June 29, 2011
Spoiled Brats in Greece
This is what happens when the bill comes due for huge government benefits that you've voted for yourselves:
People develop an entitlement mentality. We think we've seen it here in the U.S., but it's just kids stuff compared to the full-blown version. From an AP story in today's Washington Times:
Greece fended off a bankruptcy that threatened to roil global financial markets, approving severe spending cuts and tax increases Wednesday in the face of violent protests by Greeks who say they have suffered enough.
The package of austerity measures would keep bailout money flowing to Greece from the rest of the world. It would free $17 billion in fresh loans, although the money will only be enough to see the nation through September.
Investors around the world cheered the news, but protesters, fighting tear gas, hurled whatever they could find at riot police and tried to blockade the Parliament building.
"This is bad. The country will be sold for a piece of bread," said insurer Dimitris Kostopoulos. "There were many other more appropriate alternatives to this. Parliament has once again betrayed us."
Public sector salaries and pensions have been cut in the past year, and unemployment is above 16 percent. By comparison, it is about 9 percent in the United States.
Parliament approved $40 billion in tax increases and spending cuts, and privatization of public services to raise $71 billion more, all through 2015. Greece's overall economic output is about $330 billion, or roughly the size of Washington state's.
The $17 billion in loans are the latest batch in a $157 billion bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Parliament is expected to pass another bill Thursday to implement the austerity measures.
Without the bailout money, Greece was at risk of default. While no one knows for sure what would have happened next, analysts have said it would have threatened the viability of the euro, the European Union's common currency, and could have done much worse.
Some market experts had predicted a Greek default could have triggered another world financial meltdown, like what happened after the Lehman Brothers investment house collapsed in 2008 in the United States.
The risk is that banks, both in Europe and the U.S., would have had to chalk up billions of dollars in losses because of Greek loans that had gone bad. No one knows which U.S. banks hold what amount of Greek debt.
Several banks and storefronts were smashed, while a Socialist dissenter who backed the government at the last minute, Alexandros Athanassiadis, was briefly assaulted by protesters after leaving Parliament on foot.
Violence continued throughout the afternoon, and smoke billowed from a post office beneath the finance ministry before a fire was put out. Rioters set up burning barricades along Syntagma Square, where demonstrators have staged a sit-in for the past month. Nearby streets were littered with chunks of smashed marble and ripped-up paving stones that had been thrown at police.
A general strike that began Tuesday paralyzed the country, grounding planes, leaving ferries docked and stranding tourists during the busy summer season.
By Wednesday night, police said 49 officers had been injured, one seriously when he was hit in the face by a chunk of marble. Forty-three protesters were detained, with 17 of them arrested. Emergency services said they had treated 99 protesters and passers-by for injuries.
Dozens of injured were treated at a first-aid center set up inside the square's metro station. Most were treated for breathing problems, contusions and broken bones, volunteers at the first aid center said, appealing for medical supplies.
Is this a preview of what is to come in other Western countries?
North Korea to Chair UN Disarmament Conference
Despite numerous breaches of arms embargoes and continued threats to expand its nuclear weapons program, North Korea has assumed the presidency of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. In a speech to the 65-nation arms control forum in Geneva, the newly-appointed president, North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong, said he was "very much committed to the Conference."
As the most militarized country on earth, they've certainly got a lot of disarmament work ahead of them.
Following is come background from Anne Bayefsky of The Weekly Standard:
On Tuesday, the United Nations again made itself an international laughing stock - except perhaps to the American taxpayers who continue to foot 22 percent of the bill - by appointing North Korea chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. That would be the same North Korea that, according to an article this week by Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has "twice tested nuclear weapons...is developing missiles to carry them...has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons" and has defied a U.N. arms embargo by exporting weapons and sensitive technologies to rogue regimes.
Alas, Senator Kerry is also one of the lead champion of the United Nations in the Senate. According to the U.N., "The Conference is funded from the UN regular budget, reports to the General Assembly and receives guidance from it."
North Korea assumes the Conference chairmanship by being the next state in the alphabetical rotation of the 65 members, which include five nuclear weapons states and 60 other countries such as Iran and Syria. North Korea will preside over the Conference for a four working-week period.
North Korea's representative, So Se Pyong, was enthusiastic about his new job. He announced that he was "very much committed to the Conference" and that during his presidency he "welcomes any sort of constructive proposals that strengthened the work and credibility of the Conference on Disarmament." He also said that "he would do everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward."
That might make sense, if by "forward" he means toward a nuclear winter, or by "constructive," he means steering clear of anything that might impede North Korea. The official mandate of the Conference looks a bit different and includes "all multilateral arms control and disarmament problems" with the following "main areas of interest": "cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters."
North Korea's chairmanship was heralded by other U.N. aficionados, including the Iranian delegate to the Conference. Iran's Mohammad Hassan Daryaei told the Conference meeting: "I would like to congratulate the distinguished ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for the assumption of the presidency and assuring him of my delegation's full support and cooperation."
Iran's support is telling. Just yesterday Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested 14 long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon, with the express purpose of hitting U.S. interests and Israel, according to the head of their aerospace division.
Congratulations also poured in from such upstanding world citizens and U.N. fans as China. China's Wang Qun "welcomed the presidency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."
It was left to the Canadian delegate to speak plainly. Canada's Marius Grinius said: "[I]n the last 13 years the Conference has failed to move forward on its core disarmament responsibilities, including the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty...[T]he Conference on Disarmament is on life support because it no longer is the sole multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament. Indeed, it is not negotiating anything and has not been for a very long time."
Why not just put it out of its misery and pull the plug?
