Thursday, February 23, 2006

Codevilla on our "Peace Process"

In 2005, the U.S. government's "war on terror," as well as its operations in Iraq, were entwined in the same tortuous logic by which they had been conceived. After redefining the mission in Iraq from finding Weapons of Mass Destruction, to building democracy, to eliminating terrorists, to enabling the Iraqis to fight for themselves—and not being serious about any of these—the Bush Administration was arguing that to withdraw would be to admit defeat. But what would victory look like?
Thus begins The Logic of the "Peace Process" by Angelo Codevilla in the Winter 2005 issue of the Claremont Review. Codevilla is a rare thing -- a Conservative principled enough to criticise the administration for fighting an indequate war. I don't necessarily agree with all of his prescriptions but his analysis of some the problems with the present "strategy" are very much on target. Here's another long excerpt:

The Bush Administration had understood its commitment to "regime change" to involve merely the removal of some 55 high-ranking Iraqis. It learned the hard way—and even then, incompletely—that Saddam Hussein's regime consisted of at least 2,000 persons who wielded the levers of power in Ba'athist Iraq. They never surrendered; on the contrary, they continued to fight for victory. Thanks to ready sanctuary in Syria; massive amounts of resources stashed as part of the regime's post-invasion strategy; and the U.S. Occupation Authority's opposition to de-Ba'athification—many party members, accordingly, were reinserted into the government—the Ba'ath party resumed its role as the country's most cohesive force outside the Kurdish provinces. Just as important, the party faithfully represents the deepest fears and hatreds of 20% of the population: the Sunni Arabs.

Contrary to what the administration wanted to believe, the Sunni population was the bedrock of the old regime. Although they had suffered almost as much violence at Hussein's hands as other Iraqis, he had given them powers and privileges that they had come to see as their birthright. And so the Sunnis fought to re-subjugate their fellow Iraqis. They murdered judges and intimidated witnesses at Hussein's trial, with the Arab world's tacit support. The Sunni view of America's role was summed up in a local newspaper cartoon that showed Uncle Sam's exit from bloody Iraq as passing over a bridge—controlled by a terrorist sitting at a negotiating table. The Sunnis fought to induce America into pressing their demands on other Iraqis, believing they could, by force of arms, obtain concessions from the U.S. that they could never obtain from their fellow Iraqis. They were correct. Iraq's majority, for their part, were dismayed that the American government was negotiating with their enemies behind the backs of the native people, even as it had decades ago in Vietnam.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Free Speech and Antisemitism

It is wrong and a violation of individual rights to arrest people for the ideas they hold. This is the case regardless of the morality or immorality of the ideas involved. Even the publication or broadcast of ideas as viciously evil as holocaust denial deserve to have the protection the law. That's why I do not agree with the this verdict. David Irving may be scum, but being scum is not a crime and should not result in imprisonment. Irving deserves to be socially shunned.

Speaking of antisemitism, for an interesting review of the history of antisemitism, one could do a lot worse than read this interesting essay by Middle East Historian Bernad Lewis. It includes a good review of Arab attitudes before and after the creation of the State of Israel.
Materialism in a new form
Via Andrew Sullivan, I learned of this fascinating book review. It's essays like this that make me miss my lapsed NY Times subscription. New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier, does a pretty good job setting Daniel Dennett straight in Dennett's absurd attempts to explain religion as somehow an evolutionary phenomenon. There is much in Wieseltier's review that I can agree with, for example the following passage:
For Dennett, thinking historically absolves one of thinking philosophically. Is the theistic account of the cosmos true or false? Dennett, amazingly, does not care. "The goal of either proving or disproving God's existence," he concludes, is "not very important." It is history, not philosophy, that will break religion's spell. The story of religion's development will extirpate it. "In order to explain the hold that various religious ideas and practices have on people," he writes, "we need to understand the evolution of the human mind."
and also this passage:
It will be plain that Dennett's approach to religion is contrived to evade religion's substance. He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing mistake. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason. He will be outraged to hear this, since he regards himself as a giant of rationalism. But the reason he imputes to the human creatures depicted in his book is merely a creaturely reason. Dennett's natural history does not deny reason, it animalizes reason. It portrays reason in service to natural selection, and as a product of natural selection. But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason, and to nothing else. (In this respect, rationalism is closer to mysticism than it is to materialism.) Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.
And, indeed, rationalism, in the strict philosophic sense of Spinoza and Leibniz, is closer to mysticism. But the point is well taken -- reason is neither materialistic nor rationalistic. It must be objective and thus include both method and content or it is empty. There are a number of other really good points that Wieseltier makes, though at times I think he rejects what I might term biological naturalism a bit too much. The mind is a natural biological product of evolution (since everything about us is) but its nature is the one that Wieseltier insists gives us our limited independence from our animality. The book review is well worth reading in its entirety.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On the Bush Administration

