March 16, 2007
An Appeal for Courage
If you are an Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard military member, please go to this site and consider signing the petition there.
This petition is being spearheaded, in a large part, by the efforts of LT Jason Nichols, USN; SGT David Thul, MNARNG; and Larry Vandergriff, USA (Retired).
Appeal for Courage is a non-partisan, grass-roots effort to communicate to Congress the troops' desire to remain in Iraq until our mission is complete. We feel calls to retreat embolden our enemy and hurt our support within the American public and Iraqi people.
The petition itself reads:
As an American currently serving my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat. I also respectfully urge my political leaders to actively oppose media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home. The War in Iraq is a necessary and just effort to bring freedom to the Middle East and protect America from further attack.
January 12, 2007
Our Democrat Congress at work
Concerning homeland security, the Democrats seem to be sinking to new lows by portraying themselves as correcting a Republican-caused problem, when in fact, it was Democrats who caused the problem in the first place.
Consider the record. Under a Republican-controlled House, a majority of Democrats voted against the following bills, all of which were drafted with commission recommendations in mind:
- The commission stated: "The House and Senate homeland security committees should have exclusive jurisdiction over all counterterrorism functions of the Department of Homeland Security." Yet every House Democrat in the 109th Congress voted against making the Committee on Homeland Security permanent.
- The commission stated: "The REAL ID Act has established standards for state-issued IDs acceptable for federal purposes, though states' compliance needs to be closely monitored." But 152 House Democrats in the 109th Congress voted against the REAL ID Act.
- The commission stated: The United States should develop "a common coalition approach toward detention and humane treatment of capture[d] terrorists... for those cases in which the usual laws of war did not apply." But 162 House Democrats in the 109th Congress voted against the Military Commissions Act, which establishes guidelines for the detention and trial of terrorist suspects.
I guess this period of time will go down in American history as the '100 Hours of Hypocrisy'.
It seems that there are very few statesmen left in Washington D.C., anymore.
Please pardon my cynicism as regards our new Congress. It is neither charitable, nor Christian-like. I am struggling with my attitude, right now.
December 06, 2006
The flying imams - revisited
Richard Miniter does some investigative journalism and provides a a more fleshed out story concerning the six imams' strange behavior on a U.S. Airways plane a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Miniter provides a different view of what transpired, but he also documents his facts.
Pauline revealed to Pajamas Media that the six imams were doing things far more suspicious than praying - an Arabic-speaking passenger heard them repeatedly invoke “bin Laden,” and “terrorism,” a gate attendant told the captain that she did not want to fly with them, and that bomb-sniffing dogs were brought aboard. Other Muslim passengers were left undisturbed and later joined in a round of applause for the U.S. Airways crew. “It wasn’t that they were Muslim. It was all of the suspicious things they did,” Pauline said.
Here is her story, along with corroborating quotes from the U.S. Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader and the official report, another Pajamas Media exclusive.
December 01, 2006
The Boston Globe has an encouraging article about the privacy protections built into NSA's terrorist wiretapping program.
Board members said that they were impressed by the safeguards the government has built into the NSA's monitoring of phone calls and computer transmissions, and that they wished the administration could tell the public more about them to ease distrust.
"If the American public, especially civil libertarians like myself, could be more informed about how careful the government is to protect our privacy while still protecting us from attacks, we'd be more reassured," said Lanny Davis , a former Clinton White House lawyer who is the board's lone liberal Democrat.
Alan Raul, a former Reagan White House lawyer and the board's vice chairman, said he also was impressed.
"We found there was a great appreciation inside government, both at the political and career levels, for protections on privacy and civil liberties," said Raul, author of a book of civil liberties. "In fact, I think the public may have an underappreciation for the degree of seriousness the government is giving these protections."
Let's get this behind us now and go fight our real enemy.
November 20, 2006
'On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
November 19, 2006
Immigration's Human Cost is a website detailing stories of those who have paid the price of illegal immigration -- many with their lives. One recent example:
"I was having a bad day," illegal immigrant Diego Pillco, 19, allegedly told cops. "I didn't mean to kill her. But I did kill her." Pillco told detectives that he punched Shelly, 40, last Wednesday afternoon outside the Abingdon Square apartment she was using as an office after she yelled at him about the noise he was making while working in a vacant apartment below.
