Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat

Glenn links to this report that reveals the identity of Deep Throat to be a former FBI official. My question- does this then mean that Woodward and Bernstein really didn't do anything particularly special? I know they are treated as patron saints by most media members and are given credit for 'bringing down the Nixon presidency' but if the above story is true, didn't the FBI actually use the media to bring down Nixon? Seems to me that the machinations of democracy simply worked as they were meant to.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Quality Thoughts

There has been so much quality commentary I've come across lately that I really have nothing to add. Read this Mark Steyn column if you need proof.


To date, reaction has divided along two lines. Newsweek has been hammered for being so flushed with anti-Bush anti-military fever that they breezily neglected the question of whether their story would generate a huge mound of corpses.

Which is true. On the other hand, there are those who point out it's hardly Newsweek's fault that some goofy foreigners are so bananas they'll riot and kill over one rumor of one disrespectful act to one copy of one book. Christians don't riot over ''Piss Christ'' and other provocations by incontinent ''artists.'' Jews take it in their stride when they're described as ''a virus resembling AIDS,'' which is what Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris said a week ago in his sermon on Palestinian state TV, funded by the European Union. Muslims can dish it out big-time, so why can't they take it, even the teensy-weensiest bit?

All of which is also true, but would be a better defense of Newsweek if the media hadn't spent the last 3-1/2 years bending over backwards to be super-sensitive to the, ah, touchiness of the Muslim world -- until the opportunity for a bit of lurid Bush-bashing proved too much to resist. In a way, both the U.S. media and those wacky rioters in the Afghan-Pakistani hinterlands are very similar, two highly parochial and monumentally self-absorbed tribes living in isolation from the rest of the world and prone to fanatical irrational indestructible beliefs -- not least the notion that you can flush a 950-page book down one of Al Gore's eco-crazed federally mandated low-flush toilets, a claim no editorial bigfoot thought to test for himself in Newsweek's executive washroom.

Watching the media circling the wagons around the beleaguered Isikoff this week, Martin Peretz of the New Republic described them as ''a profession that is complacent, self-righteous, and hopelessly in love with itself.'' The media are the message: But, hey, enough about the war, let's talk about me.

Like I said, nothing I can add to that.

If you are unfortunate enough to be stuck in front of a computer and not out grilling with a drink in hand, you should check out this "Just imagine if George Bush had predicted to us on the morning after Sept. 11, 2001 what actually happened." column, where Victor Davis Hanson tells us what his speech might have sounded like.

As for me, it's just about Memorial Weekend, so I'm going to read Chrenkoff's 22nd installment of underreported good news from Iraq, then not work, and spend the next few days kicking off the summer properly while praying that Zarqawi dies.

Sounds like fun eh?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Voices of Tolerance?

In my previous post I wondered where all the moderate Muslim voices were. (Via InstaPundit) Tom Friedman suggests what the White House response should have said and then quotes one of those elusive voices of moderation.
Instead of sending Mr. McClellan out to flog Newsweek, President Bush should have said: "Let me say first to all Muslims that desecrating anyone's holy book is utterly wrong. These allegations will be investigated, and any such behavior will be punished. That is how we Americans intend to look in the mirror. But we think the Arab-Muslim world must also look in the mirror when it comes to how it has been behaving toward an even worse crime than the desecration of God's words, and that is the desecration of God's creations. In reaction to an unsubstantiated Newsweek story, Muslims killed 16 other Muslims in Afghanistan in rioting, and no one has raised a peep - as if it were a totally logical reaction. That is wrong.

"In Iraq, where Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni Muslims are struggling to build a pluralistic new order, other Muslims, claiming to act in the name of Allah, are indiscriminately butchering people, without a word of condemnation coming from Muslim spiritual or political leaders. I don't understand a concept of the sacred that says a book is more sacred than a human life. A holy book, whether the Bible or the Koran, is only holy to the extent that it shapes human life and behavior.

"Look, Newsweek may have violated journalistic rules, but what jihadist terrorists are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan - blowing up innocent Muslims struggling to build an alternative society to dictatorship - surely destroys the Koran. They are the real enemies of Islam because they are depriving Muslims of a better future. From what I know of Islam, it teaches that you show reverence to God by showing reverence for his creations, not just his words. Why don't your spiritual leaders say that? I am asking, because I want to know."

