Free Markets, Free People


May the Sphere Bunny bring you many, many Spring Spheres

Why is it that schools, the supposed bastions of education and purported citadels of tolerance and intelligence are so blasted uneducated, stupid and intolerant?

Latest example?  A teenager in Seattle, doing community service work, does a project to hand out to younger children in class.  The results?  Just fascinating in a bizarre and idiotic sort of way:

"At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."

"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs."

Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas.

"When I took them out of the bag, the teacher said, ‘Oh look, spring spheres’ and all the kids were like ‘Wow, Easter eggs.’ So they knew," Jessica said.

Never mind that a “sphere” is perfectly round, not an ovoid shape.  It has to do with the unbelievable nonsense that allowing something that has been a traditional American practice and celebration since the founding of the country has to be made secular because A) it will somehow be construed as the school establishing religion or B) it will offend someone or C) all of the above.

It doesn’t establish anything in terms of religion and if it offends someone, tough.  The argument could be made that celebrations of Spring favor Wiccans or Druids or something.  And how about those who are offended when teachers make up  stupid and obviously incorrect descriptions for Easter eggs like “spring spheres”?

This is the same school district that declared Thanksgiving to be racist and a time for mourning instead.  The district  has also defined racism in unique and toxic ways.  For instance:

The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.

Notice the only group listed who can possibly be racist according to their definition.

And it gets even better.  

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Got that?  “Future time orientation”, i.e. planning ahead, is racist.  Apparently only whites do it.  And individualism?  Racist.  And the school district also made it clear they had no desire "to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality."

Calling MLK Jr., because as I remember him, a colorblind society was his fondest hope.

The Supreme Court of the United States literally mocked the district’s racial nonsense in a ruling it issued.

Interestingly, the justices highlighted the bizarre claims about race made by the Seattle schools, which cast doubt on whether allowing schools to use race will promote racial harmony rather than racial balkanization.

For example, the Chief Justice’s opinion points out that “Seattle’s web site formerly described ‘emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology’ as a form of ‘cultural racism,’ and currently states that the district has no intention ‘to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality.”

Justice Thomas pointed to those claims, and other bizarre claims on Seattle’s web site, in rejecting the dissent’s argument that “local school boards should be entrusted to make decisions on the basis of race.”

Now they’re into “Spring Spheres”.

Wouldn’t you just love for your child to have to grow up attending school in a district that makes race (and now religion) as toxic as that? 

So enlightened.  /sarc


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Terry Jones, Koran burning and Constitutional rights (Update)

I don’t know what to say about this goof except in this country, he has every right to do what he’s doing.

I may not like it (I don’t like the “piss Christ” or Westboro Baptist Church either), I may not support it, I may see it as unnecessary and inflammatory to some, but then the same can be said of my other two examples as well.  His activities provide no more of a provocation than do the examples.

One of the tough things about rights and freedoms is they also apply to actions we don’t like (as long as they don’t violate any caveats to those rights). 

Many here would like to liken this yahoo’s conduct to shouting fire in a crowded theater.  I don’t buy it.  Shouting fire in a crowded theater can cause panic and irrational behavior by people in the theater because of lack of information and fear for one’s life. It is an immediate response to an immediate action.  Panic ensues, people rush to limited exits all at one time and some get crushed or trampled. It can cause immediate death and injury.

There’s no such parallel in this this story as far as I can see.  Trust me, I’m not at all pleased by the deaths of UN workers in Afghanistan, but it was at the hands of a mob that was whipped up there (not by the act in FL at the time it occurred) and chose – important word – to react murderously.   That’s right, they chose to attack people who had absolutely nothing to do with the event in Florida well after the deed was done.

Others want to invoke “fighting words” as a reason to shut Terry Jones down.  Uh, no.  The only “fighting words” I can imagine came from whomever it was in Afghanistan that whipped that crowd into its murderous frenzy.  My guess is most in the crowd had never before heard of Terry Jones or his deed until that day.  And my guess is the incitement took place in a mosque.