I can't think of any reason not to.
June 28, 2011
Michele Bachmann: The New Conservative Woman the Liberals Love to Hate
The liberals would like us to believe that Rep Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is crazy as a loon. This is in part because of her Tea Party associations, and partially because she has just announced that she's a candidate for president, and thus must be destroyed as quickly as possible. Oh, and she's an attractive female, which always makes one a target of liberal hate.
Let's take some of her statements that the liberals think are so crazy and we'll see if they really are. I don't have a whole lot of time here, so this list is not exhaustive, but it will give us a good feel for what's going on.
This guy thinks he's found the "10 craziest Michele Bachmann quotes," so let's run through them:
"Not all cultures are equal"
Uh.. they aren't. Unless you think that female genital mutilation ("female circumcision") is a perfectly acceptable cultural practice.
"And what a bizarre time we're in, when a judge will say to little children that that you can't say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it."
I agree: Any judge who would say that is off his or her rocker.
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's coincidence."
Hmmm. Ok, I'm not sure what's going on here. The charitable view is that she thinks that both Democrats neglected public health, but that doesn't make much sense.
"A woman (Terri Schiavo) was healthy. There was brain damage, there was no question. But from a health point of view, she was not terminally ill."
Apparently we are not allowed to debate what constitutes "terminally ill." It would seem to me that reasonable people could disagree on this one, but then we are dealing with the abortion "rights" crowd. Just to be sure Bachmann had it right I reviewed the post I wrote about the Terri Schiavo case at the time. Sure enough, Bachmann has it right.
"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas."
Ok, yes if you breath enough CO2 you will die. But guess what? If you breath pure hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, argon... you will also die. Are those deadly poisonous gasses too? Not by most people's reckoning. But of course the real agenda here is to push the global warming agenda, and woe be it to anyone who dares to question that!
"Normalization (of gayness) is through desensitization. Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders, is to take pictures of "The Lion King," for instance, and a teacher might say "Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?" The message is: "I'm better at what I do because I'm gay!"
So if you think the demonization of anyone who questions the global warming agenda is bad, what they are trying to do to anyone who dares to oppose the gay agenda is just as bad or worse. Teachers should not be promoting the gay agenda in the schools, which is exactly what is happening in Bachmann's example.
"If we took away the minimum wage - if conceivably it was gone - we could potentially wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."
Overstated, but otherwise true. It's Econ 101 that the minimum wage contributes to unemployment.
"I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I'm not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I'm not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I'm not a scientist."
So what exactly is objectionable about this statement? Most Christians take the Bible for what it is. Most people aren't deep thinkers, nor are they scientists. Most likely this is simple leftist anti-Christian bigotry, but it's hard to know, because what Bachmann says is so unremarkable.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design."
I have no idea how many Nobel Prize winning scientists believe in what goes by Intelligent Design and I'm not going to waste time researching it, because I strongly suspect that's not the issue here. No, this time it's an attack on anyone who would dare to question - gasp - Darwinian evolution!
In the liberal worldview, it is simply inconceivable that anyone could question, much less object to, the global warming - gay - atheist agendas.
Of the 10 Bachmann statements above, I agree with all but one in whole or in part. What else has she said that is so crazy? One statement that I found in her Wikipedia entry has her saying in March of 2010 that
"I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views. And now I look like Nostradamus"
That's about my view of Obama too.
I'm not at all settled on a Republican presidential candidate, but if this is the best the liberals can do to tear her down, it's a big yawner.
June 27, 2011
Global Warming, Er, "Climate Change" Witchhunt
(CNSNews.com) - Former Democratic Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado, now the president of the UN Foundation, said the flooding and forest fires in the United States this year are evidence of "the kind of dramatic climate impact" climate change models have predicted and that those in the know on climate change must "undertake an aggressive program to go after those who are among the deniers."
In a UN Foundation conference call about climate change, from Svalbard, Norway on Thursday, Wirth said, "[W]e have to--I think, again as I've suggested before--undertake an aggressive program to go after those who are among the deniers, who are putting out these mistruths, and really call them for what they're doing and make a battle out of it. They've had pretty much of a free ride so far, and that time has got to stop."
"Free ride?" He's either smoking crack or he's an environmental kook, take your pick.
As Steven Hayward of Powerline points out, "The easiest way for Wirth to end the "free ride" would be to debate climate skeptics." But in fact they rarely if ever consent to such debates. Former Vice President Al Gore has famously refused to offers to debate.
But just so we're all clear as to Mr Wirth's ultimate objectives, this is the man who once said that
We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing--in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.
The Federal Deficit Gets Worse, But Do Enough People Care?
National Review Online
June 22, 2011 11:13 A.M.
By Yuval Levin
his morning, the Congressional Budget Office released its updated long-term budget projections. Needless to say, the picture is very unpleasant.
The basics haven't changed all that much from last year's extremely grim projections, but our troubles are coming at us faster. The debt projections in the document are the easiest way to see that. In last year's Outlook document, CBO projected that our national debt would be 91% of GDP in 2021; they now say it will be 101% of GDP in 2021--that is, a decade from now our debt will be larger than our economy, and of course still growing quickly. By 2030, they project it will top 150% of GDP, and by 2037 it will be 200% of GDP. They assume it will continue to grow swiftly after that, but (although they extend long-range projections for spending and revenues all the way to 2085) their specific numerical projections for debt stop after 2037, when we cross 200% of GDP. We should probably be grateful for that, as the figures beyond that would only depress us all the more.
Of course, this is only what will happen if we fail to change course--if we do not reform our entitlements, replace Obamacare with a reform that will meaningfully curtail the growth of health-care costs, and reduce our discretionary spending. In other words, the grim future CBO envisions is a choice we would make by continuing along our current path. That is apparently what President Obama and his party want to do. But surely America can do better.
