Quotulatiousness

June 21, 2017

“Donald Trump and Al Gore [are,] politically speaking, […] brothers from different mothers”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Here’s Shikha Dalmia with an opinion to offend both left and right equally:

Donald Trump and Al Gore would no doubt cringe at the thought that politically speaking, they are brothers from different mothers. After all, what do the Republican president and the Democratic presidential wannabe have in common besides the fact that they are both old, white, pompous dudes who live in mansions and hate Hillary Clinton?

Whether they realize it or not, they both believe in the precautionary principle — the notion that even a small chance of a catastrophic event requires sweeping measures to avert it. Nor do they care about the costs of these “sweeping measures” — both in terms of money and individual liberty.

Their only disagreement is about the events in question: Trump invokes this principle in his crusade against Islamist terrorism — and Gore and his fellow global warming warriors against climate change.

Dick Cheney famously declared that if there was even a “1 percent chance” of another 9/11-style attack by al Qaeda, “we have to treat it as a certainty in our response.” For all of Trump’s criticisms of the Iraq War, he has a natural instinct for this kind of excess. No sooner did the dastardly Manchester attack occur than Trump reiterated, as he had in his inaugural address, that this “wicked ideology must be obliterated.”

[…]

Given that the odds that Americans will perish in any terrorist attack — not just those involving Islamists — on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 million per year — if the trends of the last four decades are any indication, such draconian steps to avert another 9/11-style event won’t make Americans substantially safer. But they will make them substantially less free.

Liberals understand this when it comes to dealing with global terrorism. Al Gore himself gave a great speech in 2006 lamenting all the constitutional protections that the war on terrorism was claiming and expressed alarm that the executive branch had been conducing warrantless surveillance of telephone calls, emails and other internet communication inside America.

But when it comes to global warming, Gore’s ideological blind spots are more dazzling than the sun. He condemned Trump’s pullout from the Paris agreement as “indefensible” and “reckless.” Likewise, the ACLU, which has been heroically fighting Trump’s travel ban and other constitution-busting moves, bizarrely tweeted that the withdrawal would be a “massive step back for racial justice.”

But the fact of the matter is that a pre-emptive strike against climate change will be no less damaging for justice, racial or otherwise.

June 18, 2017

QotD: Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because I’m both both a libertarian and famous for conducting a successful propaganda campaign, libertarian activists sometimes come to me for tactical advice. During a recent email exchange, one of these criticized me for wishing (as he thought) to “punish” the Islamist enemies of the U.S. and Western civilization.

I explained that I have no desire to punish the perpetrators of 9/11; what I want is vengeance and death. Vengeance for us, death for them. Whether they experience ‘punishment’ during the process is of little or no interest to me.

My correspondent was reflecting a common confusion about the distinctions among coercion, revenge, and punishment. Coercion is intended to make another do your will instead of their own; vengeance is intended to discharge your own anger and fear. Punishment is neither of these things.

Punishment is a form of respect you pay to someone who is at least potentially a member of the web of trust that defines your ethical community. We punish ordinary criminals to deter them from repeating criminal behavior, because we believe they know what ethical behavior is and that by deterring them from crime we help them re-integrate with an ethical community they have never in any fundamental sense departed.

By contrast, we do not punish the criminally insane. We confine them and sometimes kill them for our own safety, but we do not make them suffer in an effort to deter them from insanity. Just to state the aim is to make obvious how absurd it is. Hannibal Lecter, and his all-too-real prototypes, lack the capacity to respond to punishment by re-integrating with an ethical community.

In fact, criminal psychopaths are not even potentially members of an ethical community to begin with. There is something broken or missing in them that makes participation in the web of trust impossible; perhaps the capacity to emotionally identify with other human beings, perhaps conscience, perhaps something larger and harder to name. They have other behavioral deficits, including poor impulse control, associated with subtle neurological damage. By existing, they demonstrate something most of us would rather not know; which is that there are creatures who — though they speak, and reason, and feign humanity — have nothing but evil in them.

Eric S. Raymond, “Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-07-05.