Fortunately, a few courageous Arab intellectuals, such as Abderrahman al-Rashed, have asked such things. Writing in Wednesday's Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, he said: "When thousands in Afghanistan are concerned about a report in a magazine that does not reach them, written in a language they do not speak, leading them to protest in a manner unprecedented among other Islamic nations that do speak English, the matter is worth pursuing further: it tells us more about the dangers of propaganda and its exploitation by opposition groups than it does about spontaneous popular sentiments."

And a few days ago, a group of Iraqi journalists actually went to Jordan and got right in the face of Jordanian columnists and editors, demanding to know why they were treating Muslim mass murderers in Iraq like anticolonial war heroes. It's already changed the tone. That's the war of ideas.

The greatest respect we can show to Arabs and Muslims - and the best way to help Muslim progressives win the war of ideas - is to take them seriously and stop gazing at our own navels. That means demanding that they answer for their lies, hypocrisy and profane behavior, just as much as we must answer for ours.

I agree, although Bush surely would have been flogged for showing 'insensitivity' towards Muslim culture, but that is no excuse.

Ali Al-Ahmed offers some more self-examination:
As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others' holy books and religious symbols. Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment. TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored.

The desecration of religious texts and symbols and intolerance of varying religious viewpoints and beliefs have been issues of some controversy inside Saudi Arabia. Ruled by a Wahhabi theocracy, the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia have made it difficult for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, as well as dissenting sects of Islam, to visibly coexist inside the kingdom.

Another way in which religious and cultural issues are becoming more divisive is the Saudi treatment of Americans who are living in that country: Around 30,000 live and work in various parts of Saudi Arabia. These people are not allowed to celebrate their religious or even secular holidays. These include Christmas and Easter, but also Thanksgiving. All other Gulf states allow non-Islamic holidays to be celebrated.

The Saudi Embassy and other Saudi organizations in Washington have distributed hundreds of thousands of Qurans and many more Muslim books, some that have libeled Christians, Jews and others as pigs and monkeys. In Saudi school curricula, Jews and Christians are considered deviants and eternal enemies. By contrast, Muslim communities in the West are the first to admit that Western countries--especially the U.S.--provide Muslims the strongest freedoms and protections that allow Islam to thrive in the West. Meanwhile Christianity and Judaism, both indigenous to the Middle East, are maligned through systematic hostility by Middle Eastern governments and their religious apparatuses.

The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.

What's wrong with the above two examples is that I still harbor doubts as to how many of the rank and file Middle Easterners actually hear these comments, much less give them any serious consideration. I am still waiting for some influential Imams to declare jihad on those that would car bomb a girls junior high or at least start encouraging their Mosques to not kill over a book. Is that so much to ask? Maybe it's happening more than I think and maybe it is simply not getting widespread attention due to a lazy press. I don't really know, but to end on an optimistic note, at least there is this from Fouad Ajami:

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Thenceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria--and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection.

To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.

Read the whole thing, which is quite interesting. Perhaps all is not lost as the above does suggest the building of a critical mass of vocal reason. More of this please.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Newsweek Only Highlighted the Deeper Problem

I was unable to closely follow the Newsweek debacle as it developed, so what follows is a wrap-up of some of the relevant thoughts I've seen over the past week:

Kathleen Parker:
First, we all can agree that flushing a Koran down a toilet, if physically possible, would be both insensitive and rude, though Westerners generally have a higher tolerance threshold for such offenses. Put it this way: You could flush a Bible down the toilet in front of Goober in Kabul, and it's unlikely that Mayberry suddenly would be awash in blood.

Without disrespecting true believers of Islam, one also could debate the relative miseries of seeing our favorite scripture disappear into the plumbing versus, say, watching airplanes fly into buildings, killing thousands of innocents. Remember, these are terrorist suspects captured after 9/11, not kidnapped members of an Afghan boys choir.

The apparent Newsweek mistake was regrettable, but we should beware allowing ourselves to mirror the emotional reactions of people who were by no measure justified in their response — even if the story had been proven true. The same people foaming over a reported act of blasphemy didn't flinch while executing women for stepping outside sans burqa. I'm afraid my moral outrage in favor of the morally outrageous is all tapped out.

