April 30, 2004

Americans inflicting torture

I thought the Iraqi war was justified, both for our liberation of Kuwaiti citizens who were subjected to Iraqi torture, and ten years later, the liberation of Iraqi citizens from the same fate. I thought it was justified even when the WMD controversy erupted (and I still think the WMD issue is open). However, I was deeply disappointed to hear that US forces have subjected Iraqi prisoners of war to torture and humiliation. Guess it's a reminder that there is evil in every person regardless of ideology. Our nation is subject to God's judgment, and even though I believe this war was just, people who commit these atrocities deserve to suffer severe consequences, not only the loss of their military credentials (dishonorable discharge), but prison time as well.

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of opinion on this event. Interesting comment that this action could be viewed as an act of treason, though it was probably not committed with that as motivation. I wish I could hear some evidence that this was all photo-shopped, but I don't think I ever will. Looks like a real story.

Though these actions are deplorable, I do agree that one difference between the US military and the former Hussein regime is that our torturers will be punished and not rewarded for their actions. There will be the usual comments from the followers of MoveOn.org that this is typical behaviour of US soldiers. Unless this is dealt with quickly and severely, those folks have some fuel to add to their fire.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

Columns on the pro-abortion march

Michelle Malkin mentions some people who think that abortion is murder, including a few who changed their minds when they saw what it was.

Kathleen Parker takes the position that she doesn't want to see abortion outlawed, but wishes that people would be allowed to see the truth about what it is.

Which brings me to these two...

LifeNews article on an altercation at a John Kerry rally. (Hat tip to NRO's The Corner)

Annie, at afterabortion.com, blogs on her experience of abuse and harassment at the march on Sunday.

What gets me really riled up about this is that many of these marchers are also criticizing the government (or just conservatives in general) of censorship when they criticize anti-war attitudes. Their idealism vanishes when their point of view is being defended. I agree with part of what Kathleen Parker says, let's see and hear the truth about abortion and stop censoring the sonograms, let women hear about the alternative of adoption, and stop putting them on a one-way track to abortion. And one more thing, I'm tired of hearing the cliche that pro-life people are uncompassionate and uncaring. One thing this march showed me is that that description is more descriptive of the abortion lobby.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)

On conversions: liberal to conservative

Over at Joshua Claybourn's site last week, I commented on my conversion from a liberal to a conservative. I said that some things I was told in the liberal camp just weren't true on further reflection. Someone in the comments asked me, "such as?" Here's a collection:

  1. An egalitarian society can be achieved without any loss of liberty.
  2. An egalitarian society can be achieved without any loss of prosperity.
  3. American institutions are inherently racist. Capitalism is a racist institution.
  4. I'm a racist because I'm white and was born into privilege.
  5. Our Constitution demands separation of church and state.
  6. Christians should not participate in government.
  7. Overpopulation is a dire threat to humanity.
  8. Science and technology are threats to our future, not benefits.
  9. Abortion is a constitutional right. Owning a gun is not.
  10. Mumia is innocent.

That's ten beliefs that were current in the 1990's Unitarian Universalist Association zeitgeist, which I use as a baseline for liberal views, as the UUA is primarily a liberal political organization now, having abandoned its religious origins about eighty years ago, and their attitude seems to be no cause too left. I used to believe statements #1,2, and 5. Ayn Rand convinced me of the falsehood of #1 and #2 (along with some help from David Horowitz and F.A. Hayek). #5 was disproved by simply reading the Constitution with an open mind, based on a challenge by a radio talk show host. Point #6, that Christians should not participate in government seemed kindof strange, given that the UUA has a large lobbying presence in Washington. Their justification? They're not a church. Well, for their information, neither is the Christian Coalition.

The think the point where the UUA totally lost me was when they tried to shove point #4 down my throat. I'll admit that I've done insensitive things in my life, but I've always been diligent to treat people equitably regardless of their race, and to ask me to believe I'm a racist seems the equivalent of a a torturer demanding that one to confess to uncommitted crimes. The truth here is that this is where UU's puritanical roots are in full display. In their view, prosperity can only be achieved by having one's foot on another person's neck, disregarding all evidence to the contrary, such as how broken families foster poverty (and several other social problems), and that people who work harder seem to do better than people who don't.

My official reason for leaving however, the one that prompted me to write a letter stating my pledge would not be renewed, was when the UUA, and my congregation, sponsored the Million Mom March. I own a gun, and use it for target-shooting, and I am not going to provide financial support to those who would take that away from me.

Also read this column by another liberal-turned-conservative (Hap tip to Mark Shea).

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)

Wake up sleepy!