There's an ongoing debate among Objectivists as to how to evaluate President Bush and his administration. It is not necessarily an easy topic to reach a definitive conclusion about, as there are various conflicting strands of evidence that have accumulated about Bush since he was first elected in 2000 and yet more since his reelection in 2004. In a rough way, one group of Objectivists may be termed critical supporters of Bush, in the sense that they regard Bush, his administration and strategy, as a generally positive force, perhaps the most positive that can be expected within the present culture, despite the many criticisms that can be made of his individual policies.

Among these one can list the folks at The Intellectual Activist, including Robert Tracinski and Jack Wakeland, who, in a recent article for TIA Daily entitled "President Bush Represents the Virtue and Vices Typical of the Honest American" wrote that Bush is "an honest defender of our nation." Wakeland's starts out the article with a plea to fellow Objectivists:
The idea that America is going to lose the war with Islam by ideological corruption is a grave injustice to the man elected to decide our nation's war policy. Objectivists should criticize George Bush for the errors and the sins in his war policy, but we should recognize him as the honest and persistent warrior that he actually is. We should never allow ourselves to vilify such a man--not a man who fights for us.
Another notable Objectivist who arguably falls into this camp is Harry Binswanger, who recently wrote at least in partial defense of Bush and Conservatives in general on his mailing list (HBL) . While he thought Bush's efforts were inadequate, they could not be entirely dismissed as worthless.

The members of the other side of this argument think that Bush does not have any truly redeeming values and thus is, in fact, hurting the cause. They may be termed the critical detractors of Bush and include Scott Holleran of the Concord Crier, Prof. John Lewis of Ashland University, as well as Craig Biddle of new journal The Objective Standard and Yaron Brook, director of the Ayn Rand Institute. Holleran wrote last Thanksgiving that "the President's lowest approval ratings are a thin silver lining, since it shows there is hope if Americans realize we are losing the war and our individual rights and many do." John Lewis recently argued on HBL that the foreign policy mess that Bush has created is worse than what the left might have done. Brook has a long record of criticising the Bush administration's war effort in his lecture appearances. Biddle opposed the reelection of Bush in 2004.

I must admit my own view of Bush has changed substantially over the years. Initially, I did not think much of him. He seemed to be another pragmatic Republican, lacking anything resembling principles. During the 2000 primaries, I thought he was better than McCain, who couldn't stop talking about sacrifices. During the 2000 election, Bush rose somewhat in my estimation, since he stood for a number of issues that I supported including lower taxes, less regulation, drilling in Alaska, and opposition to nation building, which had become a feature of the outgoing Clinton administration. Gore, on the other hand, looked and acted positively scary and his actions since his loss have not made him any less scary. But Bush's initial time in office before September 11, 2001 did not make him seem particularly impressive. His handling of the downing and capture of our spy plane over international waters near China was not to be an opportunity for him to rise to the occasion.

Then came 9/11. I must admit my own thoughts were very much confused at the time. I wanted very much to believe that the seemingly patient and deliberate efforts of the President in Afghanistan would work. His speeches at that time seemed to support an adequately forceful policy against the terrorists and their state sponsors, although it was clear even then that there was much equivocation involved. And even when force was used, it was always less force than seemed to be appropriate, given the magnitude of the attack on us.

Then followed the seemingly endless diplomatic effort to get the world on our side with respect to the Iraq war. Never mind that Iran was the number one sponsor of terror even according to the State Department. Iraq was going to be the next target. There was a case to be made that Iraq needed to be taken out. Iraq certainly had terror connections and either had or was attempting to rebuild its weapons of mass destructions (WMD). And of course, Iraq had never completely submitted to the requirements of the 1990 Gulf War and was shooting at our planes on a daily basis. So in early 2003, Bush lauched a US dominated coalition into Iraq.