After seeing she was unconscious and believing she was dead, Pillco claimed, he dragged Shelly into her apartment, wrapped a bed sheet around her neck and attached it to a shower rod in the bathroom to make it appear she had hanged herself, sources said.
I recommend you visit the site and do some independent research of your own before you decide whether an open borders policy is a good idea.
November 14, 2006
The new America?
Investor's Business Daily has a disturbing op-ed that describes Rep. John Conyers relationship to the Muslim Caucus. Since he is likely the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and since he has declared his oposition to the Patriot Act, we may find ourselves less secure in this country thanks to having new management in Washington, D.C.
John Conyers, son of a leftist Detroit union activist, represents the largest Arab population in the country. His district includes Dearborn, Mich., nicknamed "Dearbornistan" by locals fed up with cultural encroachment and terror fears from a steady influx of Mideast immigrants.
Conyers, who runs an Arabic version of his official Web site, does the bidding of these new constituents and the militant Islamist activists who feed off them. They want to kill the Patriot Act and prevent the FBI from profiling Muslim suspects in terror investigations. They also want to end the use of undisclosed evidence against suspected Arab terrorists in deportation proceedings.
And the 77-year-old Conyers has vowed to deliver those changes for them.
Let's just hope this is baseless alarmism. I am afraid that it is true, and I am praying that it isn't.
[Hat tip to Kim Priestap at Wizbang.]
October 09, 2006
An appeals court in Cincinnati has ruled that the government can continue to use its warrantless domestic wiretapping program pending the Justice Departments appeal of a federal judge's ruling outlawing the program.
The ruling overturned District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision last week to deny a lengthy stay in the case, which is expected to end up with the Supreme Court.
Thank God there are still members of the judiciary who use reason rather than feelings as the basis of their judgements.
October 06, 2006
Democrats and national security
Lorie Byrd, over at Townhall posted an op-ed last week that sums up the scepticism that many Americans have toward the Democrats' stance(s) on national defense. She starts with:
Prompted by Condoleeza Riceâ€™s reponse to Bill Clintonâ€™s theatrical production on Fox News Sunday over the weekend, Hillary Clinton came out Tuesday in defense of her husbandâ€™s record on terrorism in an effort to establish Democratsâ€™ credibility on the issue. She is going to have to come up with something more persuasive if she wants to convince voters that Democrats can be trusted with national security.
She then goes on to describe some little-known facts about the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 -- and then-President Bill Clinton's response to that terrorist attack by quoting Confederate Yankee Bob Owens:
Owens states the fact that Hillary Clintonâ€™s husband hoped to disguise with bluster: â€śBill Clinton was President of the United States when lower Manhattan was the victim of an al Qaeda plot executed by an Iraqi bomb-builder who detonated a chemical/conventional weapon under tens of thousands of Americans. President Clinton later knew what the bomb was composed of, knew how it was intended to be used, and what threat al Qaeda posedâ€¦Bill Clinton was President for another 7 years, 10 months, 25 days after this attack.â€ť
Finally she gets to the crux of many moderate and conservative Americans' doubts:
We know what Bill Clinton did, and didnâ€™t do, to combat terrorism after that attack. As for what a President Hillary or a Democrat-controlled congress would do to fight terrorism, what they refuse to do today, even after 9/11, tells me all I need to know about what they would do if they were in control.
Food for thought.
September 08, 2006
How safe do you feel?
Bluto, at My Pet Jawa reports on a poll asking Americans: 'Do You Feel Less Safe Now Than Before 9/11?'
He also has some pertinent commentary:
How can anyone feel safer when the New York Times, one of the patrons of this very poll, feels comfortable betraying their own country by publishing classified documents relating to active counter-terrorism programs?
August 25, 2006
More urgency for closed borders, please?!
Bill Crawford at All Things Conservative quotes from a news story that describes our porous southern border. And that Arab-speaking people are crossing it regularly.
Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez of Zapata County, Texas told Cybercast News Service that Iranian currency, military badges in Arabic, jackets and other clothing are among the items that have been discovered along the banks of the Rio Grande River. The sheriff also said there are a substantial number of individuals crossing the southern border into the U.S. who are not Mexican. He described the individuals in question as well-funded and able to pay so-called "coyotes" - human smugglers - large sums of money for help gaining illegal entry into the U.S.
Is anyone in Washington listening?
