to something. I know that Kurdish intelligence had been warning the coalition for some time before the invasion that former Afghanistan combatants were making their way into Iraq, which they saw as the next best chance to take advantage of a state that was both "failed" and "rogue." One might add that Iraq under Saddam was not an easy country to enter or to leave, and that no decision on who was allowed in would be taken by a junior officer.

And this one:

If we had withdrawn from Iraq already, as the "peace" movement has been demanding, then one of the most revolting criminals of all time would have been able to claim that he forced us to do it. That would have catapulted Iraq into Stone Age collapse and instated a psychopathic killer as the greatest Muslim soldier since Saladin. As it is, the man is ignominiously dead and his dirty connections a lot closer to being fully exposed. This seems like a good day's work to me.

Yeah, me too.

How To Deal With Ann Coulter (If You Must)

As I'm sure you all know by now, Ann Coulter's gotten herself into trouble again, over some comments she made in her latest book. I was hesitating to even write this piece (God knows I don't want to increase her book sales), but I had a couple of thoughts. The latest controversy is over some despicable comments about 9/11 widows in New Jersey. In fact, here's what the fuss is all about

Coulter's comment that has perhaps drawn the most attention is an attack on the widows of 9-11 victims, appearing on Page 103 of Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum), and read by Lauer: "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

source: Media Matters

I don't know about you, but I'd say that's pretty darn despicable. She's drawn ire from liberals (including Hillary Clinton), and even conservatives. She goes on to call them "harpies," and the "Witches of East Brunswick." Apparently, this is all because they decided to actively support positions that she disagreed with. All in all, pretty vicious stuff. The thing is, this is hardly new. This is the latest in a career of over-the-top slanders, smears, and absurd invective. It's hard to be shocked by this, because it's become her raison d'etre.

The principal defense that her supporters (and they are many) offer up for this latest incident is that she was making a larger point about how liberals supposedly use victims of tragedies to prevent conservatives from attacking their arguments. She uses the term "human shields." She "argues" that these 9/11 widows were using their widow status to advance their argument, and manipulate people. Many who support her in other things but criticized this latest move argued that the point was valid, but it's lost by the poisonous rhetoric. David Horowitz calls her a national treasure. Some say she's a satirist, like a modern-day Mencken or Twain. (You think I'm making this up?) The Colbert Report is satire. Her catalog of attacks are not. After all, she admits that she believes everything she says. Her committed supporters say that she's edgy, tough, and she "tells it like it is." The only problem is, things aren't as she tells it.

The fact is, beneath all the poison and personal attacks, is an argument that really doesn't hold. The last thing her arguments need is to be undermined by her rhetoric. Let's deal with the argument at hand. Certainly, it's true that being a victim of tragedy gives your arguments no more weight in and of itself, but it certainly adds a measure of credibility. It certainly gives the person making the argument more weight as far as their motives are concerned. In the case of the 9/11 widows, one would think the fact that they lost their husbands on 9/11 might explain their commitment. If a woman is raped, couldn't the fact that she was raped explain her commitment to getting rapists off the street? Surely, it doesn't make her an expert, but it would explain her motives. As I've said, the fact that one has been victimized by tragedy, or fought in a brutal war doesn't support the argument by itself, but it ought to protect a person from being called a traitor, or a coward, from attacks like this.

Besides, it's not as if only liberals do it. Conservatives have done it too, and still do, even now. Conservatives have used 9/11 victims to justify their positions. They've used tragedy victims for their agendas. They've used veterans to prop up their arguments. The fact is, both sides do it. Both sides have gone too far. As far as Coulter's style in general, her supporters have defended that too. They say that the Left is worse, and someone has to stand up them. Of course, the truth is that both extremes can be equally vicious. A quick stop on the right side of the blogosphere, or talk radio, or Fox News proves that. For every Michael Moore or Al Franken, there's an Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity.

