Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A thought-provoking blessing . . .

I just ran into this in someone's signature line on the Sonlight forums:
  • May God bless you with discomfort . . .
    at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships . . .
    so that you may live deep from the heart.
  • May God bless you with anger . . .
    at injustice, oppression, & exploitation . . .
    so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
  • May God bless you with tears . . .
    to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war . . .
    so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
  • May God bless you with enough foolishness . . .
    to believe that you can make a difference in the world . . .
    so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
I pray such a blessing for myself!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How to Clean Up Your Family History . . . or Your Resume!

It seems this story, in two minorly variant editions, has been circulating among genealogical researchers on the web for the last 10 years or so. But I never heard it until my brother Dave shared it with me from his blog.

I have chosen the version alternate to Dave's and have edited it for smoother reading:
Let's say that your great-great uncle, Remus Starr, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. A cousin has supplied you with the only known photograph of Remus. It shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture are these words:
Remus Starr: Horse thief. Sent to Montana Territorial Prison, 1885. Escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton Detectives, convicted and hanged, 1889.
Pretty grim situation, right?

Not to worry!

Simply crop the picture, scan in an enlargement and edit it with image processing software so that all one sees is a head shot. Next, rewrite the text:
Remus Starr was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility. Upon finally taking leave, he resumed his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, during an important civic function held in his honor, Uncle Remus passed away when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
You have now given Uncle Remus a distinguished place inside the family tree, rather than hanging from it!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Children "unimportant" in the majority of American marriages

According to a new Pew Research Center study as reported by the Associated Press,"The percentage of Americans who consider children 'very important' to a successful marriage has dropped sharply since 1990, and more now cite the sharing of household chores as pivotal."
The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages - well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," a "happy sexual relationship" and "faithfulness."

In a 1990 World Values Survey, children ranked third in importance among the same items, with 65 percent saying children were very important to a good marriage. Just 41 percent said so in the new Pew survey.

Chore-sharing was cited as very important by 62 percent of respondents, up from 47 percent in 1990.

The survey also found that, by a margin of nearly 3-to-1, Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the "mutual happiness and fulfillment" of adults rather than the "bearing and raising of children." . . .

"The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," . . . wrote [Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project] in a recent report. "Child-rearing values - sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity - seem stale and musty by comparison."
Up to this point, even though I found the information disturbing and a bit too reminiscent and confirmational of what Mark Steyn said, the article "made sense."

But then I got to a concluding comment and political proposal made by Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor at Framingham (Mass.) State College and board member of the Council on Contemporary Families. The article said she proposes that
the shifting views may be linked in part to America's relative lack of family-friendly workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care.

"If we value families ... we need to change the circumstances they live in," she said, citing the challenges faced by young, two-earner couples as they ponder having children.
Oh, yeah! As if the United States had more family-friendly workplace policies 20 or 100 years ago!

Is it not, rather, the result of the ever-increasing self-centered philosophy that permeates today's society, a philosophy of death . . . the philosophy that, as Mark Steyn notes, is causing the West to wither away?

Perhaps most striking about the survey results was how sharply divergent the results were in just this one matter concerning children.
  • "Agreement on politics" was perceived as important to a successful marriage by 1% more people in 2007 as compared to 1990: 12% v. 11%.
  • "Faithfulness" declined in reported importance by 2%--from 95% to 93%.
  • "Shared tastes and interests": up 2% (46% v. 44%).
  • "Happy s*xual relationship" was reported important by an additional 3% of respondents--70% v. 67% in 1990.
  • "Shared religious beliefs"--up 4% (49% v 45%).
  • "Adequate income" important to 7% more today v 17 years ago (53% v 46%).
  • "Good housing" up by 9% (51% v 42%).
  • "Sharing household chores" jumped by a remarkable 15%--from 47% to 62% in importance.
But Americans' attitudes toward "Children" changed most of all: a whopping 24% decline.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Robert Spencer's Proposals vis-a-vis Islam and the West

I promised to go beyond Mark Steyn's comments about what the West--and the United States, especially--can and should do with respect to Islam and so-called "radical Muslims."

Here are Robert Spencer's proposals from The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). I'll begin with the guts of pp. 224-228. Please recognize that all emboldened text is bolded by me to highlight the most concise statements of what I believe are Spencer's practical proposals.
Am I calling for a war between Christianity and Islam? Certainly not. What I am calling for is a general recognition that we are already in a war between two vastly different ideas of how to govern states and order societies, and that in this struggle the West has nothing to apologize for and a great deal to defend. Indeed, the struggle against sharia is nothing less than a struggle for universal human rights, a concept that originated in the West and is denied by Islam. Everyone in the fractured and fractious West--Christians, Jews, other religious believers, atheist humanists--ought to be able to agree that this is a concept worth defending, even if they disagree about the particulars.

What we are fighting today is not . . . a "war on terror." Terror is a tactic, not an opponent. To wage a "war on terror" is like waging a "war on bombs"; it focuses on a tool of the enemy rather than the enemy itself. A refusal to identify the enemy is extremely dangerous: It leaves those who refuse vulnerable to being blindsided--as proven by the White House access granted by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to now-jailed jihadists such as Abdurrahman Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian.

