Sunday, September 30, 2012

October is "Reclaiming Libertarianism" Month!

In fact, libertarianism is a radical idea, the most radical idea ever developed in political thought.  Individuals are sovereign, and governments -- be they monarchies, representative republics, democracies, tribal chiefdoms, anarcho-capitalist defense agencies, whatever -- properly exist only to serve and protect the individual and not vice versa.

One intermittent theme with "all of us" at Unforeseen Contingencies is that libertarianism is rational, reasonable, and moral, and needs to be defended from intellectual and political thugs who would hijack it for ulterior motives, and from crackpots who would turn it into a simple-minded religion. (Be sure to read the comments in this last link!)

Well, inspired by the excellent efforts of the Post-libertarianism blog, "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies have decided to celebrate October as "Reclaiming Libertarianism" month!  As part of the celebration, I plan to post pieces on a few areas where libertarians have tended to run off the rails -- history, science, foreign policy, perhaps more.  In addition, PL is promising a piece on Sheldon Richman's Top Ten Crimes Against Reason, and I might have another contributor or two joining in.

If any reader wishes to contribute a piece, let me know.  This includes those who disagree and want to correct us, damn us to hell, or whatever -- in fact, these will be particularly welcome (Tom? Walter? Sheldon? Lew? Are you there?)  I'll post anything relevant, without editing -- although I do request that obscenity be kept to the bare minimum possible (we do have some standards here, you know).

Whether we are actually successful in "reclaiming" anything, well, good luck with that... but at least this should be both fun and thought-provoking, and that's what we're really all about!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"The law of the jungle is taking over..." Prof. Eric Posner calls for censorship

Another highly placed America legal scholar is endorsing gutting the First Amendment in favor of anti-blasphemy laws and censorship.  It's the most anti-First Amendment op-ed I've seen yet.

It turns out "we overvalue free speech" (foreigners' values are the right ones, so we must abandon ours) and "often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order."

So says University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner, who also argues "We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events..."

This is not true.  The case for free speech is a profoundly philosophical one, with a very long history -- and it is not only a Western idea, either.  Posner is highly educated legal scholar -- I suspect he knows this already (umm, is it to be prohibited to suggest that some public figure is, umm, lying?)

"As often happens, what starts out as a grudging political settlement has become, when challenged from abroad, a dogmatic principle to be imposed universally. Suddenly, the disparagement of other people and their beliefs is not an unfortunate fact but a positive good. It contributes to the 'marketplace of ideas...'"

Yes, in fact the freedom to examine and criticize people and beliefs is a positive good, and how else will we ever be able to separate good ideas from bad ones?  There is no other way other than freedom of discussion.  And one can't specify in advance which ideas or criticisms are and aren't permitted -- that would assume we already knew and agreed on Truth.

" though we would seriously admit that Nazis or terrorist fanatics might turn out to be right after all. Salman Rushdie recently claimed that bad ideas, 'like vampires … die in the sunlight' rather than persist in a glamorized underground existence. But bad ideas never die: They are zombies, not vampires. Bad ideas like fascism, Communism, and white supremacy have roamed the countryside of many an open society."

They also don't die if we suppress them, and in fact do fester and grow.  Rushdie is right.

"So symbolic attachment to uneasy, historically contingent compromises, and a half-century of judicial decisions addressing domestic political dissent and countercultural pressures, prevent the U.S. government from restricting the distribution of a video that causes violence abroad and damages America’s reputation."

No, it doesn't cause violence.  Religious fanatics and psychopaths choose to engage in violence.  If they did not, we would not be having this debate.  The video would simply be a case study in bad filmmaking for a few reviewers.

"And this is a video that, by the admission of all sides, has no value whatsoever."

No!  The filmmakers disagree.  For that matter, I disagree!  I think the first parts, which illustrate the attacks of Salafi muslims on Coptic Christians, and Egyptian state complicity, have merit. Our values have zero weight?  Why?

Let's take this farther.  If I find Posner's op-ed blasphemous and utterly without merit, is that sufficient for me to call for its suppression and his prosecution?  If not, how many of us does it take?  How big a mob must I organize and how violent must we become?

Professor Posner, you're a professor of law, so explain for us the legal criteria your argument implies.  I want to know now, in advance, what the boundaries are.  What speech will be prohibited?  Is it really only that which ex post "causes" others to engage in violence?