June 13, 2017

How to defeat Islamist terrorism

Filed under: Books, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith suggests a different approach to fighting Islamist terror:

Somebody once wisely observed that you can’t fight an idea with guns and bombs, but only with a better idea. One reason we are still having problems with communism — in North Korea, China, Venezuela, and our college campuses — is that we have been trying to fight it, since 1917, with guns and bombs. There are many better ideas than communism, but its strongest advocates, the American mass media, won’t permit them to be discussed.

Much the same is true of Islam, only more so. It is a belief-system almost entirely rooted in fear and ignorance, and has many vulnerabilities. A full, open, and public discussion of it would destroy it utterly, but its advocates are afraid to permit that, turning instead to Molotov cocktails, submachine guns, and large knives. Failing that full, open, and public discussion, a book should be produced that could change the course of history.

When I was a young man, classified ads in Reason magazine and elsewhere offered a publication called 100 Biblical Contradictions. The book I have in mind for Islam would be similar to that, short, plain paragraphs mostly asking dangerous questions. It would be small enough to fit into a jacket or jeans pocket, and durable, like a Langenscheidt’s foreign language dictionary. It could be air-dropped by the hundreds of thousands where it would do the most good — Syria, Iran, Michigan — and audio recordings could be made available to the many — especially Muslim women — who can’t read.

I would borrow a leaf from Heinlein and call it by the Arabic word for Doubt. It would be more powerful than the Father of the “Mother Of All Bombs”.

The trouble with it, and the reason such a book will likely never be produced, is that it would be fully as destructive to other mystical and irrational belief systems, to Christianity and Judaism, among others — all of which are based on faith (which Mark Twain or someone once said means “believing in something you know damn well ain’t so”) as it would be to Islam. Joseph Farah and Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham would all freak out. Of course, there are individuals I’ve known — Christians, Jews, Muslims, and quite a few Buddhists — whose belief is gentle and strong enough to withstand what should be in Doubt, but not a majority.

It would appear that most human beings believe, without examination, whatever their parents and leaders and Hollywood balloon-heads want them to believe. So much for advancing the human condition.

June 8, 2017

Celebrating the Londoners who fought back against Islamist terror

Filed under: Britain, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the ordinary people who didn’t just run from the terrorists:

I’ve never felt prouder of London, my hometown, than I did on Saturday. When three wicked Islamists rammed a van into pedestrians and then used knives to cut down people whose only crime was to be free and happy and in the throes of nightlife, they caused chaos, yes, but they also brought out people’s heroism. People fought back, confronted the killers, hit them with skateboards, pelted them with bottles, yelled abuse at them. This was the spirit of London in action, defying theocratic violence with the hurl of a beer bottle.

There were many heroes. There was Roy Larner from Peckham who said possibly the best thing that’s ever been said to terrorists. They burst into the pub he was drinking in, shouting: ‘This is for Allah!’ ‘Fuck you, I’m Millwall!’, he fired back. He has since told the press he wanted to ‘take the piss out of these bastards’, which is about as London a response to terrorism as you will ever get. But he did more than rip the piss and give us all the brilliant image of Millwall fans having an apocalyptic showdown with soldiers of Allah: he also punched the killers to try to stop them from stabbing people, leading to his being stabbed eight times. What incredible bravery.

Others turned the paraphernalia of a Saturday night out into weapons against terror. Eye-witness Gerard told the BBC that people threw beer bottles, glasses, chairs and stools — ‘anything they could get’ — at the terrorists. Or the ‘three Muslim geezers’, as he called them, with a brilliant lack of PC that rather rattled the Beeb. There was also Romanian baker Florin Morariu, who ran out of the bakery he works in, Bread Ahead, and into the mayhem to smash one of the terrorists over the head with a crate. He threw a crate at a second terrorist. It wasn’t until the police threw a grenade that Morariu ran back into his bakery. And he took around 20 people inside with him and put down the shutters to protect them from harm. ‘I didn’t want to be a hero’, he told ProFM Radio, but that’s what he was.

A 28-year-old pub bouncer called Ozzy, who said the events outside his pub were like a ‘war zone’, describes how he and his colleagues ‘launched bar stools, bottles and glasses at them to try and disrupt them’. A cab driver called Chris swerved his car around to try to run over one of the terrorists who was stabbing a young woman. A Spanish man, Ignacio Echeverría, was returning from skateboarding in a park with friends when he saw one of the terrorists stabbing a woman. He rushed over and used his skateboard to hit the terrorist away. Tragically, Echeverría is now missing and feared dead. He ran towards danger armed with nothing but a skateboard — that takes real guts.

