Tuesday, August 31, 2010


With everyone continuing to talk about the Islamic center better known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it wouldn’t seem right to let this month pass without weighing in on the topic. However, with so many angles from which to approach it, figuring out which one to take presents a dilemma.

There is the always bountiful “liberals are hypocrites” angle, as in: Have you ever found it strange that liberals, who are openly hostile to the free exercise of religion when it comes to Christianity and Judaism, are quick to embrace it when it comes to Islam?

Then there is the “President has no balls” angle, which notes that only an intellectual coward would do what Obama recently did: Make comments that every listener interpreted to be an unmistakable endorsement for building this specific center, only to change his tune the very next morning after learning that the comments were not popular.

But then again, most people know that double-talking politicians would do precisely what Obama did, and many people see Obama doing it as proof that a double-talking pol is all he is. Thus, there is the “President can’t be trusted” angle.

And then there is the “has the media lost its flippin’ mind?” angle. This one exists because our newspapers and newscasts refer to the GZM’s main organizer, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, as “a moderate” without bothering to report that he has: 1) described America as an accessory to 9/11; 2) refused to condemn the actions of Hamas, which include the intentional killing of civilians by suicide bombings and missile attacks; and 3) said he can not comment on what counts as terrorism because he is “not a politician.”

Ultimately, however, these are just angles. The main question -- should the GZM be built, or not? -- is very simple, and answering it is also simple. According to me and two-thirds of my fellow Americans, it should not. There are many reasons for this opinion, some of which are touched on in the last angle I mentioned above. Another reason is that Rauf supports sharia law and has argued that Muslims in the United States should be allowed to enforce it amongst themselves. That would not be a big deal if allowing sharia was like allowing Navajo Indians to use peyote, but there is no such similarity -- to give just one example, sharia’s penalty for being homosexual is death by stoning. Given Rauf’s support for allowing such a thing on American soil, and his refusal to speak out against terrorism, and his refusal to answer questions about whether the money to build the GZM is coming from terrorist states, we would be fools if we didn't question what will be taught there.

Basic historical knowledge provides another reason for believing the GZM should not be built. Islam has used violence rather than persuasion to advance itself across the globe, and Muslims have a centuries-old practice of erecting mosques at sites important to the people they have conquered or are in the process of conquering. Considering that fundamentalist Muslims consider America “The Great Satan,” and that Ground Zero is the site of their most murderous blow against America, and that the mosque within the GZM would overlook Ground Zero, we would be fools not to question whether Islamic terrorists consider the GZM to be a link in their symbolic chain.

Another reason for saying the GZM should not be built is the simple, but crucially important, matter of respect and decorum. America has a long-established tradition of treating hallowed ground as, well, hallowed -- meaning we treat it differently than other ground because of the transcendent understanding that it belongs to the people who died or suffered there, and to their loved ones. Erecting an Islamic center overlooking the spot where thousands of innocents were murdered in the name of Islam would violate this tradition to the Nth degree.

Of course, saying the GZM should not be built is a far cry from saying it can not be built. Do Muslims have a legal right to build a mosque or Islamic center wherever they want, including the spot where they plan to build the GZM, so long as they do not violate zoning ordinances or other laws? Absolutely they do...and from the beginning, those who speak out against the GZM have made it clear that they are not disputing that right. What they have said is that the GZM's backers should not exercise that right in this instance, at this location; and that the American people should not countenance the building without exercising their right to protest it.

All along, criticism of the GZM has been about its propriety, not its legality. It is worth noting that its critics deal with both issues while its supporters focus only on the latter. Arguably, the strongest evidence that the GZM should not be built is that even its proponents will not defend its propriety.

Do I feel bad that innocent, peace-loving Muslims are caught between a rock and a hard place because of their co-religionists? Yes. Should I let that change my position on the big picture? No.

Monday, August 23, 2010

More et ceteras

For an innovative idea about how to advance freedom in the world, check out this piece by Ken Hagerty and Newt Gingrich. It argues for using a Hong Kong model -- free cities within otherwise unfree nations -- to plant seeds of opportunity in areas where there is none. Theoretically, the cities will prosper in contrast to their surroundings, expatriates will return to these islands of opportunity inside their native lands, the aroma of prosperity will drift outside the city limits and inspire the citizens of those nations to agitate for change, etc. There's some pie-in-the-sky idealism to their idea -- but then again, everything they mention amounts to what has pretty much been happening with Hong Kong and China, so who's to say?