But at the end of the day, her arguments don't add up to much, except the usual right-wing fluff. Beneath all the venom, there's not much there. Liberals get incensed at her rhetoric, but that's what fuels her. The far-right loves her, and they love the fact that liberals can't stand her. She enjoys this. You see, that's the one thing liberals forget: She feeds off all of this. In fact, all of this controversy really has helped her book sales. It doesn't validate her points, but millions keep buying her books. People have a tendency sometimes to spend money on things they know, or should know aren't good for them. It's like fast food or porn.

There was an incident a while back in which Coulter got herself in trouble before. When her book Slander came out, she got herself in trouble. Many defended her, but as she went further and further, more people were turned off. The thing not to do, is to play her game. Don't shout her down at speeches, and for God's sake, don't throw things. Incivility cannot be overcome with equally uncivil behavior. Also, it makes her a martyr.

The biggest threat to Ann Coulter's credibility, is Ann Coulter. Her own words seal her fate. The best thing to do is ignore her. It might be hard for some, but oftentimes the best thing to do is to let her dig her own grave, and not give her any more attention. In fact, I've given her far too much in this blog post already.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's Official: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is Dead

Coalition forces executed a strike last night, and the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has been taken out. Hallelujah. A victory for the mission in Iraq, for Coalition and Iraqi forces. It's far from over, but this is a great victory. Keep knockin' em down, brave soldiers, keep knockin' em down.

Zarqawi is dead. May the rat bastard roast in Hell.

The full story is here.

On The Gay Marriage Ban

As you all know, the Senate rejected the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. I'm not for gay marriage, but I support civil unions, and I oppose the Amendment, because I feel that these issues should be left to the states. Besides federalism, there's also the fact that this amendment is unnecessary. The argument from conservatives is that activist judges have made this amendment necessary. That's their best argument, but it doesn't hold. Under current law, no state has to recognize another state's marriage. These issues, even the issues with the courts, can be worked out locally. Traditional marriage is all-important issue, but the threat has been greatly overblown, at least with regards to gay marriage.

The issue of politics is also important. Don't get me wrong, there are many Americans who really believe this a big deal, on both sides, and in many ways it is. As I've said, the role of marriage and the family are not small issues. Many believe, on moral and religious grounds, that homosexuality is wrong, and marriage ought to be between a man and a woman. These people aren't bigots, and it demeans them and the debate to say that they are. I do feel that many people are being misled for political and ideological purposes, and are being led to believe that the threat to marriage is greater than it is. Also, there are many other issues that are of a graver and more immediate threat.

It's also telling that this issue is being brought up now, right before an election, and the last time this issue was brought up was 2004, right before an election. Both times, supporters knew it wouldn't pass. Are there sincere players in this game? I'm sure there are. It's possible that for some this is a principled fool's errand, but this makes me wonder:

It takes two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress to send a proposed amendment to the states for ratification. The House will take up the issue next month.

Despite the defeat, amendment backers insisted progress had been made because the debate over three days raised the issue's profile and will force candidates to answer for their votes on the campaign trail.

As I've said, these issues are all-important, which makes the politicking and pandering all the more sinister. 45 out of 50 states have statutes or amendments banning gay marriage. The majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage. However, the Constitution protects all Americans, and we ought not trample those protections, federalize marriage, and thus undermine the very principles were trying to protect, certainly not for politics.

But let's be civil-- condescension never wins arguments, on either side.

Some Problems Can Be Solved With Just A Dictionary


n 1: a period during which offenders are exempt from punishment 2: a warrant granting release from punishment for an offense [syn: pardon] 3: the formal act of liberating someone [syn: pardon, free pardon] v : grant a pardon to (a group of people)

This is what amnesty is. This is not amnesty. It's a bit complex, and it's not perfect (is any bill ever perfect?), but it's not amnesty.

Proof that Even Atheists Can Be Pro-Life, and for Bible Reading in the Classroom

Consider the words of one Christopher Hitchens:

Following his own standard on the civic minimum, however, aligns Mr. Hitchens with a president he says he doesn't particularly like. "He's not my type" says Mr. Hitchens, but he says that he "adores" first lady Laura Bush and does agree with Mr. Bush on key issues: He does not like abortion. "I'm a materialist and I'm a parent. I've looked at sonograms, and I don't know a lot of embryology but I know enough. The concept 'unborn child' seems to me to be a factual statement. . . . On that he [Bush] is not a fanatic, either." And while he describes himself as a Darwinist and an "orthodox Freudian," Mr. Hitchens thinks the president is right that "we should teach the argument" when it comes to intelligent design (a term he describes as "creationism, pure and simple").

