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

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Free to Offend (Me and Mr Wycliff III?)

In last week's column Don Wycliff published part of an email I sent to him and then solicited reader contributions to help explain why the Chicago Tribune was correct and editorially consistent in its decision to not publish the Danish Cartoons. Well, I'm going to assume that he did not quite get the response he had hoped for as his latest column does nothing to further clear the air or defend the paper's decision.

The first (of only two) reader responses he quotes points out that the Chicago Tribune did in fact publish a cartoon that depicted an unflattering image of Muhammad back in 1990. 'Why,' the reader wondered 'was it OK in 1990 but not now'? Don Wycliff's response is essentially, that it was not OK then, the Tribune made a mistake then and took a number of steps to apologize and prove their sensitivity and then assured everyone that they would never do such an offensive thing to Islam again.

Yet Mr. Wycliff still has not confronted the crux of the issue; why does the Tribune display no such sensitivities when it comes to offending other, non-Muslim religions? (Piss Christ!) So far, we're only left to guess.

Fortunately the second reader question digs at that issue, he asks in part "Why is it only religion that gets this special treatment in the sensitivity department?"

Finally we are getting somewhere! Mr. Wycliff responds:

Good question, with many answers on many different levels. From the perspective of the newspaper, we try to be sensitive to what our readers value and hold dear. And for most Americans, one of the things they hold dearest, even in this secular age, is their religious faith, the convictions that can rescue them from despair and invest their lives with meaning beyond the mundane. As John Lennon sang, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night."

But what Nardini is asking, I believe, is something more radical, more profound. What he seems to be asking is why do we have a 1st Amendment to protect the right to believe in and exercise those beliefs in what he, anyway, considers "mythology." Why do we give special status in our public lives and ceremonies to such beliefs?

Wiser minds than mine have pondered and opined on these matters for centuries, and I don't pretend to be capable of jousting with them. But sometimes, it seems, myths provide access to truths that otherwise would be inexpressible.

Is the question of why must something such as religion be protected under 1st Amendment laws really one that is "radical" and "profound"*? Perhaps I am being dense, but I've read that last passage over and over and the conclusion I continually arrive at is that Don Wycliff simply does not understand the true meaning/value of free expression. I'm not sure I believe that, but that is how it reads. Instead, it seems he is focused on the trees of religious sensitivity while overlooking the grand forest of free speech.

And although watching the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets attempt to intellectually contort themselves into a noble explanation of why they chose not to run the cartoons has been telling, it is apparent to me that the truth that Mr. Wycliff finds 'inexpressible' is that radical Islamists overseas have won a war of intimidation. As Alan Dershowitz and Bill Bennett put it "They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists—their threats more than their sensibilities."

Indeed as this Boston Globe Op-Ed notes:
THE PHOENIX is Boston's leading ''alternative" newspaper, the kind of brash, pull-no-punches weekly that might have been expected to print without hesitation the Mohammed cartoons that Islamists have been using to incite rage and riots across the Muslim world. Its willingness to push the envelope was memorably demonstrated in 2002, when it broke with most media to publish a grisly photograph of Daniel Pearl's severed head, and supplied a link on its website to the sickening video of the Wall Street Journal reporter's beheading.

But the Phoenix isn't publishing the Mohammed drawings, and in a brutally candid editorial it explained why.

''Our primary reason," the editors confessed, is ''fear of retaliation from . . . bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do . . . Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and . . . could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year-publishing history."

But back to Dershowitz and Bennett:

Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts. The manifold images of abuse at Abu Ghraib come to mind -- images that struck at our effort to win support from Arab governments and peoples, and that pierced the heart of the Muslim world as well as the U.S. military.

The press has had no problem with breaking a story using classified information on detention centers for captured terrorists and suspects -- stories that could harm our allies. And it disclosed a surveillance program so highly classified that most members of Congress were unaware of it.

In its zeal to publish stories critical of our nation's efforts -- and clearly upsetting to enemies and allies alike -- the press has printed some articles that turned out to be inaccurate. The Guantanamo Bay flushing of the Koran comes to mind.

Read the whole thing. The press fondly fancies itself as a champion of free speech and expression, but it is now betraying that cause. Free speech necessarily means that someone is going to be offended - non-offensive speech needs no protection. As a society, once you start down the road of prohibiting some speech you instantly create censorship envy. Austria recently sentenced a man to prison for denying the holocaust. The next logical question from a Muslim in Austria is 'if there are laws to protect Jews from being offended where are the laws to protect the sensibilities of a Muslim?!?'

