Monday, August 29, 2005

To Those Who Underestimate Us

The following is written in response to Bob Jones. It is his attitude I am concerned with as I believe it s often expressed in certain circles and needs to be corrected.

Next up, a couple of scruffs took turns chanting how they would wipe out the bureaucracy, taxes et al - these being the Libertarians. No lads, you won't do that, or indeed anything with your lives, unless you toss away your Ayn Rand bibles and get on with actually living.

Principled individualists may never be a significant political force. If thats the price of truth I can live with it. Others can continue their lust for power and influence and they're the ones that will have to live the consequences. You can't fake reality.
Most believers in libertarianism hold firm moral convictions. We aren't about to ditch these beliefs just because our impact isn't currently on the political radar screen. I'm interested in ideas, and the only way to change my beliefs is to attempt to reason me out of them. Marxism wasn't on the world stage until 20 years after Marx's death and Nietzche was bearly known during his time. Considering the renaissance in Ayn Rand scholarship and general trends (Atlas Shrugged is the 2nd most influential book in America), I wouldn't continue to treat libertarians or even Objectivists as a minor force. Libertarians may only be found in small numbers in the Western world but they're armed with compelling ideas that continue to influence and shape the world at the highest levels. Ask yourself, if you seek a comprehensive coherent political philosohy what is offered? Socialism / Communism / Facism / Anarchism have long been in retreat. The New Left is mainly a reactionary force (look at its opposition to globalization yet they do not really offer an alternative vision) and its intellectuals are second-raters (NoamChomsky, Howard Zinn, Noami Kelin etc) compared to the past. Beliefs like 'conservatism' or 'social democracy' do not really constitute an ideologies, unless expressed by some comprehensive thinker (e.g Leo Strauss). Those ideologies are obscure movements with very perplexing and abstract ideas. They largely exist on the fringes of intellectual life. They are also unlikely to appeal to any ordinary person (intellectuals themselves have plently of disagreement on Strauss philosophy). Popular movements like Rogernomics are certainly not ideologies but political programs, so too goes for most other labels. As I have argued before, religion is a spent force and even when theology is applied to politics it is very unclear what results from that. We are only left with post-modernism and the ideas the follow from it (relativism, multiculturalism). Yet post-modernism is under attack and we can see the beginnings of a rebellion already. Rational people find it an insulting ideology, after all, it's hard to have respect for oneself if you're moral worth is equal to that of the most pathetic and malicious of people. Likewise if Western culture is considered to be equal to archaic and primitive beliefs then most people will look elsewhere. And I think here is where libertarianism finds its followers. The fact that most people end up tempering their beliefs (selling out) to suite reality (get elected, have a bigger paycheck or whatever is involved) is to be expected. The best are always rare. Nevertheless, libertarianism has become the most powerful ideology of the right. This has been clear for a while now. Barry Goldwater was the political beginning and in the 1980s the New Right dominated (Reagan, Thatcher* etc). In the 1990s America's Republican Party in the house of representatives was represented by Newt Gingrich. Read the mans speeches and it becomes obvious liberty is of paramount concern to him. I am not arguing that the Republican party is the small-government party, it is obvious it is not. Everyone know's Bush spends like a drunken sailor. But people should know that only policies that favor small-government and the free market are conservatives hopes. Its essence and it's tradition has always been for liberty and libertarianism continues to shape it. Libertarian-minded thinkers have revolutionized the conservative movement (changing it from the party of Muldoon to that of Brash. Old-school conservatism is now found in NZ First) and to discount the influence of those today who are most consistent (i.e. radical) and intellectual is to be blind to the future. In short, the day conservatives actually achieve some substantial change for liberty will be the same day the Libertarianz start appearing on the radar screen.

One more complaint, has any critic of Rand actually read her writings? Bob says Objectivsts will never do anything with their lives, yet Objectivist 101 teaches that achievement and productivity are the highest of virtues. I would be interested to see a survey of Objectivists because I suspect that on a whole, most would be highly educated and successful.