August 21, 2006
Solzhenitsyn on the West
Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave an address at Harvard on 8 June 1978 about why the West was not prevailing over tyranny. Though these words were spoken 28 years ago, they are so very pertinent to the world we find ourselves in today that I just had to share them with you.
This speech really resonates.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
(NOTE: I failed to note the blog where I first stumbled upon a reference to this speech, but I'll gladly give credit, if you just let me know.)
A World Split Apart
Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University June 8, 1978
By Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn
I am sincerely happy to be here with you on the occasion of the 327th commencement of this old and illustrious university. My congratulations and best wishes to all of today's graduates.
Harvard's motto is "VERITAS." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.
Three years ago in the United States I said certain things that were rejected and appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I said ...
The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of destroying each other. However, the understanding of the split too often is limited to this political conception: the illusion according to which danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is both more profound and more alienating, that the rifts are more numerous than one can see at first glance. These deep manifold splits bear the danger of equally manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a kingdom - in this case, our Earth - divided against itself cannot stand.
There is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Every ancient and deeply rooted self-contained culture, especially if it is spread over a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes a self-contained world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in this China, India, the Muslim world, and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as uniform.
For one thousand years Russia belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its special character and therefore never understood it, just as today the West does not understand Russia in Communist captivity. And while it may be that in past years Japan has increasingly become, in effect, a Far West, drawing ever closer to Western ways (I am no judge here), Israel, I think, should not be reckoned as part of the West, if only because of the decisive circumstance that its state system is fundamentally linked to its religion.
How short a time ago, relatively, the small world of modern Europe was easily seizing colonies all over the globe, not only without anticipating any real resistance, but usually with contempt for any possible values in the conquered people's approach to life. It all seemed an overwhelming success, with no geographic limits. Western society expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. And all of a sudden the twentieth century brought the clear realization of this society's fragility.
We now see that the conquests proved to be short lived and precarious (and this, in turn, points to defects in the Western view of the world which led to these conquests). Relations with the former colonial world now have switched to the opposite extreme and the Western world often exhibits an excess of obsequiousness, but it is difficult yet to estimate the size of the bill which former colonial countries will present to the West and it is difficult to predict whether the surrender not only of its last colonies, but of everything it owns, will be sufficient for the West to clear this account.
But the persisting blindness of superiority continues to hold the belief that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems, the best in theory and the most attractive in practice; that all those other worlds are but temporarily prevented (by wicked leaders or by severe crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from pursuing Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in that direction. But in fact such a conception is a fruit of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, a result of mistakenly measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development bears little resemblance to all this.
The anguish of a divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between the leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not evolving toward each other and that neither one can be transformed into the other without violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too. and this can hardly suit anyone.
If I were today addressing an audience in my country, in my examination of the overall pattern of the world's rifts I would have concentrated on the calamities of the East. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects of the contemporary West, such as I see them.
A Decline In Courage
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?
When the modern Western states were being formed, it was proclaimed as a principle that governments are meant to serve man and that man lives in order to be free and pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration of Independence.) Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state.
Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and in such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the debased sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. (In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to this end imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to carefully conceal such feelings. This active and tense competition comes to dominate all human thought and does not in the least open a way to free spiritual development.)
The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of the people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, preparing them for and summoning them toward physical bloom, happiness, and leisure, the possession of material goods, money, and leisure, toward an almost unlimited freedom in the choice of pleasures. So who should now renounce all this, why and for the sake of what should one risk one's precious life in defense of the common good and particularly in the nebulous case when the security of one's nation must be defended in an as yet distant land?
Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to take off its pernicious mask.
Western society has chosen for itself the organization best suited to its purposes and one I might call legalistic. The limits of human rights and rightness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting, and manipulating law (though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert). Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the ultimate solution.
If one is risen from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be right, and urge self-restraint or a renunciation of these rights, call for sacrifice and selfless risk: this would simply sound absurd. Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames. (An oil company is legally blameless when it buys up an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to purchase it.)
I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society based on the letter of the law and never reaching any higher fails to take full advantage of the full range of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man's noblest impulses.
And it will be simply impossible to bear up to the trials of this threatening century with nothing but the supports of a legalistic structure.
The Direction Of Freedom
Today's Western society has revealed the inequality between the freedom for good deeds and the freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; thousands of hasty (and irresponsible) critics cling to him at all times; he is constantly rebuffed by parliament and the press. He has to prove that his every step is well founded and absolutely flawless. Indeed, an outstanding, truly great person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind does not get any chance to assert himself; dozens of traps will be set for him from the beginning. Thus mediocrity triumphs under the guise of democratic restraints.