In the above context, that is a very persuasive argument. Moreover, if the true goal is tolerance, understanding, and social cohesion, this perfectly highlights why a general rule for free speech is superior to legally creating 'The Official Truth'.

Ultimately, free speech is the best defense of truth. A healthy society need not use the law to punish the holocaust denier, but only confront him with these images and rely on societal ridicule to marginalize his racist ideology.

The press does not need to shield us, the consumer, from what they consider offensive. If they want to carry the mantle of guarantor of free speech they need to stand for it when it falls under duress. The cartoons were certainly offensive, but once the reaction turned to calls for censorship backed by intimidation and violence, the images came to symbolize much much more. The Mainstream Media, and I'm speaking broadly here, should have published the cartoons with a disclaimer: That they believe that the images are gratuitously offensive, but their fidelity towards the civilizationally crucial concept of free speech and expression compels them to show support and solidarity for a principle that they, in theory, hold dear. Anything less undermines their credibility.

note on the "radical and profound" reference: *okay maybe I am just sour because Don Wycliff characterized my question as neither 'good' nor 'fair' ;-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some Links from Last Week

I don't have much comment on these, so I'll just link.

(via Dean Esmay) This has got to be the absolute best response to the cartoon wars ever!

This letter from the mayor of Tall 'Afar, Iraq to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and their families is just beautiful. (via Dave Schuler)

And Eric Zorn has done it again with this follow up column describing the differences between respect and tolerance. Although I hardly ever agree with Zorn, this is the second column in a row that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Michael Totten is blogging from Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq. He's got some pretty stunning photos. Just go here and keep scrolling and scrolling.....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Me and Mr. Wycliff Part II

Don Wycliff declined to respond to my latest email. He did however, decide that I was a worthy subject of his latest column! Why Mr. Wycliff would dedicate half of his weekly space to a question that he found neither "fair" nor "good" (as you'll soon find out) is certainly curious. Never-the less-I'll take it.

Happily. After all, it is not everyday you get a mention in the Chicago Tribune... and on a page you grew up reading no less.

Here we go, from the Op-Ed page of today's Chicago Tribune:
Apples and Oranges

In response to last week's column about why Tribune editors decided not to publish those controversial Danish cartoons, Paul E. Smith of Chicago e-mailed.

He quoted a paragraph of my column: "They based their decision on the judgment that the newspaper could tell the story of the cartoon conflict without printing the images and giving gratuitous insult to a significant segment of its audience. `We can communicate to our readers what this is about without running it,' James O'Shea, Tribune managing editor, was quoted as saying in Saturday's New York Times."

Then he wondered: "Why did similar reasoning not apply to the photos of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses? What are the objective differences? Did you somehow come to the conclusion that drawings would be more offensive, or more inflammatory, than pictures of actual abuse?"

Ordinarily I would say at this point, "Fair question," and then launch into a discussion of the issue. But I'm not sure this is a fair or a good question. But it does deserve a response.

I'll offer a few ideas of my own here and invite you readers to offer your own via e-mail or snail mail.

To begin with, neither decision was taken with the other in mind. When the decisions on the first batch of Abu Ghraib photos were made, the Danish cartoons didn't even exist.

Yes, most of us are aware of the timeline. However, am I to understand that because the Danish cartoons did not exist at the time of Abu Ghraib the comparison is automatically deemed unfair? In other words, no editorial decision can ever be weighed against another unless the incidents occur simultaneously. Is this to say that the Tribune does not really have a standing policy? That every editorial decision is made in isolation, with no concern for precedent? I find that hard to believe.
And the cartoons presented so radically different a question than the photos that it wouldn't have been useful to compare them in any case.

Here, Mr. Wycliff resorts to an argument from authority - no reasoning is actually offered as to why the Danish Cartoons are 'radically different' and the comparison is not 'useful.' But my initial question was, pretty much, 'Why is that so?' Which I'll now refine to, "Why is that so, besides the fact that one came into existence about 2 years after the other?" The answer apparently is, 'just because'.

....and then he moves to another subject
As to the merits of printing the Abu Ghraib photos, they seem manifest to me:

- They potentially were evidence of crimes.

- If they were not evidence of crimes, they were evidence that something was radically amiss in a facility that was supposed to be under the control of the U.S. armed forces.

