Sunday, August 24, 2014

et ceteras (which end "all over the map")

Go here for an excellent editorial by George Will about government incompetence, and how that incompetence is causing the public to have nearly one hundred percent lack of faith in government's ability to do anything at all.

Go here for an excellent one by Jonah Goldberg, concerning the unsurprisingly hot mess of a reaction to Michael Brown's death.

And finally, go here for an excellent one by Ian Tuttle, triggered by the recent beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Speaking of Foley
Barack Obama's speech about the beheading was a fucking disgrace. I would say something along the lines of "pardon my French," but I am not in the mood to be charitable on this topic, so instead I am going to repeat myself: Barack Obama's speech was a fucking disgrace.

Much as he did after Benghazi and countless other situations in which Americans have been brutally murdered simply for being Americans, The Exalted One strolled to the microphones and delivered a droll jumble of sentences that did nothing but regurgitate shopworn phrases everyone knew he didn't mean.

And not to be picky, but it frosts me that our supposed leader was dressed for the round of golf he was about to go play.

Conversely, British Prime Minister David Cameron -- appalled by the possibility that the Muslim who decapitated Foley was a British national -- cancelled his vacation, delivered an impassioned speech decrying the murder, and returned to 10 Downing Street ready to figure out how to tackle the escalating problem of jihadists popping up around London.

If an incident similar to Foley's beheading had happened on Ronald Reagan's watch, Reagan would have presented himself as all business. He would have worn suit and tie; his appearance would have reflected the seriousness of the occasion; and he would not have bloodlessly muttered that America "will continue to do what we must do to protect our people." No, Reagan would have said something along the lines of "we will get those who did this," something along the lines of "they cannot hide," and everyone would know he meant it and therefore the terrorists would slink away.

If an incident like this had happened on JFK's watch, JFK would have held up images of Foley's beheading (much like he held up satellite photos of Cuban installations preparing to receive Soviet missiles) and he would have explained in no uncertain terms that America would "pay any price" and "bear any burden" to avenge Foley and prevent further aggression against our citizens. Everyone would know he meant it and therefore the terrorists would slink away.

Not so much with our current snooze-button-in-chief.

...there actually is a glimmer of hope when it comes to Barack Obama's willingness to confront Islamic theocracy, and after the blistering critique I just gave, it would be unfair for me not to mention the glimmer.

ISIS has targeted Kurds and Yazidi Christians in northern Iraq for genocidal elimination. In my August 7th post I noted that "tens of thousands of Yazidi Christians are trapped on a mountain...surrounded by armed militants who want to exterminate the(m) from the face of the Earth." In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, ISIS's targeting of those groups is just an opening salvo in a grander design to eliminate Jews from the Middle East and establish a caliphate that they wish to expand into other parts of the world.

In its current onslaught against Kurds and Yazidis, ISIS recently scored what appeared to be a major victory when it took control of the Mosul Dam. The dam is important not only because it is the primary source of electricity for the region, but because the amount of water it holds back is enough that blowing it up would flood a large portion of the country, including the capital city of Baghdad, where Iraq's sitting government is opposed to ISIS. Such flooding would also kill most, if not all, of the Kurds.

Well, in the fairly brief period of time since my August 7th post, the good guys have recaptured the dam, mostly because Obama authorized the use of American air power.

As most people with military knowledge will tell you, it requires boots on the ground to retake an asset like the Mosul Dam, and it was indeed the local anti-ISIS Iraqis who did the retaking -- but they could never have done it without the assist that was given by "a mix of fighter, bomber, attack and remotely piloted aircraft" from the U.S. military (in the words of U.S. Central Command).

Potentially, the retaking of the Mosul Dam could be as significant in the struggle between civilization and ISIS as the Battle of Midway was in the struggle between the U.S. and Japan; and the manner in which the dam was recaptured demonstrates how effective American military action can be even when it is limited in scope. We supported the locals and the locals came through, bravely and triumphantly.

I wish Obama had crowed more about this achievement. I wish he had declared that his reason for authorizing air strikes was because America owes it to the oppressed, and because America intends to be on the right side in the battle between right and wrong (instead, he claimed that the strikes were justified because ISIS blowing up the dam could potentially flood our embassy 200 miles away).

And no, I haven't gone soft. I do wish that his foreign policy hadn't contributed so much to the circumstances that helped ISIS become prominent. But ultimately he did the right thing, and it is important to take note of when he did it.