I'm quite certain that Michael Totten has it right, that these kinds of arguments are equivalent to giving terrorists veto power over our thought, speech, and actions.  Conversely, Posner tries to claim that this is just about having a reasonable debate over "whether a government should be able to curtail speech in order to safeguard its relations with foreign countries."  Never mind Posner's confusion of religious rioters with foreign states, this point is simply disingenuous.  The purpose of our government is to protect our rights from attack by foreigners, not restrict them when foreigners are 1) offended and 2) engage in criminal behavior.  What the hell can Posner be thinking?

Posner thinks we need to understand "that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order."  In Pakistan, "yielding" to "other values" has lead to what one Muslim cleric calls "the law of the jungle..."  If a mob is sufficiently violent, the police arrest the "offender" and courts convict, all in the name of defending the mobs' values and maintaining a pretense of civil order.  Note that it is Pakistani Muslims who are recognizing that Islamic anti-blasphemy laws are empowering the worst people in their country.

"Law of the jungle" is an apt description.

Not all academics have gone mad, of course. Professor of Sociology Mahfooz Kanwar -- a Muslim -- warns that "[t]he blasphemy law is clearly a very blunt and effective tool used to destroy the lives of one’s enemies..." and that "[t]he entire Muslim world, not just Pakistan, is agitating for the United Nations to pass an anti blasphemy law. The rest of the civilized world must oppose this at every turn."

Why isn't this obvious to Posner, and everyone else tripping over themselves to abandon the First Amendment?  There can be no law but the law of the jungle under Posner's standards.  Go ahead and "yield to other values" and you'll see what kind of order that gets us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our future (?)

From Gizmodo...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Walter Russell Mead on Media Bias

Yesterday I was talking with a friend, trying to explain my utter disgust for today's "first line" news media, and to make my point, asked her to predict how many stories New York Times and NPR (her two favorites) would have about Mitt Romney in the coming week that were not unfavorable. She paused, then answered "zero." I think this is about right right.

The "news" these days seems to be cooked up by "Media Matters" in conjunction with the Democratic Party and officials in the Obama administration and then fed to MSM news writers. Op-ed writers then hammer on the points, which are then restated by news writers, and soon the left-liberal party line is "all the news that's fit to print."

Walter Russell Mead puts it this way: "Many people on the right look at this and other examples and conclude that the major press outlets are deliberately distorting the news in the hope of shifting public opinion to the left and supporting the President’s re-election. This is not, in my view, the main reason for press bias, but it is a real phenomenon."

His essay on bias in the mainstream media and how it is discrediting said media is worth reading.

(Exactly what you suggested earlier, Greg!  And link now seems to be fixed.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Obama = Turkmenbashi?

Back in May of this year, Weekly World News ran a story that Obama was replacing the American flag with a new Obama flag. I always supposed WWN was even less reliable than satirical "news" sources such as The Onion and New York Times. Well, as it turns out, apparently WWN scooped everyone on this. Obama's campaign is now selling Obama's new version of the flag.

Under U.S. Code Title 36 Chapter 10 Section 176(g) and (i) this is flag desecration, a violation of federal code. Not that this is anything new for Obama and Co., of course.

This is a cult of personality worthy of a third world dictator, placing Obama's "coat of arms" (or whatever that asinine Obama logo is) on the national flag.  I also note they have a version of this flag drawn on the shape of the continental U.S., I guess to show that it's Obama's property.  Obama, following in the footsteps of such great statesmen as Turkmenbashi?  It appears so.

I'll bet Republicans are now happy they failed to pass a flag-burning amendment.

On the Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft notes the similarity between the Obama flag and the blood smeared walls of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Update 25 September: as predicted by Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street, the Obama scoundrels have put their desecrations down the memory hole.  While the memory hole is an invention of Stalin, Unforeseen Contingencies must ask,"is this what Turkmenbashi would do?"  Thomas Lifson notes the MSM's complicity on American Thinker.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Subverting the Constitution at Eric Holder's DoJ

I've not blogged on the "Fast and Furious" gunwalker scandal and the ensuing coverup but it certainly should be noted, because it is a particularly alarming piece of evidence of what the Obama administration is up to.  The F&F scandal itself involved the Department of Justice intentionally allowing weapons to be purchased illegally and then smuggled to Mexico for use by drug gangs, not to track them and catch "bigger fish" -- no efforts or provisions were made to track them -- but to generate "data" (another source here) showing that America's Second Amendment is the problem.  Unfortunately, the "data" generated included dead American Border Patrol officers.