As I posted on someone’s Facebook status, Mark Steyn noted in a Daily Telegraph article in 2002 that the Millwall team anthem is sung to the tune of “Que Sera Sera”:

Mi-illwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Mi-illwall, Millwall.

(Repeat until knife fight)

June 6, 2017

Should the UK general election have been postponed?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh discusses the (relatively few) calls to postpone the British general election in the wake of the recent terror attacks on British cities:

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: so said Marx. He was making a joke about the second Emperor Napoleon, and it is still the first thing everybody remembers about the man; it is thus one of the greatest bon mots in the history of journalism. And it is, incidentally, the only law of history devised by Marx that actually works.

We have seen it applied in England by Muslim fanatics this past fortnight. The May 22 attack on Manchester Arena by a radicalized local seems to have involved high technical sophistication, and possibly assistance from an international network of terrorism suppliers. The target was chosen so as to victimize children and to involve a celebrity. (Ariana Grande had been on nobody’s list of people likely to provide a shining global example of civil courage, but here we are!) The killer’s plan was followed through with heartbreaking competence.

Then came the Saturday night attack on London Bridge. I have to be careful in discussing it: seven people are dead and dozens more have suffered life-altering injuries or horror in the rampage. But we are also under an important obligation to keep these things in perspective. Next to the attack on Manchester the London Bridge assault—undertaken with a van, some knives, and fake (!?) suicide vests—looks like a poorly considered, even improvised, terrorist lark. You would say it sounded like something out of a satirical movie parody of Muslim terrorists if Chris Morris hadn’t already made Four Lions.

[…]

Even the “suspension” of political activity by the major parties was more hypothetical than real after the London Bridge incident, with both Prime Minister Theresa May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn using the time to needle one another in public statements. May is a former home secretary, and was thus a longtime head of a public security apparatus that seems to have been deaf to warnings about the murderers behind both terror incidents. Corbyn, meanwhile, spent decades as the sort of leftist-bookshop-haunting radical uncle who never has an unkind word for a terrorist or rogue state.

An election campaign is not a good time to stamp out talk about terrorism. And under these circumstances, the argument between the main parties could not fail to be somewhat sharp and personal. But what are the general principles for interrupting or diminishing election campaigning in the face of terror? We can imagine harder cases than this one. And the problem is not quite the same as the mere logistical issue of when an election must be delayed or prolonged because of terrorism. It is, as I say, an issue of etiquette, one that perhaps defies formula.

June 5, 2017

“Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on Facebook:

One of the major problems we face is not that our society is too mean about Islam, but that it flatters Islam too much. Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me that using the word Islamist is Islamophobic, because it demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. This is why our political leaders so rarely use the terms Islamism, radical Islam and Islamic terrorism: because they want to avoid offending Islam and also because they don’t want to stir up what they view as the public’s bovine, hateful prejudices. This censorious privilege is not extended to any other religion. We do not avoid saying “Catholic paedophiles” about the priests who molested children for fear of tarring all Catholics with the same brush. We happily say “Christian fundamentalist”about people who are Christian and fundamentalist. We use “Buddhist extremists” to describe violent Buddhist groups in Myanmar. Only Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; only terms that at some level include the word “Islam” are tightly policed; only criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness — Islamophobia.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance; you inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas; you provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion. From the 7/7 bombers to the Charlie Hebdo murderers to Salman Abedi in Manchester, all these terrorists — *Islamist terrorists* — expressed an extreme victim mentality and openly said they were punishing us for our disrespect of Islam, mistreatment of Muslims, ridiculing of Muhammad, etc. The Islamophobia industry and politicians who constantly say “Islam is great, leave Islam alone!” green-light this violence; they furnish it with a moral case and moral zeal.