Scary stuff. And by any measure we need to take strong action to "reform," i.e. cut, the so-called entitlements programs. But will we? Commenter "Anton Philidor" makes the relevant observation:
The politics of the deficit are simple and unalterable.
The deficit doesn't matter to much of the public. It's a number. It becomes significant only when government actions are affected.
So, "the deficit will reach 100% of GDP in the next 10 years" elicits a shrug. But "Medicare might have to be reduced" produces outrage, and most politicians who mutter the idea can expect removal, by recall if the next election is too late.
What's going to happen is also clear: increased taxes, reduced discretionary spending, increased debt, the end of fee-for-service, and - if Republicans haven't preserved it with their mistakes - the repeal of Obamacare.
Just like I said, it's over the entitlements cliff we go!
June 14, 2011
Book Review - The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power
We all know the madness of our age: People who enjoy the comforts of the West and would live nowhere else yet vilify their own societies. Widespread belief in the most crazy of conspiracy theories. Militant atheist scientists who insist that religion is at odds with reason yet whose own theories are anything but reasonable. A widespread campaign to delegitimize Israel, while excusing or ignoring every Islamic/Arab tyranny and atrocity. The new religion of Global Warming, which by definition cannot be proved wrong and all deniers castigated rather than debated.
Truth is presented as a lie, and lies are presented as the truth. Right and wrong are inverted, those who preach the gospel of tolerance are themselves intolerant, victim and aggressor switch places.
The result is a West unable to defend itself against things like the "creeping sharia" of Islam because it does not believe it itself is worth defending. We have abandoned the successful uniting of religion and reason and traded it for atheism and irrationality.
British journalist Melanie Phillips writes about all this in her must-read book The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power.
Unlike some books, The World Turned Upside Down is not just a list of leftist outrages sprinkled with commentary. Phillips examines the historical ideas that have led us to where we are today, and grapples seriously with the problem of how we have gone astray by betraying the promise of the Enlightenment.
Cults and Conspiracies
Oddly, the more "advanced" we become the more likely people are to believe the most outlandish things. Cults and conspiracy theories are more popular than ever before. "Wicca," which would have been laughed out of existence a few generations ago, is now the fastest growing religion in America. UFO and Area 51 fanatics, "chemtrails," Truthers and Birthers are prevalent.
The Myth of Environmental Armageddon
Liberals (and most on the right) right laughed when Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. When of course it didn't happen, he was rightly ridiculed and/or deemed a false prophet.
Yet leaders in the environmental movement have been predicting the end of the world (or close to it) for decades, their predictions have not come true, and yet they are let completely off the hook. Perhaps the most notorious is Paul Erlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb warned of mass starvation in the West in the 1979s and '80s due to overpopulation. But others, too, continually make similar predictions. What is interesting is that no matter how wrong Erlich and others like him are, they are still taken seriously.
In the 1970s we were told that surely an Ice Age was just around the corner, now those same publications insist that global warming will kill us all. This time they've added a new twist; it's our fault, specifically, that of the West. At least the climate scare-mongers of old thought it was good old mother nature.
The evidence for Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is sketchy, contradictory, and disputed by many. The theory is full of holes, and the University of East Anglia email scandal has shown that at least some prominent scientists are willing to lie to promote their cause. There is no scientific consensus, yet the proponents of AGW insist that governments take drastic action that would have significant effects on the world economy and liberties of people.
Worst of all is the vilification of anyone who disagrees with AGW. Intelligent debate was not to be allowed, skeptics were branded as heretics and dealt with in harsh fashion. Although the tide is perhaps starting to turn, for years any environmental scientist who wanted to publish, or even keep his or her job, had to buy into AGW dogma.
The Iraq War
We know the chant: "Bush Lied, People Died." If only cranks believed this line, we need not pay it any attention. But sad fact is that otherwise intelligent people actually believe that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair knew that Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction yet told the world he did.
Phillips does not attempt to argue that the invasion of Iraq was the right call, or that it wasn't. Her focus is solely on the charge that "Bush lied."
The amazing thing is that the charge is easily proven wrong. Every study commissioned by the US and British governments, every congressional and parliamentary inquiry, has found that while serious misjudgments were made (of course), no one deliberately deceived anyone.
The fact is that Saddam Hussein had a history of deceit about his WMD program, and there was good reason to think he had not been forthcoming about all of his programs and stockpiles. Time and again the UN teams in Iraq in the years immediately following the Gulf War found the Iraqis lying about their programs, and Saddam completely ceased cooperation in 1998. If he didn't have WMD, he certainly did everything he could to give the appearance of having them.
The Misrepresentation of Israel
Of all the instances where reason, facts, and logic are stood on their head, the worst is directed at Israel. Phillips says that "Israel sits at the epicenter of the West's repudiation of reason," and further, that
There is no other world conflict that is so obsessively falsified. Where Israel is involved, truth and reason and totally suspended. Irrationality and hysteria rule instead.
One's view of the Middle East is a sure guide to their view of the world. If someone believes that Israel, despite her faults, is generally on the side of what is right, good, and true, and that the Palestinians and Arabs are mostly at fault, that person can be counted on to have a rational view of the world. If, on the other hand, they see Israel as the oppressor, equate it's policies with apartheid, and see the Palestinians as victims, they are almost always "moral and cultural and relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality."
Contrary to what so many think, Israel was not created by the West as a way of redeeming their guilt over the Holocaust. Europeans Jews were not transplanted there as foreign invaders, and did not drive out the Arabs. And no, giving the Palestinians their own completely independent state on the West Bank and Gaza would not make them happy.
