September 10 Epistemology
"Open Borders" vs. Open Borders
The ACLU's Gag Order
The Palestinians' "Democratic" Contradictions
Iranian Regime Fights Against Freedom
Freedom Fighters Against the Iranian Regime
It isn't just that Morris applauds President Bush for embracing an immigration compromise (that compromise is, as far as I can tell, relatively good). What is notable here is the epistemology, the method of thinking involved. Morris is one of those commentators who awoke to the dangers of Islamic terrorism on September 11—but now that the national consensus is forgetting about terrorism, he's going along.
He can't help it, because he has the epistemology of a pragmatist, which is in full display in this column. Principles, in this view, are necessarily detached from facts and reality, as a kind of irrelevant impediment. But reality, for the man who rejects principles, is not a very demanding, black-and-white, fact-filled place. So in selecting among solutions to an important national crisis, he says, "what the heck—let's try them all."
Hence his slide back into the Clinton technique of "triangulation," in which a politician panders to the public by borrowing the most popular elements of both parties' platforms, without regard for principles or consistency. It's a good way to run things—so long as you think that no issue is really all that important or will lead to life-and-death consequences a year or five years or ten years into the future.
In a phrase, this is September 10 epistemology.
"On Immigration, For Once, Bush Understands What the Public Wants," Dick Morris, Jewish World Review, May 25 It is odd how there are so many issues on which the two political-party establishments in the United States sharply differ but on which the public is relatively united. As the debate rages in Congress on whether to be tough on the border or generous in granting citizenship and guest-worker status to illegal immigrants, the Fox News poll of May 9 echoes the public's point of view: Do it all!...
The American people see illegal immigration as a serious problem and tend to favor anything that will solve it….
It's virtually the same situation on gas prices. People want solutions whether they are ideologically acceptable to their parties or not. The left sees no reason why we should not drill for more oil and the right strongly supports alternative fuels. While it is possible to ask the polling questions in such a way as to show disagreement where there really isn't any, it is striking how voters essentially favor whatever works to solve the key problems.
When he was the US ambassador to France, Felix Rohatyn reputedly said that the difference between the French and the American people was that the "French value ideas over facts while Americans value facts over ideas."
2. "Open Borders" vs. Open Borders When I said recently that I favor "open borders," I got this question from TIA Daily reader Dale Netherton:
I wonder how that can be implemented without trouncing on private property…. I'm sure you would not advocate open property lines, but this is exactly what open borders amounts to. Certainly immigration is a positive as far as a welcome addition to talent and labor, but if the first act of entering a country that protects private property is to violate this principle, what does this show for the respect for private property rights exhibited by those who choose to "jump the fence"?
But the situation Mr. Netherton describes—and which is described in the link below—is not a result of "open borders." It is precisely a result of closed borders. Illegal immigrants trample on the private land of ranchers and homeowners near the border with Mexico precisely because they are barred from orderly, legal entry at public border crossings.
Similarly, another reader challenges me to affirm that I favor controls to screen out criminals and terrorists. No need: I have said so already. But such screening can only be done if the vast majority of immigrants are coming through legal border crossings, where they can be monitored by US agents.
Immigration prohibition has achieved the same result as alcohol prohibition. Since it bans an activity that is not harmful (indeed, one that is far more beneficial than the consumption of alcohol), it merely encourages organized crime and individual lawlessness to circumvent the government's arbitrary restrictions.
Make immigration legal and who would bother sneaking across ranchers' mountain trails in the middle of the night? Immigration would happen legally, in the open, without the anarchy we see today.
"Cries from the Border," Leo W. Banks, Wall Street Journal, May 25 Ms. Maharis is a filmmaker, and she incorporated images from that night into a documentary called "Cochise County USA, Cries From the Border," an account of how the ongoing invasion from Mexico has impacted life in one border county.
Ms. Maharis wanted residents to speak for themselves in describing home break-ins, vandalism, horrible traffic accidents, and more….
But the film is no blind screed. It shows everyone's pain, including pictures of illegals lying dead in the desert. They resemble battlefield images—think of Matthew Brady's Civil War photography….
"This is uncivilized, and something has to change dramatically," Ms. Maharis says. "This is like a pot on the stove that's going to boil over, and pretty soon. I had to use my skills to make a difference or my conscience wouldn't let me rest."
3. The ACLU's Gag Order I struggled with whether to cover, in this news item, a story critical of the left or another interesting article that is critical of the right. Inspired by Dick Morris, I decided to have it both ways, beginning with a quick link to an article on the religious right's abuse of the FDA's political power to block approval of the "Plan B" contraceptive—before I move on to lambaste the left.