There are no quick fixes to the terror problem, but here is a good start: oppose all censorship and all clampdowns on offence and blasphemy and so-called “Islamophobia”. Every single one of them, whether they’re legal, in the form of hate-speech laws, or informal, in the guise of self-censoring politicians being literally struck dumb on TV because they cannot muster up the word “Is…is…is…islamist”. This will at least start the process of unravelling the Islamist victimhood narrative and its bizarre, violent and officially sanctioned sensitivity to criticism. And if anyone says this is “punching down” — another intellectual weapon in the armoury of Islam-protecting censorship — tell them that it is in fact punching up: up against a political class and legal system that has foolishly and outrageously sought to police criticism of a religion. This means that the supposedly correct response to terror attacks — “don’t criticise Islam” — is absolutely the worst response. Making criticism of Islam as commonplace and acceptable as criticism of any other religion or ideology is the first step to denuding Islamist terrorism of its warped moral programme, and it will also demonstrate that our society prizes freedom of speech over everything else — including your religion, your God, your prophets, your holy book and your feelings.

May 28, 2017

Britain’s general election – “Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sean Gabb is holding his nose and voting Tory this time around, but he’s not happy about it:

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

    Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

    [W]e will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles. We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

May 24, 2017

Will it be more Mourning Sickness, or will it be anger this time?

Filed under: Britain, Law, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the reactions to the Manchester bomb attack on Monday after a pop concert:

After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.

It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity. It is about suppressing strong public feeling. It’s about reducing us to a line of mourners whose only job is to weep for our fellow citizens, not ask why they died, or rage against their dying. The great fear of both officialdom and the media class in the wake of terror attacks is that the volatile masses will turn wild and hateful. This is why every attack is followed by warnings of an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ and heightened policing of speech on Twitter and gatherings in public: because what they fundamentally fear is public passion, our passion. They want us passive, empathetic, upset, not angry, active, questioning. They prefer us as a lonely crowd of dutiful, disconnected mourners rather than a real collective of citizens demanding to know why our fellow citizens died and how we might prevent others from dying. We should stop playing the role they’ve allotted us.

As part of the post-terror narrative, our emotions are closely policed. Some emotions are celebrated, others demonised. Empathy – good. Grief – good. Sharing your sadness online – great. But hatred? Anger? Fury? These are bad. They are inferior forms of feeling, apparently, and must be discouraged. Because if we green-light anger about terrorism, then people will launch pogroms against Muslims, they say, or even attack Sikhs or the local Hindu-owned cornershop, because that’s how stupid and hateful we apparently are. But there is a strong justification for hate right now. Certainly for anger. For rage, in fact. Twenty-two of our fellow citizens were killed at a pop concert. I hate that, I hate the person who did it, I hate those who will apologise for it, and I hate the ideology that underpins such barbarism. I want to destroy that ideology. I don’t feel sad, I feel apoplectic. Others will feel likewise, but if they express this verboten post-terror emotion they risk being branded as architects of hate, contributors to future terrorist acts, racist, and so on. Their fury is shushed. ‘Just weep. That’s your role.’

The fear about the inevitable backlash on the part of us backward, ignorant, intolerant westerners has been a standing joke for more than a decade, as Mark Steyn noted back in 2006:

I believe the old definition of a nanosecond was the gap between a New York traffic light changing to green and the first honk of a driver behind you. Today, the definition of a nanosecond is the gap between a western terrorist incident and the press release of a Muslim lobby group warning of an impending outbreak of Islamophobia. After the London Tube bombings, Angus Jung sent the Aussie pundit Tim Blair a note-perfect parody of the typical newspaper headline:

British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.

Ace of Spades H.Q. reports on the alleged bomber’s identity:

Manchester Suicide Bomber Named: Gary “The Garester” Eddington

Nah just fuckin wit ya, it’s Salman Abedi, and the keening cries warning against #Backlash! have begun.

Question: Why is there never a warning about Backlash before the suspect is named?

Answer: Because if the suspect turns out to be one of the few the media can claim are “right wing” (Nazis, etc.), then the media does not warn against backlash, but actively crusades in favor of it.

If this guy turned out to be anything that could be plausibly mischaracterized as right wing — tweeted in favor of Brexit, etc. — the media would be blaming this right now on Donald Trump and his supporters, and demanding they take accountability for their hatred.

But, it’s not, so the media set down its “Backlash is Good and Necessary” script and picked up its “Backlash is Bad” script.