Don’t mistake this for a defense of Terry Jones.  I think he’s a waste of protoplasm.  And I think what he is doing adds nothing positive to the world around us.  But –and again, this is the hard part – he has every right to do it.

I’ll continue to denounce him and would be glad to tell him to his face that his actions are harmful to both people and the cause he supposedly represents – Christianity.

I doubt he’d listen.  Zealots never do.  But as long as he confines himself to the activities he has so far, it’s his right as an American to continue to do them despite how others in the world choose to react to them.

UPDATE: Figures (debt, deficit, out of control spending, over regulation, ObamaCare – all taken care of I suppose):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that  sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem.

"Ten to 20 people have been killed," Reid said on "Face the Nation," but refused to say flat-out that the Senate would pass a resolution condemning pastor Terry Jones.

"We’ll take a look at this of course…as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know," he added.

Here, Harry, let me help you out:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first five words (the fourth one in particular) are all Congress needs to know about this.


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Meanwhile in Egypt …

I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction.  That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power.  The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

Emphasis mine.  As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country.  And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?”  That means:

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.

Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good.  Why?  Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge.  So:

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.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

And there you have it.  Result?

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

So much for the “Twitter” revolution.


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Libya: ruthlessness winning while the world dithers and religion takes over the opposition

A week or so ago I wrote a post about ruthlessness and how that usually wins in contests like we see in Libya.  Of course, the fact that the opposition is amateurish in the field and remains unorganized hasn’t exactly helped their situation.  But Gadhafi has been and continues to be ruthless in his pursuit of maintaining his power.

Meanwhile, given the deteriorating situation for the opposition, the time for a “no-fly zone” appears to have passed.  When it might have had some effect was early on in this battle.  As the battle has matured, the advantage seems to be going to the Gadhafi forces.  Not only are they more brutal, they’re better organized (relatively speaking) and performing better in the fight (again, relatively speaking).  At some point, one has to expect Gadhafi’s forces to take control of key areas that will signal, for all intents and purposes, that the revolution has pretty much failed (that’s not to say the civil war won’t go on for some time, but at a much lower key than now).

But back to the opposition and an article in the NYT today.  It’s interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a discussion of why the opposition formed and what is happening  to it according to the NYT.

Nearly 70 percent of Libya’s population is under the age of 34, virtually identical to Egypt’s, and a refrain at the front or faraway in the mountain town of Bayda is that a country blessed with the largest oil reserves in Africa should have better schools, hospitals, roads and housing across a land dominated by Soviet-era monotony.

“People here didn’t revolt because they were hungry, because they wanted power or for religious reasons or something,” said Abdel-Rahman al-Dihami, a young man from Benghazi who had spent days at the front. “They revolted because they deserve better.”

So the argument can be made it was started by the youth and the aim is secular – they have the luxury of oil but they’ve not enjoyed the benefits of that vital commodity within their country as they think they should.  Got it.

But, do you remember this quote from the older post?  It’s a quote from David Warren:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

Religion, speaking here of Islam, is ubiquitous in the Middle East.  It just is.  And those who live there, whatever their other desires, sift everything almost unconsciously through the filter of Islam.  That’s why it isn’t difficult for religious leaders or radical religious leaders to quickly gain a foothold they ruthlessly expand in any situation like this.   And that’s precisely what the NYT discovers:

The revolt remains amorphous, but already, religion has emerged as an axis around which to focus opposition to Colonel Qaddafi’s government, especially across a terrain where little unites it otherwise. The sermon at the front on Friday framed the revolt as a crusade against an infidel leader. “This guy is not a Muslim,” said Jawdeh al-Fakri, the prayer leader. “He has no faith.” [emphasis mine]

Other’s continue to fight against that trying to keep it (or change it into) a secular fight:

Dr. Langhi, the surgeon, said he scolded rebels who called themselves mujahedeen — a religious term for pious fighters. “This isn’t our situation,” he pleaded. “This is a revolution.”