Not long ago, Obama said he would not provide air support to forces of Iraq's government unless that government got rid of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki...then, a mere nine days ago, al-Maliki was forced to step down, and one day later he was replaced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi...and rather than backtrack, Obama authorized the air support...and the Mosul Dam was then retaken within three days.

As far as I now, the only person on the Right who has pointed this out is Charles Krauthammer. The rest of us need to do so as well.

We don't trust Obama, for good reason. We often suspect his heart is in the wrong place, also for good reason. We will keep criticizing him when he deserves it and holding his feet to the fire when he deserves it.

But if we are about principle first and America first, then we have an ethical obligation to admit when he does the right thing and support him when he does the right thing, for the support might lead to something good.

Admittedly, I doubt that our support will lead to something good, but it could, and that is all that should matter when the stakes are high.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

et ceteras

Did you ever find it strange...
...that the Left goes into hysterics about the Koch brothers spending their own money on political causes they hold dear, but has no problem whatsoever with George Soros doing the same?

Did you ever find it strange that the Left never has a problem with Soros "inserting money into politics," even when his money goes to efforts whose aim is not to win people over by making a persuasive case, but to demonize opponents so that no one will listen to what they have to say?

Yeah, neither did I.

About that thought...
I have often wanted to type something about the Soros double standard, but what finally prompted me to put fingers to keyboard is the group that precipitated the bogus indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. That organization goes by the name Texans for Public Justice, which sounds lofty yet also vague.

The name is purely strategic, for it offers no explanation of what the group means by "public justice," and thus it allows everyone to make assumptions about the group based on his or her own philosophical prejudices assumptions. Plus, who would criticize an organization whose name says it stands "for public justice"? The human impulse to not go against feel-good verbiage makes it easy for Texans for Public Justice to do almost anything it wants.

But back to my main point: Much of the organization's funding comes from Soros, who is a known and sworn enemy of conservatives; and the indictment it genertaed against Perry is so groundless, so purely political, and so obviously purely political that even quite a few Democrats are troubled by it. However, no one in the heavily leftist "mainstream media" has been troubled enough to criticize either the indictment or the Hungarian native whose fingerprints are all over it.

For a good analysis of the indictment, check out this piece by former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, and/or this one by retired attorney Mark Pulliam.

Speaking of Perry
Although the United States has been in an economic slump for most of the past decade, the state of Texas has been experiencing a boom and Perry has been its governor the entire time. I recently heard a statement on the radio (whose accuracy I have not confirmed) that if you were to take Texas out of the equation, all of America's net job gains over the past few years would disappear and the country would have experienced a net loss of jobs.

Assuming that statement is accurate, could it be the reason Perry was indicted? Does the Left not want to have to explain how an unabashedly conservative governor has been at the helm of a state that has experienced grand times while most of America is stuck in the economic doldrums? Do you think the Left would rather refer to Perry as "indicted" than refer to him as "the man whose agenda of deregulation, tort reform, and spending discipline has brought sustained good times to America's second largest state"?

I'm just asking. (No, I take that back. I admit that I'm suggesting.)

I find it sadly amusing that liberals who claim to believe in freedom of expression almost always idolize tyrants who are against freedom of expression. Many of those tyrants are also murderers.

Witness the Che Guevara love, which has not gotten stale among leftist hippie types even though more than 40 years have passed since it began.

Che sought to ban rock music from Cuba, yet Carlos Santana wore a Che T-shirt to the Oscars. Che had homosexuals and "effeminate men" rounded up, imprisoned, and tortured -- yet liberals, who often rhapsodize about their devotion to gay rights, continue to swoon over Che's 1960 photograph without bothering to criticize his diabolical brand of homophobia.

It is a wicked paradox in the liberal soul, but there is also a wicked paradox in the conservative soul, and it reveals itself whenever the topic of law enforcement comes up.

As conservatives, we instinctively distrust government; are aware that power corrupts; and shudder at the thought of the state having the power to abuse its citizens.

We deplore the thought of the state exploiting the matador's cape called "law" to distract some citizens from noticing that it is causing unjust harm to other citizens who have done no wrong. We deplore the idea of a government capriciously wielding its power and resources agaimst individuals who lack the resources and connections to defend themselves.