Again, while there were early successes in terms of the speed of the operation, it was clear that our military was again restrained in the amount of force they could use. We were altruistically freeing the Iraqi people from the evil dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and thus we were only after the leadership. In the aftermath of the downfall of the regime, in light of the terrorist insurgency that followed, it became clear that a country cannot be ruled by 50-odd people alone. And, new, other hostile forces appeared on the scene, forces that had previously been suppressed by Hussein but were nevertheless equally opposed to us. These forces, such as Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite fundamentalist militia were supported by Iran, who still appears to have been one of the major beneficiaries of our efforts in Iran.

To make a long story short, presently I'm very skeptical of Bush's war efforts. There are some who argue that the replacement of Colin Powell with Condoleeza Rice should have put the President more firmly in charge of the State Department. They claim that some of the diplomatic games in the first administration were the result of Colin Powell's influence. But it seems in the second administration under Rice the reverse has happened. The President, no doubt partly weakened as a result of the mess in Iraq, has taken a very conciliatory diplomatic tone lately. We are not likely to see much more pretend unilateralism from him.

Yet, am I now a critical supporter or a critical detractor? I would say that my highest point of support for the Bush administration came right after 9/11 and has been steadily declining since. I did support him during the last election. Yet, he seems to have done little right and some things really wrong since his reelection, even though (or because) his party controls the two houses of government. I honestly think I would have trouble voting for him again and I'm seriously wondering whether I'll vote Republican in the next election. So, yes, consider me in the critical detractor camp.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Offensive Cartoons

Steven Brockerman of American Renaissance posts what are in fact truly offensive cartoons, namely the ones the Arab/Moslem world has been publishing over the last few years. Of course, it would be incorrect to claim that the Arab or Islamic world is hypocritical -- they never pretended subscribe to the multicultural nonsense present in the West. They, unlike us, have clear objectives.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Space Elevator News

One of the most fascinating technological ideas gain more prominence recently has been the idea of a "space elevator" as a method of reaching Earth Orbit. The elevator would basically consist of a very strong long wire or "tether" that would drop down from space to the ground and allow a climbing machine or robot to climb from Earth all the way to space with the help of lasers on the ground pushing the robots up.

The latest milestone is the achievement of a 1-mile long tether:
A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.

LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday.

The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters – powered by laser beams from Earth – can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.

The recent test followed a September 2005 demonstration in which LiftPort's robots climbed 300 metres of ribbon tethered to the Earth and pulled taut by a large balloon. This time around, the company tested an improved cable pulled aloft by three balloons.
It's enough to make one enthusiastic about the space program again. But that's not all:

A platform linking the balloons and the tether was successfully launched and held in place during the test. LiftPort calls the platform HALE, High Altitude Long Endurance, and plans to market it for aerial observation and communication purposes.
...
In March, LiftPort hopes to set up a HALE system in Utah's Mars Desert Research Station and maintain it for three weeks. Then, later in the spring, Laine says he wants to test a 2-mile (3.2-km) tether with robots scaling to at least half way up.
And it's especially encouraging that this is done by a private company.
Another Weimar Germany/Middle East Comparison

This one's by Lee Harris, in an article on TCS Daily entitled "Misunderestimating Moktada al-Sadr". A friend of mine recently suggested that the political situation in Iraq is an experiment. The result of the experiment remains to be seen. If Mr. Harris is correct, the result may not be quite what most of us expected when we enthusiastically supported this war. The article is well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, often said that Hitler's rise to power was like a fairy tale. Al-Sadr's rise to power, on the other hand, seems suspiciously like a fable from A Thousand and One Nights. What Hitler did was merely improbable; what al-Sadr has done verges on the seemingly impossible. After having twice led bloody uprisings that killed American troops, Sadr is now the most powerful man in an Iraqi government that the American people have created at great sacrifice to themselves, both in lives and in money. Even more bizarrely, Sadr has made it clear that he will use every bit of power he gets in order to fight against us, and to help spread fanatical anti-Americanism through the Muslim world. We could have stopped him early and effectively; but we didn't. And now it is too late for us to do anything except to wonder what new surprise this twisted tale of Scheherazade will next unfold.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reason in the Middle East

The Jerusalem Post has an excellent column today by Barry Rubin entitled "Appeasement Redux". Here's how it starts:
We have come full circle. Here is how the last great historical era began, the one we seem to be starting over afresh.

