Israel vs. Hezbollah

I was fascinated to hear in the news today that the Prime Minister of Israel has rejected the idea of a cease-fire in the current campaign to clear the threat of Hezbollah from Lebanon.

Israel’s action may be less than I would have liked for their response to the incursion and the rockets from Lebanon, but it is so much better than what the United States is doing in our “war on terror,” that my reaction is, Hurrah!

–Ken

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Pragmatic Second Thoughts at Google

The International Herald Tribune has reported that Google has had second thoughts about their pragmatic self-censorship to placate the totalitarian government in China.Avid fans of this blog (you know who you are) know my feeling about Google’s kowtowing to censorship. I even wrote them an angry letter about it. Wouldn’t it be nice to thnk my letter made a difference? I know, though, that it did not.

Google’s potential change of mind, if it actually occurs, will still be based on a pragmatic philosophy. One of the company’s co-founders, Sergey Brin, was quoted as saying, “Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.” Translation: we only act on principle when it looks like it might work better than what we’re doing.

According to the Herald Tribune, “Brin also said Google was working to improve the censored search service before deciding whether to reverse course. If the company cannot strike a balance between an information service and accommodating the Chinese government’s demands, it would re-evalate, the company said.” Translation: let’s look for an acceptable compromise before we try a full-blown “principled approach.”

Ayn Rand was the major defender of businessmen. She said, “Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of lfe from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. …If and when they perish, civilization will perish.”

She also noted that, “As a group, businessmen have been withdrawing for decades from the ideological battlefield, disarmed by the deadly combination of altruism and Pragmatism.”

That was 35 years ago. The businessmen at Google remain disarmed by their rotten philosophy. Any government these men are involved with can manipulate them at it’s whim.

–Ken

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War

What is going on here? We’re at war, right? Well, we are and we aren’t. We have a Presidential declaration of a “War on Terrorism,” but no Congressional declaration of war on any nation.

Today is Armed Forces Day, perhaps an appropriate time to look at what our armed forces are doing. Our armed forces continue to have skirmishes with terrorists in Iraq. These result in the deaths of many terrorists (underplayed by the media) and the deaths and injuries of fewer but significant numbers of our own people (carefully tabulated by the press). (Those who decry the loss of life among our troops — well over 2000 by now — and yearn for an end to the “war” appear to have no idea what war is really like. In our real wars, the death tolls ran to the tens of thousands. For perspective: I read the other day that we lost 12,000 men in the Okinawa campaign alone, in WWII. Iwo Jima was comparable, and there were many others.)

In WWII the idea was to defeat the Japanese enemy who had attacked us, as quickly as possible and whatever it took. What is the idea of this “war” on terrorism? According to our civilian leaders, it is to bring about “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries and to establish democracy therein. According to individual troops in occasional TV interviews, the idea is to make life better for the Iraqis or Afghanistanis. These soldiers appear to have been imbued with the altruistic principles that are potentially the death of this country. Perhaps Armed Forces Day should be renamed International Social Services Day.

The promise our President made after the attack of 9/11, when he vowed to go after countries that harbored or supported terrorists, is a far cry from what is actually occurring. The United States has known for decades that Iran is the main national source of terrorism. I have no clear idea why it was not the target of choice after the Taliban. I see no reason for refraining from destroying that dictatorship; it could be done without the cost in American lives that is currently going on in our “war” in Iraq. If our President told the military to take out Iran and let them do it, it could be accomplished in short order.

My Armed Forces Day wish: show the footage of the destruction of Manhattan’s Twin Towers and their thousands of lives over and over. Keep a visual image of that horrendous cataclysm before the American eye until it becomes very real that we are not in this for any reason except the annihilation of the dictatorships that brought it about.

–Ken

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The Evil Mohammad Cartoons

It was once the case that entertainment shows steered shy of controversial subjects. They did not want to stir the bad feelings that come with controversy, and there are few if any subjects that can be more controversial than religion and politics. When the forbidden subjects were approached, it was with a certain sophistication. (Mort Sahl used to ask, toward the end of his stand-up performance, if there were any groups he had failed to offend.)

These days, Comedy Central’s South Park gets most of its mileage from being coarsely unconventional, from attacking, through sarcasm and lots of bathroom humor, beliefs that people hold dear. They have scathingly treated Christians, Jews, Scientologists, political parties, etc., or so I’m told (I have not watched much of the show, but did see most of the segments relevant to the cartoon controversy). No political or religious viewpoint has been left unsatirized. Except one.

The South Park story, as I understand it, involved a cartoon Mohammad as one of the characters in their show; Comedy Central would not allow it to be shown. Their reason? It came down to fear, as admitted in their form letter to viewers who had written them about the omission. Comedy Central, as did most American media outlets, succumbed to fear of retaliation by Muslims.

Their fear is rationally based; after all, Muslims perpetrated enormous damage and even killings in their outrage over cartoon depictions of Mohammed. The threat of more of the same is real. As with the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, when publishers and some booksellers reacted with fear to Muslim threats, the fault does not lie with those who succumbed. Much as I would have liked to see Comedy Central — and the general media — stand up to the threats they feel, it’s not my place to say how others should react when they fear for their property, their families, and their lives.

Where, oh where is our government in this affair? It seems omnipresent in regulating what we can eat, our health care and medicines, our communications and on, and on. When it comes to real, physical threat, the very thing the government is there to protect against, it is not to be heard from.