Phillips goes through each of these and shows why they are false. The Jews have an historic claim to the land of Israel, including of course the ancient ancient kingdom. More, from then until modern times Jews have maintained an unbroken presence there, and this claim was recognized in things such as the Balfour Declaration by Great Britain in 1917 and the Palestine Mandate by the League of Nations in 1922.
If anything, it is the "Palestinian" claim that rests on shaky ground. Until the modern nation of Israel was established, the Arabs in Palestine did not consider themselves "a people" distinct from other Arabs. Before that time local leaders insisted they did not want a separate state.
Israel is not engaged in any "illegal occupation" of the West Bank, nor does it engage in apartheid. The area in question is not and has never been land assigned to any one nation, it is rather an unallocated part of the British Mandate, and, perhaps alone among states, Israel does not have any official borders anywhere. The false allegations go on and on.
Scientific Triumphalism and the Secular Inquisition
Not too long ago I saw a story in The Huffington Post which illustrates almost perfectly the attitude the scientific elite have towards anyone who does not buy into their version of Darwinian evolution. "Deniers" must not simply be shown to be wrong, they must be written out of society.
In the Middle Ages the church stamped out heresy through the death penalty or forced conversion. Liberals achieve the same goal of controlling though by ostracizing dissenters to the point where they cannot publish or get or hold jobs in their profession. Questioning AWG is made to be equal to questioning the Holocaust.
Militant atheist scientists and thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, Carl Sagan and Peter Atkins are not merely nonbelievers in God, they see religion (especially Christianity, of course) as a positive danger to be stamped out. To make their case, however, they fall back on a series of dogmatic assertions, the proof of which is in the dogma itself. What we end up with is a sort of "scientific triumphalism" of circular reasoning in which "science is what science says it is."
To the militant atheist scientist, reason and religion are incompatible. Phillips shows that not only is this not true, but reason and science are dependent on religion. Indeed, if one wants to argue that several popular scientists such as Hawking, and Sagan say that science led them to atheism, one can counter by pointing to any number of scientists who say that it was precisely their discipline that led them to faith. The more this latter group learn, the more they conclude that there must be a master or guiding intelligence behind existence.
More, there is a reason why the West was the first to pursue and accepted science and other cultures did not, and that reason is our Judeo-Christian heritage. While ancient Greek thinking played a strong role, it would have died had medieval Christian and Jewish thinkers not reconciled it with their faiths. Science is founded on a concept of order and understanding that is found in Judaism and Christianity but not other faiths.
The Islamic Threat
In Phillips' 2006 book Londonistan she wrote about how Muslim immigrant radicals were changing Britain for the worst. "Londonistan" is the name given to the British capital by French security officials outraged at the British refusal to extradite Algerian terrorist Rachid Ramda, claiming he could not get a fair trial in France(!) It took the French 3 requests and 10 years before they finally got their man. During the 80s and 90s, it became well-known among the security forces of Europe that the UK was becoming a terrorist haven. Time and again they warned the British, who did nothing. The inevitable came about in July of 2005 whem Muslim terrorists bombed the London Underground.
There is currently a jihad against Western freedom, and the paradox is that many in the West are going along with it, all in the name of multiculturalism. While of course not all Muslims are radicals or want anything to do with any of this, the fact the ones calling the shots in their community in Britain are the radicals.
There should be a give-and-take between a host people and immigrants. The host nation gains new words, some culture, and cuisine, and the immigrants agree to accept the legal and social mores of the host country. This is not happening with Muslim immigrants, who are trying to bring their sharia into Britain and other European countries and are not accepting Western legal and social mores.
Islamic, Western, and Christian Jew-hatred
Sadly, we still live in a world in which antisemitism is gaining strength. Phillips disputes the notion that it is due to or a by-product of anti-Israeli feelings.
Muslim extremists don't attack Israel in their writings so much as they attack "Jews." Islam has had a problem with Jews from the beginnings of their religion, and it has not let up. They don't want to live side-by-side with Israel, they want to kill all the Jews period.
It is unsurprising that Islam and most Muslims are antisemitic. What is more disturbing is the resurgence of these attitudes among Christians and secularists on the West. Part of this is the result of Muslim immigration to the West, but much of it is also inherent.
Of all countries in the West, Great Britain has the dubious distinction of leading the way in the antisemitic attitudes of it's citizens. Majorities or large pluralities believe the old tripe about Jews being more loyal to Israel than their home country, having inordinate control over the banking and media sectors, and control U.S. foreign policy. Worst of all while it used to be that Israelis were only equated with Nazis in the Arab press, this has now spread to the West as well.
Much of the Antisemitism is defended as simple criticism of Israel. But attacks on Israel go far beyond attacks on any other country, and her actions are scrutinized like that of no other nation on earth. Israel is held to higher standards, and her every action is assigned the worst possible motivation. On the other hand, the terrorists who attack her are held to no standards, and their every claim reported as if it was true.
Perhaps the oddest result of all this is a new "Red-Black-Green-Islamic Axis" in the West. Leftists, fascists, environmental extremists, and Muslims have found common cause against the West in general and the Jews in particular.
That the far right is allied with Islamists is perhaps not surprising. But given that the left presents itself as the home of "tolerance," "multiculturalism," and "secular humanism" it is strange that they would ally with a religion that is opposed to all three of those values. Yet this is just the case. I myself witnessed an instance where I live where a noted gay activist used his sympathy for Islam to attack Christianity.
