Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

UN: Fitna is Hate Speech

31.03.2008 (8:43 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Media,Political Correctness ::

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described Fitna as "offensively anti-Islamic" and issued the press release that follows (via memeorandum):

I condemn, in the strongest terms, the airing of Geert Wilders’ offensively anti-Islamic film.  There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence.  The right of free expression is not at stake here.  I acknowledge the efforts of the Government of the Netherlands to stop the broadcast of this film, and appeal for calm to those understandably offended by it.  Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility.

The United Nations is the centre of the world’s efforts to advance mutual respect, understanding and dialogue.  We must also recognize that the real fault line is not between Muslim and Western societies, as some would have us believe, but between small minorities of extremists on different sides with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict.

Where are the "different sides", Mr. Secretary?  Who else is fighting but the Islamic extremists?  Would Iraq not be a relatively peaceful, relatively democratic nation today if not for them?  And Afghanistan?  And Pakistan?

The notion that there are different sides implies the existence of a reality in which there is a relative equivalency between opposing forces and views.  That reality does not exist.  There is no equivalency, no reasonable basis for comparing western democracy to Islamic terrorism.

Freedom, sir, may, on occasion, be limited by social responsibility.  But freedom also defines the meaning of social responsibility.  In the conflict between terrorists and civilians, Mr. Secretary – as in all things – the foremost responsibility is to speak the truth, regardless of the offense it may cause.

Is Fitna anti-Islamic?  Certainly.  But is it a lie?  No.

Which matters more, Mr. Secretary?

Censored?

28.03.2008 (4:02 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Technology ::

Michael van der Galien, my boss at PoliGazette.com, just emailed and said that the site has been suspended by the hosting provider, one alfahosting.be.

Michael had recently posted about Fitna and embedded the video in the post. A rousing discussion followed and now this.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

True, there are often bandwidth limitations, etc., associated with remote hosting. Perhaps the video burned through our allotment. Or perhaps Michael failed to pay his bill, as I did here at the mighty Black Shards last year.Or perhaps more sinister forces are at work. More later, I’m sure.

Update

The PoliGazette site is back up and running now. So far I’ve not received an explanation for the down-time. But why look a gift horse in the mouth. We didn’t have to test our recovery plan, which is good.

Fitna

28.03.2008 (12:24 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Media ::

I watched Fitna, the short anti-Islam film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ that’s been in the news lately.  Wilders was not able to get the film shown on television in The Netherlands and then was unable to show it on at FitnaTheMovie.com due to Network Solutions’ interference.  Nevertheless, it’s out in the wild now and has garnered several million viewers by this point.

I believe everyone should watch the film.  It’s somewhere between PG-13 and R-rated material, so sparing the youngsters would be best.  But it’s their world too and they should know, at a less graphic level, the very real threat to their future that Europe is incubating.

In truth, Fitna falls short of telling the whole truth.  Honor rapes and killings, female genital mutilation, and the murder of adulterous women, for instance, are given only the most cursory of coverage.  Par for the course in a 14 minute short, I suppose, but essential information when it comes to understanding on a personal level what life in a world controlled by Islam would be like.  Not good.

Fitna is a must-see not for its completeness nor for its quality.  But it is a reminder of what too many westerners, comfortable in the security of their privileged lifestyles, choose to ignore, whether by conscious decision, ignorance, or information overload.  Islam is a danger to western society that too many refuse to acknowledge because the price of understanding this truth would be too high for them to pay. 

As a movement, Islam has no respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights, or national Constitutions.  While many, many Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding human beings, it must be understood that they are not leading the process of Islamic radicalization that’s taking place in many countries around the world.  Rather, it’s the radical, anti-western fringe that is in control, much as radical Germans and Russian agitators moved those nations early in the last century.

Think it can’t happen again?  Better think twice.  In 1900, who could have imagined Lenin as the ruler of a Soviet Russia?  The idea was preposterous.  Yet it happened because he was able to generate a core force of true-believers who would stop at nothing in their attempt to force their morality on the rest of the country.