One of the reasons I despise the left is the sheer brazenness of its hypocrisy. The left loudly declares its dedication to "freedom"—while defending the world's worst tyrants. Similarly, as the usually shrill religious-right propagandist Ann Coulter shows in her column today, leftist student protesters crow about their "courage" while safely parroting the academy's conventional wisdom.
But the best story is below: the ACLU imposing a gag rule to suppress criticism from its own board of directors. Can you top that? Of course, a private organization has the right to impose these conditions on its officers, who are free to quit if they don't like it. Private organizations are not able to use force, so the concept of "censorship" does not apply to them; it only applies to actions by government.
But the ACLU has taken the lead in muddling that distinction, routinely suing private organizations for violating people's "civil rights" by engaging in voluntary transactions with employees and customers. On the other hand, as this article inadvertently points out, the ACLU has been contradicting its alleged dedication to free speech for years—so it has gotten quite comfortable with self-contradiction.
"ACLU May Block Criticism by Its Board," Stephanie Strom, New York Times, May 24 The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization's policies and internal administration.
"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.
"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the ACLU adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposals state.
Given the organization's longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals.
Nat Hentoff, a writer and former ACLU board member, was incredulous. "You sure that didn't come out of Dick Cheney's office?" he asked. "For the national board to consider promulgating a gag order on its members—I can't think of anything more contrary to the reason the ACLU exists."…
Mr. Romero said it was not unusual for the ACLU to grapple with conflicting issues involving civil liberties. "Take hate speech," he said. "While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities."
4. The Palestinians' "Democratic" Contradictions Speaking of contradictions, the Palestinian territories are currently being torn apart by one. Every Palestinian faction wants to destroy Israel—but they want to prevent the Israelis from fighting back. This has led to a political split between Fatah, which wants to (temporarily) recognize Israel's existence in order to get international aid, and Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, but which is then losing aid money.
Having just put these issues to a vote and lost, Fatah is trying to put them to a re-vote to force the new Hamas-led government to (nominally) recognize Israel, allowing the flow of international aid to resume. But that won't change either faction's murderous agenda, nor will it resolve the contradiction of the Middle East. In the meantime, Fatah will be rolling the dice and risking a collapse into total political anarchy.
"Abbas Threatens Hamas with Referendum over Blueprint," Jenny Booth, Times of London, May 25 The Palestinian President threatened to call a national referendum on the parameters of a future Palestinian state if no agreement on a political way forward for Hamas is reached within 10 days.
Hamas's refusal to moderate its views—it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel—has impelled the Palestinian state into crippling international isolation. Aid money has been cut off leaving civil servants unpaid, banking facilities stopped, and international borders are frequently shut, cutting off trade….
The poll would ask Palestinians to either accept or reject a document drafted this month by senior Palestinian militants from both Hamas and Fatah, who are currently jailed in Israel.
The five-page compromise document calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. It envisages co-existence with the state of Israel.
The blueprint proposes that [terrorist] activities be "confined to the territories occupied in 1967"—which could signal an end to attacks inside Israel—and suggests the creation of a national unity government.
Mr Abbas's decision to set a deadline represents a great political gamble, that could either help to resolve the Palestinians' internal deadlock or lead them into a deeper crisis.
5. Iranian Regime Fights Against Freedom In the article linked to below, Michael Ledeen not only dissects the Washington Post's continued sympathetic coverage of Tehran's despots, but also points out the folly of further negotiations with the Iranian regime, which is so thoroughly evil that we have nothing to demand from it—except its destruction. (Too bad Ledeen still won't admit that military force will probably have to be used to achieve that result.)
Here are a few other updates on the evils of the Iranian regime. While the story about Iran requiring Jews to wear a yellow star—in emulation of Nazi policies—remains disputed, Human Rights Watch provides an overview of Iran's legal discrimination against non-Muslims, including the fact that the murder of a non-Muslim by a Muslim is not technically a crime in Iranian law.
"Vick Sticks with His Story," Michael Ledeen, National Review Online, May 25 If you want to know what the mullahs want you to think, just read the "reporting" by the Washington Post's own Karl Vick, who Wednesday shared a byline with Dafna Linzer from Tehran to announce nothing less than "a profound change in Iran's political orthodoxy." You may have thought that Iranian clerical fascism was not subject to such dramatic transformation, but Vick, the consensus candidate for the Walter Duranty Prize awarded to apologists for tyrants, believes otherwise. And what is the evidence? The Iranians are calling for direct talks with the United States on the mullahs' project to go nuclear.