Here's a quick summary from one of the best sources on the scandal, Mike Vanderboegh's Sipsey Street Irregulars blog:

The Gunwalker Scandal Made Simple
There are five key accusations against ATF and DOJ made by ATF whistleblowers and other sources within FedGov:

1. That they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners.

2. That they allowed or even assisted in those guns crossing the U.S. border into Mexico to "boost the numbers" of American civilian market firearms seized in Mexico and thereby provide the justification for more firearm restrictions on American citizens and more power and money for ATF.

3. That they intentionally kept Mexican authorities in the dark about the operation, even over objections of their own agents.

4. That weapons that the ATF let "walk" to Mexico were involved in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE agent Jaime Zapata, as well as at least hundreds of Mexican citizens.

5. That at least since the death of Brian Terry on 14 December, the Obama administration is engaged in a full-press cover-up of the facts behind what has come to be known as the "Gunwalker Scandal."

Great.  Well, now there's hard evidence that Eric Holder's staff is regularly conspiring coordinating with the left wing anti-conservative 501(c)(3) Media Matters to smear reporters and others who are looking at DoJ behavior in F&F and other matters.  I guess these days we just call this "spin," although I have a hard time distinguishing it from covering up criminal activity and working to subvert the First and Second Amendments.

Media Matters is more or less a propaganda organ of the Democratic Party and left-liberals in general.  There's nothing worth noting in that, per se.  But there is something deeply wrong and deeply alarming about the Department of Justice and a left wing political organization conspiring to cover up news stories, to cover up what appears to be criminal activity by the DoJ itself and to promote what is clearly a political agenda.  Department of Justice is supposed to be enforcing the law and protecting our rights -- not actively subverting them.

Barack Obama observes "what I said on election night was: 'Even though you didn't vote for me, I hear your voices, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to be your president.'"  Well, you didn't, you scoundrel.  You've worked to undercut my rights and the rights of my fellow citizens.  To hell with you!
BTW, I'm adding Sipsey Street Irregulars to the Unforeseen Contingencies blog list.  It's a great source of info on how the federal government is moving us toward a police state.  I also love Vanderboegh's consistent "Don't Tread on Me" attitude, and apparently his blogging scares the heck out of the DOJ.  On the downside, his multicultural sensitivity is lacking.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who Pays Income Tax?

I was talking with two Obama supporters this morning about Romney's 47% statement.  Both were shocked when they heard that half of the population pays no income tax.  In the interest of spreading light, here are a few other interesting facts about America's income tax.

 And now a few exercises for the reader...

  1. Is it a fair system if 90% of Americans pay less than 1/3 of the total income tax collected? 

 2. What kind of system do you think we might get if it is based on convincing the 50% of the people who don't pay income taxes to vote to raise taxes on, say, the top 5%, 10%, 25%, or 50% who do?

The media, Romney, and the 47%

Just a quick observation on the role of the mainstream media in campaign.  I regularly follow New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and the New Yorker magazine.  It's impossible to believe that these haven't become active particpants in the campaign on behalf of Obama and the Democrats.  NYT and WaPo feature a constant stream of negative stories on Romney and puff pieces on Obama, with the "news" carefully crafted to omit serious analysis of failure or wrongdoing by the administration (e.g. Eric Holder's "Fast and furious" coverup, Kathleen Sibelius' apparent violation of federal law, harassment and discrimination in Janet napolitano's DHS).  Staples in the op-eds are venomous attacks on Romney, most of which are based on what can only be intentional misreadings of what he actually says.  New Yorker has a constant stream of nasty bits on Romney and Ryan, while giving Obama very sympathetic treatment.

Case in point, Romney's "infamous" 47% statement.  This morning NPR 'journalists claimed that Romney wrote off 47% of the public, saying he didn't care about them.  Barack Obama, assuming the role of Liar-in-Chief, also made this claim.  Under it own name, New York Times excoriates Romney as an evil man -- "bone chilling cynicism and revolting smugness" is what they see.

I watched the Mother Jones" video in its entirety and saw none of that.  They made it up.  In fact, one must either be extremely stupid or extremely dishonest to interpret Romney's words as "class warfare" and an attack on anyone.  Here's what actually happened.