As I’ve written many times before, Islam is infinitely more dangerous than Communism ever was for one simple reason:  In their hearts of hearts, the Reds never truly believed in their own dogma.  Muslims do.

Watch the film.  And read the discussion about it here and elsewhere.

What Are the Common Elements?

28.03.2008 (11:15 am) – Filed under: Child Care,National Security,Stupidity,Texas ::

These 3 events have at least 2 things in common.  What are they?

First, the father who microwaved his 2-month-old "loves his baby" and today refused to give up his parental rights.

Second, some un-heroic Transportation Security Administration workers have been accused of having forced a woman to remove her nipple piercings with pliers in order to board her domestic flight.

Third, a Dallas strip club that allowed a 12-year-old girl to dance nude won’t be shut down.

OK, the first one is really too easy.  All of these events are freaking ridiculous! 

Dude, you put your baby girl in an oven and turned it on.  You’re not a man at all, let alone a father, and the 25-year sentence in the state pen probably won’t improve your disposition, sense of right and wrong, or ability to guide a child to maturity.  The other guys in the pokey will make that clear enough, I expect.

As for the nipple-piercing removal scandal, the Houston Chronicle says:

"I wouldn’t wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin, 37, said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.

TSA officials said they are investigating Hamlin’s allegations to see if its policies were followed.

"Our security officers are well-trained to screen individuals with body piercings in sensitive areas with dignity and respect while ensuring a high level of security," the agency said in a statement.

Right.  I certainly feel safer with these fine, upstanding officers in charge of our air travel system.  I’d hate to go through this airport with a metal screw in my hip joint, that’s for sure.

Finally, it’s obscene that a strip club not be smacked down hard for allowing a pre-teen to dance naked in front of its "clientele".  Small wonder that smutty club owners think that laws don’t apply to them if such an obvious case warrants no response.

(Meanwhile, the FBI is breaking down doors and arresting people who click on fake web links – that they put up – advertising child pornography, regardless of the fact that no illegal content was served in response. 

Logic?  Sense of proportion?  Anyone?)

Any ideas about the second common element? 

It’s a tricky one, but all 3 cases took place in Texas.

Ya think Davy Crockett brought Old Betsy down here and had his head blown off by the Mexicans at the Alamo fighting for a state that calls this kind of bull**** good?  I don’t think so.

All of which reminds me of the recent report that the U.S. is ranked 22nd in the world in "stability and prosperity".  Some theorized that small nations have an inherent advantage in that regard because there is simply less to manage and fewer chances to screw up.

That sounds right and should lead to questions about the wisdom of increasing centralization of power in democratic nations, for that is the very thing that the framers of the American Constitution guarded against when defining the framework for this nation.  Coming from a monarchial world, they understood the danger and folly of putting too much power in the hands of the king.  Or the federal government.  Texas, with the 15th largest economy in the world,  seems to suffer from some of the same issues.

Manufacturing Green Jobs

26.03.2008 (2:24 pm) – Filed under: Energy,Environment ::

Hillary Clinton has talked about what making the Green Corps a central part of her environmental initiatives. 

The idea, of course, is to reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil and reduce pollutant emissions, and thereby reverse or lessen climate change, by relying on wind, solar, and bio-fuels as sources of energy.

Sounds great.  Too bad the movement is not really taking off in numbers.  Can green energy companies sustain themselves  and compete with other forms of energy production? 

The NY Times says that there are about 8.5M so-called "green jobs" in the U.S.  But what is a green job?  No one seems to know how to define the term, let alone how many of these jobs there are – or could be.  Steve Greenhouse of the Times wondered in the Back Story audio clip if the 8.5M number could be skewed.  It’s worth noting that the study the article refers to was funded by the American Solar Energy Society.

Green jobs are especially good “because they cannot be easily outsourced, say, to Asia,” said Van Jones, president of Green for All, an organization based in Oakland, Calif., whose goal is promoting renewable energy and lifting workers out of poverty. “If we are going to weatherize buildings, they have to be weatherized here,” he said. “If you put up solar panels, you can’t ship a building to Asia and have them put the solar panels on and ship it back. These jobs have to be done in the United States.”