A forthright acknowledgement that we are facing a renewed jihad would go a long way to preventing that sort of diplomatic and intelligence embarrassment. . . . Jihad terrorists have declared war on the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations--all the U.S. and Western European countries need to do is identify the enemy as they have identified themselves. . . .

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush warned the world, "You're either with the terrorists or you're with us." But because of official Washington's persistent refusal to acknowledge exactly who the terrorists are and why they are fighting, that bold line in the sand has been obscured time and again. And few, if any, are even asking the right questions.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was grilled about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, and how long our troops will be in that strife-ridden country. But no one bothered to ask her a more important question: When and how will American foreign policy be adjusted to defeat the goals, not just the tactics, of our jihad opponents? . . .

Other nations take this as axiomatic--including our enemies. Article 3 of the Iranian constitution stipulates that Iran must base its foreign policy on "Islamic criteria, fraternal commitment to all Muslims, and unsparing support to the freedom fighters of the world."

I recommend that the United States do the same
: state its goals and interests regarding the global jihad. This would involve a serious re-evaluation of American posture around the globe. . . .

[I]t is scandalous that so many years after President Bush announced that "you're either with the terrorists or with us," the United States still counts as friends and allies--or at least recipients of its largesse--so many states where jihadist activity is widespread.
  • Tie foreign aid to the treatment of non-Muslims. A State Department that really had America's interests at heart would immediately stop all forms of American aid to Kosovo, Algeria, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Iraq and Afghanistan, and any other state, until each demonstrably ends all support--material, educational, and religious--for jihad warfare, and grants full equality of rights to any non-Muslim citizens.
    [Note from John: You've got to read Spencer to understand what he is talking about, here--the depth of what he is talking about: the implications of dhimmitude, the way it has been and is being practiced around the world today. We hear so little of it! . . . When Spencer talked about the concept of universal human rights as a Christian and Jewish and definitely not a Muslim concept he is referring to such things as (extremely minor example!) Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani, "who has been hailed by many in the West as a reformer, a moderate, and a hope for democracy in Iraq and the Middle East at large," making a list of things that are "essentially najis" (i.e., "unclean"). Among the things that are najis: urine, feces, semen, dead bodies, pigs, kafirs (i.e., non-Muslims).

    "[T]he entire body of a Kafir, including his hair and nails, and all liquid substances of his body, are najis," Sistani declared. And yet he is respected throughout the Western world! Why? "Imagine the international outcry if, say, Jerry Falwell [had] said that non-Christians were on the level of pigs, feces, and dog sweat," Spencer suggests (p. 165).

    Please. As I said, this is an extremely minor example. But it illustrates the disdain with which non-Muslims are viewed and the social and legal treatment they receive in most Muslim societies.]
  • Reconfigure our global alliances on the same basis. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the other exporters of jihad should be put on notice. Continued friendly relations with the United States absolutely depend on an immediate and comprehensive renunciation of the jihad, including a reformation of schools that teach it. [Remember my post about Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the young man educated in a Saudi-sponsored school in the United States. --JAH] It cannot be enough for a state to denounce or renounce terror; each must stop Islamic jihad as a means of undermining the integrity of other states. . . .

  • [Require] Muslim states [if the United States is to recognize them] to renounce sharia's expansionist imperative. To be a friend of the United States, each state must renounce any intention to try to realize the Islamic goals enunciated by Pakistani Islamic leader Syed Abul Ala Maududi, who declared that when Muslims are ruled by non-Muslims, "the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge [the unbelievers] from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life." . . . This is the [declared] goal of the jihadists today; it should be the fundamental defining point of U.S. alliances with Muslim states.

  • Initiate a full-scale Manhattan Project to find new energy sources--so that the needed reconfiguration of our alliances can be more than just words. . . .

    During World War II, the United States invested millions and set the brightest scientific minds in the world on the atomic bomb project. Is a similar effort being made today to end our dependence on Saudi oil? . . .
[D]oes anyone in the State Department have the will to advocate these and other measures? Or is it only regimes like the bloody mullahocracy in Tehran that are allowed to speak openly about their principles and goals, and take all the necessary measures for their own defense? . . . Secretary Rice needs to ask and answer these questions.

The State Department . . . reflexively thinks it can work with the Islamic jihadists--as if dropping care packages into Indonesia will somehow blunt the force of the Maududi dictum that "non-Muslims have absolutely no right to seize the reins of power."

The State Department needs to come to grips with the fact that it is facing a totalitarian, supremacist, and expansionist ideology--and plan accordingly.
After laying out these, what we might call "national" objectives--objectives that I think any and all Americans, individually and collectively, can help institute, Spencer then turns to how we might defeat the jihad "domestically." Before I get to that, however, I want to respond to the repeated question: "But how can I "help institute" national objectives?"
  • I think you do that by speaking up, by forcing the issue onto the national stage. (Notice that this force is non-violent, by the way!). . . .
Perhaps less frequently, but still, occasionally,
  • I believe each and every one of us can write letters to the editors of local and national periodicals . . . to our congressional representatives, . . . to the president, . . . to our friends.
  • We can keep it in front of our friends and neighbors by means other than writing: simply by talking about it.