Austin Bay:
Thanks for the many superb comments- including the one from dadahead which has stirred some useful discussion. The discussion flows from to the comment I pinched off Instapundit. Who are the guilty parties? In terms of taking 15 (or is it 17) lives, the rioters are guilty parties, there’s no question about that. But professional diligence, responsible use of information, and analysis of consequences also play central roles- let me re-write that- the lack of professional diligence and analysis of consequences play central roles. Anti-American propagandists -and that includes Al Qaeda- have used Gitmo and Abu Ghraib as emotional/political weapons. Responsible reporting must take that into account- in fact, credible reporting has to take that into account. A news organization will ultimately lose credibility if it doesn't factor the Al Qaeda propaganda angle into its reporting on Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. I know, this makes for a more complicated story, but this is an intricate, complex war on an intricate, complex planet. I argue that the “Vietnam/Watergate” template directed Newsweek to “get Bush"- and that’s a narrow vision for a quality journalistic enterprise in a world where information technology puts us all within earshot of one another. That’s why I said the answer to the Instapundit commenter is “yes and no.” I will bet that Al Qaeda has sympathizers in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are cued to re-act to Western news reports that “insult Islam” - particularly reports involving US troops. The “fifth-columnist” throws the first stone. If he can get a couple of bored teenage boys to throw a second and third stone he’s done his job. It doesn’t always result in a riot but if a reporter’s on the scene, Al Qaeda gets another “the Muslim street is angry” story. I offer this as a scenario, not a proven fact, but it is a common ploy. Again, thanks for the quality comments.

He's right, it is complicated, and news organizations need to at least be aware that Al-Qaeda training manuals instruct members to make false accusations of mistreatments and torture. If I know this, Newsweek should too.

Glenn Reynolds:
Two points: (1) If they had wrongly reported the race of a criminal and produced a lynching, they'd feel much worse -- which is why they generally don't report such things, a degree of sensitivity they don't extend to reporting on, you know, minor topics like wars; and (2) If a blogger had made a similar mistake, with similar consequences, we'd be hearing about Big Media's superior fact-checking and layers of editors.

People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad.

And more from Glenn in a later post:
I want to add that I don't think there's anything immoral about flushing a Koran (or a Bible) down the toilet, assuming you've got a toilet that's up to that rather daunting task, and I think it's amusing to hear people who usually worry about excessive concern for religious beliefs suddenly taking a different position. Nor do I think that doing so counts as torture, and I think that it debases the meaning of "torture" to claim otherwise. If this had happened, it might have been -- indeed, would have been -- impolitic or unwise. But not evil.

And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be willing to apply the same kind of criticism to things like Piss Christ, or to explain why offending the sensibilities of one kind of religious believer is "art" while doing the same in another context is "torture." If, that is, they want to be taken at all seriously.

But the more I have pondered this over the last few days, the more I think that this comment from an Instapundit reader is the most apt observation.
Newsweek isn't the problem. The problem is that people will kill over a book being desecrated. Actually, over a anonymous report buried within a third rate weekly magazine. There is something wrong when people value a book, of which there are millions, over human lives. This is the real problem, and Newsweek isn't the source of it. The problem is an ignorant and violent subculture within the islamic world, and the general lack of tolerance about religion therein.

Those comments are also reflected in this recent Cox and Forkum cartoon.

This is the culture we are trying to break. A culture that values the treatment of a book above the treatment of a fellow human being, even when that human being is a supposed beloved Muslim brother. I don't recall any riots or even protests in the Middle East over Saddam or the Taliban's murderous rule, yet they can work up this kind of fury over a book? I have to say, for the first time since the early days of this war, my faith in freedom taking hold is shaken. Perhaps the left was correct, maybe the Middle East is culturally incapable of self-governance. Where is the tolerance?!? Where are the voices of moderate Muslims? Why isn't there a cleric standing up and saying, "Our religion is important, but we should not be killing over the treatment of a book." Instead we get renewed calls of jihad and demands for a collective American apology. Please. Did we ask for an apology from the whole of Muslims after a few of them slammed planes into buildings killing thousands?!? No, on the contrary, we made a point to emphasize that this is not a war on Islam. Yet they want an apology because a book may or may not have been put in a toilet!?!? How about a show of tolerance for once, that is what freedom is all about, you have to respect other lifestyles and other religions if you want yours respected.