But, it seems it is turning into their situation.  Again back to the Warren quote – what is ingrained in the opposition fighters no matter what their ostensible reason for fighting may be?  Their religion.  And what has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision.”?”  Their religion.  When viewed against the complicated process of democratic governance, religion as a one stop shop for both their spiritual needs and their political needs makes the former much more difficult to sell than the latter.  Religion, whether it is a fundamentalist brand, or a more moderate strain, is going to emerge as a huge force in all of the struggles in that part of the world.

Something else to note from the NYT article that is interesting:

Sitting on ammunition boxes, four young men from Benghazi debated the war, as they watched occasional volleys of antiaircraft guns fired at nothing. They promised victory but echoed the anger heard often these days at the United States and the West for failing to impose a no-flight zone, swelling a sense of abandonment.

Obviously their feelings for the US and the West aren’t particularly good these days.  One has to wonder if they ever were, but clearly, now that they’re starting to get rolled back they are complaining about the West’s dithering and lack of response.

I’ve said it before, I don’t support the US imposing a no-fly zone.  That’s not to say I’m necessarily averse to a NFZ if Europe wants to take that bull by the horns.  But I see this as Europe’s fight, not ours.

That said, any good will we in the West had prior to today with the Libyan rebels seems to have dissipated and may, in fact, be in the negative column now.  The outcome could be the beginning of an even bigger problem for the West:

None of the four men here wanted to stay in Libya. Mr. Mughrabi and a friend planned to go to America, another to Italy. The last said Afghanistan. Each described the litany of woes of their parents — 40 years of work and they were consigned to hovels.

Why Afghanistan?  Well not to fight on the side of the US, you can be sure.  As for the other two, disaffected and disenchanted immigrants provide a fertile hunting ground for Islamists.  Should the two get to where they want to go is there a possibility that they, at some future date, become radicalized?  Of course there is. 

Again, who has the “simplest, most plausible and easily communicated “vision”?”


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Islam, the Middle East and ruthlessness

Reading through Martin Walker’s Feb. 28th piece for UPI about the unrest in the Middle East and N. Africa, I found this interesting:

That heady early talk of an Arab spring and a democratic flowering across the Arab world now seems distinctly premature. It is going to be much more difficult, and much more complicated, as the Europeans found when they started turning back thousands of Tunisians looking for jobs and opportunities in Europe rather than staying home to enjoy the new freedoms.

Beyond the unpleasant endgame of the Gadhafi regime, there are three predictable crises yet to come in North Africa. The first will be the question of food shortages and subsidies in Egypt, where the price of bread has been kept artificially low for decades at a cost of more than $3 billion a year. (The Mubarak government spent more on its various subsidies than it did on health and education.)

Egypt’s new government faces a tough dilemma. It cannot afford the subsidies but nor can it afford the popular outrage among the poor if it tried to end them.

The second crisis will come when business returns to normal and 30 percent of Egyptians and Tunisians in their 20s remain unemployed and a new class of graduates emerges to join them. They will demand government jobs. The government will try to comply but the government has no money. Money will be borrowed and printed. Inflation will result.

The third crisis will be more a problem of U.S. domestic politics but it will have grave implications for Egypt. It concerns Israel. The new Egyptian government, whatever its politics, will find it difficult to be quite as accommodating to Israel as Mubarak used to be. In particular, it will find it politically very unpopular to maintain the siege of Gaza.

His point, of course, is while there are many other problems attendant to any forced overthrow of a government, there are some others that will likely manifest themselves that will put even more stress and pressure on compromise governments (by the way, whatever happened to ElBaradei in Egypt?).

In fact, the new Prime Minister of Tunisia’s latest government just stepped down over dissatisfaction that change wasn’t coming fast enough.  So as hard as putting some form of government together that can quickly take the reins and effect the changes that the protesters have said they want, there are other externalities, beside a lack of history or tradition with a free form of government, that may sabotage their efforts.