May 23, 2017

Remembering the Six-Day War

Filed under: History, Middle East, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

With the 50th anniversary coming up in a few weeks, Jerrold L. Sobel provides a retrospective on the Arab-Israeli war of 1967:

For those of us alive during those daunting days in May 1967 leading up to the war, it was a period in time we will never forget, nor should we. Its ramifications were and are germane to this very day.

No discussion of the Six-Day War can be made without the background of its major protagonist, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Whereas today ISIS is attempting to dominate the Islamic world under an Islamic Caliphate, Nasser, then president of Egypt, attempted to do the same but with a secular approach. On July 23, 1952, he and a group of officers staged a coup and ousted the Egyptian King Farouk. Although the real leader, Nasser initially remained in the background but in fact was instrumental in abolishing the monarchy in 1953. The following year he came out of the shadows to assume absolute power and began instituting far-reaching economic reforms which instantly made him the darling of the Arab world. By 1956 his relations with the West had deteriorated to the point that he brazenly nationalized the Suez Canal, prompting an invasion by England, France, and Israel. Under pressure from the U.S., these forces withdrew, and a United Nations Emergency force was subsequently placed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel; the withdrawal of which would play a pivotal role in the conflict 11 years later.

At the pinnacle of his popularity, Nasser joined with Syria forming what became the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), a move which encouraged the Syrians to ramp up incessant attacks against Israel from their vantage point on the Golan Heights, towering 3,000 feet above the Galilee. No Israeli farm or Kibbutz was spared the wrath of Syrian artillery. Much like the residents of Sderot and other Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza today, Jews were forced to sleep and conduct their lives in bomb shelters.

[…]

In the early hours of June 5, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive air strike on the air forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria with devastating effect. Five days later the armies of these nations along with Iraq, which also joined the fray were crushed and forced to sue for a ceasefire. The war may have taken only six days but its ramifications and similarities to today’s Middle East conflict is unquestionable. What were the accomplishments?

  • For the first time since prior to the Ottoman Empire, Jews have unfettered access to their Holy sites and a united Jerusalem their ancient capital.
  • The indefensible 1948 armistice line which bisected Israel from the Jordan River to within 9 miles of the Mediterranean Sea had been abrogated.
  • Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, which was illegally annexed by Jordan following the ’48 armistice.
  • Israel commands the highly defensible Jordan Valley where terrorist attacks had emanated from both Jordan and Syria.
  • Israel was able to trade the Sinai Peninsula for a peace treaty with her main antagonist, Egypt.
  • The Golan Heights, the onetime haven for terrorists and Syrian artillery, was annexed and have remained relatively quiet for the past 50 years.
  • Most importantly, by winning the war decisively, Israel staved off what was intended to be another mass genocide of the Jewish people….

What was not accomplished?

  • An end to terrorism.
  • An end to Anti-Semitic cartoons and rhetoric throughout much of the Islamic world, particularly Iran.
  • An end of vilification of Israel by the Palestinian leadership, media, and educational system.
  • A Palestinian leader willing to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
  • A United Nations only united in castigating the only true democracy in the Middle East.
  • A total negation of slander on campus against Jews masked under the pretense of Anti-Zionism; particularly the BDS movement.

Despite these and other seemingly irreconcilable problems, winning the Six-Day War has allowed the Jewish state to survive and rise from its fledgling third-world status into a technological, economic, and military behemoth; an island of democratic renaissance surrounded by a sea of despair.

May 20, 2017

QotD: Speaking (actual) truth to (actual) power

Filed under: Media, Military, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Nobody should want journalists ever to fear attacking the behavior of the U.S. military when they have actual evidence that it is wrong. Militaries are dangerous and terrible things, and a free press is a vital means of keeping them in check. It is right and proper that we make heroes of those who speak damning truths to power.

But it makes all the difference in the world when a journalist does not have actual evidence of wrongdoing. Especially when the journalist is a U.S. citizen and the claim gives aid and comfort to the declared enemies of the U.S. in wartime. Under those circumstances, such an attack is not heroic but traitorous.

I hope this is a teachable moment. Oliver Wendell Holmes observed that shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not protected speech; if the speaker has no evidence of actual fire, the consequences to that speaker should be as dire as the risk of death by trampling he created for others. The Holmes test should be applied in politics as well.