That’s something to consider.  But in the end I don’t find that to be a compelling argument in favor of Hillary Clinton’s plan to confiscate energy companies’ profits to jumpstart industries that would employee green workers.

Why?  First, consider that it’s the "prime directive" of energy companies to make money.  Take the money that they make away and you encourage these companies to invest in other business opportunities, the profits from which will not be taken away by the government.

Second, the profit motive would lead energy companies to invest in the green sector if there were significant money to be made there.  Since this is not happening at scale, it’s a fairly safe assumption that they expect profit margins to be lower in that field.  They could be wrong, of course.  But it’s their job to be right and they probably are.

Third, that profit motive is also well-known to companies that have not traditionally participated in the energy market.  Again, if there are real dollars to be made in green energy the market will allocate investment to that business sector "automatically". 

If the money Hillary wants to take away from Exxon, et al, is invested in green energy it’s very likely that the returns on that investment will be lower than if the money was left with the energy companies. 

So I’m suspicious when Clinton and other Dems start talking about green jobs as though its some sort of previously untapped phenomenon that they discovered.  They aren’t.  It’s simply one more technology shift – one that is slow coming to boot – that provides new opportunities to workers with the right skills. 

Time has this to say about the Green Corps:

Today there are 1.5 million Americans between 18 and 24 who are neither employed nor in school. These young men and women could address America’s well-documented infrastructure problems. The Green Corps could reclaim polluted streams and blighted urban lots; repair and rehabilitate railroad lines, ports, schools and hospitals; and build energy-efficient green housing for elderly and low-income people.

All of which is well and good.  I’d certainly rather put these people to work than provide them with welfare.  But that’s probably not a real choice, which means it’s a distraction.

So, the question again:  Can companies sustain themselves in the green energy industry, scale their businesses, and compete with other forms of energy production? 

My opinion is no, not at this time.  The market’s failure to direct significant capital to the sector indicates that it is not ready yet.  That’s why Hillary feels that she has to champion the idea to make it happen – because market conditions are not ready for green energy to blossom naturally.

TAMU vs. UCLA

24.03.2008 (8:17 am) – Filed under: Sports ::

Not to be a sore loser – which I am, in truth – but there was way too much "home cooking" being dished out in the last few minutes of this 2nd round NCAA game, including the last play of the game on which no foul was called. 

Nope, nothing to see here.  Donald Sloan had just sunk a much more difficult shot on the prior possession and was plainly and egregiously hacked by two Bruin players on this one, as even a blind man can see from the pics below.

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The Houston Chronicle says:

Maybe Donald Sloan would have gotten to the foul line if he’d produced autopsy scars.

Sloan got slapped and knocked down on the way to the potential tying basket in the final seconds of the Texas A&M Aggies’ second-round NCAA Tournament game against the UCLA Bruins. The cameras don’t lie: In 49 states, what the Bruins defense did to Sloan would have constituted a mugging.

The truth is that the Aggies were in Anaheim, Calif., just down the road from the UCLA campus. The truth doesn’t set the Aggies free or send them to the next round.

Right or wrong, that’s the kind of call — or non-call — that almost invariably goes the way of the marquee team.

That’s something to dislike, not to celebrate, about sports.  Perhaps the NCAA should re-consider the notion of allowing teams to play in their home cities, for the integrity of sports, such as that is.

Why Indeed?

23.03.2008 (8:03 pm) – Filed under: Religion ::

forbetterorworseeaster

What We All Want

19.03.2008 (3:50 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Liberalism,Politics ::

A well-known commentator said the following yesterday in response to Barack Obama’s speech.  Without peeking, who do you think the author is and does the statement stand on its own to definitively define the difference between conservatives and liberals?