Ok, time to get back on the blog - Lent is over, church activities at Easter have ended. Our daughter, Rebecca, has been baptized.

Time has been rather tight through all those activities, and I've neglected the blog, on purpose during Lent, but rather slow in getting back into it afterwards. Susan b. has a post up commenting on those who say that a quality blog should update every day. I agree with her that it's one's own business how often they update their own blog, but I'll also admit that there's a fine line between rare posting and outright quitting.

I'm not quitting, so I'm going to reestablish myself here and put out a goal of updating the site four times a week, giving myself a day of rest each week, plus a couple of days off where I'm either too busy to blog or can't come up with anything useful to say.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2004

April 16, 2004

Twin-Towers Rorschach Test

What is it that elicits such different reactions to the 9/11-attack -- from liberals, as opposed to conservatives?

AM talk-radio host Dennis Prager has spoken of the natural human desire to hate the one who “takes on the bully”; thus, conservatives would say: since the terrorists are the bullies -- liberals hate Bush because Bush is fighting the bully. But those on the Left counter-claim that: America is the bully. The argument breaks down into charges and counter-charges.

A more benign, but probing, approach is taken by Arnold Kling in his 4/14/04 article “Hating the Solution” at the web-site Tech Central Station. He quotes Winston Churchill from 11/12/36 as follows:

"So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent."

The “strange paradox” is the observation that people will often oppose a proposed direct solution to a problem – favoring an alternative that seeks to “study” or “consider” or “analyze” the problem (for example: the sentiment behind the statement: “let’s have a meeting”). This is so because the attempt to directly solve a difficult problem means that there will be trouble, there will be a cost, things will become unsettled, people will have to leave their normal routines and engage in hardship and struggle; a period of stress will be necessary before a solution is forced/created out of the hard mess of reality.

It is often better not to enter the frightening prospect of exertion and battle, because this change – including within it always the possibility of failure -- upsets the progressive equilibrium of a peaceful, humanitarian life that has been acquired at such a great price over hundreds of years. Better to remain at rest, hopeful, and safe, even though worried.

Kling puts it this way:

“What Churchill found is that when a group of leaders is confronted with a problem that makes them uneasy, they take out their frustration on those who suggest ways of dealing with the problem. Discomfort with a problem leads many people to develop a passionate hatred for the solution….Today, it seems to me that the elites in this country and elsewhere are responding to terrorism by hating the solution.”

Kling goes on to quote Steven Hayward in an essay of December 2001 entitled “A Churchillian Perspective on September 11”:

“Churchill's central idea or insight was that the distinction between liberty and tyranny, between civilization and barbarism, is real and substantial.…The necessary ferocity of warfare represents a departure from the normal conditions and inclinations of democratic civilization, while it represents the normal condition of barbaric nations and peoples. Barbarism may be regarded, in a nutshell, as lacking in any reasoned principle of justice or progress or moderation.”

This would explain the Left’s view of America as the “bully”; the Left assumes there is no substantial difference – in terms of moral legitimacy -- between modern civilized societies and gang-based terrorist “societies” (or groups), or any other kind of society. Multiculturalism is based on this idea.

Liberals claim that the definition of the word “terrorism” must apply equally to al-Qaeda’s destructive acts as well as the “aggression” of America’s military strikes against terrorists and state dictatorships. Many media news agencies and newspapers refuse to use the word “terrorist.”

Kling has an earlier Tech Central Station article (of 3/19/04) – “Nurturance and Terrorism” -- that points to a recent book – Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) -- by the liberal philosopher George Lakoff. (Lakoff’s 1995 essay “Metaphore, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust” was the basis for his book.)

Lakoff finds the distinction between liberals and conservatives to be derived from two different approaches to morality; as articulated by Kling: “Conservatives view morality in ‘strict father’ terms, as an issue of right vs. wrong, with the need for wrong to be punished. Liberals view morality in ‘nurturant parent’ terms, as an issue of giving people the material and emotional support necessary to enable them to grow and develop.”

While liberalism has a stronger emotional case to make for positions on domestic issues than conservatism does (conservative positions on social issues being derived from rationalist economic- and responsibility-reward considerations), liberalism has a major problem conceiving of an emotional response to terrorism that is oppositional and effective. Since liberalism is based on a “nurturant” model of interaction, the use of military force is problematic. Therefore, a liberal response to terrorism in the national debate is...missing.

Kling says there are two alternatives for US foreign policy in response to terrorism; he calls them “Fortress America” and the “Forward Strategy.”