As most pundits are now saying – after the initial orgy of opinions claiming this was nothing short of the flowering of democracy in some very arid land – we’re “early” into all of this. That’s called “walking it back”.   Now that the heady days of nonsensical optimism have passed, more sober analysis is becoming prevalent.  And, as one might expect, many are looking back into history to find a clue to what may happen in these countries.

Lo and behold, some are finding some fairly disturbing examples and principles that seem they may apply themselves to these particular situations.  For instance, as David Warren reminds us, the “most ruthless usually triumph”.   And our history is rife with examples.

A couple of points from Warren’s piece.  First ruthless doesn’t just apply to those who rise in opposition to the current government.  A recent example:

It does not follow, from the fact everyone is hooting, that Moammar Gadhafi will fall. He might, tomorrow, for all I know, or all anyone knows who is not clairvoyant. But as I recall, Saddam Hussein did not fall after the Gulf War of 1991. And the comparison is instructive. Every part of Iraq not directly attached to him through extended family and tribal networks (so tightly that they would share his fate) rose against him. And the world, beginning with the United States, was then as now urging his opponents on.

Saddam endured plenty of defections. Eventually, even "no fly zones" were established, to stop him from using airplanes and helicopters against the general population. But by the time these could be declared, and enforced, he had broken the back of the insurrection, and needed ground force only.

Saddam’s consistent policy was to be more ruthless than any potential rival. He slaughtered people by the tens of thousands to retain power, on that occasion alone. And that was not the only occasion on which his power was challenged. The casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, that continued eight years from September 1980, may never be adequately counted. Mixed in with them were huge numbers from his own side that Saddam massacred "pour encourager les autres." Millions of Iraqis found themselves being minced between two satanic giants: the other, of course, being Ayatollah Khomeini.

Gadhafi is also ruthless.

Loony as a cartoon character, but certainly ruthless.  That sort of ruthlessness obviously has a value to the person or organization that uses it – it provides a means to keep or take power.

Ruthlessness can come in many guises, but it essentially means letting nothing stand in the way of attaining an ultimate goal.  Whether it is in politics, sports or revolution, the most ruthless in the pursuit of their goal usually triumphs.  And that’s regardless of whether or not you agree with their methods. 

So Libya has descended into unspeakable violence.  But I’d guess few would believe anyone more ruthless than Gadhafi (and his family) exits there – but there may very well be.

Which takes us to part II of this.  Why do some nations who go through the throes of this sort of revolutionary change find it within themselves to create a more free and democratic society while others fall into even more and greater tyranny than before?  Warren’s theory:

We should grasp, for instance, that the American Revolution was almost unique in history, for ending so well. We should also grasp why. It was, from beginning to end, under the leadership of highly civilized men, governed by a conception of liberty that was restrained and mature. George Washington commanded, in his monarchical person, the moral authority to stop the cycle of reprisals by which revolutions descend into "eating their own." Nelson Mandela achieved something similar in South Africa.

Alternatively, a whole society -I am thinking here of the nations of Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall -may be so exhausted by revolutionary squalor that they long for return to "normal" life and have constitutional orders in their own, historically recent past, available as models. But even they needed Walesas and Havels.

Where such men exist, they are visible at any distance, from the start. Nowhere in the Arab world -and particularly not in Egypt, its centre of gravity -can such leaders be detected; only ridiculous pretenders. Nor do the conditions exist for wise statesmen to emerge. Nor have any of the Arab states a stable constitutional order to look back upon. Tyranny begets tyranny.

Certainly there are many shades and flavors of tyranny, and a nation may even lessen the hold its tyranny without actually ending it.  But as Warren observes, there are no real leaders emerging (at least not yet) that one could label, at least in the way Westerners would, that could be considered “highly civilized men” imbued with a sense of liberty that is “restrained and mature”. 