There was a discussion of the idea that America used to be about opportunity, i.e. that people would pursue opportunities and make successes of themselves.  Romney notes how Obama is dividing Americans with class warfare, and notes how Marco Rubio told a story in which his parents, seeing people with wealth did not say "we have to get some of their wealth" but "if we work hard we can be successful too."  He also notes that it's hard to communicate this message.

Then one person in the audience asks (direct quote here) "In the last three years all everybody has been told is 'don't worry, we'll take care of you."  How are we going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everyone you gotta take care of yourself?"

Romney responds that he cannot expect to sway Obama's core supporters -- "the 47% who will vote for him no matter what," (he also says it might be 48% or 49%) -- and it's exactly in that context he says he can't worry about them.  Instead, to win the election, he has to convince the 5%-10% of undecided voters in the center.  he also observes -- quite correctly -- that about 47% of Americans pay no income tax, so if he campaigns on tax cuts, it essentially falls on deaf ears with them [Steele's comment: unless they are libertarians or understand economics], since Obama can call it "tax cuts for the wealthy."

One must be  very dishonest or very stupid (not mutually exclusive, I know) to conclude what NPR and NYT  claim Romney said.

The story with Rubio starts at about 15:45, and the "infamous" 47% lines about 16:50.

Here's another example.  NPR also claimed this morning that Romney said there could be no Mideast solution because the Palestinians don't want peace.  Frankly, I think that's a correct assessment of the situation, but it isn't what Romney said.  Instead, he said "I'm torn between two perspectives..." and goes on to describe both the "it's hopeless" perspective and another diametrically different one, which suggests there's reason to think that a real breakthrough might be possible, but not by pressuring Israel.  It's actually quite thoughtful and not a snap answer.  God forbid!

This one starts at about 4:40.

Look, I'm not a great fan of Romney.  If someone doesn't like him, I understand.  But the campaign ought to be fought on the issues, the press ought to honestly cover them, the press ought not to campaign on Obama's behalf, and most especially, the press ought not make stuff up.

What's happening is very, very dangerous.  I've followed these things for most of my life, and I think this is the worst example I've seen of the "news" media engaging in plain propaganda.  We saw this with their almost immediate slander campaign against the Tea Party movement, their fawning over "Occupy," and now this. It's not that statist bias in the news media is something new, because it's not, it's rather that the press is actively campaigning and distorting the news.  It's very bad to see this happening.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The "religion of peace?" Australian Muslims disagree!

Riots in Sydney, Australia over "Innocence of Muslims," and a demonstration aimed the U.S. Consulate...chanting "we love Osama," calling for beheadings of people who insult their religion, attacking en masse a man who calls out "shame on you for using religion to advocate for murder," assaulting police officers... yes, there's "peace" for you.

These Muslims can't pretend they do not understand that the U.S. government didn't make the film.  They can't pretend to be part of a "religion of peace," either.

Meanwhile, Volokh Conspiracy has two very good posts on possible responses to Muslim rioting.  The first argues that punishing "blasphemers" in an attempt to mollify Muslims will likely make things much worse and lead to more deaths.  (In other words, Political Correctness kills.)  The second generalizes this point, arguing that capitulation to terrorism begets more terrorism.  Both are well worth reading.

Religious Watch is also doing a fine job of covering the story.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The PC war on the First Amendment

Here's further documentation of the astounding hypocrisy of the left-liberals on the blasphemy issue.

State Department legal advisor and former Dean of the Yale Law School Harold Koh endorses the idea of America criminalizing free speech when it transgresses selected foreign legal standards and provides a strategy for doing this.

Of course, the left-liberals are well-meaning, and see this as a way of protecting everyone, right?

No, that's very hard to believe.  This really seems to be about special treatment for Islam.

First, it is the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation -- an organization of 57 countries) that has been pushing, for years, to make blasphemy a crime in international law.  (See VII. 3.)

Second, where was the left-liberal outrage over a CBC "Christmas Special" that cast porn star Pamela Anderson as Virgin Mary and made a comedy of the birth of Jesus?

How about outrage over the mocking of quarterback Tim Tebow and his Christianity?  (Well, admittedly NYT went so far as to ponder whether one could do this with a one of its minor blogs, not the main paper, of course.)

It's not that Christians don't know about these things, it's that -- unlike Muslims -- they don't murder people and burn embassies when they hear of them.  (This last link also discusses the desecration of a Christian church by members of the "Occupy" movement.)