*Both of who read and admired Ayn Rand. Conservatives who have only distain for her are those who are no better than the Left in my view.

[Update: A friend pointed out classical liberalism and libertarianism aren't the same thing. While he's right, they both make liberty the primary political value and for the purposes of this post I think they are indistinguishable]

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Listen Up Conservatives - Religion Is Dead And Its No Use to Us

Conservatism has no lasting hope of surviving and libertarianism no chance of growing if we are represented by those who defend their political creed by appeal to faith. Religion is a dying force in the West (40% of New Zealanders have no religious affiliation) and has become a means of justifying all sorts of political positions (Brian Tamaki is still far apart from mainstream anglican or presbysterian churches).
Only in the United States does it thrive, ever since Reagan back courting the religous vote in the early 1980s. Everyone by now should be aware of the considerable voting power of evangelical christains - they got millions out to vote in 2004 and allowed Bush to secure his second election victory. James Taranto of OpinionJournal has argued that the reason there are more (religious)conservatives is that abortion and birth control has allowed left-leaning "liberal" parents to have only 1-2 children whilst religious parents continue on as before. I'm skeptical but he is right that that there a general change in America, often compared to the 17th century great awakening, in which Christainity (Protestantism obviously) has become a political phenomenon that is stripped of its metaphysical and spiritual importance. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson popularised this change in America by having tv shows, promoting "Christain" music (which have quite violent moshpits I hear), and generally trying to make religion fun. It is an attempt to commericalise religious belief. They essentially market religion like a product, only it is extremely deceitful and dangerous. Yet in doing this they do not fundamentally alter American society. This is where I disagree with quite a few people. I do not think the growth of religion in America is so serious as it is often portrayed. This is because this new form of Christainity is tolerant of other peoples beliefs and opinions. I'm well aware that the Bible and their intepretation may be extremely intolerant and aggressive but their practice is something different. Speaking from personal experience, I think this is the case with many Christains today who are outwardly tolerant but in effect hold beliefs that are offensive. Just consider how many people you've met who have identified themselves as Christain but have broken basic moral commandments often (sex before marriage? skipping church?). The basic point is that most Christains do not take their faith seriously and hence their faith has changed to suite them. As Fareed Zakaria, a well-known American commentator says:

America's most conservative social movement, evangelical Christainity, went up against modern democratic culture and found itself utterly transformed. The tale of evangelical Christainity highlights the more rapid and widespread decline of all religious authority in American life.

This is one of the main reasons why conservatives ought to not base their policy decisions on appeals to religion. The Bush administration continues to do so and has yet to learn that religion is a spent force*. Intectually it has not been revived, despite numerous attempts to do so. Since the Enlightenment it has been forced to adopt numerous truths that were undeniable (like acknowledging the claims of science to truth, adopting new attitudes towards women and accepting state neutrality in matters of religion). These have harmed it irreversibly and ever since then it has been under attack. Frederick Nietzsche was right when he wrote 'God is dead'. Man killed god by science and reason and ever since he has sort to find values 'faithful to the earth'. The intellectual critique of religion is overwhelming if one is aware of it** (Coming from such diverse thinkers as Marx, Ludwig Feuerbach, Hume, Rand. Online there is Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christain avaliable).
I think one example will suffice of what happens when you mix religious ideas with secular ideas. Click here to read "Rights-worship fetish ruining our society" by Michael Coren. Anyone who has an even rudimentary understanding of political theory will notice how confused and muddled this guys thinking is. No definition of rights is provided nor does he show any understanding of the two polar traditions (human rights vs individual rights) that have defined the term. The author confuses rights with privileges and later on even attacks the notion of "the right to be wrong." Later on he also paraphases U.S. president John F. Kennedy who uttered the famous line of "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".
What this author (who just represents a long line of commentators and thinkers) depends on is you granting him the acknowledgment that you have responsibilitys towards others and our failing to demand that we live up to these is why society is falling apart (even though it clearly isnt). This moral claim ought not to be accepted but I believe religion is the main reason why those from the Right accept this point. Rather than saying we have duties to society (which promotes collectivism) we ought to be promoting individualism and freedom. Our vision shouldn't be reactionary (promoting duties sounds like something from the 17th century, where we have to die for some grand idea). There is no point in attempting to outlaw activites one thinks are immoral (prostitution, drugs) because this is only a superifical change. Cultural change must occur for people to change their ways. By encouraging freedom and demanding the corresponding responsibility (i.e. to accept the consequences and live with them) the virtues of personal independence, self-reliance, individual initative, accountability are cultivated. Forcing religion down people's faces hardly converts them to your position and if anything makes them despise you more. So conservatives out there, stop using religion to justify you're political positions. It won't work and it ought not to.
For those who continue to believe in religion and are conservative, here's a few suggestions. It's not often I give tactical advice to those I disagree with, but their approach is so stupid and dangerous that it needs to be done.