“Fortress America” is a retreat of America to its borders. American involvement in foreign affairs will pretty much be kept minimal. The US must retract all of its military units overseas, and a great deal of its overseas diplomatic and economic presence. The country will only fight back if it is literally attacked on its soil; and then, only directly and briefly.

Kling says: “The alternative to Fortress America is a Forward Strategy, in which we try to re-shape the Muslim world away from the death cult of terrorism.”

But Fortress America is only a temporary solution; if the barbaric gang-based societies are not countered on their own terms (through the use of blatant force) they will increase their power, and at the late point at which they actually directly attack the US (probably with a nuclear device) -- the US will be at a disadvantage.

However, the Forward Strategy is not a “nurturant” liberal policy.

Therefore: liberals are going to be restricted in the coming Presidential campaign. They cannot offer an alternative vision for countering terrorism. What’s left is the anti-Bush hatred: attacking President Bush personally for his mistakes and errors, for not being trustworthy, for being "inadequate" to the task of “keeping the peace.” This puts Senator Kerry in a uniquely disadvantageous position.

On the other hand, if Kerry DOES win – because of the constant barrage of attacks on Bush’s personal character and ability, and because the American public becomes “tired” of supporting a war (with concomitant casualties on the evening TV news) – Kling says the result will inevitably be a return to Fortress America:

“What would a Democratic Party victory in November mean for our foreign policy? Senator Kerry himself writes, ‘Our country is committed to help the Iraqis build a stable, peaceful and pluralistic society. No matter who is elected president in November, we will persevere in that mission.’

“However, it seems to me that on the whole the Democratic Party would like to see victory interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the policies of President Bush. I believe that would in fact be the result. A Kerry win would have to be treated as a repudiation of the forward strategy, rather than as an endorsement for a more nuanced tactical execution. If the American people choose to question our involvement in the struggle to remake the Muslim world, it will not be out of conviction that the UN or other international institutions are better suited to the task.”

This would comprise one of the most important foreign policy reversals in American history – if not, in fact, the greatest. Consequences would be enormous.

Posted by Rick Penner at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2004

News from PETA

Susanna Cornett talks about PETA in a recent post, citing the offensive depiction of a bovine Pope.

I find the "cow-Pope" offensive too, but I find another thing about them obnoxious as well - their casual flaunting of Judeo-Christian beliefs to prop up their cause.

Let's look at their treatment of Passover. They ask the questions, "What better time than Passover to extend our compassion to every living being? And what better way to celebrate the spirit of the holiday than by practicing vegetarianism?"

Looks like they haven't read the original instructions for Passover, which quite blatantly contradict their claims: "and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it."

Looks like they've fallen victim to the same style of thought that afflicts the entire "religious left" these days: a sacrifice-free, God is love and vice-versa, type mentality. Since the Passover is supposed to celebrate victory over all forms of oppression (we all know that, don't we?), it certainly should be a cause for relieving the suffering of animals, right? No. It is a day for celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. A deliverance from oppression? Yes, but a specific case, and I don't appreciate it when others piggy-back their own personal causes on it, even when it's a cause I'm in sympathy with.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:36 PM | Comments (1)

Reflections on Easter

Some thoughts on Easter:

Some questions I asked myself several years ago, while I was reconsidering faith in God.

One issue that caused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead was, well, why couldn't He have? I mean, if He was who He claimed to be, the Son of God, sent from Heaven, and if "all things were created through Him", wouldn't the Resurrection be a relatively simple thing to accomplish?

Also, if He rose from the dead, and no other person has ever done the same (of their own power), wouldn't it be wise to consider that listening to that person, as God the Father told us to do?

And looking at His disciples, why did twelve men all choose to die preaching that they saw a first-century preacher risen from the dead if that were not indeed true?

And why didn't their opponents, the ones who didn't want Peter, James, and John preaching in Jerusalem, produce the dead body of Jesus so that the new church would be discredited before its initial growth?

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

Birthday

I didn't blog it then because of my blog-fast, and again not the following Sunday, because of technical problems, but March 24 was my birthday.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

Thoughts on the 9/11 commission

Happy Easter!

Time for some catching up, since I haven't blogged in such a long time.

I was actually wanting to post some last weekend, but some technical problems prevented me from posting, but those have been resolved now, and the server is faster than ever, so here comes a new batch.

It's a strange feeling, being on a blog fast, when there is so much going on, what with the uprising in Fallujah, and the killing of the leader of Hamas, a discussion which I am glad I did not participate in (though I do not intend any disrespect to the participants - I'm just glad I didn't step in and put my foot in my own mouth).