Vick and Linzer would have you believe that this proposal "(erases) a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran's public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century...."
Profound change? Pfui.
The announcement, via the Post, is a fairly transparent tactical maneuver, and Post readers would recognize it as such if Vick and Linzer bothered to report the news from Iran, which is that there are demonstrations all over the country, and that the regime continues its cruel iron-fisted policy toward the Iranian people….
It was most welcome, therefore, that Tony Snow announced that there would be no such negotiations with the mullahs. Would that the proposed talks with Iran about Iraq were similarly scrubbed.
Indeed, we have nothing to negotiate with them. For they relentlessly wage war against us, whatever they may whisper in Karl Vick's gullible ear.
6. Freedom Fighters Against the Iranian Regime As Ledeen points out, the real news from Iran is a new wave of protests by secular dissidents against the theocratic dictatorship. Regime Change Iran has posted photos of student protesters holding signs that read, among other things, "This is not a seminary, it is a university."
MEMRI is also reporting on the protests, including declarations by the students that "We Don't Want Nuclear Energy"—a clear contradiction of the oft-repeated claim that Iranians are so "nationalistic" that even dissidents will back the regime in a standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
Finally, the New York Sun, the only newspaper that, despite its small size and meager resources, has repeatedly devoted coverage to Iranian dissidents, has a good round-up covering the whole range of anti-regime protests, which I link to below.
" Determined Foes Mount Challenge to Iran's Mullahs," Eli Lake, New York Sun, May 25 In Tehran, university students staged a second day of strikes over the firing of eight professors and the new policies enacted by Tehran University's president.
In Tabriz, the regime tried to quell riots earlier this week over a cartoon depicting members of the Azeri minority as cockroaches.
In Qom, the theocracy was absorbing the aftershocks of a candid interview from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who told an Iraqi news agency that the current Islamic Republic has failed to deliver the democracy it promised in the 1979 revolution.
The stirrings inside Iran are the most serious challenge to befall the mullahs since the protests that accompanied the 2003 commemorations of the July 9, 1999, Tehran University student rebellions. They also suggest the regime that America and Europe are now hoping to cajole into suspending its nuclear program may be more fragile than intelligence agencies recognize.
One of the steering committee members of Iran's largest student organization chapter at Tehran Polytechnic University, Abbas Hakim Zadeh said in an interview from Tehran Tuesday that his organization was now 90% in favor of rejecting slow reform in favor of nonviolent resistance….
Yesterday, Mr. Zadeh said the country's largest student organization, Takhim Vahdat, rejected any direct talks between America and Iran if the negotiations centered around security guarantees in exchange for promises on nuclear enrichment.
"If there is any dialogue and conversations or negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the international community, whether the United States or other countries individually or collectively, if it is around the nucleus of human rights, democracy and the openness in Iran, it is something worthwhile to consider," he said….
A colleague of Mr. Zadeh at Tehran Polytechnic University, Bijan Pouryousefi, said yesterday that Iran's student movement was reaching out to form a more unified front with labor unions and women's groups.
7. The War Department
United 93 is not a movie. It's a historical document. It is the second historical film written and directed by English director Paul Greengrass. The film has the same kind of relentless minute-by-minute detail, the same kind of rapid pace, and a same kind of cast—a group of surprised and confused real-life professionals, bystanders, and victims caught up in an historic tragedy—as his movie Bloody Sunday. Unlike the confusion of military and police command that led to the massacre of 13 unarmed Irish separatist protesters in Derry in 1972, United 93 is a historical tragedy worth documenting for future contemplation.
The artistic eye in the film can be found in its naturalistic selection of concretes: the airline agent calling out row numbers for boarding, the pilot sipping coffee after going through his pre-flight checklist, passengers stuffing carry-on luggage into overhead bins, the co-pilot doing the walkaround under the plane, the ground crew man's meter counting off the volume of aviation fuel going into the wing tanks, the first class passengers ordering drinks, the tower controllers giving clearance for takeoff, the regional air traffic controllers talking the jetliner onto its transcontinental flight path, the stewardesses talking in the galley, and four Muslim men who don't belong.