Here in America when a guy desecrates religion we call it art. Over there, it's reason to kill. Yeah, I'm hopping mad, and I'm starting to think that I was incredibly naive to place my hope in the Muslim world embracing tolerance and freedom. You don't want it? Fine! I am getting damn sick and tired of seeing Americans die so we can try and win the 'hearts and minds.' I know, I know, it is not all Muslims and its probably not even close to most. That has always been my assumption, but if my assumption is true, I would have expected to hear at least some voices of moderation coming out of the Middle East. If none of these moderates can speak up, leave them to the wolves. You want to be governed by the Taliban? You want to be ruled by those that car bomb school children? Go ahead, enjoy. It won't last long though, I promise you that. One of these days, not too far into the future, one of the nut jobs will get their hands on either a biological or nuclear weapon and will manage to detonate it in an American city. And when that happens, you will reap the frickin whirlwind. You think Americans got upset over 9/11? Only about half of us did actually, so go ahead, wake the other half and see what happens. With each demonstration of violence, you don't make us more scared, instead you whittle away at our ability to show restraint in the face of increasing ruthlessness. Howard Stern suggested last week that perhaps Newsweek has taught us how to best fight terrorism. All we need to do is continue to publish unsubstantiated stories of Koran desecration and the crazies will riot and kill each other for us. He may have been more right than not.

I have no doubt about who will win this war, the only question is how many human beings will be incinerated and which parts of the earth will be scorched in the process. If a civilized tolerance can't take hold over there, that number is going to get awfully awfully high. I saw a T-shirt recently that showed an outline of Iraq, above that it said, "Nuke it, pave it, turn it into a beer garden, and bring our boys home." Currently, that is not the prevailing attitude of Americans, but if you keep on keeping on like this, it could be. And yeah, I'm angry, no I haven't given up. But I'm as pessimistic as I have ever been about avoiding the type of carnage that marked World War II.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Worth Another Plug

Wow, truly truly riveting, the thousands of miles between us mean everything and nothing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Good Reading/Good Columnist

Since I have been talking up favorite columnists as of late (cause really that's all I have time for) let me also recommend Victor Davis Hanson. He's authored quite a few books and columns on the Greek classics, military history, as well as contemporary culture. Here are some excerpts from a fascinating dissection of today's World War II revisionists.

There is a pattern here. Western elites — the beneficiaries of 60 years of peace and prosperity achieved by the sacrifices to defeat fascism and Communism — are unhappy in their late middle age, and show little gratitude for, or any idea about, what gave them such latitude. If they cannot find perfection in history, they see no good at all. So leisured American academics tell us that Iwo Jima was unnecessary, if not a racist campaign, that Hiroshima had little military value but instead was a strategic ploy to impress Stalin, and that the GI was racist, undisciplined, and reliant only on money and material largess.

There are two disturbing things about the current revisionism that transcend the human need to question orthodoxy. The first is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Whatever mistakes and lapses committed by the Allies, they pale in comparison to the savagery of the Axis or the Communists. Post-facto critics never tell us what they would have done instead — lay off the German cities and send more ground troops into a pristine Third Reich; don’t bomb, but invade, an untouched Japan in 1946; keep out of WWII entirely; or in its aftermath invade the Soviet Union?

Lost also is any sense of small gratitude. A West German intellectual like Grass does not inform us that he was always free to migrate to East Germany to live in socialist splendor rather than remain unhappy in capitalist “subservience” in an American-protected West Germany — or that some readers of the New York Times who opposed Hitler might not enjoy lectures about their moral failings from someone who once fought for him. Such revisionists never ask whether they could have written so freely in the Third Reich, Tojo’s Japan, Mussolini’s Italy, Soviet Russia, Communist Eastern Europe — or today in such egalitarian utopias as China, Cuba, or Venezuela.

....If there were any justice in the world, we would have the ability to transport our most severe critics across time and space to plop them down on Omaha Beach or put them in an overloaded B-29 taking off from Tinian, with the crew on amphetamines to keep awake for their 15-hour mission over Tokyo.