And consider this:

HITCHENS: You are not educated if you don't know the Bible. You can't read Shakespeare or Milton without it, even if there was nothing else of it. And with the schools now, that's what I hate about secular relativism. They're afraid of insurance liability. They don't even teach it as a document. They stay out of the whole thing to avoid controversy. So kids can't quote the King James Bible. That's terrible. And I quite understand Christian parents who want to protect their children from a nihilistic solution where there's no way of knowing what's been discussed.

There's really nothing else I need to add. As a Christian, I certainly believe that its wrong to kill unborn babies in the womb, and the Bible ought to be allowed to voluntarily be taught in schools. You don't even have to be a Christian to agree with this.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Piggybacking Off The Enlightenment?

Another interesting one from Johann Hari, in which he goes off on the "anti-science" types who reap the benefits of the Enlightenment, yet deny its intellectual underpinnings.

For too long, people have been allowed to piggy-back on the Enlightenment, enjoying its incredible fruits but jeering at it as “soulless” or fundamentally flawed. But how many people would cling to these irrationalist anti-science theories if they actually had to feel the consequences in their own blood and bone? I am prepared to pay for my belief that testing on higher primates is deeply morally wrong. Are the opponents of science prepared to pay for theirs?

The piece is problematic, due to his aforementioned hostility towards God, religion and faith. He does a good job, however, of going after the animal-rights quacks, the New-Age alernative cure-voodoo quacks, and other fanatics.

On "Islamophobia"

I was planning to write an extensive piece on the current state of the fight against radical jihadism, but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts about a great piece by Johann Hari, on Islamophobia. He argues, successfully, in my view, that many people speaking out against Islamophobia, are themselves enabling the same bigotry they claim to oppose. He talks about how the folks at Islamophobia Watch engage in open homophobia and the like, and dismiss any criticism of Muslim extremism as racist, and "objectively pro-Nazi." In his view, many so-called liberals are willfully empowering the very Fascism the profess to oppose.

People who believe in opposing hatred of gay people everywhere – in Teheran as much as Tunbridge Wells, in Kingston, Jamaica as much as Kingston-Upon-Thames – are being subjected to a bizarre counter-campaign. As so often, Peter Tatchell is facing the most abusive backlash on our behalf. Tatchell believes all people are equal, regardless of their pigmentation. He does not see a difference between the white far-right preacher Jerry Falwell calling gay people diseased, and the Muslim leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie doing the same. He does not see the difference between gay teenagers being lynched to death in Jamaica and murderous gay-bashings on Clapham Common. He reacts to them in exactly the same way – by fighting to stop them.

For this, he is being accused of racism. Look, for example, at the popular website ‘Islamophobia Watch’, set up by a man called Bob Pitt. Unlike Tatchell, he lacks courage and, fearing reprisals, uses a fake name for his writings – Martin Sullivan. His website obsessively snipes at Tatchell, responding to every criticism he makes of the Islamic fundamentalists who incite and perform the murder of gay people by calling him a bigot and even “pro-Nazi”. How does he back up this slander against a man who has fought fascism all his life? The website complains Tatchell uses “the term ‘Islamism’… without distinguishing between its reformist and violent wings.” Yes, it’s true - Tatchell fails to draw a distinction between the people who will lash and stone gays after winning at the ballot box, and the people who will lash and stone gays after seizing power in a coup. This is bigotry?

You'd think that if radical Islam doesn't represent mainstream moderate Islam (a view that has legitimate support, and one I basically agree with), and that those supposedly warring against Islamophobia aren't for radical jihad, then wouldn't defense of radical Islam, and the attack on moderate Muslims who condemn jihad itself be Islamophobia? In other words, how can you profess to believe in religious toleration, by supporting ideas that reject religious toleration? Could it be that these folks aren't really liberal at all, and are no different than the Fascists they claim to oppose?