According to the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt:
To keep things as accurate as possible, Greengrass reportedly interviewed more than 100 family members and friends of those who perished. He hired flight attendants and commercial airline pilots to play those roles; hired several civilian and military controllers on duty on Sept. 11, including the FAA's Ben Sliney, to play themselves; culled facts from the 9/11 Commission Report; and rehearsed and shot his actors in an old Boeing 757 at England's Pinewood Studios.
The first 81 minutes of the movie are very effective. The attention to the details of the routine daily concretes of air travel—all that goes on within America's giant high-speed industrial transportation system and all that every one working in that system did during a succession of three hijackings—brings the events of September 11 back to life. Watching it, a particular constellation of emotions rises slowly and steadily. The feelings are real and they're feelings we know well even though they're called upon very rarely in our civilized existence. They're the emotions of one who is about to fight.
To make the necessity of fighting even more clear, Paul Greengrass uses passenger Christian Adams, a German wine promoter, as a dramatic foil. (One hopes the mostly fictional projection of Mr. Adams's actions aren't defamatory.) Adams advises neighboring passengers that if they don't do anything, the hijackers won't hurt them. After learning that two other hijacked airplanes have been flown into the World Trade Center, groups of passengers plot to make an attack on the Muslims. Mr. Adams is horrified, but in the excited conversation he can only get the word "No!" in edgewise. When the men line up to make their charge, the German gentleman tries to "save" all from disaster by rushing forward to warn the hijackers, but the American passengers immediately subdue him.
Greenglass's message is that the passengers of United Flight 93 "were the first people to inhabit the post-9/11 world." In a world populated with suicidal Muslim terrorists, one has no choice but to fight, regardless of the odds against survival.
The value of movies is the value of art. They give man a concrete vision of a philosophical ideal. The vision can make real the broadest abstract ideas. The vision inspires a new level of understanding of one's abstract values, and a renewed courage to act for them. In this, the broadest sense of what a movie can be, United 93 fails.
What this movie does do is to depict the resistance organized by passengers on United Flight 93. Their actions—as much as all of the other actions of a nation of 290 million combined—deterred the use of passenger jetliners as incendiary missiles against modern cities for four and a half years. By telling this simple story in the simplest possible way United 93 produces an inspiration in the minds of the viewers. It provides the concrete visualization of the suspicious gestures the terrorists made in the minutes before the attack. It provides the concrete visualization of how to organize and launch an unarmed combat mission against terrorists who have taken over an airplane. It provides the concrete visualization of the necessity of fighting them before they can take over at the controls.
Across America, millions of men and women who have seen this film will board airplanes. All of them will be able to instantly visualize what it is they need to do in the event of an attempted hijacking. United 93 is a mission briefing for American air travelers and flight crews.
The movie comes out just in the nick of time—at a time when many Americans' interest in the war with Islam is flagging. Mentally preparing millions of Americans to fight terrorists with their bare hands at 35,000 feet is the movie's accomplishment. It's an admirable accomplishment.
I have written about the colors of countless different images of sunsets, but I have never written about a green sunset. Well, okay, the sunset isn't exactly green, but the light on the water sure is. The sky and the distant mountains are all in shades of a hazy orange. But the shadow sides of the mountains and the color of the light dancing off the surface of the water have a very unique greenish cast to it.
Under this light, the ripples on the water alternately reflect hues of bluish gray, soft orange, and a yellowish-green. Let your eyes slowly follow each streak of color on the water, first looking for the lines of blue, then orange, and finally the green streaks. And then look again at the full image and see how much more you notice the shimmering bands of unexpected color you see on the water.
9. How Not to Achieve Political Results Why a Google Boycott—Like Most Boycotts—Is a Waste of Time
Even though every single one of the literally hundreds of other boycotts I have been told to join had no effect, I continue to hear requests to join more. Just yesterday I received an apparently well-reasoned argument for joining a boycott by a "large group of internet list users (mailing list participants, bloggers, etc.) whose boycott would have an impact." Among reasons given for the boycott:
The management of Google is very liberal. Al Gore is a major stockholder, Google employees gave over $200,000 to political campaigns and 98% went to the Democrats, and Google has become the single largest private corporate underwriter of MoveOn.org…. I advocate getting at Google through their advertisers.
The size of this "large group?"
For years, a very good friend insisted on not buying Chinese goods and told me I should do the same. And for all those years I agreed with him about the evils of the Chinese system while ridiculing him for his self-punishing attempt at one-man foreign policy. I wasn't ashamed of buying the best product, at the best value. I suspect he still boycotts China, but my friend doesn't mention it any longer. He's as tired of my taunts as I am of being told what I shouldn't buy.