    As several people have noted: "we," seem happy to call each other's attention to issues of pollution and global warming and s*xual impropriety and federal budgets and presidential candidates and abortion and euthanasia and GLBT issues and on and on. . . . Why not this issue as well?

After laying these things out, Spencer comes very much closer to home and to each one of us individually.

"The first thing we need in order to defeat the jihad at home is an informed citizenry," he writes. And so, he urges,
  • Read the Qur'an.
    [I]n the United States, the idea that knowing something about Islam and the Qur'an might help clarify some issues regarding the War on Terror meets with ridicule, indifference, or charges of 'racism.' . . . [But is] it really astonishing that Americans would read the Qur'an to discover the motivation of men who [cite] the Qur'an repeatedly in their communiqués to explain their actions? . . . [F]or all the dark suspicions of the PC crowd about Bush's Christianity, modern American foreign policy has never proceeded according to Biblical or Christian precepts, either explicitly or implicitly--except perhaps in the military's zeal to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible (a principle that has been contravened more than once). The contrast with Osama bin Laden's Qur'an-filled messages should be immediately obvious--except to those who don't wish to see it, or who wish to obscure it.

    --The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 229-230

  • Report honestly about jihadist activity in the U.S. and the West.
    An informed citizenry . . . demands responsible reporting from the media and honesty from law enforcement officials about jihadist attacks in the United States. . . . Official unwillingness to draw obvious conclusions hinders our ability to make informed decisions about how to conduct the War on Terror. It has to stop.

    --The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 230

    I think being awakened to this problem angered me more than almost everything else I read in Spencer's book. I was shocked and outraged at the examples Spencer presented (pp. 205-206) of exactly the things he is saying an informed citizenry must demand stop--most especially the dishonesty from law enforcement officials about jihadist attacks. Just a couple examples from a longer list:

    • the FBI initially saying that "there's nothing to indicate terrorism" when Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet killed two people at the El Al counter at LAX on July 4, 2002;

    • officials finding "no link to terrorism" when a co-pilot of EgyptAir flight 990 kills 217 people by crashing the plane on October 31, 1999, . . . even though the cockpit voice recorder catches him repeating, 11 times, as the plane plummets to earth: "I rely on Allah, I rely on Allah, I rely on Allah. . . . "

    • Or how about the story of firefighters conducting a routine inspection in a Brooklyn supermarket who
      found two hundred automobile airbags and a room lined with posters of Osama bin Laden and beheadings in Iraq. An element in the airbags can be used to make pipe bombs. The owner of the building, according to the New York Post, "served jail time in the late 1970s and early 1980s for arson, reckless endangerment, weapons possession and conspiracy, according to the records." But officials were definite: The hidden stockpile had nothing to do with terrorism."
      It doesn't?" Spencer asks. "What does it have to do with, then? Macramé?"

    • Similarly,
      when explosions killed fifteen people and injured over a hundred at an oil refinery in Texas City, Texas, on March 23, 2005, the FBI quickly ruled out terrorism as a possible cause. When a group calling itself Qaeda al-Jihad and another Islamic group both claimed responsibility, the FBI was still dismissive. But then it came to light that investigators did not visit the blast site until eight days after the explosions and after they ruled out terrorism as a possibility. A more independent-minded investigator asked, "How do you rule out one possibility when you don't have any idea what the cause is?" Still later came the revelation that initial reports of a single blast were inaccurate; there were as many as five different explosions at the refinery.

      It may still be possible that these blasts were accidental, and that five distinct things went wrong at the refinery to cause five separate explosions at around the same time. And maybe there was no terrorist involvement. But how did the FBI know that before even investigating?
    • And then, the story that completely put me over the edge (from p. 214):
      On November 2, 2004, Theo van Gogh was shot dead by a Muslim on an Amsterdam street. . . . His assailant was a Dutch Moroccan who was wearing traditional Islamic clothing. After shooting van Gogh several times, he stabbed him repeatedly, slit his throat with a butcher knife, and left a note on the body containing verses from the Qur'an and threats to several public figures who had opposed the flood of Muslim immigrants into the Netherlands. Yet Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said, "Nothing is known about the motive" of the killer.
      What!!!??!!! I am incensed.

  • Reclassify Muslim organizations.
    Any Muslim group in America that does not explicitly renounce, in word and in deed, any intention now or in the future to replace the Constitution of the United States with Islamic sharia should be classified as a political rather than a religious organization, and should be subject to all the responsibilities and standards to which political organizations must adhere.

    --The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 230

  • Take pride in Western culture.
    Western civilization has given the world notions of human rights that are universally accepted (except in the Islamic world), technological advancement beyond the wildest dreams of people of previous ages, and a great deal more. Yet our own leaders and teachers tell us we must stand before the world in a posture of shame.