It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and it has in fact been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
On the other hand, destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example against the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. This is all considered to be part of freedom and to be counterbalanced, in theory, by the young people's right not to look and not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.
And what shall we say about the dark realms of overt criminality? Legal limits (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also some misuse of such freedom. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency - all with the support of thousands of defenders in the society. When a government earnestly undertakes to root out terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist's civil rights. There is quite a number of such cases.
This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man - the master of the world - does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected. Yet strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still remains a great deal of crime; there even is considerably more of it than in the destitute and lawless Soviet society. (There is a multitude of prisoners in our camps who are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state by resorting to means outside the legal framework.)
The Direction Of The Press
The press, too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word "press" to include all the media.) But what use does it make of it?
Here again, the overriding concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No; this would damage sales. A nation may be the worse for such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. It is most likely that he will start writing the exact opposite to his previous statements with renewed aplomb.
Because instant and credible information is required, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be refuted; they settle into the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed everyday, confusing readers, and then left hanging?
The press can act the role of public opinion or miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters pertaining to the nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion into the privacy of well-known people according to the slogan "Everyone is entitled to know everything." (But this is a false slogan of a false era; far greater in value is the forfeited right of people not to know, not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life has no need for this excessive and burdening flow of information.)
Hastiness and superficiality - these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has voted Western journalists into their positions of power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?
There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the totalitarian East with its rigorously unified press: One discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole (the spirit of the time), generally accepted patterns of judgment, and maybe common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Unrestrained freedom exists for the press, but not for readership, because newspapers mostly transmit in a forceful and emphatic way those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and that general trend.
A Fashion In Thinking
Without any censorship in the West, fashionable trends of thought and ideas are fastidiously separated from those that are not fashionable, and the latter, without ever being forbidden have little chance of finding their way into periodicals or books or being heard in colleges. Your scholars are free in the legal sense, but they are hemmed in by the idols of the prevailing fad. There is no open violence, as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to accommodate mass standards frequently prevents the most independent-minded persons from contributing to public life and gives rise to dangerous herd instincts that block dangerous herd development.
In America, I have received letters from highly intelligent persons - maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but the country cannot hear him because the media will not provide him with a forum. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to a blindness which is perilous in our dynamic era. An example is the self-deluding interpretation of the state of affairs in the contemporary world that functions as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds, to such a degree that human voices from seventeen countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will be broken only by the inexorable crowbar of events.
I have mentioned a few traits of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world . The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a survey, in particular to look into the impact of these characteristics on important aspects of a nation's life, such as elementary education, advanced education in the humanities, and art.
It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world the way to successful economic development, even though in past years it has been sharply offset by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of no longer being up to the level of maturity by mankind. And this causes many to sway toward socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.
I hope that no one present will suspect me of expressing my partial criticism of the Western system in order to suggest socialism as an alternative. No; with the experience of a country where socialism has been realized, I shall not speak for such an alternative. The mathematician Igor Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliantly argued book entitled Socialism; this is a penetrating historical analysis demonstrating that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the U.S.
Not A Model
But should I be asked, instead, whether I would propose the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country, I would frankly have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through deep suffering, people in our own country have now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just enumerated are extremely saddening.
A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. The complex and deadly crush of life has produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting personalities than those generated by standardized Western well-being. Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant points.
Of course, a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to stay on such a soulless and smooth plane of legalism, as is the case in yours. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.
All this is visible to numerous observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.
There are telltale symptoms by which history gives warning to a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, a decline of the arts or a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.
But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?
Humanism And Its Consequences
How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present debility? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing steadily in accordance with its proclaimed social intentions, hand in hand with a dazzling progress in technology. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.
This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very foundation of thought in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was born in the Renaissance and has found political expression since the Age of Enlightenment. It became the basis for political and social doctrine and could be called rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the pro-claimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of all.
The turn introduced by the Renaissance was probably inevitable historically: the Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, having become an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. But then we recoiled from the spirit and embraced all that is material, excessively and incommensurately. The humanistic way of thinking, which had proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than the attainment of happiness on earth. It started modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend of worshiping man and his material needs.