Instead, given the area, the culture, the history, we see this as what will likely emerge:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

Islam, in whatever form, shape or flavor is the common thread of these revolutions.   As I’ve mentioned before, what is considered a “moderate” in most of these countries would be viewed, were he a Christian, as a fundamentalist in most other places. The inclusion of Islam into the everyday lives of the people is as natural as breathing.  They take for granted it will be an essential part of any government they form.

There are no Walesas and Havels in those countries.  There are Imams and Ayatollahs who fill that function.  And, as Warren points out, the vision they present is indeed the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated vision” of all of them, to include secular representative democracy. 

They also fulfill the other two historical requirements to take power  – they’re the best organized and, as we’ve seen in many other places, the most ruthless.


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Atheists whine about not being included in religious event

I get tired of this sort of nonsense:

Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheistic Washington, D.C. residents will have no representation at Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray’s first official inaugural event—an ecumenical prayer service entitled “One City … Praying Together” at 8 a.m. Sunday, January 2, 2011.

“We would prefer that a government function such as an inauguration not be entwined with religion,” said Amanda Knief, a Humanist Celebrant and government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). “However, we find it overtly discriminatory when we request to be part of an ecumenical prayer service that is supposed to unite the entire city and are told there is no place for nontheists.”

How can a prayer service unite an entire city if atheists don’t believe in prayer or a deity?  Obviously, the word “prayer” is key to the phrase as it refers to those who both believe in prayer and a deity. Just as obviously, the prayer service is aimed a those in the city who do.  And why would an atheist want to go to a prayer service in the first place?

Oh, I know – “inclusion”.

Well, in reality,  they wouldn’t want to attend – “inclusion” is a false flag.  And they’re not “left out” of anything – atheism is their choice.  With that choice comes consequences – like not being invited to attend prayer meetings.

Instead this is really about banishing such services altogether.  And their assumed leverage here is it is a government event – a city government holding an “ecumenical” service, i.e. not touting a single religion and in perfect conformance with the 1st Amendment (which, btw, doesn’t apply below federal level, but I thought I’d point it out anyway).  But it isn’t “inclusive”.

Love the line, “we would prefer that a government function such a an inauguration not be entwined with religion.”

Cool.  Go out and win an election and then you can run the inauguration any way you wish.   That’s the basic message here.  Freedom is choice – and you can choose to not have such an inauguration if you win.  But if you won’t make the attempt or lose, tough nuts – the winner gets to “choose”, note the word,  how he or she will run the inauguration within the confines of the law.

A prayer meeting isn’t about anything in particular which will effect an atheist that I know of.  It’s a meeting of like minded people to ask for help and guidance of their deity of choice.   How that is “overtly discriminatory” against those who don’t believe in prayer or a deity is beyond me.

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A Humanist Celebrant is the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson. He or she may receive national certification from several organizations, including The Humanist Society, the American Ethical Union, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism; and may conduct marriages, civil unions, memorial services, funerals, and other life ceremonies.

So they were supposed to invite a “nonreligious equivalent” of a “clergyperson” to a religious event?  What is a “nonreligious equivalent” to a clergyperson?   There is no equivalency in terms of belief.  The fact that the Humanist Celebrant can conduct marriages, civil unions, (so can a justice of the peace) etc.  doesn’t make them equivalent where it counts (and no one would argue a JP is the “equivalent” of a priest).

Look whether you believe in a deity or not, this is just nonsense on a stick.  Religion is a personal choice.  And nothing that I know of precludes government officials from conducting “ecumenical” prayer meetings if it is their desire. 

My guess is had the atheists – or Humanist Celebrant – shown up at the meeting he or she would have been graciously included.   Then what?

This is just more whining by the militant atheists of the country.  If you don’t want to participate in religion, don’t.  Don’t demand your “equivalency” be accepted by the religious or that they must include you in something, that in reality, you have no real desire to be included in at all.  The religious are not welcome in your camp and it shouldn’t surprise or upset you that you’re not particularly welcome in theirs. 