    It's time to say "enough," and teach our children to take pride in their own heritage. To know that they have a culture and a history of which they can and should be grateful; . . . and that their homes and families are worth defending against those who want to take them away and are willing to kill to do so.

    --The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 231

Let me confess, here: Steyn's and Spencer's books have changed me. As one who has written and intends, yet, to write notes about world and American history: these books have altered my perceptions and I realize I have a lot of work to do.
The background to Spencer's practical proposals is so deep, I wish I could quote half of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), but I can't. So I urge you to read it on your own. Spencer provides an introduction to Islam that, as I believe I said elsewhere, goes far beyond the standard "Five Pillars" approach. It has convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Islam is, indeed, a religion from which Christians should desire to rescue its current--and future--victims . . . not merely for the next life, but very much for the sake of this life as well.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mark Steyn's America Alone, VII--So What Can We Do? Part 2

This post is brought to you thanks to input from a friend who was reading Steyn along with me and pulled "suggestions" that he didn't list quite so nicely in a numbered sequence.

Overall, Steyn said, we need to pursue a policy of decentralized self-reliance; refuse to embrace the siren song of more centralized government.

[We] embrace big government at [our] peril. The silliest thing Dick Cheney ever said was a couple of weeks after September 11: "One of the things that's changed so much since September 11 is the extent to which people do trust the government--big shift--and value it, and have high expectations for who we can do." Really? I'd say September 11 vindicated perfectly a decentralized, federalist, conservative view of the state: what worked that day was municipal government, small government, core government--the firemen, the NYPD cops, rescue workers. What flopped--big-time . . . --was federal government, the FBI, CIA, INS, FAA, and all the other hotshot, money-no-object, fancypants acronyms.

America Alone, 183-184

Steyn compares the U.S. immigration service to Amazon.

"Amazon is a more efficient data miner than U.S. Immigration. Is it to do with their respective budgets? No. Amazon's system is very cheap, but it's in the nature of government to do things worse, and slower."
On a morning when big government failed, the only good news came from private individuals. The first three planes were effectively an airborne European Union, where the rights of the citizens had been appropriated by the FAA's flying nanny state. Up there were the air is rarefied, all your liberties have been regulated away. . . . But, on the fourth plane, they . . . used their cell phones, discovered that FAA regulations weren’t going to save them, and then acted as free men, rising up against the terrorists and, at the cost of their own lives, preventing that flight carrying on to its target in Washington. . . . The Cult of Regulation failed, but the great American virtues of self-reliance and innovation saved the lives of thousands: "Let's roll!" as Mr. Beamer told his fellow passengers.

America Alone, 185

My friend summarized the specifics of Steyn's message as follows:
  • Be PRO-active instead of RE-active.
  • Act as free men and women. Take responsibility for yourself!
  • Have the government enlist/hire/contract with private database-marketing firms like Amazon to perform INS functions--that way, no flight school would get a letter, two years after the students died from having flown a commercial jet into the World Trade Center, that said students are being granted student visas.
  • "Restore the balance between the state and the citizen . . ." (pg. 188). That means we have to vote for candidates who will actively work and we ourselves must also actively work to "shrink the state" (p. 190) and take more personal responsibility for our lives.
  • "[R]estore advantages to parenthood . . . " (p. 189).
  • "We need to redirect the system to telescope education into a much shorter period" (p.191). --How about reworking the school-church nexus altogether?
  • "[U]se [our] own judgment in assessing a situation . . . " (p. 188).
    [M]y basic rule of thumb since September 11: anything that shifts power from the individual judgment of free citizens to government is a bad thing, not just for the war on terror but for the national character in a more general sense.

    Charles Clarke, formerly Britain's home secretary, gave a revealing glimpse into the big-government mentality in a column for the Times defending the latest allegedly necessary security measure: "ID cards will potentially make a difference to any area of everyday life where you already have to prove your identity--such as opening a bank account, going abroad on holiday, claiming a benefit, buying goods on credit and renting a video."

    "Renting a video"? That sounds about right. When you go to Blockbuster, you'll need your national ID card. But if you're an Algerian terrorist cell coming in on the Eurostar from Paris to blow up Big Ben, you won't. And its requirement for the routine transactions of daily life--"opening a bank account . . . buying goods on credit"--will . . . relieve bank managers and store clerks of the need to use their own judgment in assessing the situation. You'd have to have an awful lot of faith in government to think that's a good thing.

    Britain's religious "hate crimes" law is another example of . . . attempt[ing] to supplant human judgment with government management: the multicultural state is working out so well that we can no longer be trusted to regulate our own interactions with our neighbors. Islam, unlike Anglicanism, is an explicitly political project: sharia is a legal system, but, unlike English Common Law or the Napoleonic Code, for the purposes of public debate it will henceforth enjoy the special protection of Her Majesty's Government. Given that the emerging Muslim lobby groups are already the McDonald's coffee plaintiff of ethno-cultural grievance-mongers, you can be certain they'll make full use of any new law. Political debate in Europe is already hedged in by excessive squeamishness: Holland's "immigration problem" is a Muslim problem, France's "youth problem" is a Muslim problem, the "terrorism threat" that necessitates those British ID cards is in reality an Islamic threat. How is preventing honest discussion of the issue going to make citizens any safer?