That sums up our core belief, and because of that belief we should never stray from our commitment to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." That means we should tend to cast a skeptical eye at whatever the state says, and we must hold it to its burden of proof. Without ambiguity, we should always demand that the state prove the accused is guilty -- actually prove it, not create the impression of proving it -- before we decree the accused guilty and ship him off to prison where his years will rot away and his future job prospects will evaporate like raindrops in the Sahara.

Ironically, however, most of us have a tendency to automatically believe the cops and automatically assume that prosecutors are acting in the public interest.

We forget that cops are fallible. We forget that no matter how honorable most police officers are, all of them are government enforcers armed with guns and empowered to constrain us against our will and put us in jail without our consent.

We fail to entertain the logical idea that prosecutors might allow their personal assumptions to discount certain evidence. We fail to entertain the idea that they might do that while falsely elevating the significance of other evidence.

And most disturbing of all, we forget these two things: Prosecutors work for the same employer as the judges, and most judges are former prosecutors.

The danger of this conservative paradox is obvious and every bit as serious as the liberal one.

The current upheaval over Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, MO provides an example of the paradoxes in action.

I should acknowledge that based on what I have read, I believe the available evidence is more supportive of Officer Wilson's account than it is of his critics. But putting my opinion aside, the way the past week has unfolded speaks volumes.

When news of the shooting broke, the line of demarcation materialized immediately. Before any facts were known, liberals reflexively sympathized with the idea that Brown was an innocent kid murdered by bigoted cops. Before any facts were known, conservatives reflexively believed that Brown was the aggressor and Wilson acted in self-defense.

As facts have begun to come into focus, most liberals have been quick to discount any that draw their original belief into question, while some conservatives (mostly among those who speak for a living rather than write for a living) have quickly adopted a "told you so" attitude about those facts.

In other words, all the way up to this very moment, large numbers of people from both sides of the political divide are continuing to place their original beliefs front and center instead of soberly addressing the facts themselves. That can't be good, can it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thoughts on Mortality

A graveyard rests in a remote corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, far from the clusterfuckery of Gatlinburg and the bumper-to-bumper sightseers of Cades Cove. It is the kind that makes you ruminate about the transience of life on Earth, about whether we are wholly insignificant when all is said and done.

Though a sign identifies this small plot as Paynetown Cemetery, there is not even a building here, much less a town. The graveyard is engulfed by the forest and the nearest town is 22 miles away, with a population of only 620.

Most people who come here do so on foot, diverting from the Appalachian Trail and walking a half-mile down a gravel road under a canopy of poplar and oak. That half-mile doesn't even bring you directly here -- instead, it takes you to a footpath that travels straight up a slope and around a bend to the wooded knoll where the graveyard sits. The first time I walked the half-mile, in 2009, I encountered zero people and five bears (a young loner near the beginning followed by a mother with three cubs later on).

Looking at the tombstones, it doesn't take long to figure out that Paynetown Cemetery was an early twentieth century place of interment, for the majority show dates of death that fall between the administrations of William McKinley and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Every adult currently living on this planet was born during the same century that McKinley and Roosevelt occupied the Oval Office, yet Paynetown Cemetery is hidden from the world and known to very few. For me, this intensifies the sensation that we might be wholly insignificant.

Some of those entombed here beneath the soil were children when they perished. Does a single person living today know anything about them? Did they die of pneumonia that went undiagnosed because they lived deep in the country where medical care could not be easily had? Did they die of tetanus because antibiotics were not yet invented?

Most of the people buried here were adults, but the question remains the same: Does anyone today know anything about them? Was this man a carpenter or a writer? Was this one a faithful husband or was he an adulterous lech? Did this woman cook the best venison in the Southern Appalachians, or was she incapable of bringing stew to a boil?

All of these people were God's children. When they walked the earth they were undoubtedly of the greatest importance to someone. But flip a few pages forward in the book of Time, and their existence is all but forgotten. All that remains are context-free names carved into granite; or even into wood, in a few cases. And of course, granite and wood are destined to erode with the passage of time and eventually that erosion will make the carved names disappear.

Then what? Will there be any record, much less any passed-down recollection, of these people's existence on Earth?

*     *     *     *     *

When I think of Paynetown Cemetery, I think of Vu Bach. A child of Vietnamese immigrants, he aced every class he took back when we were students at St. Petersburg High School. Was he valedictorian or salutatorian of our Class of '89, or did he come in third and get neither title? I don't remember and it doesn't matter. Vu was destined for great things, sure to be a success, and everybody knew it and nobody was jealous.