Finally is the resurgence of Christian antisemitism. It has become de rigueur for "progressive" Christian churches to spill much ink criticizing Israel while ignoring the very Islamic terror and extremism which threaten it. Worse, they engage in a disgusting moral equivalency. Several churches have divested themselves of companies who do business with Israel; again while happily investing in companies who business with the world's dictators and rogues. Other churches have attempted divestiture (Presbyterian Church USA, for example) and only walked back from actually doing it because of outrage from their members.
The Quest for Redemption
"Millenarianism" is the quasi-religious belief that mankind and society can be perfected on earth. Part of this is a secular version of Christian salvation, whereby we can redeem ourselves from past sins if only we do x and such.
The religious version of millenarianism is found today in Islam, which actively seeks to establish itself as the ruler of the earth. While one can say that Christians want all people to follow their religion too, the difference of course is that each uses dramatically different means towards their ends.
Communism and fascism were and are Western secular millenarianist ideologies. Although both are still around, they have mostly been replaced with an earth-worshiping environmentalism, a valueless multiculturalism, an anti-Western post-nationalism, and other similar ideas.
Interestingly, most of these movements are cultural rather than political in nature. To be sure, they do contain concrete policy objectives, but they're quasi-religious in that they incorporate the evangelical, dogmatism, fanaticism, and desire to crush dissent that any medieval religion would be proud of.
They also all share the same concept of secular sin; mankind (personkind?), especially the West, has been criminally wrong and we must return to the true faith. If we would only follow their prescriptions, we can create a world with no war, no racial or ethnic strife, no persecution, tyranny, etc.
The Enlightenment Unraveled, Reason and the Bible
Phillips spends a lot of time discussing the concept of reason and how it relates to religion. She walks the reader through the Enlightenment (A 17th and 18th-century philosophical movement) and shows us what really happened.
The fairly tale version goes like this; during the Dark Ages we were a bunch of ignorant superstitious hillbillies who where kept that way by the Catholic church. Along time a bunch of smart guys who used reason to "enlighten" us and release us from the grip of religion so that we could live happily ever after.
The reality was more complicated. The Enlightenment was not opposed to religion, indeed it could not have taken place without a Judo-Christian foundation. Most enlightenment thinkers were Christian, and more wanted to release the church's grip on government and society than replace it.
Further, although in some countries the Enlightenment produced liberal thinking and institutions, in places like France it took a decidedly authoritarian turn. French philosophers elevated "reason" to the same status as religion, quite in contrast to their colleagues in other countries.
The immediate effect of these new French ideas was the Revolution and Terror, the long term is the rejection of religion by the "enlightened" today.
The cause is that "reason" cannot exist by itself. Religion and reason go hand in hand: Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," is more than just a verse. "Reason" as an abstraction leads to authoritarian or totalitarianism.
The Great War (World War I) and the Holocaust shook European confidence to it's core. Sure, Europe had seen big wars before and had experienced massacres, but nothing on these scales, and never before for seemingly no purpose. These shocks had two effects; the first was that the people lost their traditional values and beliefs, and second they started to believe in all manner of crazy things (see above).
The result is a postmodermism that rejects reason. Truth is not all about perspective, not absolutes. Values became relative to where the "noble savage" is is not primitive or backward but every bit as good if not better than us in the West. Facts are made to serve ideology, not vice versa. Traditional concepts of "tolerance" have been replaced with an intolerant "rights" agenda. "Nature" is pure and holy, and humans are the enemy of the planet.
If individuals wish to be atheists, all fine and good, but when it becomes a mass movement, it's promoters need to face up to the consequences of their philosophy. They want religion to disappear, but want to continue enjoying Western liberties as if the two are not related. They seem not to realize that it is precisely those Judeo-Christian values that have brought us our concepts of morality and liberty. Nietzshe at least understood the risk.
Why Britain is in the Forefront of the Madness
The madness is most concentrated in Great Britain. While continental Europe as a whole has rejected religion, family structures remain strong and social pathologies low.
Unfortunately, the US and UK* share many negative trend rates as compared to continental Europe. Both have the highest rates of single parenthood and the highest crime rates.
The differences between the US and UK are in the culture. Political correctness reigns supreme in the UK. In the US most of us at least acknowledge we have problems, in the UK they seem determined to continue the slide downhill.
But why is this so? Both the continent and the UK suffered the horrors of the Great Was and Holocaust, and the resulting destruction of what seemed a stable 19th century world order. But the UK also lost it's empire, and as such it's sense of self and purpose in the world. Add to this the replacement of traditional religion with all sorts of wild ideologies and belief systems, unassimilated Muslim immigrants, the general unraveling of the culture, and a free-for-all spirituality and you have a recipe for disaster.
* yes I know the UK and Britain are not quite the same thing, but I've used the terms somewhat interchangeably.
Perhaps it is because Phillips is British that she is so attuned to the madness going on around us. And madness it is. Don't hold me to each and every phrase or idea put forth in the book, but I do find myself in agreement with her almost all of the time.
My liberal readers should note that Phillips has no problem with any specific policy that the left offers. The book is not an attack on ObamaCare, Keynesian economics, Roe v Wade, stem-cell research, or any of the rest of it. It's also not an attack on atheism per se. Nor does she celebrate any particular policy of George W Bush or Tony Blair.
Instead examining micro-policy, the book is about the way a certain type of person, increasing in number, looks at the world. It's not about whether you are religious, agnostic, or atheist, so much as where that leads you in the rest of it. Nor again is it about whether you are politically conservative, or, for the most part, liberal. There are many agnostics and atheists who are quite reasonable. There are many liberals (I know many) who, while I disagree with them on this or that policy, do not hold whacky views. And sadly, there are religious conservatives who do (Birthers, for example).