- That whatever was being done at Abu Ghraib was, like any undertaking of the United States government, being done in the name of the people of the United States, who needed to be made aware of it in order to perform properly their duties as citizens.

- That what was being portrayed in the photos was not something anyone would consider a blasphemy. Those are for starters.


Here Mr. Wycliff raises a straw man and turns evasive.

It is a straw man because I never questioned the merits of publishing the Abu Ghraib photos, indeed in my second email (which gets no mention in the column) I explicitly stated such.

It's evasive because Mr. Wycliff is attempting to reframe my argument as one opposed to running the Abu Ghraib photos rather than one for running the cartoons. If the Chicago Tribune decided to not run the Abu Ghraib I would disagree with them, but for far different reasons than cited above.* Like the Abu Ghraib photos, there really is no getting around that the Danish cartoons are a central part of the story. Today's case is about imagery, not actual human abuse. As preposterous as it sounds, political cartoons are the story and political cartoons are best seen.

As for blasphemy, given the Tribune's history of coverage of such items as Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, or a political cartoon from recent history depicting a large nosed Jewish man following a trail of money towards some representation of US foreign policy, the idea that they refuse to offend on religious grounds rings rather hollow.

More fundamentally, something will always be religiously offensive to someone. Certainly there are Christians who would find articles, images, or Op-Eds in support of gay marriage offensive. And most certainly there have been some articles or cartoons that have offended Matthew Hale's hateful Creativity Movement religion. And would it only be offense towards religious groups that the Chicago Tribune would curb? Would nothing then, be off limits when it comes to offending the poor atheists?

Now, easily enough, one could come up with some atom splitting explanations as to why the above examples differ from the Danish cartoons, but occam's razor suggests that the reason is much simpler:

That, for whatever reason, the Tribune editorial board exhibits fluctuating standards when it comes to offending the sensibilities of one group over another, particularly if the other contains a militant sect that tends to express its frustrations through violence and destruction.

*As to disagreeing with Mr, Wycliff's reasoning for running the Abu Ghraib photos:

Mr. Wycliff's points 1 and 2, in and of themselves are far from universal when it comes to publishing images. The Tribune (rightly) does not run photos of say, murder scenes, although they are evidence of a crime.

Mr. Wycliff's point 3 I addressed in my below post, but here it is again. The third point is what us sophisticates like to call 'poppycock.' The abuses at Abu Ghraib were perpetuated by a relative few amount of soldiers. They were criminal acts, not even close to policy. They were not being committed "in the name of the people of the United States" any more than prison guard Darin Gater (allegedly) helped prisoners escape from Cook Country Jail in the name of the City of Chicago.

In actuality, it was only because the military had undertaken an internal investigation that the abuse became public. If the Tribune's goal was, in light of Abu Ghraib, to allow citizens to properly evaluate governance then it would have been more appropriate to focus on the institutional response to the criminal acts rather than photos of the acts themselves. I tend to think that the Tribune was afraid that not running the photos would only draw accusations as 'a friend of The Administration.' Fair enough, but lets be honest about it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Me and Don Wycliff

Don Wycliff is the public editor of the Chicago Tribune, he writes a column every Thursday that appears on the op-ed page. Last week he wrote this column explaining why the Trib decided to not run the Danish cartoons. It prompted this email from me:


I have been a lifelong reader and subscriber to the Chicago Tribune, but I confess, I hardly read it anymore. Given that, why do I still pay for home delivery every single day? The best answer I can come up with is 20+ year habits are hard to break, that's not particularly flattering to your publication. Online news and blogs from all sides of the political spectrum, simply offer me a more balanced and accurate picture than your paper, most importantly they make their biases known up front, which I appreciate more than anything. So perhaps you can tell me, regarding the decision to not publish the Danish cartoons, you wrote:

"They based their decision on the judgment that the newspaper could tell the story of the cartoon conflict without printing the images and giving gratuitous insult to a significant segment of its audience. "We can communicate to our readers what this is about without running it," Managing Editor James O'Shea was quoted as saying in Saturday's New York Times."

Why did similar reasoning not apply to the photos from Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses? What are the objective differences? Did you somehow come to the conclusion that drawings would be more offensive, or more imflammatory, than pictures of actual abuse? Please explain.