    The term "nanny state" hardly covers a society where you need retinal-scan ID in order to rent Mary Poppines but you're liable for prosecution if you express your feelings too strongly after the next bombing.

    America Alone, 187-188

And then this one final set of comments, from the very end of Steyn's book, on pp. 213-214:
It is absurd: how can the most advanced society in human history fall to a bunch of ignorant death cultists? Well, who do you think advanced societies do fall to? Something worse, something barbarous, something prepared to fight when you're not.
Steyn quotes from an 1898 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--yes, that Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes--novel, The Tragedy of the Korosko (otherwise known as A Desert Drama), "the story of a party of Anglo-American-French tourists on a trip up the Nile who wind up getting kidnapped by the al Qaeda of the day--the followers of the Mahdi."

"It's my opinion that we have been the policemen of the world long enough," says Cecil Brown, a Brit.
"We policed the seas for pirates and slavers. Now we police the land for Dervishes and brigands and every sort of danger to civilization. There is never a mad priest or a witch doctor, or a firebrand of any sort on this planet, who does not report his appearance by sniping the nearest British officer. One tires of it at last. If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or a Jihad in the Sudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to an accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals. We get hard knocks and no thanks, and why should we do it? Let Europe do its own dirty work."

"Well," said Colonel Cochrane, crossing his legs and leaning forward with the decision of n man who has definite opinions, "I don't at all agree with you, Brown, and I think that to advocate such a course is to take a very limited view of our national duties. I think that behind national interests and diplomacy and all that there lies a great guiding force--a Providence, in fact--which is forever getting the best out of each nation and using it for the good of the whole. When a nation ceases to respond, it is time that she went into hospital for a few centuries, like Spain or Greece--the virtue has gone out of her. A man or a nation is not placed upon this earth to do merely what is pleasant and what is profitable. It is often called upon to carry out what is both unpleasant and unprofitable, but if it is obviously right it is mere shirking not to undertake it."
Will the West as a whole--and we in the United States, in particular, shirk our duty to do good?

Mark Steyn's America Alone, VI--So What Can We Do?

Steyn's book, together with the input of a friend from Canada, has pushed me to read further on the subject of Islam and America.

I have now read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) by Robert Spencer and I try to keep up on Dhimmi Watch and Jihad Watch.

So one becomes all alarmed . . . and then????? What can (or should) we do as a result of knowing or discovering the things Steyn points out? Steyn suggests several things. Spencer suggests many more. And then, through the auspices of Jihad Watch, I bumped into a third commentator who provides several additional very useful insights.

So let me pass along what I have learned.

I'll share Steyn's here, in this post, since his recommendations are from his book.

I'm not sure I "buy" too many of them as being truly useful, but they're not a bad start for a person like me who hasn't even begun to think about these issues on his own. . . .
  1. Support women's rights--real rights, not feminist pieties--in the Muslim world. This is the biggest vulnerability in Islam. . . . The overwhelming majority of females in Continental battered women's shelters are Muslim--which gives you some sense of what women in the Middle East might do if they had any women's shelters to go to. When half the population of these societies is a potential source of dissent, we need to use it.
    [Note from John: I'm not sure Steyn is correct about how readily Muslim women will be to go up against the system. As he and others have noted, it is often the women who are at the forefront of raising suicide bombers. And it astonishes me how many female converts speak up to say they feel "liberated" by Islam!]
  2. Roll back Wahhabi, Iranian, and other ideological exports that have radicalized Muslims on every continent. We have an ideological enemy and we need to wage ideological war.
    [Note from John: I like the concept, here. I'm not sure how the U.S. government or "we the people" are supposed to do this. But the government could certainly start with the Wahhabi and jihadist imams in the U.S. mosques. --Spencer provides a much more finessed perspective in his recommendations (yet to come).]
  3. Support economic and political liberty in the Muslim world, even if it means unsavory governments: an elected unsavory government is still better than a dictatorial unsavory government. It's not necessary for Syria and Egypt to become Minnesota and New Zealand. All that's necessary is for them to become something other than what they are now. And on the bumpy road to liberty, every Muslim regime that has to preoccupy itself with intern dissent has less time to foment trouble beyond its borders.
  4. Ensure that Islamic states that persecute non-Muslims are denied international legitimacy and excluded and marginalized in international bodies.
    [That, I can applaud!]
  5. Throttle the funding of mosques, madrassas, think tanks, and other activities in America and elsewhere by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others.
    [Note from John: Again: sounds like a reasonable suggestion to me!]
  6. Develop a strategy for countering Islamism on the ideological front. Create a civil corps to match America's warrior corps and use it to promote alternative institutions, structures, and values through a post-imperial equivalent to Britain's Colonial Office, albeit under whatever wussy name is deemed acceptable: Department of Global Community Outreach or whatever. . . .
    [Note from John: Not sure what he means]
  7. Marginalize and euthanize the UN, NATO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other September 10 transnational organizations and devote the energy wasted on them to results-oriented multilateralism.
  8. Cease bankrolling unreformable oil dictatorships by a long-overdue transformation of the energy industry.
    [Note from John: I'll buy that!]
  9. End the Iranian regime.
  10. Strike militarily when the opportunity presents itself.