But it is accurate to say, as she does, that most of the craziness comes from the militant atheist left.
Phillips strength is her ability to dismantle the conventional wisdom of the elites and the fads that pass as serious movements. The quasi-religion of things like global warming, multiculturalism, and Darwinian evolution deserve to be skewered.
Yes the problems Phillips describes in her book are real, and not something we can ignore. But that does not mean all is lost, or that there is not another side to the story. The West is still the strongest fore on the planet, and sets the tone politically, economically, morally, and, of course, militarily.
It was, after all, easy to conclude after reading books such as Witness (1952) by Whittaker Chambers, Suicide of the West (1964) by James Burnham, or How Democracies Perish (1983) by Jean-Francois Revel and conclude that we should not have lasted as long as we have.
But sooner or later all great civilizations decline and fall. The boy who cried wolf may have been wrong or joking a few times, but eventually the wolves did show up. Further, we may yet recover our senses and save ourselves. If we do, Melanie Phillips will be one of those our descendants will thank for sounding a timely warning.
Melanie Phillips blogs at The Spectator
June 8, 2011
Germany Commits Economic Suicide
Update: Japan follows suit
RATHER A LOT, REALLY: What Will A Nuclear-Free Germany Cost? Economic suicide by policy-fad? "Blackouts are a near-term concern because, under Merkel's plan, Germany's eight oldest reactors--seven of which she ordered offline for safety inspections in March, and another undergoing maintenance--would never run again, and ramping up supply from other sources could prove difficult. Germany's Federal Network Agency has determined that southern Germany, which stands to lose five reactors producing 5,200 megawatts, could run short of power this winter. During cold snaps, demand for power is at a peak, and output from Germany's more than 17,000 megawatts' worth of solar capacity is also at a minimum. Electricity imports are also harder to come by during the winter, as neighboring countries confront their own power peaks."
Give the Obama Administration credit for avoiding such flightiness.
UPDATE: Reader Robert L. Crawford writes:Economic Suicide is exactly it, and the first case I'm aware of by a dynamic western democracy. Communist 5-year plans, starving the kulacs, Great Leaps Forward, etc., can be explained considering the sources, but for Germany in 2011? They are sacrificing their economic future and standard of living for political correctness. Stunning.
Update: From an AP story in The Washington Post:
The disasters have renewed a national debate on nuclear power in Japan, which has few natural resources. Japan relied on nuclear energy for 30 percent of its electricity before the disasters and planned to raise that to 50 percent by 2030, but the government has announced it will abandon that target and promote renewable energy instead.
Some nuclear plants across the country remain shut in the wake of the disaster, leading to fears Tokyo and other areas may not have enough electricity for the peak summer months. Residents of the capital are reducing their use of lights and air conditioning, and some companies are moving crucial operations like computer centers to parts of Japan with more stable power supplies.
June 6, 2011
Resign, Weiner, Resign
I'd say "unbelievable," but I guess these days nothing is
Rep. Weiner admits tweeting lewd photo of himself
The Washington Post
By Jason Horowitz
Monday, June 6, 9:16 PM
In an extraordinary reversal at an extraordinary news conference, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York admitted Monday afternoon that he had repeatedly lied to his constituents and the country in denying that he had sent a lewd picture of himself to a college-age woman on Twitter. In a tearful admission, he said that he had in fact sent multiple inappropriate messages to multiple women but that he had done nothing illegal and would not resign.
"The picture was of me, and I sent it," said Weiner (D), who called it "a very dumb thing to do," "a hugely regrettable mistake" and "destructive."
"I am deeply ashamed," said Weiner, his jaw clenched.
Soon after Weiner finished speaking, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who he said had urged him to tell the whole truth, called on the House ethics committee to conduct an investigation into his case.
For Weiner, a seven-term congressman who was seen as a leading candidate to become the next mayor of New York, the collapse is all the more stunning in light of the heights he had reached in his party and as a spokesman for its liberal wing. In the aftermath of his mea culpa, Republican leaders mostly stood back and watched the public self-immolation of one of their sharpest antagonists.
The much- attacked (by the left, anyway) AndrewBreitbart has been vindicated:
Just so we're all clear, what happened was this; Rep Weiner has a Twitter account, and sent several of his young lady followers explicit photos himself. He has admitted to "six inappropriate relationships over the past three years" using Twitter and "other media," probably Facebook. Who knows what the real total is.
Now, this used to be called "sexual harassment," and it used to be feminist liberals who prided themselves in leading the charge against this sort of behavior.
Yesterday I had a conversation with two liberal colleagues at work about the matter. They were both of the opinion that this scandal is not a reason for him to resign, nor a reason to cease their support of him (and presumably their vote if they lived in his district). The reason, they said, was that there was "a line" between private and public life, and that as long as he didn't lie about a governmental matter or steal money it was all ok. "Are their no limits to personal behavior?" I asked. I got what I expected, the classic reduction to the absurd: "Well, if he killed someone...."
Ah yes, let's bring it out to a level that's completely unrealistic so that we can avoid the hard moral issues.
What's also interesting is that both readily admitted that if it had been a Republican he would have been forced to resign long ago.
At this point work interrupted and we were not able to continue our conversation. Too bad, because I had more questions for them along the lines of "Weiner didn't lie about one indiscretion, or one instance of consensual sex. He lied repeatedly and boldly, and made false accusations about others. If he will do this, even if it's "only about sex," can you really trust him on governmental matters? What does this say about his overall trustworthyness?" and, getting back to my other point, "Isn't this sexual harassment, and aren't liberals supposed to be against that?"