But alas, we cannot. Instead, the beneficiaries of those who sacrificed now ankle-bite their dead betters. Even more strangely, they have somehow convinced us that in their politically-correct hindsight, they could have done much better in World War II.

Indeed. Read it all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Required Reading: Thomas Sowell is Lord of Us All III.

I've said it before, if you can only read one author in the world, without a doubt it should be Thomas Sowell. And this might be my favorite Thomas Sowell column ever. True, I probably say that in the wake of each of his new columns, but I have read this one three times today and find myself positively giddy with each successive read. I'll try to have the discipline to not excerpt the whole damn thing, but you got to promise to follow the link and read the whole thing, deal? Okay then.

The latest liberal crusade is against the Wal-Mart stores.

A big headline on a long article in the New York Times asks "Can't A Retail Behemoth Pay More?"

Of course they can pay more. The New York Times could pay its own employees more. We could all pay more for whatever we buy or rent. But why should any of us pay more than we have to?

According to the New York Times, there is a book "by a group of scholars" due to be published this fall, arguing that Wal-Mart has an "obligation" to "treat its employees better."

This can hardly be called news. Nothing is easier than to find a group of academics -"scholars" if you agree with them - to advocate virtually anything on any subject. Nor is this notion of an "obligation" new.
Sowell's just getting warmed up here, go read the rest to see how he masterfully carves economic truth out of lofty rhetoric and then concludes:

It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth.

They certainly don't feel any "obligation" to learn economics, out of a sense of "social responsibility," much less because of any "social contract" requiring them to know what they are talking about before spouting off with self-righteous rhetoric.
Brilliant. Read the rest.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Palestinians-Moving Towards Their Moment of Truth?

Daniel Pipes has some interesting observations on some 'pro-Israel' Palestinians. It's somewhat anecdotal but perhaps it's indicative of a wider trend of moderate Palestinians questioning the death cult of suicide bombing and instead pondering the benefits of freedom, and more importantly, speaking up about it. Perhaps some are ready to give up their fantasy ideology that someday, Israel as a state will come to an end and the Jews will be pushed into the sea.

For all their rhetoric about Israel's "vicious" and "brutal" occupation, Palestinians - including their leaders - sometimes let down their guard and candidly acknowledge how much they prefer Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Here are some of their themes:

Restraints on violence. After the PA police raided the house of a Hamas supporter in an after-midnight operation, roughed up both him and his 70-year-old father, the father yelled at the police, "Even the Jews did not behave like you cowards." And the son, when he came out of the PA jail, declared his experience there much worse than in the Israeli ones. An opponent of Yasir Arafat pointed out how Israeli soldiers "would first fire tear gas, and then fire rubber bullets and only then shoot live ammunition. ... But these Palestinian police started shooting immediately."

Rule of law. Haydar 'Abd ash-Shafi', a Gazan leader, once observed, "Can anyone imagine that a family would be happy to hear a knock at the door in the middle of the night from the Israeli Army?" He went on: "When the infighting began in Gaza, the people were happy because the Israeli Army imposed a curfew." Likewise, Musa Abu Marzouk of Hamas compared Arafat unfavorably with the Jewish state: "We saw representatives of the Israeli opposition criticize [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Barak and they were not arrested... but in our case the PA arrests people as the first order of business."

Middle Eastern dictators often use footage of anti-Bush protests/rallies in America for their own propaganda purposes, but I've often wondered if it doesn't have the opposite effect. Do these citizens living under oppressive dictatorships notice that Americans can say horrible things about their sitting president, and then just go home with no consequences?

Democracy. Israel's 1999 elections, in which the sitting prime minister lost, impressed many Palestinian observers. Columnists remarked on the smooth transition in Israel and wanted the same for themselves: "I envy [the Israelis] and desire a similar regime in my future state." Even Hasan al-Kashif, director-general of the PA's Information Ministry, contrasted the changes in Israel with the power of "several names in our leadership" which go on ruling in perpetuity. Nayif Hawatma, leader of the terrorist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, wants the PA to make decisions like Israel, by presenting them for a vote.