- Think evolution undermines religious belief? Well argue for private schools where you can indoctrinate your kids with your own money, not mine. Don't force it down our throats.
- Don't like your kids doing drugs and becoming bums? Well in you're personal life don't lie to your kids and be honest about you're own use. Lying isn't good, mmm kay? - Politically, that means a leader like President Bush or even Helen Clark, should be honest about their use and not hide behind justifications like setting a bad example for the youth of the country
- Don't like a gay marriage to be considered as socially as your hetrosexual one? well no one said you had to adopt the current way of doing things. The issue of gay marriage would have given religious conseratives a chance to stop the drift "toward a redefinition of marriage as a bundle of legally defined benefits bestowed by the state". Read this article to see what I mean. In short, conservatives could have approached the issue in very different fashion but instead they promoted the idea that the government ought to control peoples personal lives.
Marriage should not be materalistic (in the sense of providing benefits and privileges) but ought to be spiritual. Few conservatives made this point.
- Think abortion is murder? well even if true (it is not), the tactic of treating teenager mothers like murderers isn't going to get you far. Promote more moderate proposals, such as birth control :)

*Read Hitchens latest article here. He argues that if we are to give equal time to every new controversey (which is what intelligent design is. It is not scientific theory, to say otherwise is to lie) then churches in the US should not be allowed tax-exempt status unless they distribute pro-evolution propoganda!
** Sure, some may be very well-educated and hold theists beliefs. I believe they are irrational people (unable to apply reason due to emotion etc), and often dishonest.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Post-modernism, Multiculturalism and the War on Liberty

It seems to me a libertarian state could only arise in a situation where the masses accept the fundamental values necessary for a free society. Although the early United States was fairly close to a libertarian society it was eventually torn by its contradictions (on such issues as slavery or religion). For a truly free societies to exist a certain type of culture must develop, that respects individual rights and regards liberty as the highest of political values. It's a mixed situation today, where those values exist but are undermined by competiting value systems. As Daniel Pipes points out in The End of Treason, people today have no loyalty towards their place of birth and hence have rejected the ideology that underlines their government. Just ask any ordinary person what they think of 'Patriotism' and you'll see he means.

The notion of loyalty has fundamentally changed. Traditionally, a person was assumed faithful to his natal community. A Spaniard or Swede was loyal to his monarch, a Frenchman to his republic, an American to his constitution.
That assumption is now obsolete, replaced by a loyalty to one’s political community – socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or Islamism, to name some options. Geographical and social ties matter much less than of old.