Such is life.  Grow up, drop the false “inclusion” argument and quit whining, for goodness sake.


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Feminized MOH guy is back and wants a little cheese with his whine

[First posted at – but it is a follow-up to a story I posted here recently.  This is a guy who has been comfortable in his little echo chamber spouting off about his pet theories and, I supposed, mostly getting affirmation.  Then he got outside that little box, his nonsense leaked into the larger blogosphere and he’s gotten absolutely hammered – and deservedly so.  He remains completely clueless as to the reason.– McQ]

You know, some guys ought to figure when to just shut up, fold their tent and take their due. Not our boy. Bryan Fischer, Mr. "Feminized the MOH", is back for more. In a follow up post (not even at the same blog – got to hot there I’d guess), our hero says:

The blowback to my column of two days ago, in which I argued that we seem to have become reluctant to award the Medal of Honor to those who take aggressive action against the enemy and kill bad guys, has been fierce. It has been angry, vituperative, hate-filled, and laced with both profanity and blasphemy.

Oh, my. Who needs the skirt now? Looks like the reaction may have "feminized" Mr. Fischer a bit. As for blasphemy, let me tell you something sir – I’m on the side of angels on this one.

Of course Fischer still has no clue about the reason for the outrage he spawned (or he’s chosen to ignore it) and falls back on the age old dodge that most that don’t have an argument use when cornered – ignore those who ate your freakin’ lunch in reply to that bad joke of a post and claim, "these people didn’t read what I wrote". No really – that’s his argument:

What is striking here is that readers who have reacted so viscerally to what I wrote apparently didn’t read it, or only read the parts that ticked them off. I’m guessing a fair amount of the reaction has come from those who didn’t actually read the column, but read what others said about the column. It’s been fascinating to watch.

What is really both striking and fascinating is how clueless this bozo is – utterly unaware and truly out-to-lunch. Hey, meat head, the visceral reaction was to the stupidity of your premise. It had to do with you using "feminized" as a pejorative (look that up if that skipped by you skippy) and in conjunction with the Medal of Honor. It had to do with the fact that you were ignorant about the MOHs that have been given in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yes, that’s right – ignorant.  As in “uninformed”.  Don’t know what you‘re talking about.  Check?

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A Mosque Too Far?

This post, in its original form, was previously posted at the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, August 11, 2010. The following post has been updated for today.

Plans to build an Islamic cultural center right next door to the site of the greatest attack on American soil have generated plenty of controversy. And as plans continue to move forward, more is promised still. Questions as to where the money is coming from to build it, and who exactly its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, really is are likely unresolvable, yet add fuel to the already contentious debate. In fact, today new questions were raised as to the connections of Rauf and his organization (the Cordoba Initiative) to Iran:

Two weeks ago the Cordoba Initiative website featured a photograph of the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani at an event that the Initiative sponsored in Malaysia in 2008. This week, the photograph … has disappeared.

Larijani was the Iranian representative who defended Iran’s abysmal human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in February and June of this year. Among other things, Larijani told the Council: “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing. … This is a conceptual dispute. Some forms of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.” By which he meant flogging, amputation, stoning, and the criminalization of homosexuality, which are all part of Iranian legal standards. Larijani added: “Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. … The Islamic Republic of Iran … is a democracy,” which would be news to the pro-democracy activists murdered or confined to Iranian prisons since last year’s fraudulent elections.

There may be nothing to these sorts of queries, and it may be that Mr. Rauf and his organization are earnest peace-seekers. Even so, the plan to place a $100 Million structure dedicated to Islam right next to Ground Zero has understandably caused a lot of questions to be asked, although few have elicited answers. Writing for the Ottawa Citizen, Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah think they can settle one of the burning issues, however: why a mosque at Ground Zero?