Read the whole essay. Caveat lector: Hari himself is basically an agnostic. I'm a Christian, but I'm willing to overlook his atheism in this instance, (all while praying for the salvation of his soul), as the rest of the piece is spot on. He has a valid point about the use of religion to justify evil. You don't have to be a person of faith to know that religion can be twisted to justify things contrary to the laws of God and man.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Christopher Hitchens on Galloway

Christopher Hitchens writes in his latest Slate piece on George Galloway's justification of Tony Blair's murder. He rightly eviscerates him, as he's done in the past. You must read the whole thing, but this is worth noting:

So, here is what it comes down to. George Galloway says that the murder of an elected prime minister would be "morally justifiable." He is not brave enough to call for it, but he does preapprove it. He finds room for criticism of the murder only because it might occasion a backlash. And he then tries to hide behind the skirts of a woman who he has just told us ought in all justice to be a widow! That he does this by deliberately misquoting her is a mere coda to an almost incredible catalog of indecency.

Galloway is a coward, an apologist for nihilistic murder, a liar, and a unprincipled scumbag. Much like Hitchens, I stand amazed at the fact that the so-called "anti-war" crowd continues to embrace a man whose deeds run counter to everything they supposedly stand for. This point has been mentioned before, but it bears repeating: It is esentially important that the Left (pro-war, anti-war or otherwise) stands up and rebukes this madman, and those like him. Many of us already have, but this must increase.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thank You, Fleming Rose

Fleming Rose, the brave soul who published the controversial Muhammad cartoons in Denmark, has written a great piece published by the DLC. He reminds us of the truth that cannot be stressed enough-- that rampaging multiculturalism and political correctness in Europe are helping to foment radical Islam, and undermine liberal values. Many in the multiculturalist Left, in Europe (and in America) are unwittingly undercutting everything progressive they supposedly stand for. Two points, among the numerous gems particularly stand out. Rose lays out plainly the descent into relativism:

Europe today finds itself trapped in a posture of moral relativism that is undermining its liberal values. An unholy three-cornered alliance between Middle East dictators, radical imams who live in Europe, and Europe's traditional left wing is enabling a politics of victimology. This politics drives a culture that resists integration and adaptation, perpetuates national and religious differences, and aggravates such debilitating social ills as high immigrant crime rates and entrenched unemployment.

He also goes further, and indicts one of the chief culprits of this renegade philosophy:

Now, in Europe's failure to grapple realistically with its dramatically changing demographic picture, I see a new parallel to that Cold War journey. Europe's left is deceiving itself about immigration, integration, and Islamic radicalism today the same way we young hippies deceived ourselves about Marxism and communism 30 years ago. It is a narrative of confrontation and hierarchy that claims that the West exploits, abuses, and marginalizes the Islamic world. Left-wing intellectuals have insisted that the Danes were oppressing and marginalizing Muslim immigrants. This view comports precisely with the late Edward Said's model of Orientalism, which argues that experts on the Orient and the Muslim world have not depicted it as it is but as some dreaded "other," as exactly the opposite of ourselves -- and therefore to be rejected. The West, in this narrative, is democratic, the East is despotic. We are rational, they are irrational.

This kind of thinking gave birth to a distorted approach to immigration in countries like Denmark. Left-wing commentators decided that Denmark was both racist and Islamophobic. Therefore, the chief obstacle to integration was not the immigrants' unwillingness to adapt culturally to their adopted country (there are 200,000 Danish Muslims now); it was the country's inherent racism and anti-Muslim bias.

Read the whole thing, and be enlightened.

Hat tip: Centerfield

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fly Too Close to the Sun, And Get Burned

Michael Moore just learned that the hard way. See what happens when you use the military for your own base purposes? They fight back.

BTW, the fact that Sgt. Damon supports Bush is irrelevant. He's a patriot, and he doesn't deserve to be exploited. Our troops don't deserve to be exploited, by either side.