I have not read this book, but it has both the best title and best subtitle I have heard of in years. And I love that one of its chapters is called "Islam is a Peaceful Religion, and If You Don't Believe It, They'll Cut Off Your Head." Between those things and what I heard the author say in the few minutes I heard him on Michael Medved's radio show last week, I am comfortable doing something I have never done before: recommend the book without reading it first.

Since I just did little more than send you to two links, now I will send you to two more, both of which involve the subject of literary fiction. Here is an excellent salute to Ray Bradbury on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and here is an equally excellent take on Ayn Rand. Rand fans should be prepared for a less-than-flattering analysis which asserts that much of her writing, especially Atlas Shrugged, is essentially soulless (my phrase).

That's all for now...

Update, 8/24/10: The Ayn Rand piece was written by Jason Lee Steorts. Today he published an insightful follow-up to it, which you can read here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

et ceteras

Here in Florida, one of the biggest political stories is the battle between Bill McCollum and Rick Scott in the Republican gubernatorial primary. For what it's worth, I am for McCollum, and my main reason is that he is one of the attorneys general who signed on to the lawsuit against Obamacare. Also, Scott displays almost no interest in answering questions about the Medicare fraud that took place at Columbia/HCA while he was CEO, and I suspect that would doom him in a general election.

Two Sundays ago our pastor used the 23rd Psalm to buttress his larger point, but I thought what he said would be worth an entire sermon all by itself. He emphasized that the psalm says "I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," not "I stop and complain in the valley..." or "I cower through the valley..." I have only been to church twice this year and am not the kind of person who feels comfortable making religious pronouncements, but I found that brief remark to be so powerful that I feel compelled to pass it on.

One of the things I touched on in my August 9th post is how liberals reflexively believe that conservatives are bigots, and the MSM reflexively assumes that racism is the "real" reason behind any conservative criticism of a person who is not white. One day later Dennis Prager published this editorial, and I recommend it to everyone.

Something else my post touched on is how liberals reflexively assume that every environmental mishap is a catastrophe. The subtext was that when it comes to covering such mishaps, the MSM fails to verify that what it reports as facts actually are facts. For more on that topic, check out this piece by Lou Dolinar.

Lastly, I feel that I should close by saying something about the "Ground Zero Mosque," but I can not cram everything I want to say into a single paragraph. So for now I will simply say that Obama's disingenuous, contradictory comments about it are telltale signs of intellectual weakness. And I will also say that I agree with this post from The Corner blog on National Review Online.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

V-J Day

65 years ago today, the bloodiest war in human history came to an end when Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. The announcement of Japan's surrender set off celebraions around the globe, including the one in Times Square during which this iconic picture was taken.

After six years, during which more than 60 million people from 27 different countries were killed, World War II was finally over. In the United States, August 15th came to be known as V-J Day, for Victory in Japan Day, since our European enemies had surrendered three months earlier.

Despite the fact that America was brought into the war when it was bombed by Japan, and despite the fact that atomic weapons were used to hasten the war's end, and despite enormous cultural differences, the two countries became strong and lasting friends whose alliance is now one of the most dependable on earth.

That is a direct result of the respectful and helping way America dealt with Japan after the war ended. One of the reasons we are unique in world history is that as conflicts conclude, we always seek to befriend our antagonists and to better their lot as well as our own. That fact needs to be burned into the hearts and minds of those who believe America is always the aggessor.

In my younger days, V-J Day was noted on calendars. Today it is not. This is not how it should be.

The Greatest Generation is rapidly passing to the other side of eternity's veil. Before its members are gone, may the rest of us thank them for the freedom they transmitted to us. And may we resolve that their sacrifice shall never be forgotten, and that it shall not have been made in vain.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Media's Jerking Knee

Many of us don't need to be reminded that America's major media outlets are manned, to a large extent, by unthinking and untrustworthy sorts who in saner times would not be taken seriously as journalists. But the coverage of two high profile events this summer illustrates that things are not only bad but getting worse.

First there was the BP oil spill. For months, news shows and newspapers and magazines have been calling it the worst environmental disaster in our history. They have showered America with stories saying that the spill will kill mass numbers of marine animals, spoil hundreds of miles of coastline, ravage Louisiana's wetlands, and perhaps doom the brown pelican to extinction throughout much of its range.