When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don’t build a monument to those who died in the attack?

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it’s not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as “Fitna,” meaning “mischief-making” that is clearly forbidden in the Koran. […]

Let’s not forget that a mosque is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims and not an inviting community centre. Most Americans are wary of mosques due to the hard core rhetoric that is used in pulpits. And rightly so. As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.

The Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth. Today we speak the truth, knowing very well Muslims have forgotten this crucial injunction from Allah.

The article’s writers are both authors about Islamic politics and culture as well as board members of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Now, I don’t know if Raza and Fatah are correct in their assertions, but I have a good reason to believe they may be. Several in fact, two of which I’ve seen personally.

I was once able to visit Istanbul and Jerusalem where I eagerly toured both the Hagia Sophia and the remains of what is believed to be Solomon’s Temple (typically referred to as the Western Wall). Both of these deeply religious sites have been converted to Muslim uses by the building of mosques.

The original Hagia Sophia was a church built by the Emperor Constantine some time in the fourth century, which was subsequently razed on a few different occasions. The Emperor Justinian I erected the current structure in the 530’s, and it still stands as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in existence. However, when Constantinople finally became Istanbul for good, the Hagia Sophia saw a dramatic change:

… Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.

Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque [ed. – which is within sight of of the Hagia Sophia], the Suleiman Mosque, the Shehzade Mosque and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.

No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit) and a wooden minaret made a mosque out of the church. At some early point, all the faces depicted in the church’s mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.

In short, the conquerors replaced a mighty cultural symbol of the vanquished with one of their own. Fairly standard really, but I still found it a bit odd to walk into one of the oldest Christian churches in the world only to be confronted with giant symbols of Islam everywhere.

Visiting Jerusalem was just as puzzling. I knew that the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) was all that was left of Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount, but I had not realized that atop it sat not one, but two Islamic holy sites: The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. These two religious sites replaced and took over what is considered the holiest of all places on Earth by the Jews, who are forbidden from entering either.

There are, of course, other examples, but it’s not as if this sort of conquering behavior is the sole province of Muslims. Indeed, the al-Aqsa Mosque was itself taken over as a church for a brief time by Crusaders.

Even so, it cannot be denied that erecting mosques and other holy sites upon or near places of great cultural significance to their enemies is something to which Muslims seem historically inclined. And while most Muslims may not consider themselves at war with the West, or Americans as an enemy of Islam, those who took down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 most certainly did, and still do. That is why I think that Raza and Fatah may be right.

To erect a monument in the form of the Ground Zero Mosque to the nihilistic, death-loving 9/11 terrorists is a slap in the face of everyone they murdered on that day, those who gave up their lives to rescue the survivors, and all of their families and friends. It would be allowing a symbol of enemy victory to desecrate hallowed ground.

Bruce made a great argument as to why, despite whatever intentions the mosque’s benefactors may have, it’s an affront to individual property rights and the rule of law to use the government to prevent the Ground Zero Mosque from being built.

Basically, I think he’s right. But I can’t help thinking that if, say, a group of Japanese decided to by some property right next to Pearl Harbor in order to erect a monument or shrine, we as American citizens might find some peaceful and non-coercive way of stopping that from happening.

As for the Ground Zero Mosque, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Coming down on the side of bigotry

This “Ground Zero” mosque controversy has begun to rankle me. It is my understanding that those who want to build the "ground zero" mosque own the property there.

Secondly, it really isn’t adjacent to the old World Trade Center site, but a few blocks away.

Even if it is adjacent, however, if the first part is true, then it is theirs to build what they wish. I may or may not be happy about it, but they are the property owners and what is built there is their business.

The Anti-Defamation League seems to understand that as well, however, under the guise of "doing what is right" it acknowledges the mosque builder’s rights but then dismisses them in favor of the bigotry of those who oppose them. In a statement they said:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right. So the bigotry expressed in this is "unfair, and wrong", but to hell with rights, we’ll side with the arbitrary and subjective "what is right".