--America Alone, 205-206

I have to confess: I'm not very comfortable--indeed, I'm not comfortable at all--in the arena of Steyn's geopolitical recommendations. But I thought I should pass them along since it is he who "opened my eyes" to the issues we're discussing.

Mark Steyn's America Alone, V--Part Two (Chapters 4 through 6), Cont'd.

A continuation of my comments from June 10.

More stuff in Mark Steyn's America Alone that shocks and bothers me.

Let me write up some of his stuff about "moderate Islam."

I'll start with the continuation of Miss Farooq's story (the young Canadian Muslim woman who hates Canada).
Miss Farooq's father is a pharmacist who fills prescriptions at a military base in Wainwright, Alberta, and says he supports the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on their mission in Afghanistan. After the terror cell was cracked, Mohammed Umer Farooq told the press that his daughter's views--hating Canada, in favor of shipping homosexuals to Saudi Arabia to be executed or crushed, etc.--were new to him, but that she's always been "more religious" than he is. He described her as "100 percent religious" and himself as "30 percent religious."

Nada Farooq is typical of a significant minority of young Muslims raised in the West by "moderate Muslim" parents. . . . Unlike her parents, Nada Farooq has no natural Pakistani identity and she rejects her thin, reedy multicultural Canadian identity, choosing instead a pan-Islamic consciousness that trnscnds nationality. . . . Growing up in a Toronto suburb, she found recent Chechen history more inspiring than Canadian history, assuming she was taught any.

How many Nada Farooqs are there? On the first anniversary of the July 7, 2005, Tube bombings, the Times of London commissioned a poll of British Muslims. Among the findings:
  • 16 percent say that while the attacks may have been wrong, the cause was right.
  • 13 percent think that the four men who carried out the bombings should be regarded as "martyrs."
  • 7 percent agree that suicide attacks on civilians in the United Kingdom can be justified in some circumstances, rising to 16 percent for a military target. [Compare those numbers to the May 23 report from the Pew Research Center about American Muslims! --JAH]
  • 2 percent would be proud if a family member decided to join al Qaeda. 16 percent would be "indifferent."
If this is a war, then that is a substantial fifth column. There are, officially, one million Muslims in London, half of them under twenty-five. If 7 percent think suicide attacks on civilians are justified, that's 70,000 potential supporters in Britain's capital city. Most of them will never bomb a bus or even provide shelter or a bank account to someone who does. But some of them will. As September 11 demonstrated, you only have to find nineteen stout-hearted men, and from a talent pool of 70,000 that's not bad odds.

--America Alone, 75-76

Oh, let's keep going.
[A]ccording to one poll, over 60 percent of British Muslims want to live under sharia in the United Kingdom. Another poll places the percentage favoring "hard-line" sharia at a mere 40 percent. So there's one definition of a "moderate Muslim": he's a Muslim who wants stoning for adultery to be introduced in Liverpool, but he's a "moderate" because he can't be bothered flying a plane into a skyscraper to get it. . . .

If there were a "moderate Muslim" lobby--one that, say, believed that suicide bombing is always wrong, even against Israelis, or that supported the liberation of Iraq on the grounds that the Iraqi people are in favor of it--your average Western government would immediately be suspicious that such a group was not "authentically" Muslim. Whereas, if you oppose the occupation of Iraq and seek to justify the depravity of Hamas, you have instant credibility. And so government ministers in Western nations spend most of their time taking advice on the jihad from men who agree with its aims. You can pluck out news items at random: in London, a religious "hate crimes" law that makes honest discussion of Islam even more difficult; in Ottawa, a government report that recommends legalizing polygamy; in Seattle, the introduction of gender-separate Muslim-only swimming sessions in municipal pools. . . .

--America Alone, 76-78

Okay. Here's one for one of my pacifist friends. She wrote,
Yes, the Quran directs Muslims to use the sword against unbelievers. But most of them aren't getting out there and doing it. People everywhere are pretty much more willing to live comfortable peaceful lives raising their families, holding down stable jobs, looking after matters of education, and generally being normal than they are interested in engaging in warfare of any kind. And the vast majority of Muslims in the world are living normal lives and neglecting warfare. Even though their holy book commands it.
I think Steyn replies pretty well here:
The "moderate Muslim" is not entirely fictional. But it would be more accurate to call them quiescent Muslims. In the 1930s, there were plenty of "moderate Germans," and a fat lot of good they did us or them. . . .

We know, because Western politicians and religious leaders tell us so incessantly, that the "vast majority" of Muslims do not support terrorism. Yet how vast is the minority that does? One percent? Ten percent?