Of course, this is nothing compared to what the Jews put up with.  The following video is excerpted from an Arabic TV show (aired in Jordan I believe, perhaps elsewhere) about Judaism showing Jews slitting the throat of a Christian child in order to get blood for their Passover celebration.  (Thanks for the tip, Nat.)  What happened the OIC's opposition to defamation of religion, or left-liberal PC outrage over "hate speech?"  There is none.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The new PC?

Readers occasionally suggest I'm getting overly excited about some issue I blog about.  I suppose my previous post on left-liberal political correctness vs. liberty is an example.  Just in case, here's a quick followup.  Is political correctness a genuine threat to liberty?  I think it is.

Elsewhere I've commented that President Obama's failure to defend free speech is dangerous, since the left-liberal establishment is piling on for political gain.  Well, we're now seeing the start of open, public calls from "reputable people" (or serious people, as Paul Krugman would call them) for "common sense" rules restricting free speech.

From  an American law scholar of international law  (Note his arguments carefully, and keep in mind he's considered one of the foremost experts in the world on these matters.)

From  another American academic at a major university

From mainstream  American journalists

And the Whitehouse itself is seeking "backdoor" censorship.

I'm not over the top at all -- and that's very unfortunate.

Political Correctness vs. Liberty

If anyone doubts that "politically correct" left liberals are enemies of free speech, the "Innocence of Muslims" episode is giving us plenty of evidence to refute that belief.  In a NYT op-ed, Timothy Egan manages to express outrage over abuses of free speech, as well as over Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and the GOP in general  (Somehow he ran out of gas before getting around to Islamic rioters.)  OK, NYT op-ed writers attacking conservatives is hardly news.  What's chilling is that the Egan refers to the maker of the film as "firing the first shot," equating making a film someone doesn't like to murder.  Throughout the op-ed he (and others in NYT) suggests that those who criticize Islam in ways he finds crude or inaccurate hold some sort of blame for the riots and murders of religious terrorists.  Read the op-ed.  Chilling is the word.

Egan is simply wrong in most of his op-ed.  Never mind the argument about Mohammed.  (The Koran does portray him as having consummated his marriage Aisha when she was 9 years old and he 53, but that's not child molestation, it's just the diversity of multicultural values...ahem.  The entire story of Mohammed and his wives and sexual behavior strikes us at Unforeseen Contingencies as perverse, but that's beside the point.  The correctness of free speech isn't relevant to the discussion.)

1. Romney didn't "hail the film" or its content as an expression of American values.  He hailed free speech as an expression of American values.  No one, anywhere, disputes the "right" to say things that offend no one.  It's only speech that offends that needs to be protected.

Romney was not quite on target in his criticism, however, because he exempted the American embassy officials in Cairo in it.  Officials of the U.S. government are supposed to defend our rights, not apologize for them. Given that they've sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution (which says nothing about "respecting religious beliefs," something which is not a "cornerstone of American democracy"), the persons responsible ought to be immediately fired.  The attacks were violent assaults on America, and these cowards are apologizing?  What are they thinking?

2. "...people have no idea how much freedom Americans are given to say pretty much anything, true or not."  No, we' re not given freedom.  Individuals have inherent rights to freedom of speech; it's not given to us, and has nothing to do with us being Americans.  (This is the one thing the embassy statement got right, by referring to free speech as a "universal" right.)

This isn't a distinction without a difference; the government doesn't grant us rights.  They are inherent in us, and we grant government such power as we see fit.  (Yes, the system is breaking down as civil servants turn themselves into civil masters, but that's a different discussion.)  It's a fairly common doctrine now among left-liberals that rights are mere social constructs, that we can change them as we see fit, via state power.  But until they amend the Constitution, our government is built on the framework of inherent individual rights and limited powers granted to the Feds, not rights being given to us by the government.

3. The attacks were orchestrated.  Anyone ought to realize this.  Even Egan admits it in his second paragraph.  The riots aren't some understandable public outrage, but a set of coordinated attacks, stirred up by clerics targeting the U.S., very much like the Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoons episodes.  The cartoons had actually been published in Cairo newspapers well before the riots, and nothing happened.  It was only after Muslim clerics engaged in a campaign that the riots erupted.  It's the same here.  Apologizing is even worse under these circumstances -- it's surrendering to an opponent's orhcestrated political strategy.

4. Egan: "Steve Klein, a California insurance man with a long history of making erroneous claims about Islam, says he's one of the backers."