All of us, especially South Park with all its smutty obscenity, deserve to be protected by our government from physical harm. (After all, nobody threatens physical harm when they are not offended.) The Muslim threateners apparently know that they can threaten with impunity. Our government has repeatedly shown that it can be counted upon to appease rather than protect. Contrary to Muslim casuistry, it is not evil to show depictions of Mohammad (and it certainly won’t lead to idolatry, the Muslims’ professed fear). The relevant evil here is the knee-bending stance of our government.
–Ken

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Getting to Essentials

Harry Binswanger exemplifies a method for thinking about an issue that helps one get at its essentials. The issue he deals with is the current contention over placing a Dubai company in charge of U.S. ocean ports. He asks a question ignored/evaded by pundits and politicians (or anyone else, so far as I know). “Why is it an issue at all whether or not a Middle Eastern company runs our ports?” A marvelous set of answers and further questions follows:

“Because we are afraid of the very real possibility of Islamic terrorists doing something like detonating a nuclear bomb in New York harbor.” And “Why is that a very real possibility?” Well, “…we haven’t crushed the jihadist movement.” Why not, since we certainly have the means? “We lacked the moral certainty of the rightness of that course. …the will uncompromisingly to assert our right to self-defense.”

As to the next question, why we lack the will, “…America lost the knowledge that men have rights and that therefore the nation of rights is right. For a long, long time, our intellectual leadership has regarded America as evil. No nation whose intellectuals are solidly against it can act with moral certainty…”

And at last, ” Why have the American intellectuals been anti-American for all this time? Because of the altruist morality and the anti-reason epistemology.”

So, it comes down to philosophy — the essential — the prevailing ethics and epistemology this country has absorbed. If, instead, America were still the country of egoism and reason the question about who should be in charge of the ports would be moot. Harry Binswanger puts it to words:

” You fear a nuclear bomb going off in New York Harbor? Then crush the enemy. End the mullahs regime in Iran. Crush Syria. Whip the Saudis into line. And tell the world that self-sacrifice is evil and religion is a lie. Which means: tell the world that man is an end in himself, that his life on this earth is the only thing that is sacred, that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, and that reason, not faith or force, is man’s only means of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.”

And thus, through a series of common sense questions and answers, he disposes of the “issue” of what company should be in charge of the seaports and brings the discussion back to the essentials — the ideas behind the “issue.”

–Ken

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Appeasement as Policy

Our State Department, according to Reuters, has decried the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoon depictions of Mohammed (aka Muhammad). The State Department spokesman, one Kurtis Cooper, said the cartoons are “offensive to the belief of Muslims,” (aka Moslems).

Of course, the question that immediately leaps to (a rational) mind is, “Why on earth ought we care about offending the feelings of our sworn enemies?” The answer in the Reuters article is, “By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.” It doesn’t say why we should care about our image among Muslims. That’s simply taken for granted, as though their bad opinion of us actually says anything about us.

Although I saw the cartoons on some newscast (I believe on Fox), I noted yesterday that CNN declined to show them; that is, they showed a couple, but with Mohammed’s face pixeled out. This is right in line with the feelings at State. The European press showed far more backbone in resolutely publishing the cartoons when it became evident that the Moslems were going to make a fuss about it.

–Ken

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Torture

Here’s a “what-if.” What if an Al-Qaeda member is captured in, say New York City. And what if there is very good reason to believe that he knows when and where a bomb is scheduled to go off in the city. He refuses to respond to interrogation on the matter. What should be done? Should the terrorist be allowed to hold his tongue?

Let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about foreign terrorists here, not United States citizens, and that terrorists are not army troops of some country. They cannot claim protection of our Constitution. They are not signatories of the Geneva Convention nor any other agreement about how prisoners are to be treated.

Talk shows and editorials in the MSM are making a great deal of fuss lately over the use of torture in the interrogation of terrorist prisoners. There are expressions of horror at the thought that torture might be used. Those with the audacity to defend torture are denounced and called names. Authorities rush to say they abhor its use. Opponents accuse authorities of using torture and denying that they do so. Experts are found to say that torture is not useful and may be counterproductive anyway.

The question that seems never to be addressed: why not? Why not use torture? What is the argument against using torture?

Most commentators take it for granted that torture is just evil, intrinsically. If pressed for a reason, they might scornfully proclaim that it hurts, of course. It is immoral to hurt someone. As children are being taught these days, “people are not for hurting.”

Torture is characterized as dehumanizing, meaning that the tortured prisoner is treated as less than human. It is not made clear just what it is about torture that dehumanizes him. I suspect that those who agonize about this might have some foggy notion that the terrorist’s human rights are violated by torture.

So the answer to “Why not?” comes down to, torture causes pain, which is never to be countenanced. And it is presumed to dehumanize the prisoner through violating his human rights.

It is redundant to claim that pain hurts. Pain is hurt. Pain has the evolutionary value of enabling us to learn that we’re doing something detrimental to our lives which we must stop. The message of pain given to a terrorist prisoner is that he’d better stop withholding vital information.

What about the terrorist’s rights? Terrorists attacked us; not the other way around. They violated our rights; not the other way around. It is contradictory for the terrorist or his advocates to claim a right to withhold information about how his colleagues plan to kill more Americans. There is no right to violate rights.

–Ken

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