He cemented one Asian stereotype with his academic prowess and defied another with his dry sense of humor. After high school he went on to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

In 1993, my first year out of college, I found myself working with the father of another of my high school classmates, a Filipino immigrant. His daughter was good friends with Vu. I changed jobs by the middle of 1994, but at some point before the change came, he came to me with a worried look and said that Vu had called his daughter and told her he had cancer.

As I recall, the cancer was of the vocal cords, but at the end of the day it does not matter which body part the cancer attacked. All that matters is that the cancer won. A person whose future seemed undeniably bright was barely out of life's starting gate when that brightness got extinguished. A person who never harmed a soul was taken from the world decades before his time, and the memory of him now seems to have vanished into thin air.

*     *     *     *     *

When I think of Paynetown Cemetery, I think of Uncle Emory. He was actually my great uncle, not my uncle, but I have never heard him referred to as anything other than "Uncle Emory."

He was married to my grandfather's sister and lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he earned his living as the proprietor of a gas station. It was either an Exxon or Mobil, I don't remember exactly which, but of course it wouldn't matter today since the companies have merged and become ExxonMobil.

My grandfather was a Baptist preacher and family lore says that when Uncle Emory visited us Florida kin, he kept his gin stashed in his car because he didn't want to create waves with his pious in-law. He would always excuse himself to go out to the car and drink his "Carolina water" because he just couldn't stand the way water in Florida tasted. My grandfather (according to himself) always knew what was up and thought the lie was hilarious.

My living memory of Uncle Emory is succinct and has nothing to do with gin. What I remember is grapes. Muscadine grape vines grew along the chain link fence that surrounded his backyard, and I vividly recall walking with him along that fence and him picking one of the grapes and offering it to me. I remember thinking how cool it was that grapes grew on his fence.

Uncle Emory died of a heart attack while mowing his lawn in the late 1970's, and that grapes-on-the-fence memory is the only firsthand recollection I have of him. His daughter was murdered on New Year's Eve as 1994 turned into 1995. His son still lives, but none of his grandchildren ever met him. I am two generations removed from Uncle Emory and do not know where he is buried. When I die, will anyone remember that he was ever here?

*     *     *     *     *

When I think of Paynetown Cemetery, I think of Aysen Farfar, who was born in Turkey and reared in Michigan and lived much of her adult life in Florida. She was, like her obituary said, "remarkably bright, beautiful, compassionate, and generous to everyone fortunate enough to have been part of her life."

It would be disingenuous -- disrespectfully disingenuous -- for me to call her a friend when I knew her for only one year and only as a co-worker.

I did not realize until after she passed that she had been caring for her mother, a psychiatrist who is stricken with early onset Alzheimer's. But from our daily interactions, I do know that Aysen was thoughtful and selfless and inquisitive.

21 days ago I saw her at work like I always saw her. 20 days ago, relatively early in the workday, my department was called into a room and told that she had passed away overnight. The cause of death turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, one of those silent killers of a condition whose stealth is enough to scare you shitless if you spend more than a few seconds thinking about it.

When the news of Aysen's passing was delivered, it was surreal and people were devastated. We left work early -- before-lunch early -- to eat and drink at a tiki bar on the shore of Tampa Bay while talking about how unpredictable and sometimes crappy life can be.

Today, less than three weeks later, we go about our business like we always have. The wheel in the sky turns like it always has, and the world moves on like it always has.

*     *     *     *     *

When it comes to this topic, I am as guilty as everyone and perhaps guiltier.

I do not mean to imply that I think of the deceased more than thou, for I know I do not. It just so happens that I am in a pensive mood at the moment; and am leaving for the mountains in a few hours, which will bring me into the vicinity of Paynetown Cemetery, so here I am typing away.

One question I have is this: If you buy the "we are insignificant" storyline, does the thought of our insignificance make you feel better or worse about the universe and our place in it? Does it comfort you to think that we are actors in a drama that is far larger than our individual selves, or does that same thought trouble you?

Sometimes the thought comforts me and sometimes it troubles me. All I now for sure is that when you think of mortality, you can't help but be humbled all he way into the fetal position. And sometimes you find that position to be strangely and inexplicably reassuring.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gaza follow-up

Twelve years ago the memory of 9/11 was fresh in America's mind; the TSA was in its infancy; and airport security was widely considered to be one of the top priorities, if not the top priority, facing our nation.