What are "erroneous claims?"  Mohammed was not a prophet.  Allah doesn't exist.  There's no such thing as Djinn.  The Koran calls  Jews "people of the book" and also calls for killing them everywhere.  Does Egan really want to get into a debate over what is and isn't error in Islam?  It's relevant?  Islam is a myth, for pete's sake.

5. Egan: "A Florida preacher, Terry Jones, who inspired deadly riots in Afghanistan by threatening to burn copies of the Koran, has come forth as a promoter of the film.  And when asked whether he bore any responsibility for the violence prompted by the incendiary film, Jones said his conscience was clear."

Jones is right, of course.  Only the Muslim attackers and their leaders bear responsibility. Egan finds this outrageous I guess, but just what standard would he substitute?  Should speakers bear responsibility every time a group of mad clerics takes offense (or pretends offense for ulterior reasons) and whips up a mob in response to free speech?  This simply amounts to surrendering freedom of speech whenever bad people threaten to retaliate.

So where does this leave us -- let's apologize to terrorist religious maniacs whenever they are offended, assure them we also despise what offends them but sadly our hands are tied by our system, and fiercely condemn anyone (especially Republicans) who says otherwise as vicious and irresponsible?

Well, no.  Prof. Anthea Butler of Penn goes farther.  In her USA Today op-ed, she calls for the imprisonment of the filmmakers (while pretending to be a fierce advocate of free speech).  Since the film is historically inaccurate (again, why is the accuracy relevant?) and supposedly interferes with national security by stirring up riots, the filmmakers should be arrested and imprisoned.  After all "other countries and cultures do not have to understand or respect our right."  She doesn't even pretend that any law has been violated or that there should be charges and a trial: "the military considers the film a serious threat to national security. If the military takes it seriously, there should be consequences for putting American lives at risk."

This is all a joke, right?

No, unfortunately it's not.

It's the new level to which multi-cultural diversity thinking has descended (admittedly maybe not really new, but now very openly and prominently argued).  We should sacrifice our own standards because others don't understand them.  We should apologize for our system to lunatics who think we should have anti-blasphemy laws and should criminalize anything that offends them.  Great, let's now have a debate about what kind of "common sense" restrictions we need to place on free speech, since "there should be consequences for putting American lives at risk" and "firing the first shot" that results in people being killed, even if the "shot" was simply someone expressing an opinion.

It's hard to know how to respond.  One can again ask, what standard do you suggest then?  If clerics decide to call for riots over something someone says, the speaker should be held accountable?  Then there's no way to know in advance what one can and can't say.  Prof. Butler is writing a book about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, so if some rightwingers are outraged by it and call for violence in response, she'll turn herself in for imprisonment?  Should Southern Poverty Law Center be held criminally liable for labeling the Family Research Council a "hate group," thus offending FRC's religious sensibilities and contributing to a violent attack on FRC?

But there's no point in entering a debate about "where to draw the line," and no point in pointing out to closet totalitarians like Butler the contradictions in their positions.  Free speech is binary -- either you have it or you don't.  It's worth re-quoting Sam Harris: "Don’t draw cartoons of their Prophet, or they’ll kill you. Don’t write a novel that could be considered blasphemous, or they’ll kill you. Don’t criticize their treatment of women, or they’ll kill you. Don’t leave the religion and publicly disavow it, or they’ll kill you. Don’t burn a Qur’an, or they’ll kill you."  If actions that offend Muslims aren't to be vigorously defended and protected, we might as well just be done with it and invite them to come impose Sharia on us.

Of course, that's not my position.  In response to Butler, I insist that while people in other countries and cultures don't have to understand our rights, they do have to respect them, where "respect" means refraining from violating them.  And if they do not, we need to kill them.  That's no joke or exaggeration -- what else is the police and military power of the state for, if not to protect us from those who would take away our rights?  They can decry those rights, argue against them, say whatever they want, -- that's freedom of speech -- but when they try to violate them, they must be opposed by whatever means required.
Footnote: I must highlight a pithy comment left by PL of the Post-Libertarian blog that concisely sums all this:

I have always maintained that in many ways, the riots that broke out in France and and Denmark after the "original" cartoon scandal--and, more importantly, the responses to these riots--were far worse than 9/11. To be ambushed from behind is one thing; to succumb knowingly and apologetically is quite another.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Bothers Muslims?