But as the well was being capped at the end of July, more than three months after the spill began, the region's fish and shrimp were still testing clean and only three marine mammals had been found dead due to the spill. And the number of birds killed was less than one percent of the number killed in the Exxon Valdez spill, which covered a much smaller area. And the amount of wetlands touched was less than half the size of Central Park. Time magazine deserves a great deal of credit for acknowledging these numbers, but you aren't likely to see any other members of the MSM acknowledge them, unless they do so in a small blurb on the last page of the Tuesday paper that nobody reads, or during the last 30 seconds of a newscast when nobody is watching.

The other big and misreported story surrounds the firing of Shirley Sherrod. In the MSM, everything I saw about it alleged, either explicitly or implicitly, that Andrew Breitbart was being deceptive and racially inflammatory when he published an edited video of Sherrod's now famous speech on his website.

However, the truth is that when Breitbart published the video, he did so with a description that included these words: "Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how much she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from 'one of his own kind.' She refers him to a white lawyer. Sherrod's racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement." (emphasis added)

There's no need to prove that the MSM is populated overwhelmingly by liberals. Even liberals know that it is. The real problem, if you don't mind me repeating myself, is how unthinking the MSM's liberalism is. These incidents were very legitimate news stories that needed to be reported; however, the MSM did not report them, but instead used them as props to project its prejudices. In the process of projecting, most of its members assumed they knew what the facts were without bothering to check, and then they portrayed their assumptions as facts with such a uniform air of authority that few people would bother to question them.

According to the leftist worldview that dominates the media, corporations are blinded by their lust for profits and are indifferent (if not callous) to how their actions affect others, and as a result the earth's environment sits always on the razor's edge of peril. So whenever an environmental mishap occurs, the media rush to record it as a catastrophe...because in their collective mind, that is what environmental mishaps are by definition.

And according to that same leftist worldview, conservatives are either racists or race-baiters. So when a conservative publishes something less than flattering about a person who is black, the media rush to record that the conservative is a bigot...because in their collective mind, any criticism of a non-white person by a conservative is inherently a cover-up for the fact the conservative dislikes the person's skin color.

In the end, the media's simple-minded, knee-jerk portrayals of world events work to everyone else's misfortune. Millions of Americans are left ignorant of facts and possessing an erroneously dim view of their countrymen.

In the case of the BP spill, businesses that rely on tourism were hurt when tens of thousands of people cancelled vacations they had planned to spend on the Gulf coast -- and even though it was the MSM's hyperventilating that caused those cancellations, the MSM is calling for BP (certainly not itself!) to compensate those businesses for lost earnings. And this is to say nothing of the damage done to the families of oil workers who were suddenly put out of work by Obama's abrupt decision, after watching the MSM's sky-is-falling coverage, to impose a six-month moratorium on off-shore drilling.

The Sherrod case is more complicated but just as troubling. Knowing what we now know about Sherrod's speech, it does not seem fair for Breitbart to call it a "racist tale" -- but his description did make it clear that Sherrod's humanity won out over any racial hang-ups she held at the time of the story she was recounting. It is the MSM that is being deceptive when it fails to mention Breitbart's description in its coverage. Likewise, it is unfair for the MSM to dismiss Breitbart's very credible assertions that: 1) the video he received had already been edited, so he did not know the speech's eventual message was full-blown racial reconciliation beyond Sherrod's long-ago decision to refer the white farmer to a white lawyer, and 2) in any event, he published the video to draw attention not to Sherrod's speech but to the way the crowd reacted before she moved on to any part about racial reconciliation. Plus, it is grossly unfair that the MSM has been far more critical of Breitbart for publishing the video, than it has been of the Obama administration for firing Sherrod over it without giving her a chance to defend herself.

If the shoe were on the other foot, you could bet your next two paychecks that the media would handle the story differently. If Breitbart was a black liberal and Sherrod a white conservative, the description introducing the video would be portrayed as a mitigating factor; and the explanations of the video having been pre-edited, and having been published for reasons other than to defame the speaker, would be portrayed as obvious truth.

Unlike a generation ago, our citizens no longer have to rely exclusively on the major news media to get their information about current events, and that is good. But it is bad that those media continue to misuse their power.