Yet even in that environment, the mush-minded politically correct among us had started whining about raising objections to the common sense practice of paying extra attention to the most likely suspects when trying to root out terrorists.

That was when the distinguished economics professor and political commentator Walter Williams penned an excellent editorial in support of the practice. As you know, the language keepers of The Thought Police long ago tarred the practice by giving it the name "profiling." To this day they deploy that word like a torpedo, using it to suggest that anyone who engages in the practice (or merely supports it) must be a bigot. Yet Williams has never been willing to sacrifice truth and intellect for the sake of comfort, so in the body of his editorial he made the following observations:

At the 1972 Olympics, who kidnapped and murdered Jewish athletes?

In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Iran was taken over by whom?

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by whom?

In 1985, the Achille Lauro cruise ship was hijacked and a 70-year-old, wheelchair-bound American was murdered by whom?

In 1985, TWA Flight 847 was hijacked in Athens and a U.S. navy diver was murdered by whom?

In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by whom?

In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed by whom?

In 1998, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by whom?

On September 11, four airliners were hijacked and used to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; who were the murderers?

U.S. military action in Afghanistan is against whom?

Earlier this year, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by whom?

The answers write themselves. If you have a pulse and pay even the slightest attention to the world, you know the above acts were all committed by Muslims...and you would be hard-pressed to find a recent example of such acts being committed by adherents to any other religion...and you know that if any such act were to be committed by a Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, etc., it would be condemned by almost everyone else who practices that particular faith.

In the twelve years that have passed since Williams's column, we can add to his list by asking the following:

In 2003, at a Marriott Hotel in Indonesia, 12 people were killed and 150 injured by whom?

In 2004, in Madrid, 191 train passengers were killed and another 1,800 were wounded by whom?

In 2005, in London, 53 commuters were killed and almost 700 more were injured when bombs were detonated by whom?

In 2007, in New Jersey, arrests prevented a planned attack against Fort Dix. Who was it that planned and intended to carry out the attack?

In 2008, in Mumbai, 166 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks by whom?

In 2009, at a Medina Hotel in Somalia, 35 people were murdered by whom?

In 2009, at Fort Hood, Texas, 13 people were murdered and more than 30 others were wounded by whom?

In 2012, across 15 cities in Iraq, simultaneous bombings killed 83 people and wounded more than 250 others. Who were the perpetrators?

In 2013, the Boston Marathon bombings were carried out by whom?

In 2013, at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, 67 people were killed and more than 175 wounded by whom?

This summer, the ancient city of Mosul was captured and executions of its Christian citizens commenced. Those executions are ongoing. The captors and executioners are whom?

This summer, thousands of missiles have been fired at Tel Aviv and other places in Israel by whom?

At this very moment, tens of thousands of Yazidi Christians are trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq, which is surrounded by armed militants who want to exterminate the Yazidis from the face of the Earth. What religion do the militants practice?

(And fyi, the militants who want all of the Yazidis to be killed also want all of the Kurds to be killed. Although they and the Kurds practice the same religion, they think the Kurds are blasphemously wishy washy because the Kurds don't believe in using violence to force others to convert.)

Again the answers write themselves. In every instance, the perpetrators have been Muslims who claim to be killing in the name of their faith.

Again the question begs: Where in the modern world can one find similar -- even remotely similar -- acts being carried out in the name of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Greek gods, Norse gods, the Great Spirit, the Hawaiian goddess Pele, etc.? The answer to that question is a resounding "Nowhere!"

Since the current war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas targeting Jews simply for being Jews, it is worth drawing an even sharper contrast between the adherents of those two faiths. It is one thing to point out that there are no Jewish terrorists, but why should we stop there when we can also mention that the following people are all Jewish?

Albert Einstein.

Theodore Maiman, who developed the first working laser in 1960 -- 43 years after Einstein had laid the theoretical foundation for lasers.

Paul Zoll, a cardiologist who was the primary inventor of both the pacemaker and the defibrillator.

Waldemar Haffkine, who developed the vaccines for bubonic plague and cholera.

Jonas Salk, who developed the world's first successful polio vaccine -- after fellow Jew Karl Landsteiner (along with Edwin Popper) discovered the virus strain that causes the disease.

Albert Sabin, who developed the oral polio vaccine.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google.