It's January 30, 1933, and here's what the Cleveland Press reports from Washington under the headline, "US Unruffled by Hitler Rise."

"High authorities here regard with complacence Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany... They [express] faith that Hitler would act with moderation... Experts based this belief on past events showing that so-called radical groups usually moderated, once in power."
Read the entire column -- it is excellent.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Two Movies

I have recently seen two movies. I enjoyed them very much and I highly recommend them. I had seen both movies before but it was only on the recent viewing of them that I noticed some interesting similarities. Ronin (1998), stars Robert De Niro, with screenplay written by J. D. Zeik and directed by John Frankenheimer. Proof of Life (2000) stars Meg Ryan and Russel Crowe, was written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Taylor Hackford.

For the most part, these movies have little in common. Ronin is a spy/intelligence thriller. The name is taken from Japanese history and describes wandering Samurai who have failed in protecting their master and turned into hired mercenaries. The story focuses on the efforts of an eclectic team of mercenaries to acquire a mysterious package. Proof of Life has more of an action/drama and centers about Meg Ryan's efforts to get her husband back from kidnapping guerrilas in South America with the help of Russel Crowe.

And yet, if one looks at the movies from the perspective of the characters Sam (De Niro) and Terry Thorne (Crowe) then some commonalities are immediately evident. Both Sam and Terry are highly experienced, highly competent, admirable characters. Both Sam and Terry eliminate an incompetent fraud from playing a larger role early in their respective stories. Both Sam and Terry have equally admirable friends in the movie, Vincent (Jean Reno) in the case of Sam and Dino (David Caruso) in the case of Terry. Both Sam and Terry speak foreign languages in the movie. Sam speaks French, while Terry speaks Spanish. Both Sam and Terry fall for the female character in the movie, yet in neither case does a full relationship develop.

I realize this doesn't add up to to very much but I stand by my point that these are both highly enjoyable movies well worth watching.
What's on the web

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Obscenity of the Day

If there was any confusion about the state of politics in Europe at this time, this story brought to my attention by a friend of mine should put it to rest. Unfortunately European politicians are firmly on the side of appeasement and appear to have learned exactly zero from WWII.
Scientists & Altruist Confusions

LiveScience.com is today featuring the following story:

Altruistic Love Related to Happier Marriages

Altruism may breed better marriages, a new study suggests. Or, the data might mean that good marriages make people more altruistic.

Whatever, altruism and happiness seem to go together in the realm of love.
Sadly, scientists have mostly been profoundly ignorant of what altruism (or for that matter love) means. In this case they attempted to test for it through the following method
:
Study participants were asked whether they agreed with statements that define altruism, such as, "I'd rather suffer myself than let the one I love suffer," and "I'm willing to sacrifice my own wishes to let the one I love achieve his or hers."
Sorry, incorrect! That question not only does not define altruism, it is the opposite of altruism it is acting in one's self-interest. Altruism as a word was originated by Auguste Comte and means in effect "otherism." It means that one's moral purpose in life ought to be the welfare of others. It was invented as an antonym for egoism. But if egoism means anything it means concern for one's interests or values. What could be a higher value than the spouse one loves? Is it selfless, to wish to die rather than see one's spouse suffer? No it isn't! Not if one selfishly wishes to live only a certain kind of life and anything else is worse than death. To show concern for one's top values even at the cost of some suffering is to choose a higher value (the spouse's life) over a lower value one's own (presumably temporary) suffering, is not selflessness but a sign of integrity and pride, thoroughly egoistic virtues.
Objectivist Conference in Denver Colorado Coming Up