No, I'm not saying all liberals are like my friends at work, so don't anyone get their panties in a wad and say that I'm engaging in the fallacy of generalization. Most liberals I know in my county are good folks and I'm sure are appalled at Weiner and want him to go immediately. What I am saying, though, is the attitude by my co-workers is much more prevalent among liberals than conservatives.
Liberals can hate Michelle Malkin all they want, but she gets it right in her post titled
Feckless feminists wimp out on Weinergate; Plus: Weiner's lingering underage girl problem; Updated: 17-year-old gets cop visit; Pelosi doesn't seem to care
Yup. The old double standard that my friends at work acknowledged is in fill swing. One of the few liberal women who is outraged and not afraid to show it is Fox News contributors One outlier Kirsten Powers:
What I find distinctive about what happened with Anthony is that it wasn't an affair, it wasn't, you know, a one-time event, it was predatory behavior. And it was behavior that was done in his official capacity. He wasn't doing this as an anonymous person. He was doing this where you have people who saw him on TV or thought he was a good Congressman or whatever going to him and saying, "Oh, you're such a great fighter for Democrats, Congressman Weiner." And then he was using that position to, sort of, being predatory on the internet and I can't remember which woman said it. She said, "I just want to talk politics," and then it started getting creepy. So he's using his official division, he's not doing this, as much as he wants to say it's in a private capacity, I highly doubt these women would have been talking to him if he wasn't a Congressman.
The sending the picture to the girl, to me it's like sexual harassment. He's a Congressman, she's a student. He has tons of power. She looks up to him.
I can tell you as a woman who has received very inappropriate things from people who have more power than me, it's very intimidating. And you often don't even tell anybody because you're so frightened of what this person could potentially do to you. And so, there's a kind of harassment predatory aspect to this.
"done in his official capacity"
Yes, I'd say Kirsten has it just about right.
June 4, 2011
Sarah Palin's Excellent Adventure
I and many other conservatives criticized Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for being "celebrity presidents." They each seem inordinately interested in the trappings of the office. Each loves the media attention, the spotlight, and especially the fawning adoration of the media and their fans (often one and the same).
After their nonsense I want a stiff-shirt in the White House. I don't want a president who plays a guitar, goes on MTV and answers questions about what type of underwear he wears, who can tell a good joke, and I certainly don't want a president who wears a baseball hate backwards. No reality TV shows, no drama, no nothing. I don't care about any of that stuff. Just perform the functions of the office and to it right.
I want a grown-up. Not a "cool" or "happening" president. Just someone who can get us back on the right track.
As such, I am growing weary of Sarah Palin's bus tour. Wesley Pruden, editor emeritus of The Washington Times, says it about right:
Life in the land of make-believe
The Washington Times
By Wesley Pruden
Friday, June 3, 2011
These are hard times for grown-ups in America. Since almost nobody wants to grow up, it's hard for grown-ups to find a grown-up candidate for political office. The prospective candidates are on the road determined to entertain America to death.
All a politician, a pundit or a preacher needs to qualify for "leadership" is a toothy grin, a lame joke, a guitar or, if you're a congressman, a digital camera to take photographs of what you imagine you do best. It's important to keep your constituents informed about what's going on in your underwear.
Sarah Palin, the only one of the usual suspects with star power, is having a high old time with her bus tour of America, or at least a "national" tour of a couple of the states crucial to the pursuit of the presidency. She's still a little rusty on history and current events, but the moose-killer from Alaska is the prettiest candidate, though we're not supposed to notice such things anymore.
Not so long ago, a slot on a cable channel was thought to be an audition for running for president, though that may be changing. Running for president now is an audition for a slot on a cable channel. If you already have such a slot, running for president can goose declining ratings.
Mrs. Palin won't tell the reporters following her magical mystery tour where she's going, if in fact she knows. She insists that just because she's a tourist followed by a throng of campaign correspondents doesn't mean she's running, though she did think to wear a Cross pendant around her neck for a biker rally in Washington, exchanged for a Star of David pendant by the time she got to Gotham.
Running or not, the spectacle of 15 cars, SUVs, trucks and trailers following close behind her bus makes for good film at 11. She gets the thrill of sticking it to her media tormentors and her fans get to watch her enjoying the thrill of sticking it to her tormentors. One network reporter complains that Mrs. Palin endangers the lives of others on the highway by making the press follow dumbly behind, not knowing where they're going, either. This concern isn't likely to impress anyone, since a wreck on the highway is just the kind of pictures television lusts for, particularly if two or three of the cars explode to scatter hair, teeth and limbs all over the highway.
So who can blame Mike Huckabee for thinking that maybe he came in out of the rain too soon? A Baptist preacher needs a little funk, too. Mike is careful to keep his guitar tuned, occasionally stepping up to a mike to knock out the music for the kind of lyrics he once scorned as not fit for his congregation. But that was then, and this now, and Mike told bystanders back home in Little Rock this week that just because he said he wasn't running doesn't necessarily make it so.
"Everything is still open," he said. "I haven't closed doors." And this: "It's not going to be an easy path for whoever the Republican is. Whoever it is, is going to come out of a bloody primary broke and battered."
This ought to be good news for President Obama, except that grown-ups have pretty much given up on him. The hopey-changy man was supposed to have the economy humming by now, and only Pollyanna with a microscope can find evidence of that. The Wall Street Journal reports that prices of houses, a reliable indicator of the health of the economy, fell an astonishing 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. The average value of a house is now 33 percent below the peak in 2006, a bigger drop than any recorded in the (gulp) Great Depression. Rasmussen, one of the most reliable pollsters, finds that Mr. Obama, though the pundits invariably call him a likely winner, polls two points behind the "generic" Republican nominee. Rasmussen says 66 percent of likely voters, including 41 percent of likely Democratic voters, say the country is heading down the wrong track. The wrong track rarely leads to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The country speeds on, like a mighty passenger train hurtling down the tracks toward a missing bridge across the river. But why worry? The great entertainers are in charge.