Al Jazeera has a feature story on the exponential rise in state-sponsored executions, mass detentions, and torture in Iraq.    Apparently the Iraqi government has been arresting and executing increasing numbers of people (21 put to death in one day alone last month), without explanation or, so far as anyone can determine, trial.  Iraq's exiled vice president Tariq al-Hashemi called for an end to "the arbitrary and ever-increasing rate of executions in Iraq," whereupon he was promptly sentenced to death in absentia.  The Al Jazeera article also describes numerous cases of brutal torture inflicted on detainees -- gruesome stuff.  Unsurprisingly, one can get detainees to confess to almost anything if one tortures them enough, thus getting the "evidence" needed to convict for a capital offense.

And so, good Muslims all through the Islamic world are demonstrating, rioting, and occasionally killing over... well, not this kind of travesty, of course, this is par for the course for most Muslim countries.  Instead they are running amok over a film that appears to be the equivalent of the old Batman series because it offends them.

It offends them.  It's an insult to their religion.  And this isn't:

Hassan explained that his jailors had "various techniques of torture".

"They forced me to drink huge amounts of water and then would tie up the head of my penis so I could not urinate. This was really harmful to me," said Hassan.

Another method was to "take off my fingernails with a pair of pliers, one by one" so Hassan would "make confessions for things I did not do", he said.

Hassan said he was also hung upside down from his feet, his head placed in a bucket of water, while he was whipped with plastic rods.

Let that sink in.

Or here's how Egypt's Prime Minister sees it:

We ask the American government to take a firm position toward this film's producers within the framework of international charters that criminalise acts that stir strife on the basis of race, colour or religion.

I see.  Torture and executions aren't worth quibbling over.  On the other hand, bad films are, and when you savages go bazook and engage in strife, rioting, and murder, the people who offended you are the ones to be criminalized.

It's unfortunate that western governments don't simply tell these idiots to go to hell, or whatever the diplomatese equivalent is.  There's no reason at all for the West to cower.  Free speech is a sacred right, and if it offends, too bad.  And it ought to be fatal for anyone to breach an American embassy or consulate.  But political correctness reigns.

I suppose it's also a pity that Innocence of Muslims is so bad... although this highlights how irrational these crazy people are.  What would they do with a real challenge to Islam?

Oh well.  For your "enjoyment," and as part of the "Let's Offend Muslims" campaign, here's a clip from "Innocence," as well as a clip from the old "Batman" TV show.  After looking at these, it's much worse than "Batman."  Try Plan 9.  Enjoy (if you can)!

Update 17 Sept. 2012: The short excerpt from "Innocence" was removed, so I replaced it with a longer version.  The early parts in which present-day Muslims attack Christian Copts seem not so badly done, and quite accurate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Commemorating 9-11?

It's the 11th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. In commemoration of this terrible event, peace-loving Muslims have been going to the American Embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi to pay their respects and offer their..., umm, oops.

OK, a pack of faith-crazed Muslims has been stirred up once again by some crazed clerics, and again over an alleged insult to their alleged prophet. Time to riot, threaten murder, demand America institute censorship, and all those other things so many of the practitioners of what George W. Bush called "a religion of peace" are known for. (Quick, what other religious groups are known for these actions?)

But far worse were the actions of the American Embassy in Cairo, which issued the following statement: "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others...Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy."

No, it's not. Respect for the absolute right of free speech is. If someone is offended, too bad...or rather, good! Speech that offends no one is never in jeopardy, it's speech that someone doesn't like that must be protected. The job of our government is to defend our rights, not apologize to primitive thugs. The cowardly bastards who wrote and released that statement ought to be, well, just leave them in Cairo. Sans citizenship and passports.

In a series of pieces suggesting that Muslims should be profiled by TSA for security reasons, Sam Harris makes the following observation: "Don’t draw cartoons of their Prophet, or they’ll kill you. Don’t write a novel that could be considered blasphemous, or they’ll kill you. Don’t criticize their treatment of women, or they’ll kill you. Don’t leave the religion and publicly disavow it, or they’ll kill you. Don’t burn a Qur’an, or they’ll kill you." (BTW, I think Schneier rebuts Harris' argument for profiling fairly soundly; it's Harris' rejection of politically correct insanity I endorse here.)

The September 11 attacks have been used by our government to justify all sorts of violations of our liberties and as excuses for foreign adventures. But we should not let that blind us to the fact that we really do have foreign enemies and ideologies who would destroy our freedom as well.