I have not had a chance yet to go to a multi-day Objectivist conference (I have been to single day events) but I hear from people who have gone they are most enjoyable experiences. Colorado's Front Range Objectivism is holding an upcoming "Weekend Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial System." It will be held from March 4th-5th in Denver, Colorado. The speakers will include Tara Smith, Amy Peikoff, Eric Daniels, and Dana Berliner. With speakers like these it promises to be an event to remember. For all the details, plus online registration, visit:

http://www.frontrangeobjectivism.com/2006-law.html

The early registration deadline is this Saturday, February 11th. (Save $75!) so act now!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Healthcare vs. the FDA

It is often claimed by opponents of capitalism that without the mechanism of government regulation we would not be safe from the alleged greed of the pharmaceutical companies. Thus the products of pharmaceutical companies are regarded as guilty until proven innocent as if the companies were simply aching to sell fraudulent medications to innocent patients. The drug companies must subject their drugs, which took years to develop and test, to yet further testing by the FDA and only with FDA approval can their drugs be legally sold within the United States. What is less often understood is the role played by this kind of regulation in preventing information about important applications of drugs from reaching doctors and patients.

Leonard Flynn, an advisor to ACSH, writes:

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently won a case against Eli Lilly & Co. when the company agreed to plead guilty and pay $36 million in connection with illegal promotion of its pharmaceutical drug Evista. What did the company do to earn such a penalty?

The company illegally promoted its pharmaceutical drug Evista because Lilly employees had advocated the product for "off-label" uses. Evista was approved for the treatment of osteoporosis, but the company was not allowed to breathe a word that Evista might be good for something else. The company did have evidence for the prevention of breast cancer and heart disease, but according to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), as interpreted by FDA regulations, promotion of these other uses was forbidden.

What was the evidence for Evista's other potential uses? Was it on a limited number of test subjects for a short period of time? Far from it. Flynn continues:
Two research articles were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a prominent peer-reviewed scientific journal that presented scientific data supporting the use of raloxifene (the chemical name for Evista) for breast cancer prevention and heart protection. The first article was published in 1999, and it showed that raloxifene "reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer by 76% during three years of treatment." This was a substantial study that ran from 1994 through 1998 at 180 clinical centers in twenty-five countries, primarily the United States and countries in Europe, and included a total of 7,705 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis as the subject population. A "secondary analysis" of the same 7,705 women was published in 2002, and it demonstrated a "lower risk of cardiovascular events" for a subset of 1,035 women in the study who had an increased cardiovascular risk when the study began.
The FDA is after power, not health. Sadly, most of the time, evidence of regulation's destructive effects is hard to come by, since it involves what Henry Hazlitt referred to as the unseen results of government intervention, for example, the products that did not make it to the market, the businesses that were not started, the money that was not saved, etc. Neverthess Flynn is quite correct to wonder:

So, who cares if drug companies are prevented from informing doctors about additional uses of their products? The drug companies are obviously highly motivated to distribute favorable scientific information about their products because they can make more sales, it is argued, and FDA rules block the claims because the agency's regulatory power rests on this ability. What difference does this regulatory struggle make? It could make a big difference -- to patients.

In the late 1990s my mother, Inge Flynn, was dying of advanced breast cancer. In 1999, the Evista cancer study was published in JAMA. I wonder: if my mother's doctors had known of the raloxifene study, would they have prescribed it during her illness? Might the "off-label" drug Evista have benefitted her? She died on September 30, 2000.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Technological Achievement

Some good news on this blog for a change:

From asahi.com, the English edition of the Japanese Asahi Shimbun. The picture you can see above shows a little square to the left of the finger and a distinctive black dot to the right. The square on the left is an integrated circuit (IC) measuring 0.4 mm. The latest achievement however is the black dot on the right. Hitachi Ltd has created the world's smallest IC chip at 0.15 mm by 0.15 mm. Its thickness is 0.0075 mm! Asahi.com reports:
If an antenna is attached, the chip will still be thinner than paper for copy machines, and the information can be obtained without being touched by a reader, they added.
...

The newly developed chip can be used in a number of other ways, the officials said. Used with the Internet, for example, it can track the flow of products for home-delivery services.

The chip can also contain information about food, such as who raised the product and who distributed it.

In addition, it can be incorporated in bank notes, securities certificates and government documents to prevent forgeries.