[…]

After Vietnam and Watergate, a lot of journalists (and other people) lost the distinction between speaking truth to power and simply attacking whoever is in charge (especially any Republican in charge) on any grounds, no matter how factually baseless. Mere oppositionalism was increasingly confused with heroism even as the cultural climate made it ever less risky. Eventually we arrived at the ludicrous spectacle of multimillionaire media personalities posing as persecuted victims and wailing about the supposed crushing of dissent on national news and talk shows.

Eric S. Raymond, “Lies and Consequences”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-02-12.

March 22, 2017

A check-in from the “libertarian writers’ mafia”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the most recent issue of the Libertarian Enterprise, J. Neil Schulman talks about “rational security”:

Two of my favorite authors — Robert A Heinlein and Ayn Rand — favored a limited government that would provide an effective national defense against foreign invaders and foreign spies. Rand died March 6, 1982; Heinlein on May 8, 1988 — both of them well before domestic terrorism by foreign nationals or immigrants was a major political issue.

Both Heinlein and Rand, however, were aware of domestic political violence, industrial sabotage, and foreign espionage by both foreigners and immigrants, going back before their own births — Rand February 2, 1905, Heinlein July 7, 1907.

Both Heinlein and Rand wrote futuristic novels portraying totalitarianism (including expansive government spying on its own citizens) within the United States. Both authors also portrayed in their fiction writing and discussed in their nonfiction writing the chaos caused by capricious government control over individual lives and private property.

In their tradition, I’ve done quite a bit of that, also, in my own fiction and nonfiction.

So has my libertarian friend author Brad Linaweaver, whose writings I try never to miss an opportunity to plug.

Brad, like myself, writes in the tradition of Heinlein and Rand — more so even than I do, since Brad also favors limited government while I am an anarchist. Nonetheless I am capable of making political observations and analysis from a non-anarchist viewpoint.

We come to this day in which Brad and I find ourselves without the comfort and living wisdom of Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand. We are now both in our sixties, old enough to be libertarian literary elders.

Oh, we’re not the only ones. L. Neil Smith still writes libertarian novels and opines on his own The Libertarian Enterprise. There are others of our “libertarian writers’ mafia” still living and writing, but none as politically focused as we are — and often, in our opinion, not as good at keeping their eyes on the ball.

February 22, 2017

TEDxWarwick – Tim Harford – Management Lessons from the War in Iraq

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Uploaded on 17 Mar 2011

Tim Harford is an economist who writes about economics theories behind our daily lives in books and as a Financial Times columnist. All of his books have been sold worldwide and widely translated, namely The Undercover Economist that has sold one million copies. He is the also only person who runs a problem page “Dear Economist” in Financial Times in which readers’ problems are answered with the thought-provoking economic ideas. Tim currently presents the BBC radio series More or Less and contributes regularly to other radio, TV programmes and publications. His talk in TEDxWarwick this year focuses on the similarities between the War in Iraq and the organisation’s top-down management.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Interestingly, the name H.R. McMaster pops up a few times in this talk…

December 24, 2016

Smug Canada has been lucky … so far

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley enumerates a few of the problems other western countries have been having with Islamic terrorism, and points out that Canada just been lucky not to have a greater share:

Here in Canada in 2016, meanwhile, we have endured … almost nothing. Aaron Driver hatched a plot to blow himself up in public somewhere, but police cornered him in his parents’ driveway, the bomb didn’t work and he’s dead now. I had forgotten his name.

Instead, some of us spent 2016 patting ourselves on the backs for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. It was a good thing to do. But heading into 2017, I think we might usefully recall demands to bring in five or 10 times that number, immediately, and perhaps finish their security screening on Canadian soil. European countries are struggling with failed asylum-seekers they can’t deport — to Tunisia, never mind Syria. Only someone from a decadently peaceful country like Canada would ever suggest running that risk voluntarily.

Some in my trade spent 2016 penning encomiums to Canada’s supposed new status as a beacon of sanity: while Europe and America devolve into simian nativism and xenophobia, here we are enlightened, welcoming, serene. Some of these pieces conceded that being protected from uncontrolled immigration by oceans to the east, west and north, and by 1,500 kilometres of a larger, warmer economy to the south, might help keep the peace. Heading into 2017, I think we might usefully ponder just how pampered we are by that geographic reality. Faced with the European situation — unstoppable flows of unknown people, regular acts of terror, frequent reports of young migrant men abusing women — would we really react with this patented Canadian equanimity?

