Middle East Open Thread

You’ve probably noticed my conspicuous silence about events in the Middle East, especially in Libya.  I simply don’t have anything to add.  I’m a spectator here and, until the coin stops spinning and lands on one side or another, I’m not prepared to opine.

All I’ve got now are hopes and fears, but not opinions.  My hope is that, with the pustulant powers removed from the top, the poison will drain out of those Middle Eastern countries.  My pessimistic fear is that radical Islamism will fill the power vacuum, making them even worse than before.   Another hope is that Obama will figure out that now is the time to sign off on lots of drilling and exploration in America.  My fear is that his dream of $8/gallon gasoline is about to come true.

Share your hopes, fears, information, speculations, opinions, etc., here.  I’m interested.

It’s entirely possible that, when it comes to gay marriage and the First Amendment, pluralism won’t work.

Rodney King got his 15 minutes of fame for (a) getting beaten up while resisting arrest; (b) having his name attached to some horrific riots; and (c) plaintively asking “Can we get along?”  The last is a great thought.  I’d like to get along with people better myself.  “Getting along,” though, presupposes that people have the same goals and values.  In our pluralist society, even when we have differences, we mostly limp along all right.  Elections shuttle different value systems in and out of power and (at least when the unions aren’t rioting) Americans expect a peaceful transition.

Still, even pluralist societies have bottom line values, things as to which we’re not willing to bend (although, lately, it’s getting harder to pinpoint just what those values are).  Up until recently, one of those values was that “marriage qua marriage” was a one man, one woman deal.  In recent years, we were willing to contemplate “civil unions,” but “marriage” remained sacrosanct.

Also, because of the First Amendment, another American bottom-line is that the government cannot meddle in religious doctrine.  Some confused people think the First Amendment outlaws religion, or outlaws religious people from participating in politics, but most understand that — unless they’re calling for human or animal sacrifice, or polygamy — the American government leaves religion alone.

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admitted, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Life in the nanny state

I was reading Rick Steves’ Italy 2011 (the 2010) version, when I was surprised to learn this little fact on page 21:

Because Europeans are generally careful with energy use, you’ll find government-enforced limits on air-conditioning and heating.  There’s a one-month period each spring and fall when neither is allowed.

For those of us in Marin who have been fussing about PG&E installing smart meters on their houses (something that happened to our house, will she nil she), that little paragraph is a stark harbinger of the future in the nanny state.

If you need any further reminder of what it’s like to have the government make all your decisions for you, Bruce Bawer chimes in with this one:

In Norway, all wine and spirits are sold in government-owned stores dedicated strictly to that purpose.  The stores — which collectively are known by the cozy name vinmonopolet, or “the wine monopoly” — are open from 10 to 6 on weekdays and 10 to 3 on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and on all sorts of holidays. Around Christmas and Easter they’re closed for days at a stretch.

The number of stores is limited, determined not by market demand but, in good socialist fashion, by government fiat. In Oslo, a sprawling city with a population of over half a million, there are only 26 stores. And the prices — thanks to taxes designed to discourage potential customers and punish those who do buy — are the world’s highest. Norwegians go to Sweden to purchase cheaper intoxicants than they can get at home – and for the same reason Swedes go to Denmark, Danes to Germany, and Germans to Italy.

The Democrats are working on a similar situation, not with alcohol, but with food itself.  Michelle Obama’s obesity crusade isn’t about self-control, it’s about government control.  Mayor Bloomberg has already given New Yorker’s a taste for this kind of medicine:

Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle draws our attention to the fawning coverage Politico reporter Amy Parnes gives to Michelle Obama’s crusade against obesity. Parnes. Boyle argues, might as well be regarded as an unpaid press agent on the First Lady’s behalf. Parnes in particular wants to criticize conservatives who have taken aim at the First Lady’s self-chosen cause as another manifestation of the nanny state. But who can deny that the authoritarian left has our menus in its gunsights? From Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on transfats and war on salt in New York City to bans on sodas and other treats in public schools to the documentaries and pressure groups attacking McDonald’s, is the idea of extending government regulation to our food choices that far-fetched? Our nannies have already proposed taxing certain politically-incorrect foods at a higher rate. And if they come for our donuts, won’t our guns be next?

I’ll leave you to contemplate the irony of our gluttonous first lady, the one who dines in fatty style wherever she goes, attempting to control American eating habits.

Many years ago, one of my first slow steps across the Rubicon happened when, in 1979, I met a Russian woman who had managed to immigrate here because she fell in love with an American exchange student studying in Moscow.  The thing that struck her most was the choice in stores.  Russian stores had no choice.  You bought what the government made available.  In America, you bought what the market made available.  She would amuse herself by going into Safeway and just standing there, drinking it in.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The New York Times again strains for moral equivalence

We all learned in school about the Triangle factory fire in New York back in 1911.  The fire started and too many women died in significant part because of horrible working conditions the factory owners were able to impose on economically trapped women.  The fire was a PR disaster for management in America, and a huge aid to the development of private sector unions.  Since the 100th anniversary is drawing near, both PBS and HBO have shows lined up about the event.  The New York Times TV reviewer is excited, because he seems to hope that these shows will help boost sympathy to union protesters in Wisconsin and, now, other states too:

As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

I wonder if the reviewer ever wakes up at 3 a.m. and thinks, “What the hell kind of crap am I peddling?”  Because, really, is there any equivalence between these two scenarios?