An amazing statement coming from a group which was founded to fight bigotry against Jews.

Thankfully not all Jews feel that way.  They also understand how profoundly wrong headed the ADL’s statement is.  From J-Street:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

Exactly right.  Another way of saying all of this is “grow up”.  You either have religious freedom and ownership rights or you don’t.  It isn’t a “right” if it can be selectively applied under the arbitrary rubric of “what is right” fueled by bigotry.

And, as inevitable as the rising sun, you can count on politicians gearing up for a run for office to grab the populist opportunity to chime in and side with the bigots because it is the popular thing to do.  Newt Gingrich issued this statement:

Throughout its nearly 100 year history, the cause of religious tolerance has had no better friend than the Anti-Defamation League.  The organization’s stand today in opposition to the proposed 13-story Islamic Center near Ground Zero is entirely in keeping with that tradition.  They recognize the provocative nature of the proposal, that its construction will only result in more pain for the families of 9/11 victims and fan the flames of inter-religious strife.  Abe Foxman and the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League deserve praise for taking such a careful look at this issue and arriving at the right conclusion. 

And Gingrich’s spokesman had this to say:

Newt Ginrich’s spokesman told Salon in a phone interview today that building a mosque at Ground Zero "would be like putting a statue of Mussolini or Marx at Arlington National Cemetery."

That’s pure crap unless you want to make the same comparison to, oh I don’t know, a Catholic church in Spain following the Inquisition.

Look, this is manufactured “outrage” and pure and simple bigotry.  We are either a nation of religious tolerance and property rights or we’re not.  There’s no in-between.  It’s like every other right – you may not like all of what it brings, but that’s just the price of freedom.


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Why Turkey’s change of attitude toward Israel is important and could be ominous

Someone apparently had an extra bowl of Cheerios this morning:

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, in a BBC interview on Wednesday. Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”.

The rhetoric keeps ratcheting up as if various Arab factions are trying to talk themselves into testing Israel again. It’s been a while, but the in the past the results have been uniformly bad for the Arab nations.

But there has been a recent change. Turkey is now talking tough as well. And, add in Iran’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the Arab world and suddenly it’s a little different ballgame.

Turkey’s inclusion against Israel in the rhetorical wars now being waged has encouraged many Arab pundits to hail the Turks and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the much awaited “leader” of the movement against Israel. One writer hailed him as “more Arab than the Arabs” while criticizing Arab leaders as too passive.

There have been huge pro-Turkey rallies in Gaza, Beruit and Damascus. Recently, text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during a June 4th Erdogan speech in Konya, some of which said: “Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs,” and “Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans.”

Hizbullah considers Erdogan the new rock star of anti-Israeli leadership, and some Gazans are naming their children after him.

What Turkey and Erdogan have apparently managed to do, according to one writer, is bring those who have rejected Hamas and Hizbullah because of their Iranian ties on board in a unified “Islamic” effort to confront Israel:

“Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi’a… They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi’ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.

“Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam.

Turkey seems to have finally rejected the west and put to rest its desire to be a part of it. Although it retains NATO membership, it appears to have no further interest in the EU. Turkey also appears to be again casting its eyes in the direction of its past glory – the Ottoman Empire. Certainly it isn’t pretending it would again rule over all of its former territories, but Turkey seems to feel it could be a major if not the major influence in the area of the Middle East. One sure way to work toward that goal is to take on Israel.

While it publicly claims it is still a secular nation ruled by secular institutions, this latest situation with Israel and Turkey’s reaction are all Islamic and designed to appeal to the Islamic world in general and the people of the Middle East specifically.

This is one of the conflicts that is brewing on the horizon. It is a new twist in a very old situation. But it promises real trouble if not addressed and defused quickly.

Of course, that will take leadership, not apology tours. I’m not sure that the US is up to the job. And I think the reason we’re hearing all this from Turkey now is they sense that is the case.


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