Monday, February 06, 2006

On Immigrants (Legal or Otherwise)

A story in the San Diego Tribune discusses the plans of San Diego Minutemen to picket at an intersections " where day laborers wait for work." A counterprotest is expected by so-called "human rights activists." It is interesting to dissect the statements made representatives of both sides. First from the Minutemen side:

Organizers and Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who will drive from his Aliso Viejo home to participate, say the goal is to educate employers of migrant workers that they are breaking U.S. tax and labor laws.

The whole intent is to bring national attention to this issue, said Gilchrist, whose organization has patrolled U.S. borders. We have this 21st-century slave labor trade, and we have the buyers or the users of those slaves, who are no different upstairs than those Southern Democrat slave traders from the pre-Civil War era.

There some truth but also quite a bit wrong with the above statements and that a leader in the Minutemen movement has said it does not bode well for the movement. First, let's agree with the legal claim -- employers who are hiring "migrant workers" are violating the law because they are providing employment to individuals they know have entered the country illegally and are thus accessories to a crime. Unfortunately, witpreponderanceerance of bad and immoral laws violations of the law become more common but it is a mistake to dismiss the legality of actions as unimportant. If we hope to be a "nation of laws" rather than a "nation of men" as our Founders hoped, it behooves us to enact moral laws that serve the proper function of government (protection of individual rights) and remove all other laws. When government and its laws serve their proper function, there should be no conflict between morality and law, because government then enforces those only the specifically social part of morality. I regard the immigration law with its various restrictions as profoundly immoral. Yet ultimately the proper response ought to be to change the law, not to find ever more elaborate means of circumventions.

Of course, the truly offensive part of the above statement by Gilchrist is the comparison of immigrants to slaves. The idea that people who willingly pay others to be transported across the border so that they can find employment in the United States can be compared to slaves is really quite absurd. The African slaves had no choice about their precarious voyages aboard the slave ships across the Atlantic. They certainly did not pay for it.

Here's a quote from one "migrant worker":

"We are here because of a huge necessity," said a man yesterday who gave his name as Alberto Rodriguez, 25, a Vista resident from the Mexican city of Puebla."We are not doing anything bad. "We are not robbing people. We want a better future."
This quote is clearly meant to generate sympathy for the workers and yet what possible moral argument could be given against it? Fundamentally, if an employer in the United States wants to hire a person to work for him on a mutually agreed to basis and that person happens to come from Mexico, why should any government interfere? Whose rights are being violated? If anything, to stop the person entering from Mexico would constitute a violation of the rights of trade and freedom of association of both the Mexican worker and the American employer. Clearly if what Rodriguez is doing is against the law then immigration laws ought to change.

Our only border restrictions ought to be security or public health related. We should have a list of terrorists that are not allowed into the country because they are known to be dangerous. We should watch out for obvious signs of dangerous, life-threatening infectious disease. Other than that, if people want to come here and work, they should be allowed. Of course, all welfare and so-called public services would have to be abolished so that people don't just come here for a free lunch but even today most immigrants do not come here for our welfare programs. However, citizenship, as opposed to mere residency, should continue with the present restrictions (a minimum of 5 year residency, various examinations and a swearing in ceremony). Through their vote citizens determine the make-up of governments and thus its policies. That kind of power must stay with people who actually intend to stay in the country in the long-term.
Denmark and Freedom of the Press



There is not much to add to what has already been said on the Danish cartoon controversy, for example at Cox & Forkum who have illustrated the basic point quite well.

I did buy some Havarti cheese this weekend.
Another amusing cartoon can be seen on the site of the German newspaper Die Welt.

The text in the bubble reads (my rough translation): "Please understand me doctor, I feel emotionally hurt." It's nice to see elements of Europe show a hint of a backbone for a change.

I've seen the supposedly offending cartoons in question. I can't say I find them offensive; for the most part they merely point out the obscenity of what is currently done in the name of Mohammed and Islam. But it is important to keep in mind that even if the cartoons were highly offensive to objective values, that the only moral response would be intellectual condemnation and boycott. The fact that violence has accompanied protests against the cartoons means that even if they were offensive, the moral high-ground has been lost, much as during the days of Salman Rushdie, any problem with Rushdie or his book, pales in comparison to the violent response he has had to face. The leaders of the civilized world ought to take a stand against any intimidation of its free press. Unfortunately, from both the previous Democratic President and the State Department of the current Republican one, the response has been morally sickening.