Scenario A:  Immigrant women labor under appalling conditions (60-80 hours a week), starvation wages, no job security whatsoever, and factory conditions so dangerous that, ultimately, 146 die in a single day, having leaped from windows to escape encroaching flames and locked doors.

Scenario B:  College graduates work a seven month year for the government and, once they’ve received lifetime job security, earn a total compensation package in excess of the average non-government worker in their community.  Further, these graduates are forced by law to pay money to a union that, in turn, hands that money over to a political party that, in turn, sets the wages for the union members, who then are forced by law to pay part of those wages to a union that, in turn . . . well, you get the corrupt cycle I’m describing here.

I hope that Americans are wiser than New York Times television reviewers and realize that, while we want our teachers to have living wages and safe working conditions, both for their own benefit and for the good of our children, the scam that’s currently in place with public sector unions is grotesque, unsustainable, and totally unrelated to the tug of war that occurs between labor and management in the private sector.

Two links for your outrage, amusement and edification

I’m not quite sure how to describe this one without giving away the whole weird little joke.  Suffice to say that it’s quick and amusing.

As for this one, you’ll be interested to know that Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians (“RCO”) believes women should be advised that, generally speaking, abortions are better for their physical health than having a baby.  This is technically correct, but so morally appalling, I’m at a loss for words.  The same RCO also says that there’s no merit to the studies that abortions left some women mentally damaged or bereft:

The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm. Until now, their advice has been that while rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who had an abortion, there was no evidence that termination itself was likely to trigger psychological problems.

In other words, mostly crazy ladies have abortions….  Yeah, that’s a club I want to join.  Please read the whole thing over at Brutally Honest.

Sunday book group?

Is it too late to open a post for those who are interested in discussing books today?  I couldn’t get to my computer earlier, because of family commitments and those same commitments preclude my posting anything substantive today.

I’m willing to bet, though, that many of you are reading something interesting that you’d like to talk about.  If not, just consider this a late-in-the-day Open Thread.

Obama is no Harry Truman

In an earlier post, I said that Obama’s decision to turn his back on DOMA, despite his professed support for traditional marriage, does not make him a Harry Truman.  Rich Lowry explains much better than I could why Obama’s current position is not a principled stand but is, instead, another step towards a pre-planned goal.  The whole pattern also reminds me of the way in which Obama lies, which is incrementally.

Watcher’s Council, 2-25-11 edition

I was very gratified this week, because I won on the Council side and my submission for non-Council (Zombie) won too.  It’s not a trifecta, but maybe a bifecta?

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Europe died in Auschwitz

I got the following email.  I don’t know the essay’s true provenance, but the sentiments expressed are interesting, especially if it did indeed originate in EuropeL

ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ

The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. It doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate the message to the rest of Europe – and possibly to the rest of the world.

REMEMBER AS YOU READ — IT WAS IN A SPANISH PAPER
Date: Tue. 15 January 2008 14:30

ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth�Europe died in Auschwitz . . . We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.

Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.

We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe . Approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population.

The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people.

The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.

Perhaps the world’s Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.

Muslims must ask ‘what can they do for humankind’ before they demand that humankind respects them.

Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel ‘s part, the following two sentences really say it all:

‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel .” Benjamin Netanyahu

General Eisenhower Warned Us�It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now �get the films�get the witnesses�because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.’
Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were ‘murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated’ while the German people looked the other way.

Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people. Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.

How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center ‘NEVER HAPPENED’ because it offends some Muslim in the United States ?

Do not just delete this message; it will take only a minute to pass this along.
PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING! WE NEED TO GET THIS EMAIL OUT TO THE WORLD!

When even Liberals wake up

Here is a financial report on USA, Inc., presented as a slide show, as developed by financial analysts.

Most of us Bookworm Room aficionados know that the economic state of health of our country is not good and getting worse. It is critical, actually. Unfortunately, there are many still wedded to Keynesian mythologies of the Hoover and FDR era who insist on bleeding the patient with leeches when major surgeries are warranted.

Where I see hope is that this devastating report, authored by Morgan Stanley analyst and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker, was supported by famous Liberal Democrat heavyweights such as Laura Tyson, Al Gore and Peter Orzag. Small rays of sunshine are beginning to enlighten the clinicians’ gloom. One can quibble with details (that General Motors has turned the corner, for example), but the core facts presented are solid and irrefutable. Scroll toward the end and visualize how this is not just the United States but the entire western world as we know it that is affected.

To solve a problem, one must first define the problem. Read it, skim it (just the graphs are explanatory enough) bookmark it, and use it to educate as many  people as you can. Because the real battles will begin when all of us must decide between surrendering our entitlements to the scalpel and turning off artificial life support altogether.

Our era is ending and we are seeing the first birth pangs of the new. Birth is a painful, bloody process.

H/T Richard Fernandez and Ace of Spades HQ.

***Update***

Some people have had trouble with the link above, so here is another link to the article.