Everything beyond physical well-being and the accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtle and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any higher meaning. Thus gaps were left open for evil, and its drafts blow freely today. Mere freedom per se does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and even adds a number of new ones.
And yet in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.
Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.
An Unexpected Kinship
As humanism in its development was becoming more and more materialistic, it also increasingly allowed concepts to be used first by socialism and then by communism, so that Karl Marx was able to say, in 1844, that "communism is naturalized humanism."
This statement has proved to be not entirely unreasonable. One does not see the same stones in the foundations of an eroded humanism and of any type of socialism: boundless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility (which under Communist regimes attains the stage of antireligious dictatorship); concentration on social structures with an allegedly scientific approach. (This last is typical of both the Age of Enlightenment and of Marxism.) It is no accident that all of communism's rhetorical vows revolve around Man (with a capital M) and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.
The interrelationship is such, moreover, that the current of materialism which is farthest to the left, and is hence the most consistent, always proves to be stronger, more attractive, and victorious. Humanism which has lost its Christian heritage cannot prevail in this competition. Thus during the past centuries and especially in recent decades, as the process became more acute, the alignment of forces was as follows: Liberalism was inevitably pushed aside by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism, and socialism could not stand up to communism.
The communist regime in the East could endure and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who (feeling the kinship!) refused to see communism's crimes, and when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify these crimes. The problem persists: In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. And yet Western intellectuals still look at it with considerable interest and empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.
Before The Turn
I am not examining the case of a disaster brought on by a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. But as long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we must lead an everyday life. Yet there is a disaster which is already very much with us. I am referring to the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness.
It has made man the measure of all things on earth - imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.
We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.
If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.
It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or to the availability of gasoline. Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism.
Today it would be retrogressive to hold on to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Such social dogmatism leaves us helpless before the trials of our times.
Even if we are spared destruction by war, life will have to change in order not to perish on its own. We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities should be ruled by material expansion above all? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our integral spiritual life?
If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.
The ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any other way left but - upward.
Reprinted from A World Split Apart by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1978).
August 13, 2006
Why we spy
OpinionJournal has a extremely pertinent op-ed up about why it is vital that America continues to use surveillance of all kinds to protect its citizens.
. . . The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
A good thing to wonder. I've reprinted the article in its entirety in the extended entry.
'Mass Murder' Foiled
A terror plot is exposed by the policies many American liberals oppose.
Friday, August 11, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Americans went to work yesterday to news of another astonishing terror plot against U.S. airlines, only this time the response was grateful relief. British authorities had busted the "very sophisticated" plan "to commit mass murder" and arrested 20-plus British-Pakistani suspects. As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11 without another major attack on U.S. soil, now is the right moment to consider the policies that have protected us--and those in public life who have fought those policies nearly every step of the way.
It's not as if the "Islamic fascists"--to borrow President Bush's description yesterday--haven't been trying to hit us. They took more than 50 lives last year in London with the "7/7" subway bombings. There was the catastrophic attack in Madrid the year before that left nearly 200 dead. But there have also been successes. Some have been publicized, such as a foiled plot to poison Britain's food supply with ricin. But undoubtedly many have not, because authorities don't want to compromise sources and methods, or because the would-be terrorists have been captured or killed before they could carry out their plans.
In this case the diabolical scheme was to smuggle innocent-looking liquid explosive components and detonators onto planes. They could then be assembled onboard and exploded, perhaps over cities for maximum horror. Multiply the passenger load of a 747 by, say, 10 airliners, and this attack could have killed more people than 9/11. We don't yet know how the plot was foiled, but surely part of the explanation was crack surveillance work by British authorities.
"This wasn't supposed to happen today," a U.S. official told the Washington Post of the arrests and terror alert. "It was supposed to happen several days from now. We hear the British lost track of one or two guys. They had to move." Meanwhile, British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because "a large number of people" had been under surveillance, with police monitoring "spending, travel and communications."
Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."
Ted Kennedy chimed in that "it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win." Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the "Bojinka" plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration's "misguided policies" invite that plot? And if the Iraq war is a diversion and provocation, just what policies would Senators Reid and Kennedy have us "focus" on?
Surveillance? Hmmm. Democrats and their media allies screamed bloody murder last year when it was leaked that the government was monitoring some communications outside the context of a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA wasn't designed for, nor does it forbid, the timely exploitation of what are often anonymous phone numbers, and the calls monitored had at least one overseas connection. But Mr. Reid labeled such surveillance "illegal" and an "NSA domestic spying program." Other Democrats are still saying they will censure, or even impeach, Mr. Bush over the FISA program if they win control of Congress.