In the West this means many reject our cultural heritage (which may include bogus values but nevertheless embraces freedom, reason, and science). Ordinary people begin to dispute the basic assumptions behind their governments or at least regard the claims of others as having equal validity. I think this has been going on for a while, ever since post-modernism became the dominant ideology. It has promoted the notion of multiculturalism which allows multiple cultural groups to exist and prevents assimilation by idealising the dinstictions between groups (For example, treating Maori culture like it has intrinsic worth thus worthy of teaching in public schools). It holds that diversity of cultures is desirable and natural thus accepting the racist premise that one's values are determined by race. This form of racism holds that people must be proud of one's traditions whether or not they are objective. Thus pathetically primitive cultures become a source of respect while Western culture is denigrated.
No integration, as Europe demonstrates with its Muslim population, leads to conflict as groups have less and less in common with each other. These groups become the focus of people's loyalty instead of their government. Maori radicals, just like Muslim radicals, have no loyalty to the basic values underlying our government. They see it fundamentally as an obstacle to their goals. To them it based on fundamental errors (Treaty of Waitangi or Secularism). The effects of this are everywhere:
- The complaints of Muslims in France over the wearing of the Hijab (veil ) demonstrates their skepticism over the strong secularism that French institutions embody.
- In Britain, Netherlands, and Germany multiculturalism has failed as governments have conceded too much ground to Muslims. Respect and protection of tribal values has led to a surge of honor killings. This is what happens when a culture of individualism does not develop. See this, and this.
- Post-modernism has led some Middle Eastern scholars to portray Islam as a peaceful religion by emphasizing an alternative definition of Jihad so that the meaning 'war against unbelievers' becomes an exception to history (It is not).
- In the realm of foreign policy, America concedes ground to Islamists. Iraq
will most likely now adopt Secular and Islamic courts. 1,800+ Americans died so that Iraq could be at best be called marginally free (which court has precedence in divorse cases where the husband preferred the Islamic court while the wife wanted the case heard in a secular court was left unanswered.)
- The best example though comes from our country. Some Maori's blamed taniwha for the high death rate along part of the road straddling the Waikato river and construction of the road was held up to investigate these claims and to accommodate any taniwha. Hence we became the laughing stock of the civilized world. The journalist sums up my frustrations of a "primitive culture" being allowed to halt development because politically correct Pakeha are too afraid to tell Maori to get real, get over it or get lost". Yet no substantive analysis follows and the complaint is treated as if it were a prejudice against a poor misunderstood culture. Later on the article informs us that the Maori's "resent it being foisted on them without their views being respected". And by respect they mean treated as if it were true. Hence we find ourselves in a situation where Maori mysticism is has equality with science and reason.
A free culture will never develop when the West, freedom's best hope, is engaged in self-sabotage and appeasement of it's enemies. This situation must end.
For further reading I suggest Ayn Rand's non-fiction (All of it). Wikipedia sums up her case against multiculturalism:

One of the most forceful critics of multiculturalism was Ayn Rand, who condemned the world-wide ethnic revival of the late 1960s as a manifestation of tribalization that would lead to an ethnic Balkanization destructive to modern industrial societies. Her philosophy considers multiculturalism to be based on the same premise as monoculturalism; this premise being culturally determinist collectivism (i.e., that individual human beings have no free choice in how they act and are conditioned irreversibly by society). Philosophically, Rand rejected this form of collectivism on the grounds that:
1) it undermines the concept of free will, and
2) the human mind (according to her philosophy) is a tabula rasa at birth. Combining these two premises, she concludes that we all can modify our actions volitionally, assuming we modify the premises we hold to support those actions (which is also volitional). Since this thinking was also her basis for rejecting racism, Objectivists and Neo-Objectivists/Post-Objectivists consider multiculturalism to be akin to racism

High Oil Prices and Global Recession? Unlikely

Conventional wisdom holds that oil supplies are running out fast and that our economies ought to prepare for sky-high oil prices by developing alternative fuels (often presenting a chance to argue for cleaner more environmentally friendly fuels as well). I often hear the argument presented by idiots (say Peak Oil: Life After The Oil Crash) and this NY Times story Peak Oil is no different. That it's a sophisticated well-written argument doesn't change the fact that those who make these arguments don't understand how markets work. It's not just me, a young libertarian with a 5th form understanding of economics who is saying this but a Professor of Economics at Chicago University. I suppose leftists won't be impressed with that, as Chicago is where Milton Friedman and the 'Chicago boys' (who made Chile's economy what it is today) came from. Anyway, as he says:

the author just invoked basic economics to invalidate the entire premise of the article