From time to time I've had people recommend alternatives to Google as a search engine, but, I haven't seen any that are better. Google is so big that everything is in it. I'm particularly fond of Google Maps and Google Earth.
I won't switch away from Google. Google is my eyes to the world. I love Google.
If Google is screening out "controversial" or "obscene" websites, that's a problem with the product. If they do enough of that to materially affect their service, I'll lose interest in their search engine and look for a better one. That's not a boycott. That's choosing a better product.
For example, I don't shop at eBay because the only used goods I'm in the habit of buying are used guns, and, following an evil political agenda, eBay won't carry them. Likewise, I'd never consider using AOL's homepages and browsers because they screen out the very "controversial" and "obscene" websites I go to when I want to look up news stories to learn about what is happening in the world.
Today's world crisis is not about the barring of conservative voices from the media (conservative voices are rapidly taking over), and it's not about the inexorable advance of socialism (MoveOn.org is a desperate group of holdouts for a losing cause, offering conspiracy theories where influential new ideas should be).
Today's world crisis is about Islam. Are we to get at the Islamists in OPEC by boycotting oil?
No car trips, no plane trips, no products shipped to your house. Nothing made of plastic, nothing grown with fertilizer, nothing made of parts shipped to assembly plants? How many people would join a boycott of petroleum products and who would be injured by the boycott? The few who drop out of industrial civilization, or the many who make terms with evil and stay in civilization?
Boycotts are a meaningful and effective form of political protest only in narrow circumstances. They have to target a specific kind of business that has a particularly high concentration of customers who agree with your point of view and who have a strong practical interest in fighting for it.
Do you want to protest racial segregation? Find a company that gets more than three quarters of its fares from black people and can't stay in business without their patronage—and then refuse to buy their services until you're allowed to sit at the front of their buses, as riders in Montgomery, Alabama, did in 1955.
The Smith & Wesson boycott in 2000 was a very effective way to shut down the company's new owner and new CEO, who had signed a gun control "agreement" with a cabal of state attorneys general. In this singular case, the target was a company whose entire customer base is gun owners. And in this case, no calls for a boycott were even necessary. The guilty act had made the brand name so repulsive, it was obvious what to do. Gun buyers reacted spontaneously. Smith & Wesson's civilian handgun sales (which account for over 90% of the units sold and over 99% of the profit) fell into the equivalent of the Great Depression.
And the spontaneous action went beyond a boycott. The entire company was shunned. Some dealers returned unsold stock for a refund and several top distributors stopped stocking the handguns. To avoid verbal abuse, factory reps stopped wearing their company logo—the world's eighth most widely recognized brand name. The CEO lived in seclusion to avoid disparaging comments and death threats.
Within two years, the company was re-sold at a loss (during a period when American corporate stock valuations had doubled) and the new owners withdrew from the "agreement." It took several more years to restore the company's good name—a name that had been synonymous with the American idea of self-defense.
This, however, is the only meaningful and effective boycott that I can recall in my lifetime.
I do keep track of which group of business owners is doing evil—political evil—in the world. But, in general, those actions play no role—and should play no role—in my buying decisions. I buy the best product.
I'd advise you to not clutter your mind with impotent ankle-biting boycotts. Only a few dozen of the tens of thousands of boycotts in American history were well-aimed at their targets. (Only a half dozen or so hit their mark and succeeded.) The rest have been platonic exercises that served only to puff up the organizers' delusions of power and removed the enjoyment of excellent products and services from the lives of those with whom one is in political agreement.
Don't boycott Google. Use Google to find arguments against Google policies.
In the on-line exchange about boycotting Google, one person made a very sharp observation:
I was dead-set on boycotting Google after they complained to the DOJ about Microsoft, but I'm having second thoughts. I mean, their main competitors do equally immoral things (Yahoo, MSN) and their small competitors like Ask probably would if given the chance considering the general cultural climate. So it feels like cutting weeds instead of pulling their roots out.
It is for being more craven in allowing Chinese censorship than other internet services that Google has earned so much attention in the press. It's because Google is so big and everyone notices everything they do.
If you want to do something about censorship in China, write a letter to your congressman; write a letter to the president. If you want to do something about Google's cave-in to our Islamist enemies, write a letter to your newspaper.
A good protest openly breaks a bad law, a bad rule, or a bad relationship for explicitly stated philosophical reasons. If you can think of a real protest on this topic—an act that would show what you believe and might possibly draw attention to what you believe—tell me. Tell us. We all could use a good idea.