This year the attempt to paint Bush Administration policies as a clear and present danger to civil liberties continued when USA Today hyped a story on how some U.S. phone companies were keeping call logs. The obvious reason for such logs is that the government might need them to trace the communications of a captured terror suspect. And then there was the recent brouhaha when the New York Times decided news of a secret, successful and entirely legal program to monitor bank transfers between bad guys was somehow in the "public interest" to expose.
For that matter, we don't recall most advocates of a narrowly "focused" war on terror having many kind words for the Patriot Act, which broke down what in the 1990s was a crippling "wall" of separation between our own intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. Senator Reid was "focused" enough on this issue to brag, prematurely as it turned out, that he had "killed" its reauthorization.
And what about interrogating terror suspects when we capture them? It is elite conventional wisdom these days that techniques no worse than psychological pressure and stress positions constitute "torture." There is also continued angst about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, even as Senators and self-styled civil libertarians fight Bush Administration attempts to process them through military tribunals that won't compromise sources and methods.
In short, Democrats who claim to want "focus" on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite "cooperation" with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated. Does anyone think that when the British interrogate those 20 or so suspects this week that they will recoil at harsh or stressful questioning?
Another issue that should be front and center again is ethnic profiling. We'd be shocked if such profiling wasn't a factor in the selection of surveillance targets that resulted in yesterday's arrests. Here in the U.S., the arrests should be a reminder of the dangers posed by a politically correct system of searching 80-year-old airplane passengers with the same vigor as screeners search young men of Muslim origin. There is no civil right to board an airplane without extra hassle, any more than drivers in high-risk demographics have a right to the same insurance rates as a soccer mom.
The real lesson of yesterday's antiterror success in Britain is that the threat remains potent, and that the U.S. government needs to be using every legal tool to defeat it. At home, that includes intelligence and surveillance and data-mining, and abroad it means all of those as well as an aggressive military plan to disrupt and kill terrorists where they live so they are constantly on defense rather than plotting to blow up U.S.-bound airliners.
As the time since 9/11 has passed, many of America's elites have begun to portray U.S. government policies as a greater threat than the terrorists themselves. George Soros and others have said this explicitly, and their political allies in Congress and the media have staged a relentless campaign against the very practices that saved innocent lives this week. We doubt that many Americans who will soon board an airplane agree.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
August 11, 2006
Good news from the Middle East
Iraq veteran and University of Texas professor Austin Bay has an op-ed up at Real Clear Politics detailing his thoughts on why July was a good month for freedom. Here's how he starts:
July 2006 may prove to be a signal, era-shaping month in 21st-century history.
Sensationalists, fear mongers, defeatists and terrorists prefer predictions of catastrophe and disaster. On the surface, last month looks like a violent disaster, an August 1914, with this July's missiles, rockets and improvised explosive devices replacing the guns of that terrible August.
August 1914 began World War I. World War I seeded World War II, which lingered as the Cold War.
However, instead of starting a global conflagration, July 2006 exposed or made explicit key elements of and trends in an ongoing war with global, regional and very local dimensions.
Go read the rest. He makes some good points.
July 18, 2006
More reason for a wall
In order to help protect our outgunned law enforcement officers.
"This type of incident is a very good example of why I will not allow my deputies to patrol the river banks or the levees anywhere close to the river," he said. "We do have drug trafficking gangs, human trafficking gangs, that will not hesitate to fire at us."
And the occasional armed raid across the border.
July 11, 2006
How to treat terrorists
Ralph Peters dives right in and speaks truth to political correctness about the treatment of terrorists. And he makes some good points.
We need to clarify the rules of conflict. But integrity and courage have fled Washington. Nobody will state bluntly that we're in a fight for our lives, that war is hell, and that we must do what it takes to win.
Our enemies will remind us of what's necessary, though. When we've been punished horribly enough, we'll come to our senses and do what must be done.
This isn't an argument for a murderous rampage, but its opposite. We must kill our enemies with discrimination. But we do need to kill them. A corpse is a corpse: The media's rage dissipates with the stench. But an imprisoned terrorist is a strategic liability.