Here are a couple of examples that suggest it might be rather more.

Dr. Mahfooz Kanwar, a sociology professor at Mount Royal College in Calgary, went along to a funeral at the city's largest mosque and was discombobulated when the man who led the prayers--in Urdu--said, "Oh, God, protect us from the infidels, who pollute us with their vile ways."

Dr. Kanwar said, "How dare you attack my country," and pointed out to the crowd that he'd known this mean for thirty years, most of which time he'd been living on welfare and thus the food on his table came courtesy of the taxes of the hardworking infidels.

As Licia Corbella wrote in the Calgary Sun: "Guess which of the two men is no longer welcome at the Sarcee Trail mosque?"

Final score: Radical Islam 1, Moderate Muslims 0.

Here's another example: Souleiman Ghali was born in Palestine and, as he put it, raised to hate "Shiites, Christians--and especially Jews." After emigrating to America, he found himself rethinking these old prejudices and in 1993 helped found a mosque in San Francisco. As Mr. Ghali's website states: "Our vision is the emergence of an American Muslim identity founded on compassion, respect, dignity, and love."

That's hard work, especially given the supply of imams.

In 2002, Mr. Ghali fired an imam who urged California Muslims to follow the sterling example of Palestinian suicide bombers. Safwat Morsy is Egyptian and speaks barely any English, but he knew enough to sue Mr. Ghali's mosque for wrongful dismissal and was awarded $400,000.

So far, so typical. But the part of the story that matters is that the firebrand imams had a popular following, and Mr. Morsy's firing was the final straw. Mr. Ghali was forced off the board and out of any role in the mosque he founded. And, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Safwat Morsy--a man who thinks American Muslims should be waddling around in Semtex belts--is doing a roaring trade: "His mosque is looking to buy a building to accommodate the capacity crowds coming these days for Friday prayers."

That's Radical Islam 2, Moderate Muslims 0. . . .

At this point it's time to throw in another round of "of courses": of course most Western Muslims aren't terrorists and of course most have no desire to be terrorists. One gathers anecdotally that they're secure enough in their Muslim identity to dismiss the fire-breathing imam down the street as a kind of vulgar novelty act for the kids--in the same way that middle-class suburban white parents sigh and roll their eyes when Junior comes home with "Slap Up My B*tch" or "I'm Gonna Shoot That Cop Right After I F--- His Ho" or whatever the latest popular vocal ditty is. But, aside from the few brave but marginalized men like Mr. Ghali, one can't help noticing that the most prominent "moderate Muslims" would seem to be more accurately designated as apostate or ex-Muslims.

The pseudonymous apostate Ibn Warraq makes an important distinction: there are moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islam. Millions of Muslims just want to get on with their lives, and there are--or were--remote corners of the world where, far from Mecca, Muslim practices reached accommodation with local customs. But all of the official schools of Islamic jurisprudence commend sharia and violent jihad. So a "moderate Muslim" can find no formal authority to support his moderation. And to be a "moderate Muslim" publicly means standing up to the leaders of your community. . . .

And even if you're truly a "moderate" Muslim, why should you be expected to take on the most powerful men in Islam when the West's media and political class merely pander to them? What kind of support does the culture give to those who speak out against the Islamists? The Iranians declared a fatwa on Salman Rushdie and he had to go into hiding for more than a decade while his government and others continued fawning on the regime that issued the death sentence. The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh spoke out and was murdered, and the poseur dissenters of Hollywood were too busy congratulating themselves on their courage and bravery in standing up to Bush even to mention their poor dead colleague in the weepy Oscar montage of the year's deceased.

To speak out against the Islamists means to live in hiding and under armed security in the heart of the so-called "free world." Meanwhile, Yale offers a place on its campus to a former ambassador-at-large for the murderous Taliban regime.

--America Alone, 86-88

Well. I've spent way too many hours typing up all these quotes. I get the feeling I'm not actually catching too many people's attention by engaging in this work.

I'll stop here.


No. No I can't stop there.

One more. This cuts a bit too close to home.
Whatever the arguments for and against "gay marriage," there are never going to be many takers for it. But the justifications for same-sex marriage are already being used to advance the cause of polygamy, and there are far more takers for that. It's already practiced de facto if not de jure in France, Ontario, and many other Western jurisdictions, and government agencies, such as the United Kingdom's pensions ministry, have already begun according polygamy piecemeal legal recognition for the purposes of inheritance law.

Neither feminists nor homosexuals seem obvious allies for Islam, but lobby groups have effortlessly mastered the lingo, techniques, and pseudo-grievances of both. . . .

As someone who's called Islamophobic and homophobic every day of the week, I can't help marveling at the speed and skill with which Muslim lobby groups have mastered the language of victimhood so adroitly used by the gay lobby. If I were the latter, I'd be a little miffed at these Ahmed-come-latelys. "Homophobia" was always abroad: people who are antipathetic to gays are not afraid of them in any real sense. The invention of a phony-baloney "phobia" was a way of casting opposition to the gay political agenda as a kind of mental illness. . . .