Minority rights. Christians and secular Muslims particularly appreciate Israel's protection at a time when Palestinian politics has taken an increasingly Islamist cast. A Christian Palestinian declares that when the Palestinian state comes into existence, "the sacred union against the Zionist enemy will die. It will be time to settle accounts. We will undergo the same as our Lebanese brothers or the Copts in Egypt. It saddens me to say so, but Israeli laws protect us."
Israelis protect gay Palestinians too.

Freedom of expression. In an ironic turn of events, Na'im Salama, a lawyer living in Gaza, was arrested by the PA on charges he slandered it by writing that Palestinians should adopt Israeli standards of democracy; for his audacity, he spent time in jail. Hanan Ashrawi, an obsessive anti-Israel critic, acknowledges (reluctantly) that the Jewish state has something to teach the nascent Palestinian polity: "freedom would have to be mentioned, although it has only been implemented in a selective way, for example, the freedom of speech." 'Iyad as-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, confesses that "during the Israeli occupation, I was 100 times freer [than under the Palestinian Authority]."

Economic benefits. Palestinians who live in Israel (including Jerusalem) appreciate Israel's economic success, social services, and many benefits. Salaries in Israel are about five times higher than in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel's social security system has no parallel on the Palestinian side. Palestinians living outside of Israel want economically in; when the Israeli government announced the completion of the security fence in one region, a resident of the West Bank border town of Qalqiliya reacted with revealing outrage: "We are living in a big prison."

These comments point to some Palestinians appreciating the benefits of elections, rule of law, minority rights, freedom of speech, and a higher standard of living. In effect, they acknowledge Israel as more civilized than the PA. Amid all the PA's political extremism and terrorism, it is good to know that a Palestinian constituency also exists for normality.

Unfortunately, it remains a furtive constituency with no political import. The time has come for decent Palestinians to make their voices heard and state that Israel's existence is not the problem but the solution.

Isn't that the truth. The problem is that vocal moderate Palestinians are a small minority and subject to intimidation by terror groups. Comments like the above are enough to get one labeled a 'collaborator' with Israel, which gets you this type of "justice."

Until they can stand up to the intimidation of the terror groups that propagate the fantasy they will live under these harsh conditions. It is unfortunate that the international community (i.e. the UN and Europe) offers no help, instead choosing to vilify Israel while excusing Palestinian terror, even when it is the average Palestinian that suffers most.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Chicago Legends

Last week in Chicago a major federal indictment was unleashed and some of the most reputed members of the Chicago mafia were swept up. But the whereabouts of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, perhaps the most well known Chicago mobster since Al Capone, was unknown. Lombardo once took out a newspaper ad proclaiming that he is not a mobster, and another time cut out eyeholes in a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper which he used to cover his face while passing photographers. The image was immortalized in a famous photograph and is what earned him the nickname "The Clown." This is the stuff that Chicago Lore is made from, and it's time for a new chapter. On the heels of last weeks indictments, Lombardo sent a letter to Judge James Zagel who is handling the case.

It's funny how the mafia can be romanticized. I love The Sopranos, I love Goodfellas and the Godfather (except III of course, but nobody liked that one). You get the idea that these are such elite Machiavellian men that live by some strict, old world code that pedestrians like myself really can't nor want to understand. You think all that stuff about them, until you read Lombardo's grammar butchering, almost child like letter. (Actual photo of the letter here.)
Honarable Judge Zagel,

I am writing you a letter to let you know that I am not hiding to avoid the charges against me.

#1 I anticipate there will be no bond

#2 I want a seperate trial, which I will not get

#3 Majority of the other defendants I do not know.

4 There is not one defendant in this case that I recieved 1 penney or did I give them 1 penny.

5 I am no part of a enterprise or racketering .

6 Have no part in the poker machines, extorcinate loans, gambling and what ever else the indictment says.

7 About the 18 murders in the indictment, I want you to know that I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you.

Judge I went through two trials and was found guilty in both cases I got 15 years + 5 yrs probation, and 14 yrs on the other. There was not a witness, or evidence against me that I intended a crime. Well your going to say that jury herd the evidence and found me guilty. How many, many, manny innocent people are there in jail.