Baruch Blumberg, who identified the Hepatits B virus, developed its diagnostic test, and developed its vaccine.

Josephus, the ancient historian (37 A.D. to 100 A.D.) who is arguably the most important historian of all time.

Milton Friedman, who is arguably the most revered and accurate economist who has ever lived.

Eric Mendolsohn, the architect who was a pioneer of the Art Deco style in the early twentieth century and is especially known for his designs of cinemas and department stores.

Benjamin Disraeli, two-time prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Louis Brandeis, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939 and remains one of its most quoted and influential justices.

Alan Greenspan, arguably the best Federal Reserve Chairman in American history.

Gertrude Stein, the expat author who served as a kind of matriarch to American writers Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and Ezra Pound. Notably, she wrote one of the world's first stories about being homosexual ("Q.E.D.") all the way back in 1903, and her subsequent story "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" (written between 1909 and 1911) is believed to be the first work in which the word "gay" was used in reference to homosexual people and relationships.

Charles Kelman, who developed several improved methods of removing cataracts. His innovations transformed cataract surgery from something that required a 10-day hospital stay to something that could be performed on an outpatient basis.

Judah Folkman, whose research founded the field of angiogenesis and greatly increased mankind's knowledge of the ways tumors survive and the ways they can be successfully treated.

Judy Blume, the author known to every schoolgirl over the last few generations -- and also known to most males because we heard her being talked about by our female classmates and later by our wives and daughters.

Commentator Dennis Prager.

If you are into music: Beck; Irving Berlin; Sandra Bernhard; Nell Carter; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Neil Diamond; Bob Dylan; Cass Elliot; Perry Farrell (founder of Jane's Addiction and Lollapalooza); David Geffen; George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin; jazz great Stan Getz; Benny Goodman; Norman "Spirit in the Sky" Greenbaum; bluegrass legend Dave Grisman; Billy Joel; Al Jolson; Clash guitarist Mick Jones; Adam Lambert; Barry Manilow; Bette Midler; Randy Newman; violinist extraordinaire Yitzhak Perlman; Pink; Helen Reddy; Lou Reed; Buddy Rich; David Lee Roth; big band clarinet master Artie Shaw; Dinah Shore; Gene Simmons; Paul Simon; Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley; Barbra Streisand; and Mel Torme.

If you are into movies and television: Jason Alexander; Alan Arkin; Tom Arnold; Ed Asner; Hank Azaria; Lisa Bonet; Mel Brooks; James Caan; Dyan Cannon; Sacha Baren Cohen; Joan Collins; Katie Couric; Billy Crystal; Tony Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis; Larry David; Daniel Day-Lewis; Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas; Richard Dreyfuss; Zac Efron; Peter Falk; Corey Feldman; Kathie Lee Gifford; Samuel Goldwyn (the "G" in MGM); Harrison Ford; Eva Gabor and Zsa Zsa Gabor; Corey Haim; Goldie Hawn; Barbara Hershey; Kate Hudson; Scarlet Johansson; DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; Danny Kaye; Harvey Korman; Shia LaBeouf; Michael Landon; playwright/screenwriter David Mamet; Groucho Marx; Walter Matthau; commentator/film critic Michael Medved; Paul Newman; Leonard Nimoy; puppeteer Frank Oz (think Yoda, Miss Piggy, and many others); Bruce Paltrow and Gwyneth Paltrow; Sarah Jessica Parker; all of the Phoenixes (Joaquin, River, etc.); Natalie Portman; Laura Prepon; Gilda Radner; Harold Ramis; Tony Randall; Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner; Don Rickles; Paul Rudd; Winona Ryder; Steven Seagal; Jerry Seinfeld; Peter Sellers; Rod Serling; Jane Seymour; William Shatner; Ally Sheedy; Ron Silver; Aaron Spelling; Steven Spielberg; Sylvester Stallone; Ben Stein; Ben Stiller; Ashley Tisdale; Gene Wilder; Henry Winkler; Noah Wylie; and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

That list is just the tip of the iceberg and it comes from a people who account for only one-fifth of one percent of the world's population.

Muslims account for more than 28 percent, and if we are being honest, the only significant contributions they have made to the world in recent centuries are the exportation of mass murder; imposition of religious tyranny; enslavement of women; execution of gays and adulterers, and eradication of free speech.