Nor should we ever mistreat captured soldiers or insurgents who adhere to standing conventions. On the contrary, we should enforce policies that encourage our enemies to identify themselves according to the laws of war. Ambiguity works to their advantage, never to ours.
Our policy toward terrorists and insurgents in civilian clothing should be straightforward and public: Surrender before firing a shot or taking hostile action toward our troops, and we'll regard you as a legal prisoner. But once you've pulled a trigger, thrown a grenade or detonated a bomb, you will be killed. On the battlefield and on the spot.
Isn't that common sense? It also happens to conform to the traditional conduct of war between civilized nations. Ignorant of history, we've talked ourselves into folly.
Go read the whole thing.
[Hat tip to Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants.]
May 28, 2006
Daniel Heninger, at OpinionJournal, has an interesting piece about Congress, national security, and video games:
For awhile after 9/11 the war on terror was a serious national enterprise. Then it entered a twilight zone between the reality of terrorist killing and the abstractions of our domestic politics. The subject became a kind of political video game in which political partisans--the press, the pols, the bureaucracies--attempt to splatter each other. The best-selling version of the game has been Warrantless Wiretaps, introduced for political playstations by the New York Times.
It's worth reading.
May 16, 2006
Most Americans get it
May 15, 2006
Thomas Sowell makes a good case for separating border control from immigration.
There is no reason other than politics why amnesty and border control have to be in the same bill. It will take time to see how various new border control methods work out in practice and there is no reason to rush ahead to deal with the people already illegally in this country before the facts are in on how well the borders have been secured.
He makes several good points. I recommend you read it all.
May 14, 2006
This may be painful
Related to yesterday's post on this: It seems that there may be an intelligence scandal brewing on the border.
Michelle Malkin, who has been a stalwart on immigration, reports that the United States government has been providing Mexico with intelligence about the lawful activities of American citizens, specifically, the locations and tactics of Minuteman patrols.
I hope that this is not what it sounds like. If it is, though, mid-management heads better start rolling in the Dept. of Homeland Security!
May 13, 2006
How can we secure our borders this way?
Providing operational intelligence (about U.S. citizens lawfully exercising their rights in their own country) to a foreign country is definitely a losing proposition -- especially when those citizens are assisting the U.S. Border Patrol in securing our borders.
According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants -- and if and when violence is used against border crossers.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants' rights are being observed.
"It's not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be," Mario Martinez said Monday.
(Are you listening, Washington?)
Sheesh . . .
May 04, 2006
Executive editor Bill Keller, of the New York Times, wrote a letter in rebuttal of the OpinionJournal editorial entitled 'Our Rotten IntelligenCIA". I posted about that article here.
I can understand Mr. Keller's indignation, but I don't think that he made a very good case to refute the OpinionJournal piece. For one thing, he must have an incomplete understanding of security classification standards if he thinks that the President of the United States cannot decide to de-classify any U.S.-classifed data that he wants to. The President is the ultimate authority in national security in this country. Secondly, if a contractor or government/military employee had released the information that Mr. Keller's paper published, he would lose his job and go to jail. Third, the publishing of that data is tantamount to giving it to our enemies. And in war, that is spelled T-R-E-A-S-O-N.
As I said before, I am very disappointed in the poor performance of many news organizations over the last few years -- the New York Times included.
I've reprinted the whole letter in the extended entry.
Striking a Balance
The New York Times executive editor on leaks and partisanship.
BY BILL KELLER
Tuesday, May 2, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Most American newspapers, including yours and mine, try hard to separate the curiosity-driven world of reporters and editors from the ideology-driven world of editorial writers and columnists. The news and opinion departments operate under separate management, and they play by different rules. When editors like me disagree with our counterparts in opinion-land, we tend to keep it to ourselves.
Still, I imagine a lot of people on the news side of this divide were appalled by your editorial attack April 26 on the patriotism and professional integrity of journalists and government officials who talk to them ("Our Rotten IntelligenCIA," Review & Outlook). Since my paper was one of your particular targets, I hope you'll allow me to respond.
Your editorial posits a conspiracy between journalists and "a cabal of partisan bureaucrats" to undermine President Bush by sabotaging the war on terror. Among the suspects swept up and summarily convicted in your argument are: a) government officials who have disclosed secret doings of the government (with the exception of President Bush, whose leak-authorizing somehow escapes your notice); b) reporters and editors at the New York Times and Washington Post for reporting on these secret doings--notably the detention of terror suspects in CIA facilities in Europe and eavesdropping on Americans without warrants; and c) the Pulitzer Board, which honored both of those journalistic exploits last week.