Happy 9-11 Day.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Adventure Report #1: Ultrarunning fun!

I've been quite lax in getting adventure reports up -- in part because this summer's adventures have tended to seem slightly less adventurous than "our" usual standard, and in part b/c of a dearth of photos.  But that just won't do, because this summer's activities have "us" on track for a very adventuresome next couple of years. So this first (of several) adventure reports is more a report of plans for the future.

Summer adventures typically start with an early ultramarathon and backpack/climbing trip, and this year should have been no different.  Unfortunately, while my spring training had been fairly good, May was a disaster from a training standpoint, and once in Montana I found myself scrambling to get back into shape.  I entered the Old Gabe 50K in late June and found the scrambling wasn't good enough.  Although I felt fine, I was horribly slow, sufficiently so that I switched the the 25K race at the halfway point so as to avoid still being on the course when the awards party was finishing (this is one of the few races that allows you to switch from one event to the during the race).  After finishing I did some extra mileage to make it an even 20 (miles), but it was a very poor and sobering performance.

Што делать?  For the rest of the summer I concentrated on serious speedwork  -- intervals and short two-or-three-mile time trials, plus long runs in excess of the marathon distance.  It seems to be paying off (I'm certainly faster and feel better when I run), and in August I managed to complete the Elkhorn 50K on the new and tougher course... not in any very interesting time, but without any serious difficulty either.  Just before leaving Montana for the east I did another 50K by myself on dirt roads near our top secret fortified compound; it felt good and recovery was very quick.

I'm now slated to run, as usual, the Le Grizz 50 Miler in October.  Given my current condition I'm fairly confident about grinding out my twelfth Le Grizz finish, but what about something more challenging?  Well, for some time I've been thinking about another race, one that would go beyond anything I've ever done before -- the Arrowhead 135 winter ultra in International Falls MN.  Given the typical low temperatures of minus 40, and the fact that once you've completed 100 miles you still have a 50K to do and after that you're still not done, and you're pulling a sled full of survival gear, and it's all point-to-point in the wolf-infested backcountry of Minnesota -- well, how can anyone not want to do that?

However, I don't believe I could get into sufficient shape to reasonably run the 2013 version; I need more extremely long runs and more winter training than I've had recently, plus some experience in pulling a pulk (sled).  Hence I'm now focused on the 2014 running of the Arrowhead 135.  And since I'm in the east for the year I've signed up for the 2013 Beast of Burden Winter 100, 26 January in Lockport NY.  The terrain at the BoB is flat (it's run on the Erie Canal Towpath), and it's just four twenty five mile out-and-backs with an aid station every 6.25 miles.  Sounds easy, right?  It's apparently famous for blizzards.  I'm hoping for frigid weather this time around -- training for AH135, you know -- and one friend has already suggested he might be willing to spray me with cold water and throw ice cubes at me during the race if it isn't cold enough.  (Any readers interested to working as a crew member -- or running with me -- are welcome to volunteer.)

I suppose it's a bit lame to report "I didn't do anything very exciting, but plan to..."  So I'll get another report up in the next few days, as I actually do have a few interesting summer adventures to document.

A Quick Update

Unforeseen Contingencies is back in action!  I've just completed three weeks of hectic activity, culminating in a cross-country drive from smokey MT to humid PA, where I'll be spending the academic year.  The drive took one week, largely because canine companion Chaos and I dawdled about Michigan's UP for a few days, trail running in the cool and unsmokey air and also summitting Michigan's highpoint, Mt. Arvon (report and photos later).

A sufficient number of people* have asked what I am up to that I'm going to break security protocol and and violate the DiLorenzo Redaction Rules.  (I have it on fairly good authority that he's not currently reading UC anyway and so will take the risk.)  I have a one-year sabbatical from my teaching position at Hillsdale College and will be a visiting scholar at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research (IHHCPAR) at Rutgers University.  My research work will concern the effects of reimbursement systems on long run supply of health care, and especially on choices of specialty made by medical students.  I also will finish up another project or two and will do a great deal of reading in general economics.  Since my lovely wife Johanna owns a house in Philadelphia, I'm living here -- instead of living at work and commuting to see each other, we'll be living together and commuting to work...quite a switch!

I expect to soon have some economic and political commentary up, along with an adventure report or two.  Stay tuned!**
* Umm, one? two?  I seem to recall someone had expressed interest.
** Obscure reference to an ancient technology.

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