We all want opportunity for our kids.  We all want a growing, expanding economy.  The argument we have is how do you get there?  The argument is very simply put, or the distinguishing aspects of the argument are:  Liberals want to use government based on a contempt and lack of understanding and confidence that average Americans can overcome things in life.  Conservatives like us believe that if you just trust people, the inherent goodness and decency of people will come to the forefront if you don’t tamper with their freedom, if you don’t tamper with their liberty, if you understand what our Founding Fathers understood, that our freedom and liberty comes from our Maker, from our Creator.  We are all endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  My view of the Democrat Party today is that those are under assault.  We know that life is under assault.  We know that liberty is under assault.  Don’t make me give you all the examples.  This is something that’s not even arguable.  We’re talking about banning certain kind of lightbulbs; talking about how you can use your property, all these examples — liberty is under assault at the leadership level of the Democrat Party.  Pursuit of happiness, they’re not happy; they don’t want anybody to be happy.  They are miserable.  They look out across America and they see misery and they enjoy it.  These are people who are happily miserable. So all three of the basic tenets of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, are under assault by the American left today.

Now, how can they say we all want to move in the same direction when that is where they — I don’t care if it’s Hillary, I don’t care if it’s Barack Obama, I don’t care if it’s John Edwards, I don’t care who it is, Algore, they are all the same.  Life is under attack; liberty is under attack, ’cause they don’t trust people with liberty.  They don’t trust voters to do the right thing.  They don’t trust you to drive the right car.  They don’t trust you to have the right kind of anything.  And of course the pursuit of happiness, there’s an all-out assault on happiness.  Nobody has a right to be happy in America today when there’s so much misery elsewhere.  We, on the other hand, believe that liberty is part of our creation, freedom, natural yearning to be free is part of our creation, is what has distinguished this country in 220 years, from all other populations of human beings in the history of this planet.  Our DNA is no different than anybody else’s on the planet, but how is it that we have come to be this awesome and for-good superpower?  How has it happened?  It has happened because of our founding documents; it has happened because of an inherent understanding that our freedom and ambition, who we are as human beings, is part of our creation.

The answer is Rush Limbaugh and in my opinion the answer is clearly "Yes". 

Unlike any of the Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination, Limbaugh articulates exactly what the principles of this country were at the time of its formation and what they ought to be today.

That’s why I have called Barack Obama’s message one of anti-hope – because at its core it seeks to diminish the freedom and independence of every American of any race, creed, or color.

The same is true of Hillary Clinton too, of course, although I believe her agenda is a less-intrusive one overall, outside the field of healthcare.  That’s one of the reasons why I prefer her to win the nomination, the other being her greater ability and inclination to lead the continuing fight against international terrorism.

Obama, Race and Religion

18.03.2008 (12:46 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Religion,Society ::

Today Barack Obama delivered a strong speech about race and how, in his opinion, this country needs to reconcile its color issues.  The man is an inspiring speaker, no doubt.  But what of his substance?  Do his ideas represent what is best for the future of this country?  In some respects, perhaps.

In my mind today’s speech was most notable for what Obama said about American Christianity: 

"that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning"

One thing Obama did right was to further cement his position with regard to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ by reiterating that Wright’s comments about America, race, AIDS, et al, were not only wrong but divisive.  Yet Obama still holds Wright in high regard, painting his mentor as a frustrated but essentially good-hearted man.  It’s a consistent approach, if one seemingly designed to antagonize both sides of the debate.  Aiming for the middle course, Obama the politician is on the right track.  As for Obama the man, I still think he would have done well to simply walk out on Wright’s hateful diatribes.

The small church I attend is almost lily white.  This is by design, I suspect, though there’s no easy way to confirm this suspicion.  Would such a question generate honest answers?  But small-town Texas has its ways of doing things and newcomers like myself find these eccentricities amusing at first and irritating as time passes.

I’m not alone.  Several pastors I know here have spoken at length in lamenting the fact that Obama reminds us of today:  whites and blacks are alike in their preference, be it openly or hidden in their most inner hearts, for associating with people who look, talk, think, act, and worship like themselves.  It’s true, like it or not.  But does it have to be this way?