Best Regards,
Paul Smith
Chicago, USA

Mr. Wycliff replied:

Mr. Smith:

Thanks for writing. Why did similar reasoning not apply to the photos from Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses? Two reasons come to mind right away:

1. The photos from Abu Ghraib were not matters of religion.

2. The photos from Abu Ghraib were documentary evidence of actions undertaken by U.S. government employees in the name of the people of the United States--actions the American people needed to be aware of to make decisions about the appropriate governance of their nation.

There no doubt are others, but I'm out of time now.

Don Wycliff

To which I replied:

Mr. Wycliff,

Thanks for your reply, though I am awfully undewhelmed by your paper's reasoning. I'm certainly NOT making the argument that the Abu Ghraib pictures should not have run, but I think your supposition that the Muslim world would not view those pictures in a religious context is suspect at best. Did you really think that the Middle Eastern citizens would not view those images as actions perpetrated against *Muslims* (rather than against terrorists or prisoners)?

Additionally, and correct me if I am wrong, but didn't the Chicago Tribune run an image of Serrano's 'Piss Christ' years ago? Was that not a matter of religion?

Is there a minimum amount of membership to a religion before the Chicago Tribune figures it should censor what I get to read in it? For example, surely there has been some Tribune cartoons and articles over the last few years that have offended Matthew Hale's hateful Creativity Movement religion, why were those not censored? Any article or op-ed supporting gay marriage would offend some Christians, why not censor those?

One of the reasons given for not running the cartoons was "that the newspaper could tell the story of the cartoon conflict without printing the images" I fail to see how the same concept could not have applied to the Abu Ghraib photos.

Your second reason:

"The photos from Abu Ghraib were documentary evidence of actions undertaken by U.S. government employees in the name of the people of the United States--actions the American people needed to be aware of to make decisions about the appropriate governance of their nation."

Couched in this explanation is the implication that it was actually government policy to commit such abuse, when in actuality we know that it was the act of criminals who were already under investigation and on their way to being punished by the US military. If the point was really about evaluation of governance, then it would have been more appropriate to emphasize the institutional response to such criminal acts coming to light, rather than a stream of images showing said criminal act.


Paul Smith
Chicago, USA

So far no response from Don Wycliff on my latest, and I guess I don't really expect one at this point. As he acknowledged, he barely had time to reply to my first email, he's a busy man no doubt.

I also can't help wondering if one of the differences influencing the decision to run the Abu Ghraib pictures and not the Danish cartoons had to do with the fact that there was no real danger of the US military firebombing the headquarters of the paper over Abu Ghraib.

Free expression! (unless we are intimidated)

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Saddam Defense

The Saddam and friends trial continues despite their best efforts to childishly make it into a circus:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein was forced to attend his trial Monday, looking haggard and wearing an Arab robe rather than his usual suit but walking in on his own, shouting "Down with Bush!"

...Even their dress signaled their defiance. Ibrahim wore white undershirt and brown long underwear, his head bare without the Arab headdress he insisted on wearing in past sessions as a mark of dignity.

Saddam carried a Quran and wore a blue galabeya — a traditional Arab robe — with a black overcoat, a stark contrast to the tailored black suits he has worn to past sessions. He had dark bedroom slippers.

The defendants are brought to the court building from detention by armed guards before each day's session and remain in the building even if they refuse to enter the court.

The defendants had vowed not to participate in the trial until the return of their lawyers. "Why have you brought us with force?" Saddam shouted at Abdel-Rahman. "Your authority gives you the right to try a defendant in absentia. Are you trying to overcome your own smallness?"

"The law will be implemented," Abdel-Rahman replied.
"Degradation and shame upon you, Raouf," Saddam yelled. Later, he called the investigating judges "homosexuals."

You read that right, Saddam is using the gay defense! Dave Price comments:

Ah yes, the old "You're gay!" defense, still a favorite of fourth-graders everywhere. Well, when you can't just order people executed or gassed anymore, I guess you go with what you've got.

It's amazing really: from iron-fisted ruler of 25 million people to childish, demented Jerry Springeresque defendant in a bathrobe.


I've grown tired of all of Saddam's antics, I wish they would stop allowing him to disrupt his own trial and instead force him to sit in his cell alone until he can behave. But what could I have expected? Garbage in, garbage out, but at least we may get some laughs along the way.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

More Cartoon Talk

Not much time for me to comment today, so I'll (mostly) just link. Ain't the blogosphere great?

In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton's character Dr. Malcolm often speaks of chaos theory, Crichton touches on that concept in this speech: (via Belmont)
We live in a world of complex systems. The environment is a complex system. The government is a complex system. Financial markets are complex systems. The human mind is a complex system---most minds, at least. By a complex system I mean one in which the elements of the system interact among themselves, such that any modification we make to the system will produce results that we cannot predict in advance.

