24 May 2007

Globalisation: Tribalism v Liberalism

Melanie Phillips has posted "Liberalism v Islamism" in which she decries the apparent suicide of liberalism. She claims that by abandoning its principles for multiculturalism, liberalism is appeasing and succumbing to the Global Salafist Hirabah (aka the Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders - and if you are not an Islamist, then you're at least a Crusader). She also refers to London as "Londonistan," because of the increasing frequency of honor killings and other cultural baggage brought by immigrants from certain predominately Islamic countries.

She's a bit over the top, but well worth a read, nevertheless. We all need to recognize that the Hirabah is simply another facet of Globalization. Globalization was once thought to be a form of economic and cultural imperialism on the part of the West. Now we see that Globalization is a leveling of the world's playing field, so that not only money, but values - cultural values - can compete for territory, like players in a multi-way game of Go. In this case the counters on the board are not little round stones, but immigrants and less recent immigrants, or "natives."

Back in the old days, when it took months to travel from one country to another, new immigrants found themselves isolated in their new homelands. Messages to and from the old country took those same months to travel. It was almost impossible to keep reinforcing the values of the tribe you had left back home. (I use the word tribe, because the tribe is the fundamental unit of human societies, and has been so for as long as humans have lived on earth. If it seems less true in America, that is because everybody in America is from somewhere else, and has lost their tribal affiliation in the immigration process - except, of course, for the First Americans, who have had their tribal cultures overrun by the immigrants.)

Nowadays, you can migrate across the globe by stepping on an airplane. In a few hours, you are in your new country with your old affiliations and values. If you want to reinforce them, you need only pick up a telephone. Or tune into internet or satellite radio. Thus has Globalization made smooth the path for values from outside the prime Globalizers' (the "developed nations") core.

So, for those of you who want to be nice people, and who think it wrong to impose our Western Liberal values of limited government power, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equality of women, etc., on other cultures, think again. If we do not live by, trumpet, and enforce those values in our homelands, and sell them abroad, then those other values that we think are "good enough for those people" will be lived by, trumpeted, and sold everywhere, even where you live.

No, pushing Western Liberal values isn't cultural imperialism anymore. In the Global Bazaar of ideas, it is just one voice among many, competing to be heard. Time to stand up and shout, before we are terrorized into silence.

17 May 2007

Farewell to Jerry Falwell

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority has died of an apparent heart attack in his office at Liberty University, which he also founded. Guided by his Love for God and his concern for the well-being of his country, the United States of America, he gradually outgrew his early racism and anti-Semitism to focus on anti-feminism, anti-homosexuality, and anti-scientism. While some like Christopher Hitchens have impugned his sincerity, I have always assumed that he truly believed what he preached, even as it changed. That he did not preach violence to achieve his agenda, I find praiseworthy, given the world's recent struggles with clerics who do.

Perhaps one might wish that he had been guided by God's Love for him and for us all, and that he had outgrown his other anti- stances. Yes, he helped form the Christian Right into a more or less cohesive voting block. But the people who make up the Christian Right would still be with us even if he had not done so. Without him, they might have splintered into disenfranchised and bitter groups, some of which might have turned to violence in their increasing frustration. It's better to have them inside our polity than outside of it, and Jerry did his part.

So, thanks, Jerry. You did the best you knew how. I hope that you don't mind sharing Heaven with homosexuals, feminists, liberals and scientists, and I hope that at your eschatological banquet they don't serve you too much crow.

15 May 2007

A Christian Kama Sutra

Stimulated by The Deadliest Things, one of our readers has contributed her own parody of a fictitious book to be released by a noted Christian publishing house.

Just click here and enjoy!

Oh. The image at left is from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 25v - The Garden of Eden in the Musée Condé, Chantilly. It appears here courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

13 May 2007

The Deadliest Things

(Tune: My Favorite Things - from The Sound of Music, Rogers & Hammerstein)

Anthrax in orange juice and toxins in water
Chemical agents as means of mass slaughter
Plumes of chlorine wafting over DC
These are a few of the deadliest things.

Toxic nerve agents unleashed on civilians
Mutating strains of bird flu killing millions
Cattle with blisters transmit FMD*
This is what we have been analyzing

Suicide bombers blow buses to splinters
Slolen devices cause nuclear winter
Railcars torn open by an IED**
These effects we have been calculating

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember what we're modeling
And then I don't feel so bad.

*Foot and Mouth Disease
**Improvised Explosive Device

Jim G-, my colleague who wrote this parody of sorts, wishes to remain anonymous. It's a bit hair-raising, but part of the tasking of our lab is to help the nation and its allies prepare to deal with the consequences of major natural or human-made disasters. We think them through, we model them with as much precision as we know how, and we report our results to our sponsors. We also work on attribution - figuring out where the stuff came from, and whodunit - so others of our sponsors can deal with the guilty parties and those who sponsored them. That's part of the Homeland Security side of the business, anyway.