On the other hand, "Islamophobia" is not phony or even psychological but very literal--if you're a Dutch member of parliament or British novelist or Danish cartoonist in hiding under threat of death or a French schoolgirl in certain suburbs getting jeered at as an infidel *****, your Islamophobia is highly justified. But Islam's appropriation of the gay lobby's forming of the debate is very artful. It's the most explicit example of how Islam uses politically correct self-indulgent victimology as a cover.

You'll recall that most Western media outlets declined to publish those Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed. [By the way: I have looked at them. They are mild. If you haven't seen them yet, you can find them here. The commentary that goes along with them, I think, is illuminating.--JAH] Thus, even as they were piously warning of a rise in bogus "Islamophobia"--i.e., entirely justified concerns over Islamic terrorism and related issues--they were themselves suffering from genuine Islamophobia--i.e., a very real fear that, if they published those cartoons, an angry mob would storm their offices. It was a fine example of how the progressive mind's invented psychoses leave it without any words to describe real dangers.

--America Alone, 84-85

May we not be left without any words to describe real dangers!

Really, truly, ultimately: aren't we talking about freedom of speech . . . or a lack thereof?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident . . ."

We're creeping up on America's Independence Day.

My friend Perry Marshall just got back from a trip to India. He wrote something about supposedly self-evident truths (the phrase, of course, comes from the preamble to "The unanimous Declaration of the united States of America" [yes, capitalized like that] made "In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776"):
Hinduism teaches the concept of reincarnation and that depending on the Karma of a past life, some people are born into different castes - some are destined to have lives of privilege, some to be working class, and some to be "untouchable." So untouchable, in fact, that one need not even help the poorest of the poor because, after all, they are only getting what they deserve anyway.

Babies die of starvaton. Families live in filth. Children break rocks with hammers for 25 cents a day.

I know this will offend some people but I'm going to say it anyway: This belief is nothing more than a lie that has victimized untold millions of people. Hundreds of millions of people have nothing, have no ability to do business with other people, and are cut off from the rest of the world because of this false belief.

I would like to detour for a bit of a history lesson so that I can make an important point.

The United States Declaration of Independence makes a world-shattering declaration that transformed the modern world:

"We hold these [truths] to be self-evident, that all men are created equal[, that they are] endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, [that] among [these] are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In his book "Democracy in America" (1835) Alexis de Tocqueville traces this statement and its idea of equality backward through history and lands at Galatians 3:28, the words of St. Paul: "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free. All are equal in Christ Jesus."

Before Paul said this, NO ONE had ever made such a bold and sweeping statement. No one. Not the Jews, not the Babylonians, not the Egyptians, not the Greeks, not the Chinese. The concept of equality came first from Paul.

This idea got planted in western civilization and began to grow and develop, little by little dismantling slave trade, sowing the seeds for democracy and spurring technological and political progress.

If you live in a democracy and you're thankful for the ability to vote, if you're thankful that people generally consider you and themselves to be just as good as anybody else, then thank Paul.

Because despite what the Declaration says, equality really is NOT self evident. At least it wasn't to any of the ancient world prior to 2000 years ago. On the surface, we're all different. Some are stronger. Some are smarter. Some have more money. Some are politically connected. Some are more savvy.

And some people get the scraps.

But when Paul said this, he was declaring that there is an underlying *spiritual* reality, that yours and my true identity doesn't come from accomplishments or money or power but from our Heavenly Father. That once we know that true identity we're no longer slaves to money and power and accomplishments and the 'natural' order of things.
I would like to note concerning Untouchables that, according to my understanding, it is untrue "that one need not even help the poorest of the poor"; under Hinduism one must not help the poorest of the poor, because they are not merely "getting what they deserve"; they are, if you will, "working out their own . . . [ahem] . . . 'salvation'" through myriad reincarnations. And if one "helps" the low-caste person too much, s/he will be condemned, potentially, to have to come back in even worse condition than s/he finds him- or herself today: perhaps as a bug or a cow. . . .

In a subsequent post, Perry (who writes to a broad range of business people) noted,
Some people told me that this class system allows very poor people to be content with their lot in life and that this is a good thing. A number of people sharply criticized me for saying the caste system is bad - that it's not OK for me to judge peoples' religious beliefs.

Well, I don't know how you can have any system of human rights at all without making those very kinds of judgments. A person who criticizes me for speaking up is, after all, judging my beliefs, are they not? There is a large segement of Western society in which it's politically incorrect to speak up about such things, to make negative comparisons between various belief systems, but I think that political incorrectness is hypocritical and really just chooses to arbitrarily judge some people and not judge others. Truth is, it's not possible to have a conscience and not make judgments about such things.
I am reminded of Mark Steyn's comment in America Alone:
In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee"--the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very Well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

India today is better off without suttee. If you don't agree with that, . . . if you think you genuinely believe that suttee is just an example of the rich, vibrant tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 30, 48 percent of the people around you really believed in it too.

--America Alone, 193-194