This topic came up Sunday night at our men’s meeting when a friend who is white but attended an inner-city church for several years prior to moving to our town said that some of our congregation would have problem with a black family showing up there.  "That would be the best thing that could happen," was my reply.  And it would, for where do these people get off believing that they have the right to segregate a church?  It’s embarrassing, in a way, for me to know this about them.  On the other hand, the division is in their own minds, not out in the open and certainly not coming from the pulpit.  It will pass, eventually, though perhaps not until they do.

I suggest that we take Barack Obama’s reminder of our self-separation as a personal challenge. 

If you’re white, be bold:  Pack up your spouse and offspring, and head over to a so-called "black church" – that’s a general-purpose Texas term, lest anyone choose to take offense – this Sunday and bow your heads next to an African-American family.  And vice versa.  There’s certainly no reason not to, skin color least of all.

I appreciate Obama’s position in regard to challenging the race problem in this country and getting it out in the open.  There’s no use pretending that we’re not divided along color fault lines just as much as we are by economic gradients or language barriers.

Still, none of this changes my view of Obama’s economic and social spending policies.  We simply can’t afford to let him – or anyone else who’s so liberally inclined – to have control over the purse strings at a time when fiscal restraint ought to be everyone’s top priority.

Too Many Americans Behind Bars

17.03.2008 (6:07 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Drugs,Society ::

KHOU in Houston reports that over 1% of the adults in America are in prison – more than China and, tellingly, more than Iran.  America is supposed to be the land of the free.  So why are so many of our citizens in the pokey?

Drugs, in a word.

KHOU says:

“After 15 years in the justice system, I can tell you undoubtedly what’s driving the train in our incarceration rates are drug offenders — and a lot of that is low-level drug offenders,” [District] Judge [Caprice] Cosper said.

Consider this, of the 50,000-plus felony filings in Harris County courts last year, 20,500 were drug possession cases.

“Of the 20,500 cases, about 12,500 cases were for possession of less than one gram of penalty group one controlled substances: crack, heroine, meth,” the judge said.

Boiling those numbers down, about 25% the felony cases in Harris county, which contains Houston, the largest city in Texas, are targeting nickel-and-dime drug users.

Presumedly these cases are rather simple to prosecute, which causes me to believe that they account for something less than 20% of the money spent by the county prosecuting felony offenders.  Still, it’s not chicken feed – some estimates put the national direct cost of drug enforcement laws at nearly $48B.

So why are we doing it?

There’s a long-standing notion in this country that precedent is as important or more important than current values when it comes to applying the law.  Drug possession is illegal, so we need to prosecute it, per prior precedent.  Obviously this assumes that decisions made in the past are correct.  In this case I don’t believe that’s true.

Instead of simply following along with the laws as they exist today America should question the past decisions that got us to this point as we do in regard to other issues.  What are the objectives of these laws?  Are those objectives truly desirable?  And are there better ways to achieve them?

Barack Obama previously suggested that very thing.  Unfortunately, he came at it from a racial angle, saying:

…let’s not make the punishment for crack cocaine that much more severe than the punishment for powder cocaine when the real difference is where the people are using them or who is using them.

Actually, the real difference is the danger of the drug, making Obama’s statement rather silly, particularly when uttered by the Great Uniter.  If drug laws are to exist, it makes perfect sense to require stiffer penalties for harder drugs.  But must we have them?

It’s clear that drug laws exist primarily to protect people from their predilection to abuse their bodies in return for a brief, pleasurable high.  Why is this important?  If this goal is examined rationally, I would suggest that it’s not important and that these laws exist on inertia alone.  If that’s true, these laws should be dispensed with.

If I’m wrong, are we going to start criminalizing other self-destructive behaviors, alcohol being the obvious example?  What about smoking?  Should this foul habit be made illegal as part of a Democrat’s universal health plan?  Or pre/extra-marital sex, a behavior that directly leads to a dysfunctional society?

I don’t think we should go there, for it seems to me that we’re already paying too high a price for attempting to protect people from their own self-indulgences.