It's scary stuff. It's only natural that it gives some folks in the government the willies, and induces them to occasional over-zealousness. To counter that, we also model which security measures make the greatest difference for the least amount of effort, money, and social change. The hard part about that is that politicians are used to doing what they want to do. They don't like rational calculation indicating priorities. The priorities are theirs for political posturing. A bunch of scientists trying to calculate priorities is received as stepping on their turf. And when it comes to turf, the politicians are the pros and the scientists are the amateurs. The pros always win. Our priorities are set by our politics, not by our systems analysis.

So we are still knee-jerking our way to greater homeland security, and the press tries to be "neutral," or as Mark Steyn puts in the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to genius New York Times headline writers, "Religion Guided Three Held In Fort Dix Plot." You don't say. Any religion in particular?

In other words, Homeland Security is only part of the solution to the present danger. Another part is making the bad guys feel insecure in their homelands. This is always problematic, and even more so when their homeland is our homeland. There is an essential tension between security and freedom, which can never be finally resolved. We must constantly strive for balance.

Yet another part of the solution is Religion itself. We must recognize that some of the greatest gifts God has planted in us - our capacities for Hope and Faith - can be perverted by the Evil One. As Pascal said, "Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." And Pascal himself was a devout Catholic.

Well. Got that off my desk. Happy Mother's Day everyone!

05 May 2007

Forgiving Google

It's been more than a year since VCBC decided to boycott Google Ads for hypocritically stiffing the US Government hunting for internet child pornographers in order to give the false impression to Westerners that Google was a defender of human rights. At the same time, Google was knuckling under to the Chinese government by deleting all references that might help pro-democracy dissidents. Google could have done worse. Yahoo is being sued on behalf of Chinese citizens for providing information to the Chinese government that led to their illegal (under international law) imprisonment.

But you get the picture. Google's major competitors haven't distinguished themselves either. Instead of fulfilling Tom Friedman's prophecy that the internet would lead to greater freedom on earth, they are enabling it to be used as a tool of oppression as well.

So has our boycott been effective? Our search engine ratings, traffic, and revenues have declined. But the effect on Google has been absolutely nil. We made our point, and took our hit. Now we have decided to forgive Google, renew our advertising, and take our cut.

Our boycott was futile. On the other hand, the lawsuits over contributing to false imprisonment are probably not. They put the calculus of whether to cooperate with despots directly into the profit and loss columns. Web portals may still decide that it is more lucrative to cooperate with tyranny, but it will now cost them something to do it.

03 May 2007

Dear Dr. Laura

by J. Kent Ashcraft

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.
  1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan,

J. Kent Ashcraft

Editor's Note: This little gem has been circulating the net. It illustrates the absurdity of a selective and wooden literalism, even if it is not illustrative of Dr. Laura's thinking, other than her dogmatic stand against homosexuals. The copyright, if any, belongs to its author.

02 May 2007

Retreat, Defeat, Cowardice and Treason

That's what friend Gator Bob (retired Navy) calls the US Democratic Party position on Iraq, as well as the not-so-well-named Global War on Terror (GWOT) in general. Perhaps he's being uncharitable. Perhaps not.

He points to the death rate among American soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Measured in deaths per hundred thousand, it is comparable to the murder rate in say, Washington, D.C. Perhaps the United States should pull out of Washington, he suggests.

But Right or Left, the emphasis on the death rate in Iraq is misplaced. Compared to previous wars (but not to previous occupations) it is low. What is high is the rate of serious and permanent injuries, the number of our young men and women coming home with pieces of their bodies or brains missing in action. But a national debate centered on that subject would be expensive. We might have to take care of them, so best not to mention them unless we can use them to sack a general.

The dead are already taken care of. They are comparatively cheap, like the talk on the Left and Right that obsesses about them, not for moral reasons, but for political ones. Unlike the wounded, the dead can be trusted not to contradict to whatever claims politicians and activists might make in their names.

Leaving the dead to their graves, and the wounded to their fates, let us move on to the future. Both the Left and the Right seem to be staring at their toes, and thinking that whatever way their toes are pointing is forward. The Right says "Stay the Course," without articulating what that course is and where it will lead. The Left says, "We aren't getting anywhere, so let's get out fast," without hazarding a guess as to what will happen next, either to the Iraqis, the Middle East, Islam, or even us.

That is to say, there is no strategic thinking in evidence from either side. I'm not asking for much, here. I'm thinking of a game of pool, in which a player who's any good tries to hit the cue ball not just to knock another ball into a pocket, but to then position the cue ball so as to be able to make the next shot. What I want to know from both the Democrats and the Republicans is: (1) What position will we (all of us, the entire world) be in if we take your shot, (2) what is your next shot, and (3) how will your first shot line us up to make the next one?

So far, all I've seen and heard is spokespersons for either side looking at their toes and whining. I used to do that, too, when I was three years old.