Friday, February 03, 2006


More on the current war

A couple of excellent columns are available in today's edition of the Jerusalem Post. First Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the UN, writes about The Middle East Terror Trail and illustrates the connection between Hamas and the rest of the Islamic terrorists. Here's a relevant excerpt:
In 2003-4, Hamas distributed a colorful poster in Jenin and Hebron featuring individual portraits of Hamas founder Yassin with bin Laden and the leaders of the Chechen mujahideen, Shamil Basayev and Khattab. The poster also refers to other battlefields of global jihad - the Balkans and Kashmir. This indicates that Hamas sees anyone fighting in global jihad as potential allies. It should not have been surprising, then, that after Israel completed its Gaza pullout, Israeli military intelligence reported that al-Qaeda cells had infiltrated from Egyptian Sinai and found a new area which would host them.
The essay is illustrated with the above poster which can be found in this article from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

The Jerusalem Post adds the following description to the image above which is feature next to Mr. Gold's essay:
Hamas poster boys. Portraits of Yassin with Bin Laden and the leaders of the Chechen mujahideen together on a placard distributed in Jenin and Hebron.
Photo: www.intelligence.org.il

The original caption at the the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reads:
A poster found on an propaganda and indoctrination CD distributed by Hamas. The title reads: “Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Kashmir, Palestine and Lebanon.”
It's well worth reading Gold's entire article to grasp the connections among the various derivatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In addition today's Jerusalem Post features the excellent column The lies we tell ourselves by Caroline Click. She writes:
The main truth that Hamas's rise to power has exposed is not that Palestinian society is perhaps the most genocidal society on the face of the planet. That has been clear for all to see for the past five and a half years of the enormously popular Palestinian terror war against Israel. What Hamas's ascent to power has uncovered is that in everything related to the Palestinian conflict with Israel, the policies of the US-led international community, like the policies of the current Israeli government, are predicated on myths rather than facts.
She goes on to illustrate the myths both in Israel and the rest of the world. However, I have one criticism of her essay. Later on she writes:
...Bush was clear that democratization of the Arab world meant the embrace of freedom by Arab societies, as the US became bogged down by the terror war in Iraq, the president pretended that liberalization and the conduct of open elections were the same thing. That is, he conflated elections with democracy.
Unfortunately the confusion lies with just about everybody, not just Bush and it includes individuals such Ms. Glick. Democracy is not freedom. If words have a proper meaning and do not simply mean whatever we feel like at any given moment then democracy can mean only majority rule such as is demonstrated by the presence of free elections. The freedom which Glick hints at relies on elections in a very limited way, namely the selection of personnel. Democracy, relies on votes and the will of the people for the determination of all the important issues facing the country. What freedom actually requires is a constitutional republic. Freedom depends on the government being limited and restricted to the protection of individual rights by a proper written constitution that everybody can read and understand. The people do NOT decide every major issue, neither directly nor through representatives. In fact the most important issues, the fundamental moral principles of society, are never brought to a vote, nor were they determined by a vote. Such was the intention and for the most part the practice of the American republic at its inception, when the Founding Father's devised the most perfect system of government presently in existence. But the preservation of such a system depended on a clear understanding of what freedom consists of and unfortunately Ms. Glick's article, while valuable in many ways, illustrates that today even the best people do not have a clear understanding of liberty and its requirements.
Unilateral Withdrawal and Its Consequences

Lebanon, Israel's northern border, from Debka:

Hizballah mortars and anti-tank missiles bombarded IDF Mt Dov positions on northern Israeli border Friday. Israeli jets and artillery struck back at Hizballah positions near Lebanese village of Kfar Shouba

February 3, 2006, 4:16 PM (GMT+02:00)

Gaza, now a section of Israel's Southern border, again, Debka:

At least 4 Israelis injured, including a baby in serious condition, by a Qassam missile that hit their home in Kibbutz Carmieh south of Ashkelon

February 3, 2006, 4:41 PM (GMT+02:00)

The baby with head injuries was lifted by helicopter to hospital. Both her parents were wounded in the attack. Palestinian fire from Gaza continues. It erupted at the same time Friday as the Hizballah attack from Lebanon.

Thus continues the march of Israel to its own destruction.