I read in the paper where 3 ladies were rape at 3 different times and all 3 indentified the same person. He was convicted and sent to prison by the jury. Like you will say the jury heard the evidence and found him guilty. Tank God for D.N.A. It freed him.

Tranlation - I don't know nothing about nothing, and that's not why I'm hiding anyway!

Now a little more rambling, followed by some downright pleading with a dash of obligatory complaints about the inherent unfairness of the criminal justice system.

It's the same with the Rossetti case I read in the paper. One defendant pleaded guilty to rape & murder for a deal for the state 12 years instead of life in prison for his testimony against his 3 or 4 other defendants. They were all convicted and sent to jail for life. Again by a jury who heard the evidence. Thank God for D.N.A. They were all free including the man who confessed for the 12 years. I could go on, and on, and on with cases. How's about the innocent people that where found guilty by a jury and do not have D.N.A. to free them.

Judge I am in dire strate at this time at 76 yr old to live my life peaceful until I die

If I get 10 yrs I will be 86 yrs old, and 20 yrs I will be 96 yrs old. Will I live 10 yrs? Will I live 20 yrs

Medical care in prison is a farce. I went 3 times with chest pain and 3 cardiograms they said I had a enlarged heart take 1 aspirn a day. 1 month later I was released had chest pain went to the hospital took a angiogram and found I had artery 98% blocked. Had angioplasty the same day. Since my release 1993 Ive had 2 or 3 angioplasty and 3 stents put in.

So judge you know what my thinking is, and why I did not answer the indictment. Judge I want you to know that I am not a violent man in anyway shape or form. I do not own or have any weapons of any kind. If the F.B.I. should find me I will come peacefully and no resistence at all.

Translation - If you do find me I promise I'll come peacefully, without a struggle, please no knee in the back or face in the hood of a squad car or any other form of tune-ups from Chicago's finest, I might break my hip!

He concludes, kind of:

If you have any ideas or suggestion of what I should do, notify my lawyer he could reach me by the media

Thank you


Joe Lombardo

A Innocent Man

P.S. The govt has 98% convictions.

PSS. Like they say they could indict a hamburger for murder & get a conviction


P.SS Judge with the pre publicity I do not have a chance. The media made me a 10 headed monster. How does a innocent person defend himself?

P.S.S.S. Judge the other reason for a seperate trial is after they go to trial I will have my attorney suppeana them to be wittiness. All of them.

If I go to trial with them they do not have to take the stand.

Excuse the mispelt words and also my grammar. English was my worst subject in school.

1. Give me a $50,000 reconiance bond

2. A seperate trial by myself after the other defendants go to trial

3 Then I will turn myself in with my lawyer

This is a Chicago mob boss? I find myself laughing (English was my worst subject in school!) and pitying the guy all at the same time. Maybe that's his strategy.... How funny is it that one of the first things he says in the letter is he knows there will be no bond, and then at the end he demands a bond of only $50,000, and a seperate trial in a rigged justice system that could convict a hamburger for doing nothing. And then all of those PSs and PSSSSSs PPPPSSs, I half expected for him to end it with the signature junior high girl acronym of B/F/F. The random incoherence of the letter is shocking, it's almost impossible to believe that he is guilty. How could someone who writes like such a simpleton run one of the largest organized crime rings in the country? Speechless.....

PS Needless to say the Judge rejected Lombardo's offer.

P.SS Joey, if you or any of your 'friends' as they say are reading this, I am just kidding and I know you are innocent.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Health Hazards

I mentioned in a below post that hunting Americans can be a health hazard. Arthur Chrenkoff says the same thing, and he's got some before and after photos as proof.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Vigilantes on the Border?

As usual, great, great column from Thomas Sowell on the economics and politics of illegal immigration.

Social Security used to be called the third rail of politics but illegal immigration is the real third rail that both political parties are afraid to touch.

Cops who find illegal aliens are under orders not to turn them in to the feds. And the federal government's own border guards have their hands tied by the higher-ups as well.

Now that Hispanics are the largest minority in the country, and with the country closely divided politically, neither party wants to risk alienating the Hispanic vote by enforcing immigration laws.