Thus once again, leftists show they don't really understand how markets work, which is why they don't believe in their power. Even if reserves were dwindling rapidly and prices did sky rocket, people would respond by using alternatives. The main reason alternatives aren't be used at the moment is because of price. World demand is not a constant and it will not necessarily keep increasing for the next 50 years. China and India may be increasing their consumption radically but it will not always be this way. China is undergoing a massive program to build hundreds of nuclear power plants which is an example of it looking elsewhere for energy supplies. With initatives like the one by Californian (5th largest economy in the world, biggest american state etc) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger which pushes for a hydrogen highway, the likelyhood of America gradually weaning itself off oil is highly likely. I think Instapundit summed up the situation best when he said most we are facing is 'peak cheap oil'.

Having said all that, I do think there is one reason to be opposed to an economy built entirely around oil. The reason: National security means we can't be dependent on oil that comes from not only statist economies (Russia, Venezuela) but Islamist tyrannies (Iran, Sudan). The best example is Saudi Arabia, which is home to Wahhabism (a fundamentalist version of Islam) and is also prone to instability (people have been predicting its downfall for years as the alliance between the monarchy and fundamentalists becomes uneasy). For decades it has exported its brand of fundamentalism (through the 1980s it funneled money into Afghanistan and competed with Iran for who was the true Muslim state with Khomeini arguing monarchies are unIslamic) throughout the Muslim world. This has had a significant effect by eliminating local traditional forms of Islam that were known for tolerance and replacing them with a strict puritan version of the faith. This is the reason we ought to wean ourselves off oil, as the dangers of supporting these states have become all too clear.
In short, I do not see a global depression as forseeable let alone one that comes from a scenario where oil suddenly increases in price (hey over the last 2years its gone from something like $28 a barrel to $65? and we're still doing okay). I do see one coming from the overthrow of Saudi Arabia or an invasion of Iran.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Methamphetamine & Drug Policy

Just like in New Zealand, the media (in this case, Newsweek) in America is going into a frenzy over methamphetamine or what they call 'America's most dangerous drug'. Jack Shafer from Slate Magazine has a rebuttal titled 'Meth madness at Newsweek: this is your magazine on drugs' which points out just how much the government exaggerates this "epidemic".
A New York Times commentator also writes on the issue:

"It's the problem identified by William Bennett, the former national drug czar and gambler."
"Using drugs," he wrote, "is wrong not simply because drugs create medical problems; it is wrong because drugs destroy one's moral sense. People addicted to drugs neglect their duties."

I believe it is this notion of 'duties' we must challenge. No longer is the individual sovereign over his own life, now he owes something to society. In an ideal society, individuals do not have duties to the society as whole. If a society accepts notions of duties, man becomes a moral slave which means he has no right to live for his own sake. Hence problems like drug addiction become more than a moral failing; they are an attack on other members in the group because your failings are bringing the group as a whole down. This collectivist way of looking at things presumes individuals are only important in so long as they contribute to the group. Once this is accepted, you're no longer a free man. You are a slave to others.
The chicago tribute also takes on 'the latest drug crisis'. Meanwhile left-wing New Zealand bloggers get it right for once and nail 'fuck-knuckle' Jim Anderton for his never ending promotion of the drug war.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Drug policy reform

I'm going to reiterate what I've said many times before: Our current drug policy is absurd and moves towards decriminalization/legalization are the only solution. It's sad that this needs repeating, but most people regard the status quo is acceptable and bork at radical change.
The Edmonton Sun gives us some food for thought on drug policy:

According to the U.S. Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, there are between 400,000 and 500,000 people in U.S. jails for drug offences - more than all the prisoners in the European Union. Also, a U.S. report released in May noted that the war on drugs has become a "war on marijuana." Pot arrests in the U.S. increased by 113% between 1990 and 2002 while non-marijuana arrests rose by only 10%, the study by the Sentencing Project found.
The U.S. spends $4 billion a year arresting, prosecutingand incarcerating marijuana offenders.
As for pot, the price has dropped, potency has increased and use has gone up

Consider the implications of this. The European Union has 456million people and the U.S. has only 295million, yet since drug offences represent only half of all federal prisoners, this means the U.S. incarcerates twice as many people as the European Union despite having 161million less people. How do people justify such an insane situation? Prison populations are growing fast (often faster than population growth) in the US and further funding does nothing to stop the trade. Drug smugglers will do whatever (even smuggle drugs under their hair) is necessary and the authorities, given their stubborn attitude towards a change in strategy (say treatment instead of prevention), are likely to continue down the path of failure.

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has been one of my favourite political activists since discovering his writings on Sept 11 & the war in Iraq. I enjoyed his passionate tone, witty prose and aggressive liberal attitude that rejected moral equivalence on the basis of reason (unlike other commentators who ground morality in religion). Some of his positions aren't libertarian (wealth restribution, internationalism in international affairs) but his columns are always worthy of a read.
While for many years he has been associated with the Left, his writings have mainly (especailly in recent years) strayed away from economics and kept on the topics of war and cultural issues. He views the anti-globalization movement with contempt and has attacked such prominent figures as Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, and the late Pope John Paul II. He came out against the Abu Ghraib scandal and torture at Guantanamo Bay whilst defending America against radical leftists (Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn etc) so I think he's a writer most libertarians (with the exception of ARI-type Objectivists who don't really tolerate much disagreement) and conservatives can enjoy.
Check out his writings at The Christopher Hitchens Web.

These quotes give you an insight into the sort of person he is:

The essence of tyranny, journalist Christopher Hitchens writes in his latest dispatch for Vanity Fair magazine, is capricious law.
And what better place to test the limits of arbitrary power, he decided, than Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City where one cannot take up excessive space on the subway, smoke, or engage in a roster of other crimes and misdemeanors deemed unsociable in this 21st-century cosmopolitan city. Mr. Hitchens, a British gadfly who writes a monthly column for the Condé Nast publication from such far-flung places as Afghanistan and Indonesia, came to Manhattan in November determined to participate in “an orgy of lawlessness,” while exploring “the shriveled core of the tiny Bloombergian mind.” He took up two seats on the subway (Fine: $50); fired up a cigarette where one is not allowed to smoke (Fine: $200 to $2,000), and (gasp) engaged in such disorderly conduct as sitting on a milk crate on subway stairs. He rode a bicycle (sans bell) and coasted through Central Park without his feet on the pedals (a double offense). “Tyranny can be petty,” Mr. Hitchens writes in February issue of Vanity Fair, which hits newsstands tomorrow. “And ‘petty’ is not just Bloomberg’s middle name. It is his name.”

On 'The Passion of the Christ' (perhaps the worst movie ever?):

The Bible does not have an encounter between Jesus and a sort of Satanic succubus figure in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bible does not have a raven pecking out the eye of one of the crucified thieves. The Bible does not have Judas pursued to his suicide by a horde of supernatural and sinister devil-children.
Moreover, whatever the Bible may say, the Roman authorities in Jerusalem were not minor officials in a Jewish empire, compelled to obey the orders of a gang of bloodthirsty rabbis.

his attitude:

"MG: You’d rather convince than persuade, you once said.
CH: Much rather. And I would rather reinforce the morale of those who think this (Mother Teresa/religion) is evil. So when they say, ‘if only he put it a different way I might give it a chance’ I think, ‘do I say that to them?’ Do I say, ‘well, I’m not going to read your holy books which already have the assumption that you’re in the right’? Of course not…"

the lies of Michael Moore:

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery"

reporting from the socialist paradise of North Korea:

"North Korea is a famine state. In the fields, you can see people picking up loose grains of rice and kernels of corn, gleaning every scrap. They look pinched and exhausted. In the few, dingy restaurants in the city, and even in the few modern hotels, you can read the Pyongyang Times through the soup, or the tea, or the coffee. Morsels of inexplicable fat or gristle are served as "duck." One evening I gave in and tried a bowl of dog stew, which at least tasted hearty and spicy—they wouldn't tell me the breed—but then found my appetite crucially diminished by the realization that I hadn't seen a domestic animal, not even the merest cat, in the whole time I was there. (In a Pyongyang restaurant, don't ever ask for a doggie bag.) Nobody knows how many North Koreans have died or are dying in the famine—some estimates by foreign-aid groups run as high as three million in the period from 1995 to 1998 alone—but the rotund, jowly face of Kim Il Sung still beams down contentedly from every wall, and the 58-year-old son looks as chubby as ever, even as his slenderized subjects are mustered to applaud him. Kim Jong Il, incidentally, has been made head of the party and of the army, but the office of the presidency is still "eternally" held by his adored and departed dad, who died on July 8, 1994, at 82. (The Kim is dead. Long live the Kim.) This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president. What would be the right term for this? A necrocracy? A thanatocracy? A mortocracy? A mausolocracy? Anyway, grimly appropriate for a morbid system so many of whose children have died with grass in their mouths"

Friday, August 05, 2005

Extremist Islam and Immigration

Yesterday I argued that the 'War on Terrorism' is actually a war within Islam. Thus the targets are extremist Muslims. This Muslim author agrees, who titles her opinion piece: "The Muslim mind is on fire". She gives an example of a Muslim mind on fire:

"The Muslim fundamentalist who attacked the Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, stabbed him more than 23 times then cut his throat. He recently proudly proclaimed at his trial: "I did it because my religion - Islam - dictated it and I would do it again if were free." Which preacher told this guy this is Islam? That preacher should be in jail with him

He most certainity should be. But we should be aiming to prevent these radicals from coming here in the first place. In France, they expelled an Imam who preached anti-French customs like supporting a man's right to beat his wife. This is good and a step in the right direction, but shouldn't we be seeking to identify these people at the border?

Daniel Pipes has long promoted the idea that "Militant Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution. This has led many to ask, what is moderate Islam?
Pipes has already answered this and came up with a list of questions. Here's some of his suggested questions:
Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims?
May Muslims convert to other religions?
May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men?
Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam?
Should Muslim women have equal rights with men (for example, in inheritance shares or court testimony)?
Is jihad, meaning a form of warfare, acceptable in today's world?

Should these questions be on our immigration applications? These questions
may have prevented Ahmed Zaoui from entering (as security concerns certanity won't do) NZ.
Anyway there is no shortage of Muslims who would give the wrong answers to the above questions. An example, a melbourne radical Islamic teacher openly praises Bin Laden and claims his "religion doesn't tolerate other religion . . . Jihad is a part of my religion". He believes in the usual Islamic conspiracies (Sept11 wasn't Bin Laden's plan, but probably a Jewish plot). 'Sheikhs of death' like this guy ought to be identified as early as possible and denied immigration.
The US seems to already be doing this. For example, they denied visas to both Tariq Ramadan (a popular Islamist scholar. Read this too) and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).They were denied visa's precisely because their beliefs were seen as promoting terrorism. Its about time other Western nations begun doing the same.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

War on Terrorism 'Name Change'

I always enjoyed The West Wing and thought it was one of the better TV shows on at the time. The show creator, Aaron Sorkin, always claimed the show wasn't bias towards democrats (the fictional President is a democrat) but I never agreed with him. I'm hoping this upcoming show, Commander-in-Chief, won't have that fault. The New Republic has the info here (reg required).