The most immediate news I can think of to post about is the 9/11 commission, and its aftereffects, namely the disclosure that President Bush was warned about the events of 9/11 before they happened.

Now, I haven't read the briefing yet, and I may have to update this post after I do so, but I have read enough to write the following.

We've got to remember the five "W" (and one "H") questions when evaluating this briefing:

WHO?
Were there names mentioned? Did we know specifically who would be carrying out these attacks? Ok, we knew they were Al Qaeda operatives, but would we have been able to implement specific counter-measures without causing protests of racial profiling or other civil rights concerns? Given the level of protests after 9/11, I think the government would have been faced high levels of resistance from civil rights groups sympathetic to Islamist interests, unless classified information was disclosed giving up our intelligence advantage in fighting the war on terrorism.

WHEN?
The memo said that Al Qaeda operatives were in the country now, but there were no dates given for a specific attack. Could we have implemented a terrorist alert system before an attack without setting off civil-rights-groups alarm bells? Given that we haven't been able to do so even after 9/11, I don't think so.

WHAT? WHERE? HOW?
Did we know what the terrorists were exactly trying to accomplish? We know they were acting in America and were going to strike an American target. I know that the World Trade Center was considered to be a prime target, but it was well protected against any type of terrorist attack that had been tried before 9/11. Given the level of security, a benefit of a doubt could be given to anyone thinking that another site would be chosen for the attack. And even though an attack by plane had been speculated on in a work of fiction, I think most Americans were surprised by the method of this attack. As much as Condoleeze Rice has been criticized by the editors of leftist magazines like The Nation and Mother Jones, I think the tactics of this attack were pretty much unimaginable before they occured.

WHY?
We'll be arguing about this till kingdom come, it goes into ideological concerns and there's no definite answer. They hate us because we're too rich, because we're free, because we're not an Islamist-based country, because we support Israel, whatever. The way I see it, if you let a man with a bomb, or an airplane doing the work of a bomb, dictate your policy, you might as well elect that man your President-for-life, because you've just handed your decision making to foreigners.

I haven't heard anything from the 9/11 commission that has showed me that President Bush has treated the security of this nation as unimportant. There have been mistakes made, yes, just as mistakes have been made in any war -- intelligence isn't perfect, and you allocate resources and act as you think best. If post-9/11 measures had been made in order to prevent an attack, I think the same people who are attacking the President now would also have been attacking him pre-emptively, saying he was putting the country at risk, maybe even encouraging an attack through arrogant actions (similar to how they are claiming that ABM defense systems are encouraging nuclear war). It's all partisanship, plain and simple. Democrats are trying to bring this President down anyway they can, even though they wouldn't have done any better.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2004

The "Hillbilly" Thomist

"'Everywhere I go,' the novelist Flannery O'Connor said, 'I'm asked if I think universities stifle writers.' Frankly, she'd reply, 'they don't stifle enough of them.'"

So begins an article (not on-line) in the latest issue of Claremont Review of Books (Spring 2004) by Scott Walter entitled "The Strange Case of a Hillbilly Thomist." It's a review of a few books about O'Connor, including Flannery O'Connor: Spiritual Writings edited by Robert Ellsberg, and Return to Good and Evil: Flannery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism by Henry T. Edmondson III.

A Southerner, O'Connor wrote two novels and several collections of stories; she was a political and theological conservative, and a Catholic.

Once, after arriving at a famous literary soiree at 8 pm -- an evening that included Mary McCarthy and Robert Lowell -- (she later said) that by 1 am "[I] hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say."

Then, at one point, conversation turned to the Eucharist and McCarthy said it was a lovely symbol. O'Connor spoke: "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it."

She was admired by the literati, even as she saw through them....

According to Walter:

"After Iowa [State University] she spent time at Yaddo, an artists' colony where she worked to finish her novel and socialized with other guests, including Alfred Kazin, Edward Maisel, and Robert Lowell. Her distrust of 'innerleckshuls' only deepened at Yaddo, as she observed that their self-indulgence in drugs, alcohol, and sex were matched with 'arty' phoniness and a cowardly conformity to secular leftism. Still, Yaddo allowed her to bear down on her novel [Wise Blood], and she gained her peers' respect. Kazin was impressed by her faith, 'so rare in America that it makes her stand out in every possible way. To me she is one of the few writers of that post-war generation who will live for a very long time.'"