Yet liberals direct their ire at the tiny, free and democratic Jewish state while refraining from saying anything critical about Islamic states or Islamic culture. In fact, the only time you hear them say anything at all about Islam is when they scold those who dare point out the horrendous things that are repeatedly done in its name.

And just like they never speak out publicly against the immense dark side of Islam, liberals never publicly acknowledge the overwhelming amount of good that Jews do for the world at large.

Sadly, apolitical Americans dread the thought of being called "intolerant" more than they dread the thought of being called "accomplice to murder." When you combine that with the fact that liberals control most of the media and entertainment world and are apt to slander anyone whose opinions differ from their own, the end result is that apolitical Americans take their cues from the Left and parrot the Left's slogans and shibboleths.

Therefore, when Israel defends itself against Islamic terrorists, it receives only scant public support, which has the effect of emboldening and strengthening the terrorists. This leaves freedom imperiled not just in Israel but in every part of the world, since the terrorists have said time and again that their ultimate target is everyone who is not them.

Of course, generalizations can be grotesquely unfair to some individuals. Kareem Abdul Jabbar is calm and cerebral and would never countenance genocide. Muhammad Ali's pacifism is authentic. I have known a few Muslims over the years and none of them are violent or religiously bigoted.

On the flip side, my above list of contributing and high-achieving Jews does not change the fact that mobsters Bugsy Siegl and Meyer Lansky and financial fraudster Bernie Madoff were all Jewish.

But the fact that generalizations can be unfair to some individuals does not mean they are wrong, especially when lives are at stake. The word itself is an acknowledgement that exceptions exist; and if society was to deny itself the right to make accurate generalizations, it would render itself unable to stand up for what is right.

In the 1860's not every Southerner believed in slavery, nor did every Southerner believe in black inferiority. In the 1930's and 1940's, not every German was in favor of fascism, nor did every Japanese citizen believe that Japan's culture was inherently superior to all others. The free world knew those facts, and did not allow them to overrule its common sense or distract it from the big picture. People realized that you can't roll over and let your enemy have its way with you simply because "not every" member of an enemy nation agrees with his or her rulers.

If the free world of my grandparents' generation had allowed itself to be hamstrung by a fear of generalizing and a refusal to admit the obvious, then it would have been swallowed by the despotic one and we in the United States would today be speaking German or Japanese.

My July 26th post was specifically about the Israel-Hamas confrontation and I closed it by writing: "How is it that any fair-minded person could consider Israel to be the bad guy? For anyone who supports the ideals of tolerance, peace, justice, and freedom -- in fact, for anyone who supports only one of those ideals -- this conflict provides what might be the most obvious choice history has ever offered."

But that closing does not apply just to the Israel-Hamas confrontation. It applies to every confrontation on Earth that features a Muslim group (or groups) among its participants.

In reality, Israel-Hamas is just one battle in a broader war that Islamic terrorists from many "organizations" are waging against Israel. And that war is also just one battle in a global war that Islamic terrorists are waging against all Jews everywhere. And even that war is still just one battle in an even grander conquest; specifically, the conquest Islamic terrorists are waging against the entire non-Muslim world.

Civilization is rapidly approaching a crossroads over religious coexistence. In every faith besides Islam, the majority of adherents yearn to coexist with people of other faiths; but within Islam there is a rampant desire to intimidate, oppress, and  even slaughter people of other religions. And what is just as troubling is that you rarely hear peaceful Muslims speak out against their murderous brethren.

So in my opinion, whenever there is a conflict that features a Muslim group going up against a non-Muslim group, we have a duty to side with the non-Muslim.

The duty is so obvious, yet so rarely practiced or even mentioned, that this Gentile is starting to believe old-fashioned anti-Semitism might be what really fuels the Left's reluctance to voice sympathy and support for Israel and its people.

Note: This post did not mention the genocide in Sudan, for the simple reason that it began long before 9/11 and therefore did not fit neatly into my "since Walter Williams's editorial" list. But because it is genocide in the truest sense and rarely gets any real attention in the West, I feel compelled to mention it.

In a nutshell, the northern two-thirds of Sudan is populated mostly by Arab Muslims while the southern third is populated mostly by black Christians. Hostilities by the former against the latter date back more than a century. They started to escalate in the 1950's and became an outright  attempt at religious/ethnic cleansing in 1984. It is estimated that in the three decades from that year until now, 1.5 million black Sudanese Christians have been murdered by the Arab Muslim majority.