September 13, 2016

The largely successful strategy of Al Qaeda

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren posted this as his September 11 retrospective:

As I suggested above, we are still too close to this event to grasp its full significance; but after fifteen years we in the West are in a much worse position than we were on the 10th of September, 2001. We showed, as the Islamists predicted, that we did not have the stamina to prevail, even against weak adversaries; that America and allies could only fight “Vietnams.” Our will is shaken, and to Salafist delight, we have by now expressed contrition for fourteen centuries of Christian defence against Islamic aggression. We bow respectfully, as our culture is insulted, and as versions of Shariah are imposed. In disregard of our own security, we have thrown our borders open to massive Muslim immigration. We follow, at every junction, the course of sentimentality, and adapt to the certainty of defeat. After each hit we call for grief counsellors.

It is instructive that, in the present circumstances, with Christians reduced to desperation through much of the Near East, we import Muslim refugees almost exclusively. The Christians flee to the protection of the Kurds; not to refugee camps in which they would risk massacre. Western governments take only from those camps; or in Europe, the flotillas launched from Turkey and Libya. The Islamists gloat at this demographic achievement; the Daesh now recruit from the disaffected young in the new Muslim ghettoes of Europe, radicalized in Saudi-built-and-financed mosques. Few directly engage in suicidal acts of terrorism; but those who do are lionized as heroes. Lesser, safer acts, such as rape of European women, and desecration of churches and synagogues, have become commonplace. We are, and we know that we are, as incapable of assimilating these migrants as the Romans were of assimilating the Vandals and Huns through their increasingly porous frontiers.

Crucially, in the mindless fantasy of “multiculturalism,” we refuse to recognize the contradictions between Islamic and Christian teaching, and look the other way, muttering fatuities about “the religion of peace” after each psychopathic explosion. This is just what Osama predicted: the harder the blows, the more docile we would become, and the more complacent in the face of the ancient Islamic demand for submission.

The genius of Osama bin-Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, was to know that the de-Christianizing West would respond in this way. Their propaganda spelt out, from the beginning, the argument for their methods. They called us chestless wonders; they said we would fold under any sustained pressure; that we had lost the confidence of our Christian identity. We are an aging society now, vitiated by abortions, needing immigrants to pay our pensions; a people addicted to drugs, from opiates to iPhones; lapsed in creature comforts, and spineless in the face of adversity.

July 29, 2016

Knowing the enemy

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren on the kind of recruit ISIS depends upon:

In many mosques, financed by the oil-monied Wahabis, the worst features of Islam are emphasized. The Islamists do much recruiting there, and also in prisons: like the Communists before them, they are looking for psychoses to exploit. And of course, the Internet is a great boon, to all of satanic tendency.

A proof, to my mind, that we deal with the unbalanced, is the incompetence of most terror strikes. The operatives kill and maim a handful when, with the weapons they had accumulated, they could have killed far more. They lack the needed organization and skills. But training psychos is like herding cats.

The Daesh in Iraq and Syria pretend to run a military organization, but from everything I’ve seen, it is poorly disciplined. A real army will reject psychologically unstable recruits: they get in the way of teamwork. They won’t properly focus on whom to shoot. Their reckless, suicidal courage is more a danger than an inspiration to their comrades. Even one-on-one in a boxing ring, a psycho is too wild. He will score a knock-out only by chance, get knocked down easily, and always lose on points. No professional sportsman could want to coach a psycho.

No, war is serious business, and it is a huge scandal that the Daesh were not wiped out in short order. The Arab armies opposing them are also poorly disciplined, for cultural reasons our technologist trainers are ill-equipped to plumb. But behind these dubious allies, is the schizophrenic, shadow-boxing West. Our attacks are almost entirely from the air: mallet blows against the ants in their native sand. We have not wanted to get our hands dirty — to suffer casualties in an electoral season — and besides, the Daesh have been convenient to many political interests, not only within the Middle East.

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