Also check out this interesting article discussing the impact of the drug war on Puerto Rico and this article from Middle East scholar Oliver Roy who knows exactly what the real roots of Islamic terrorism are.
This Frenchman wrote a book called 'The Failure of Political Islam' which argued that Islamism has had its day because where ever implemented it has failed (i.e. failed to achieve the goals it sets, not what others set for it). He thus argues Muslims will reject Islamism once its put into practise. An example is Iran where the youth (under 30's represent 2/3'rds of the population) widely despise the current regime.
While Oliver Roy often brillant I think this is a good example of some of the bad ideas coming from Middle East scholars. I really do fail to see how he used Iran as an example, after all, the damage the regime have done (e.g. continuing the Iran-Iraq war for years after Saddam wanted to give up or giving decades of support to terrorism groups like Hezbollah) has been enormous. Daniel Pipes has a good review of the book avaliable here.

[Update: The change in name is not going ahead. From NY Times (free reg required) - President Makes It Clear: Phrase Is 'War on Terror']

Also this caught my attention: A slogan change from 'Global War on Terrorism' (GWOT) to 'Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism' (GSAVE). Pathetic. A cosmetic change like this will do nothing. A fundamental change is in order.
Its war within Islam. A battle for the soul of Islam. It is not 'terrorism' (which is merely a tactic of the weak - a form of asymmetrical warfare) . It's all about ISLAMIC EXTREMISM, an interpretation of the religion which inspires a cult of death. It doesn't matter if its Sunni (as it often is) extremism or Shi'ite extremism (say Hezbollah or Sadr in Iraq) - what matters is that its Islamic. Daniel Pipes nails it:

TONY JONES: Is it as narrowly defined as that though? Is it that Washington simply isn't interested in other forms of terrorism?
DANIEL PIPES: No, there are American troops in such countries as the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Yemen, Pakistan, all of them concentrating on militant Islam.There are no American troops for example in Sri Lanka or Peru, where there are very virulent terrorist problems but they're not connecting to militant Islam.


In fact, I would argue that by focusing on militant Islam you become aware that moderate Muslims who form the bulk of the Muslim population are our allies.They're very important in this war.These are the people who suffer first, the predations of militant Islam in such countries as Afghanistan where we saw the response when people were freed or Algeria or Turkey or Egypt all over the world.It's not an insult to Muslims. Muslims understand that there is this ideology, which is very radical, which is targeting them first.

A clear definition is the beginnings of any analysis. When the American government can't even define the issue properly, how is it expected to conduct anything else right?

Monday, August 01, 2005

War on Drugs

This Rollingstone article investigates Bush's War on Pot and concludes what any sensible person should - that it's stupid. They sum the situation up well:
"In March, the archconservative American Enterprise Institute published a report -- titled "Are We Losing the War on Drugs?" -- that concluded "criminal punishment of marijuana use does not appear to be justified." Scores of states and cities, whose jails and courts are bursting at the seams with people serving lengthy sentences for minor drug offenses, are rejecting harsh sentencing laws backed by the White House. And most schools and employers are deciding not to test students and workers for drugs, despite a national testing push by John Walters, the tough-talking drug warrior who became America's "drug czar" in 2001."
They also note that "in June, the anti-pot crusade got a boost from the Supreme Court, which ruled that federal authorities can crack down on medical marijuana, even in states where it has been legalized."
It's a pity they didn't mention the dissent of the conservatives (recently departed O'Connor and Scalia, and Thomas). I agree with David Farrar, that the approach of originalism by Scalia/Thomas is objective in the sense of providing a clear fixed meaning of the consititution thus preventing judicial activism (i.e. a reinterpretation of the consitution to support growth in state power). This old post by David is also worth a read.
It is largely conservatives who opposed the Supreme Courts decision to favour federal rights over states rights. Its leftists who brought Americans the New Deal, and today, still oppose clear limitations on government power. Even OpinionJournal (a republican mouthpiece) opposed the decision.