I leave to others, including the court of public opinion, whether the government officials who spoke to reporters about secrets that troubled them were partisan evildoers, as the Journal contends, or conscientious public servants, or something more complicated. Since most of them, including the nearly a dozen who were cited in the first warrantless eavesdropping story, have not been publicly identified, it's hard to know how the Journal is so certain of their motives.
As regards the journalists, the editorial is animated by a couple of assumptions. One is that when journalists write things politicians don't like, the motivation is sure to be political. The other is that when presidents declare that secrecy is in the national interest, reporters should take that at face value. I don't believe either of those things is true, and I find it hard to believe that you do, either.
To believe that aggressive journalism is driven by liberal partisanship requires an awfully selective memory. (Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Congressman Mollohan.) The role of journalism on our side of the news/opinion divide, at least as we aspire to perform it, is not to be advocates for or against any president or any party or any cause. It is not to tell our readers what we think or what they should think, but to provide information and analysis that enables them to make up their own minds. We are sometimes too credulous, sometimes too cynical--in other words, we are human--but I think we get the balance right most of the time, and when we don't we feel an obligation to correct it.
In addition to fair treatment in the news pages, presidents are entitled to a respectful and attentive hearing, particularly when they make claims based on the safety of the country. In the case of the eavesdropping story, President Bush and other figures in his administration were given abundant opportunities to explain why they felt our information should not be published. We considered the evidence presented to us, agonized over it, delayed publication because of it. In the end, their case did not stand up to the evidence our reporters amassed, and we judged that the responsible course was to publish what we knew and let readers assess it themselves. You are welcome to question that judgment, but you have presented no basis for challenging it, let alone for attributing it to bad faith or animus toward the president.
In the final paragraph of your broadside, you include the following disclaimer: "We've been clear all along that we don't like leak prosecutions, especially when they involve harassing reporters who are just trying to do their job." That's nice to hear, and squares with what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they set out to protect a vibrant, inquisitive press. It's just hard to square with the rest of your editorial.
Mr. Keller is executive editor of the New York Times.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
May 03, 2006
Good reason to close our southern border
Check out this post.
It's worth thinking about.
Spying for prizes
Ralph Peters has a good column up about how some self-serving journalism has resulted in harm to this country's security, and the need to keep classified information a secret.
WE face savage enemies who obey no laws, honor no international conventions, treaties or compacts, and who believe they do the will of a vengeful god. Under the circumstances, we need to be able to keep an occasional secret.
April 28, 2006
For your consideration
Michelle Malkin rebuts President Bush's open borders arguments with some compelling examples of why we do not want unrestricted travel across America's borders.
-- The bludgeoning death of Florida teenager Jesse Howell and the rape and strangulation murder of his fiance, Wendy Von Huben.
-- The bludgeoning death of University of Kentucky student Christopher Maier and the rape and near-murder of his girlfriend, who survived the attack.
-- The murder of Leafie Mason, an elderly Texas woman whom Resendiz hammered to death with a fire iron.
-- The rape, stabbing and bludgeoning death of Baylor College of Medicine researcher Claudia Benton.
-- The sledgehammer bludgeonings of Texas pastor Norman Sirnic and his wife, Karen.
-- The bludgeoning death of Houston teacher Noemi Dominguez.
-- The murder of elderly Texas widow Josephine Konvicka, who was killed with a grubbing hoe.
-- The murders of George Morber, shot in the head, and Carolyn Frederick, clubbed to death.
April 27, 2006
Jack Kemp has a good column up at Townhall about the importance of the Israeli wall.
I personally traveled into the West Bank in February to get a first hand look at the "security wall" and have come to the conclusion it's absolutely necessary for the physical protection of everyone. . . the barrier was a last-ditch effort to halt the march of Palestinian suicide bombers on Israel's cities that resulted in the killing and maiming of thousands. The fact that the barrier has contributed to a remarkable decline in terrorist attacks - approximately 90 percent - is evidence of its effectiveness. Never mind that without it, thousands more would have lost their lives.
I agree with Mr. Kemp's assessment, and would further suggest that a similar wall along our border with Mexico would reap similar benefits in addition to allowing us to actually control immigration into this country (for the first time in its history, I might add).