Walter reports that O'Connor's views on education can be intuited from a letter of hers that reported on a conversation she had with the conservative philosopher and author of The Conservative Mind -- Russel Kirk:

"ME: I read old William Heard Kilpatrick died recently. John Dewey's dead too, isn't he?
KIRK: Yes, thank God. Gone to his reward. Ha ha.
ME: I hope there's children crawling all over him.
KIRK: Yes, I hope he's with the unbaptized enfants.
ME: No, they would be too innocent.
KIRK: Yes. Ha ha. With the baptized enfants."

She marked the following sentence in her copy of Kirk's book: "Abstract sentimentality ends in real brutality."

At one time O'Connor had written in an essay:

"If other ages felt less they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness....[But when] tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and the fumes of the gas chamber."

What's interesting about her stories is their reality; her curious eyes recommend a bracing approach to life. A few pages can be an ordeal.

Walter quotes T.S. Elliot as saying of her stories -- "[I] was quite horrified by those I read. She has certainly an uncanny talent of a high order but my nerves are just not strong enough to take much of a disturbance." Walter goes on: "She sets the stories in her backwoods South and peoples them, as she readily confessed, with 'freaks.'...Puzzlement over their meaning can be lessened by reading the essays and letters. The latter brim with her humor and her steely-eyed insights into literature, religion, and the modern world."

Walter adds:

"O'Connor devoted her life to her art, and she devoted her art to a battle against relativism and the nihilism she saw had spawned it. She celebrated both reason and faith as part of an objective approach to reality and railed against the twin falsehoods of sentimentality and pornography. She decried the former wherever she found it -- in subjectivist philosophy, in best-selling novels, and, as Giannone quotes, in the 'sugary slice of inspirational pie' common in the popular piety of her day."

Posted by Rick Penner at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2004

Air America: Cynics-R-Us

I listened to 7 hours of leftist talk-radio on Air America’s first day of programming (beginning at noon 3/31/04): “The O’Franken Factor” from noon-3pm (Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher) and the “Randi Rhodes Show” (3pm-7pm).

Here’s my review:

As a talk radio junkie -- I want to admit, right away -- my favorites are Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, and occasionally ‘ole Rush.

But understand, now, I used to be a 24-hour-a-day leftist radio fan myself back in my radical days (1970-1994) when I was glued to Pacific Radio’s KPFK in LA.

I understand a radio that talks.

(Funny thing, I NEVER took to haughty NPR; even when a liberal I could only stand these stations for the music; KCRW in Santa Monica has the best contempo-pop anywhere.)

OK, let me give you the news right off: Franken is not funny. Worse, he’s boring.

He had guests, but never challenged them; didn’t push for stories or ideas, instead, fished around for responses he'd agree with. His main guest was Michael Moore – who read letters from American soldiers in Iraq who disparaged Bush and hated the military project (no names on these letters, of course). The two talked about how President Bush was a military “deserter” years ago. This kind of talk is provocative?

Randi Rhodes was better: a sassy, punk-tinged, street-wise, ranter. She knows how to sling a sentence around. I imagine her spitting on the studio floor. She can rap against your most cherished belief…and make you take it. She lived up to her billing as a Brooklyn toughie with an “attitude” (though a caller told her she actually had a Queens accent – and she admitted it on air…but it didn’t matter, she recovered, likable anyway).

But all in all: there’s something missing in these programs: they contain no ideas; no descriptions; no diversions into cultural territory; no discussions with content.

Even Rush Limbaugh – one of the more blustery and “in your face” talkers – does more than just put down his opposition; he also describes conservative thinking in comparison with liberal thinking. He engages his audience with arguments against the liberal point of view, regardless of how biased these arguments are. Dennis Prager is the best at this, by the way – being, perhaps, America’s only true philosopher of the airwaves.

Despite the attacks on their liberal enemies (Ted Kennedy, Senator Daschle, President Clinton, etc.) -- the right-wing talkers, in various ways, attempt (between the comedy and satire) to take on their real nemesis: the mainstream media.

Since right-wingers are addressing an audience that, like everyone in the country, is already saturated in the glow of the national media (ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, CNN, Time, Newsweek, etc.) – a kind of background given – these talkers have an opponent against which they must explain themselves.

Whether their discussions are serious or ridiculous, they have to describe a passage-way, a channel AROUND the monolith of the general liberal media. They are guides through the political landscape. This is what all of the noise is about.

Air America attempts none of this. It goes straight for the acidic put-down. It isn’t afraid of sloshing through flamboyant radical conspiracies; for example, Rhodes said: President Bush’s family supported Nazis in the past; Franken detailed the Bush family “connections” with the bin-Laden family of Saudi Arabia.

In all of this – no attempt to give evidence, to bring up ideology, to describe the values. Just fancy dueling.

Will this work?

Stay tuned.

Posted by Rick Penner at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)