Yes, the liberals will like this post. And no doubt she is one of the most horribly unfairly treated people or politicians in America. But that doesn't mean I want her as president.
Via Powerline, this is incoherence defined:
"He who warned the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free."
June 2, 2011
"Birthers, Truthers and Interrogation Deniers"
I've denounced birtherism, the belief some on the right have that Obama was not born in the United States. It's no surprise to me that the release of his birth certificate has not stopped the conspiracy kooks. Now they believe the certificate was forged, or some such thing.
I haven't wasted my time on Truthers. Not worth it.
I have gone after the kookery of "Bush Lied," as that one infects even members of Congress. And over the past year or two I've criticized those who now tell us that enhanced interrogation techniques didn't work, especially attacking Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who went so far as to claim that she hadn't been told about the use of such techniques when clearly she was.
But while the Birthers are sidelined, the Truthers old hat, and the Bush Lied meme no longer useful to Democrats, the "Interrogation Deniers" are making a stink. They tell us that we didn't have to do all that nasty stuff, that it didn't result in any intelligence, blah blah blah. All total nonsense, as General and former Director of Central Intelligence (2006 - 2009) outlines in an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
Birthers, Truthers and Interrogation Deniers
The latest lunacy to get a popular hearing is the idea that harsh CIA interrogations yielded no useful intelligence. I guess we should toss out the 9/11 Commission Report.
The Wall Street Journal
by Michael Hayden
June 2, 2011
For all of its well-deserved reputation for pragmatism, American popular culture frequently nurtures or at least tolerates preposterous views and theories. Witness the 9/11 "truthers" who, lacking any evidence whatsoever, claim that 9/11 was a Bush administration plot. And then we have the "birthers" who, even in the face of clear contrary evidence, take as an article of faith that President Obama was not born in the United States and hence is not eligible to hold his current office.
Let me add a third denomination to this faith-based constellation: interrogation deniers, i.e., individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence. They, of course, cling to this view despite all evidence to the contrary, despite the testimony of four CIA directors, and despite Mr. Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan's statement that there's been "a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists."
The recent dispute over what strains of intelligence led to the killing of Osama bin Laden highlights the phenomenon. It must appear to outside observers like a theological debate over how many angels can reside on the head of a pin. So we see carefully tailored arguments designed to discount the value of enhanced interrogations: the first mention of the courier's name came from a detainee not in CIA custody; CIA detainees gave false and misleading information about the courier; there is no way to confirm that information obtained through enhanced interrogation was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.
All fair enough as far as they go. But let the record show that when I was first briefed in 2007 about the brightening prospect of pursuing bin Laden through his courier network, a crucial component of the briefing was information provided by three CIA detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation. One of the most alerting pieces of evidence was that two of the detainees who had routinely been cooperative and truthful (after they had undergone enhanced techniques) were atypically denying apparent factual data--a maneuver taken as a good sign that the CIA was on to something important.
So that there is no ambiguity, let me be doubly clear: It is nearly impossible for me to imagine any operation like the May 2 assault on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that would not have made substantial use of the trove of information derived from CIA detainees, including those on whom enhanced techniques had been used.
It is easy to imagine the concerns at the political level as the CIA built its case that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound, and it became obvious that detainee data was an important thread of intelligence. To his credit, and obviously reflecting this reality, White House spokesman Jay Carney has not denied that fact but correctly pointed out that there were multiple co-dependent threads that led to this success.
In response to a direct question on the CBS Evening News about enhanced interrogation and the bin Laden success, CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed on May 3 that, "Obviously there was some valuable information that was derived through those kind of interrogations." He also added that it was an "open question" whether the information could have been elicited through other means, implicitly contradicting those who claim that other means would have produced the same information.
Let me add that this is not a discussion about the merits or the appropriateness of any interrogation technique. Indeed, I personally took more than half of the techniques (including waterboarding) off the table in 2007 because American law had changed, our understanding of the threat had deepened, and we were now blessed with additional sources of information. We can debate what was appropriate then, or now, but this is a discussion about a particular historical fact: Information derived from enhanced interrogation techniques helped lead us to bin Laden.
And so those who are prone to condemn the actions of those who have gone before (while harvesting the fruits of their efforts) might take pause. I've been personally asked about the appropriateness of waterboarding and--recognizing the immense challenge of balancing harsh treatment with saving innocent lives--usually respond: "I thank God that I did not have to make that decision." At the same time, I thank those who preceded me, made such decisions and thereby spared me the worst of the dilemma. Those who deny the usefulness of enhanced interrogation techniques might consider similar caution.
But if they cannot or will not, shouldn't they be true to their faith? If they truly believe that these interrogations did not and could not yield useful intelligence, they should demand that the CIA identify all the information derived directly or indirectly from enhanced interrogation. And then they should insist the agency destroy it. They should also insist that significant portions of the 9/11 Commission Report be rescinded, as it too was based on this data. This would be perfectly consistent with the interrogation deniers' transcendental faith that nothing of use could have come from enhanced interrogations after 9/11.
Strange that we have not heard such calls, even from the most ardent interrogation deniers. Perhaps they are not really like "birthers" and "truthers" after all. Perhaps, when all the public ideological posturing is done, and they are through attacking both their opponents' arguments and their character, they quietly concede to themselves that facts really do matter.
Now that's something I'd like to have faith in.