Furthermore, a complex system demonstrates sensitivity to initial conditions. You can get one result on one day, but the identical interaction the next day may yield a different result. We cannot know with certainty how the system will respond. Third, when we interact with a complex system, we may provoke downstream consequences that emerge weeks or even years later. We must always be watchful for delayed and untoward consequences.

Surely the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, could not have predicted the consequences that publishing these cartoons last September would lead to an international incident this February. And surely the Islamists would not have predicted that, in the face of violent reaction, that this time the politically correct Europeans would show solidarity and refuse to be intimidated in the name of free expression. And surely I would have never guessed that Eric Zorn, a Chicago Tribune columnist who is talented but with whom I rarely agree, would have penned one of the most lucid commentaries on this whole issue. Zorn disagrees with the Chi Trib's decision to not publish the cartoons. I'll quote at length:

But some of the drawings make a point in exactly the same way that any good editorial cartoon makes a point, and they have a grown-up, even sophisticated purpose: to challenge those who use intimidation to block free expression and those who find in their religious texts justification for mass murder. Specifically, Jyllands-Posten commissioned the cartoons to make a defiant statement after learning that several Danish artists had refused to illustrate a children's book about Muhammad because they feared reprisals from Muslims who consider images of their prophet blasphemous.

...The flag says freedom, real freedom, is more than just voting and dipping your finger in purple ink. It's messier and harder than that. It requires giving the same liberty and license you demand for yourself to those whose views offend you. It requires putting away your torches, setting down your rocks and bottles and fighting ideas with ideas, words with words, art with art.

It says if you aren't regularly offended, insulted, provoked or angered by something you read, see or hear, then either you're not paying attention or you live in a repressive society.

It says freedom of thought is meaningless without freedom of expression.

It says freedom of expression is meaningless without a guarantee of safety.

It says that if this ongoing bloody unrest represents, as some have said, evidence of a profound, international clash of cultures, then you know which side I'm on.

I'm on the side that says if your good ideas can't peacefully win out over my bad ideas, maybe your ideas aren't so good.

I'm on the side that says that any belief worth having--be it love of a country, a deity, an ideology or a person--must be strong enough to absorb criticism and impervious to mockery.

Are you on my side?

If so, you will repudiate the words "The right to freedom of thought and expression cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers" that came from the Vatican last week.

If so, you will join me in pointing out the hypocrisy of European nations that are decrying the totalitarian impulse of Muslims while simultaneously enforcing laws that make it a crime to downplay the Holocaust.

If so, you will recognize in proposed flag-protection amendments to the U.S. Constitution the same repressive impulse and obsession with symbolism that is inspiring the cartoon riots.

In a strange way, I've always thought that the image of a person burning the US flag on US soil, while NOT being led away in handcuffs is actually a greater symbol of free expression than the flag itself. No matter how hateful, no matter how offensive, speech and expression must never be suppressed by the government. In a free society, the market place of ideas will naturally draw to good ideas and marginalize the stupid, the dense and the hateful.
You can read comments to Zorn's column here, I encourage you to tell him what you think, I have.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoons and Culture

I've come across a fair number of comments that the cartoon war was somewhat manufactured, and I have to say it is certainly plausible. By manufactured, I mean that the flames were purposely fanned by those with an interest in taking pressure off themselves and rallying their oppressed populations against a common enemy (read: Syria, and especially Iran). The cartoons were originally published last September, why all the fuss now? Additionally, when some Middle Eastern newspapers republished these recently, they also included some phony, extra offensive cartoons that were not created by the Danes.

Iran was just referred to the UN security council over their nuclear ambitions and secrecy. Might this be an attempt to distract?

Moreover, a Danish embassy was burned in Syria. Syria is not a free country, citizens are not allowed to assemble in protest without government permission - it had to be government sanctioned firebombing.