Many other Americans may be outraged at the way illegal aliens are handled with kid gloves - and, in some places, even given rights normally reserved for citizens - but so long as this outrage is directed at both parties, neither party wants to be the one to risk losing the Hispanic vote.

Interesting observation here. Hispanics, unlike blacks have made themselves players politically. That the vast majority of blacks vote Democrat without asking too many questions has the effect of giving neither party a real incentive to reach out to them. Hence, strategically, Republicans view campaigning to blacks as an exercise in futility and waste of resources, while Democrats know they already have their vote locked up so they spend their time on more contentious voting blocs.
America's weakness in controlling its borders has only promoted contempt for the United States on the part of the Mexican government, which publishes instructions to help people illegally get into this country and offers helpful hints on how to take advantage of American welfare state benefits.

When some Americans living near the border in Arizona organized themselves to watch that border and report on people crossing it illegally, the media immediately demonized them as "vigilantes," even though these observers used no violence and inflicted no punishment.

When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he would welcome such observers on California's borders, there was another media outcry against him. There is a reason why illegal immigration is the third rail of politics. Not only is there a fear of losing the Hispanic vote, there is a fear of being demonized in the media and therefore losing other votes as well.

Among the intelligentsia, there have long been those who think of themselves as citizens of the world, and who think of national borders as just arbitrary lines drawn on a map. In addition to those with these liberal attitudes, there are some conservatives who think that we need workers from Mexico to do work that Americans will not do.

Virtually every job in the country is work that Americans will not do, if the pay is below a certain level. And the pay will not rise to that level so long as illegal immigrants - "undocumented workers" - are available to work for less.

Even those who write editorials about how we need Mexicans to do work that Americans will not do would not be willing to write editorials for a fraction of what they are being paid. If Mexican editorial writers were coming across the border illegally and taking their jobs, maybe the issue would become clearer.

You cannot discuss jobs without discussing pay, if you are serious. And, if you are really serious, you need to discuss all the welfare state benefits available to Americans who won't work.

This is a pretty basic lesson in what economists call 'opportunity cost,' which is generally, the value of all goods or services that must be given up in order to produce some other good or service. If you want to produce more butter for example, then you need to allocate resources (capital and labor) that were previously producing guns. Thus the 'opportunity cost' of producing more butter, is the necessary decrease in production of guns. In this case, for the unemployed illegal immigrant worker, the opportunity cost of working for 12 hours a day at $2 hour is only the decrease in hours available for sitting around doing nothing, or working for even less. Compare that to an American citizen whose opportunity costs are much higher. Working at such a low wage would mean forgoing either a better paying job, or possibly more lucrative welfare/unemployment benefits. It is no wonder these are jobs that American workers won't do. Removing these low opportunity cost illegal immigrants from the supply of labor would certainly cause wages to go up, but as long as there are workers willing to work at a low price, they will be hired at that price, and businesses can continue to afford to offer their $0.99 value menus.

You might also want to consider the attitudes being promoted by the intelligentsia and the activists that people should do only "meaningful work" and not accept "chump change" but should insist on some arbitrarily defined "living wage," even if that is more than their labor is worth.

When you say that Americans have a "right" to have their "basic needs" met, you are saying that when some people refuse to supply themselves with food and shelter, other Americans should be forced to supply it for them.

If you subsidize workers when they won't work and subsidize employers by making illegal aliens available to them, then under those particular conditions it may well be true that illegal immigrants are taking jobs that Americans won't do. But such statements conceal more than they reveal.

Hard-working immigrants may indeed be a godsend, not only to farmers and other employers, but also to families looking for someone to take care of children or an aged or ill member of the family. But Americans worked as farm laborers and as maids before there were "undocumented workers" to turn these chores over to.
If it has been done before, it can be done again. All that prevents it is the welfare state and the attitudes it spawns.

This is anecdotal in my part, but it seems to me that our immigration policy, when implemented, has the effect of making it difficult for immigrants who just want an opportunity to come and work to gain entry, but easy for those who want to sneak in and even worse, those that would like to kill us. I'm sympathetic to immigrants who want to come to this country and work an honest job, I pretty much think we should let them all in. But it cannot be disputed economically that the flood of illegals working here keep wages down and propagate the self-fulfilling prophecy that they are only filling jobs that Americans refuse to do.


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