It is possible that the cartoon wars could turn this from a war on terrorism to a war of Muslims vs. The West, that would certainly serve the interests of the regional despots, and it was ultimately Osama's hope with 9/11. But I have my doubts. Rather, I think that in the long run this will help the cause of advancing freedom and defeating militant Islam, by forcing Europe to confront the problems now, we may avoid Total War in the future. Over the last several years, much of Europe has been able to stand on the sidelines and publicly denounce American action while privately cheering it in hopes of ingratiating themselves to the Arab street. London and Spain were bombed, and France saw riots, and now this. It didn't work. In his seminal work "Clash of Civilizations" Samuel Huntington identified the pervasiveness of multi-culturalism as the greatest near term threat to Western Civilization. With so many un-assimilated immigrants living in European enclaves, isolated, unemployed, and holding on to the most destructive aspects of their culture, the values of liberalism, free speech, free expression, tolerance, etc would be lost to political correctness. Somehow, Islam has managed to move its 'bloody borders' to the heart of the European continent. Europe now stands on the brink, if they allow Islamic clerics to determine what they can and cannot print in their own press through a process of intimidation and violence, then Europe will have ceded some of its sovereignty. I don't think they will do any such thing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Two Civilizations

The offensive cartoons that ran in a Danish newspaper (you can see them here) have caused these reactions in the Muslim world:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Outrage over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad escalated in the Arab and Islamic world Thursday, with Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapping a German citizen and protesters in Pakistan chanting "death to France" and "death to Denmark."

Palestinian militants surrounded European Union headquarters in Gaza, and gunmen burst into several hotels and apartments in the West Bank in search of foreigners to take hostage.

....One of the militants, flanked by two masked men with assault rifles, said the governments of Germany, France, Norway and Denmark must apologize for the cartoons by Thursday evening. If no apology is issued, the gunmen said they would target citizens of the four countries and shut down media offices, including the French news agency.

"Any citizens of these countries, who are present in Gaza, will put themselves in danger," the gunman said.

About 10 armed Palestinians gathered later at the French cultural center in Gaza City and warned of a "tough response" to any further disparagement of Muhammad.

...In Nablus, gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent Fatah offshoot, went to four hotels and told staff they must not host Europeans from the targeted countries. The gunmen said they searched two apartments for foreigners to kidnap, but didn't find any. Foreigners now have three days to leave town, the gunmen said in an impromptu news conference after their fruitless search.

So, cartoons in a European newspaper lead to threats and violent searches for foreigners to take hostage in the Middle East. It is almost laughable that a society that promotes purposeful slaughter of innocents via the suicide bomb demands an apology over some drawings.


At least cooler heads prevailed in some of the more free parts of the Middle East.
In Iraq, Islamic leaders urged worshippers to stage demonstrations from Baghdad to the southern city of Basra following weekly prayer services Friday. Afghanistan and Indonesia condemned the drawings...

Demonstrations and verbal condemnations, seems tolerance and democracy are taking root.

The Washington Post also recently published an incredibly offensive cartoon. It depicts a wounded soldier who has lost both arms and legs, with Donald Rumsfeld as a doctor, saying "I am portraying your condition as 'battle-hardened.'" The small figure at the bottom of the cartoon says, "I am prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don't define that as torture." You can see that cartoon here.

The reaction? A one page letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff which reads in part:

We were extremely disappointed to see the editorial cartoon by Tom Toles on page B6 of January 29th edition. Using the likeness of a service member who has lost his arms and legs in a war as central theme of a cartoon is beyond tasteless. Editorial cartoons are often designed to exaggerate issues - and your paper is obviously free to address any topic, including the state of the readiness of today's Armed Forces. However, we believe you and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to your readers and your paper's reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation, and as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds.

Note that the 4-Star generals who authored the letter went out of their way to affirm the paper's right to publish whatever they choose, and simply appealed to their sense of decency, wherever it may lie. But I prefer Wretchard's take on this:
But JCS may have been wrong to think that the cartoon was about "the state of readiness of today's Armed Forces". No. It was far more appropriately an unwitting yet brilliant commentary on the souls of Tom Toles and the Washington Post editors themselves. John Kennedy once observed that "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." One might add that people most clearly reveal their statures by what they choose to mock.
Surely there are some who doubled over in laughter at Toles depiction. I am glad I don't speak that language.

Wretchard has been all over this story, for more read this post of his especially.

Michelle Malkin is all over this story, and things seem to really be escalating.

So, the Muslim world is upset at being characterized as violent and they show this by reacting with violence? If Europe allows the threats of Imams in the Middle East to dictate what they publish in their own newspapers on their own continent they essentially cede sovereignty. A lot is at stake. Where are the voices of moderation?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Healthcare System

Good discussion going on over at Dean's World on the always esoteric subject of healthcare. Go there to see mine and plenty of others' thoughts.


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