Archive for July, 2003

I was discussing the President’s faith-based charity initiative with a rather liberal friend a few days ago. I made the claim that religious neutrality implied that if the government is going to provide funding for nominally private charity groups, then it has to provide funding for both secular and religious charities. To do otherwise would seem to constitute a form of discrimination against religion.

My friend’s main objection to that was the concern that religious charities would proselytize under the cover of charity. The act of preaching during charity is certainly not unknown; for many years the Salvation Army did this sort of thing in its soup kitchens. They’d feed you, but you had to listen to the sermon. At first blush, I thought this was a reasonable objection. On further consideration, though, I’m not so sure.

It seems to me that the essential objection here involves a mixing of material charity with ideological content. You get soup, but you also get the message that Jesus Saves. And although it may be OK for the government to subsidize the soup, it would be unconstitutional for it to subsidize the message. Or would it?

Are other charities barried from pushing secular ideas as part of their charitable activities? Would it be obviously wrong to mix soup with a message of multicultural tolerance, or environmental awareness, or drug rehabilitation, or some other non-religious ideational content? This seems like an innocuous question, but it really isn’t.

The problem is that if it is OK for charities to mix the presentation of ideas in with their provision of material charity (and I think it should be; a key component of successful charity involves addressing spiritual needs, and that is an inherently intellectual/idea-based process), then allowing secular ideas to be presented but not religious ones constitutes a form of discrimination against religion. Religious neutrality implies that religious ideas should be treated as equivalent to secular ones — no better, and no worse.

This approach to religious neutrality and the spreading of ideas was upheld in the recent school voucher case Zelman v. Harris, and I think it applies equally in the case of charities. As long as the criteria used to select charities for funding are genuinely neutral, I don’t think there’s a constitutional issue here.

(There is the broader question of whether the government should be involved in this sort of thing at all, but that’s another post.)

A couple of days ago, I had a brief altercation with my father over the recently-proposed redistricting plan in Texas. Among other things, he claimed that the Republican-backed proposal was a “naked power grab” that clearly violated “the will of the people”. I’ve been thinking about those claims, and finally decided to put them to a rough empirical test.

My neutral hypothesis was that a fair districting division would result in each party holding a number of seats proportional to the overall percentage of the vote they received. If one party winds up holding substantially more seats than that, the districting is unfairly skewed to benefit them over their rivals.

The Texas Secretary of State has 2002 election result totals available on the web, so we can test this hypothesis. Slightly collapsed and added together, the 2002 results looked like this:

Office Republican Democrat Other
District 1 66,654 86,384 0
District 2 53,656 85,492 1,353
District 3 113,974 37,503 2,656
District 4 67,939 97,304 3,042
District 5 81,439 56,330 2,139
District 6 115,396 45,404 3,237
District 7 96,795 11,674 58
District 8 140,575 0 10,351
District 9 59,635 86,710 1,613
District 10 0 114,428 21,196
District 11 68,236 74,678 1,943
District 12 121,208 0 10,723
District 13 119,401 31,218 0
District 14 102,905 48,224 0
District 15 0 66,311 0
District 16 0 72,383 0
District 17 77,622 84,136 2,046
District 18 27,980 99,161 1,785
District 19 117,092 0 10,684
District 20 0 68,685 0
District 21 161,836 56,206 4,051
District 22 100,499 55,716 2,869
District 23 77,573 71,067 1,912
District 24 38,332 73,002 1,560
District 25 50,041 63,590 2,495
District 26 123,195 37,485 3,998
District 27 41,004 68,559 2,646
District 28 26,973 71,393 2,054
District 29 0 55,760 2,833
District 30 28,981 88,980 1,856
District 31 111,556 44,183 5,745
District 32 100,226 44,886 2,790
Total Votes 2,290,723 1,896,852 107,635

Net result — Republicans 53%, Democrats 44%, Other (mainly Libertarian and Green) 3%. Since there are currently 32 Congressional districts in Texas, the neutral hypothesis leads to the conclusion that a fair districting would lead to a seat distribution of 17 Republican, 14 Democrat and 1 Other.

If we drop the 3rd party vote totals and just consider the Republican vs. Democrat count, the results shift to 55% Republican and 45% Democrat, which means 18 seats for the Republicans and 14 for the Democrats.

The actual seat distribution that resulted from the 2002 election was 17 seats for the Democrats, and 15 for the Republicans. In other words, the current districting division is clearly skewed to favor the Democrats by 2 to 3 seats. The “will of the people” is clearly being frustrated by the current setup.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the Republican proposal is fair. Tom Delay’s comment that he wants the Republicans to have 20 seats implies, on the basis of the 2002 numbers, that the Republican plan is skewed to favor the Republicans by about the same extent that the current setup favors the Democrats. Still, in terms of “naked power grabs” and violation of the “will of the people”, the Republican plan seems no worse than the one it would have replaced. And that means the Texas Democratic representatives broke the law (yes, it is illegal in Texas for a representative to deliberately fail to appear in the statehouse for purposes of breaking a quorum) and shut down the legislature to avoid living under a proposed law that is simply the mirror image of the one they thought was just peachy when they were on the winning side.

And that, Dad, is why I think the Texas Democrats were throwing a snit and acting like crybabies because they couldn’t handle being on the losing side.

UPDATE: I did a little bit more digging. In the 1990 Texas redistricting, the Democrats controlled the legislature. The plan they came up with allowed them to capture 70% of the congressional seats in the state with only 50% of the vote — based on the current number of seats that would have been a 22-10 split favoring the Democrats when a fair division would have been 16-16.

I wonder if you found that as objectionable as the current Republican plan. My guess is no.

Stephen den Beste has some interesting remarks today on the lack of rational thinking in the humanities (he is, in turn, responding to one of Jane Galt’s posts). Obviously it shouldn’t surprise anyone to read that the humanities are more about prose than about proofs, but Stephen’s and Jane’s discussion gave me a flashback to my own days as an English major.

I attended San Jose State University from about 1992-1996. I think that was right on the cusp of when things started to get really ugly in humanities departments in colleges and universities, since some of my teachers were clearly “old guard” in their attitudes and methods, and a small few were more — shall we say — subjective in their approach to literature.

Mathematics has never been a favorite subject of mine, and all through school I avoided it to the greatest extent possible that still let me advance through the curriculum. I met “hard sciences” requirements by taking courses such as Stellar Astronomy and Solar Astronomy (which while focused on facts and reality, did not involve actual math to any great extent). All in all, I managed to get through 6 years of college (2 at junior college, 4 at SJSU) without taking anything higher than Intermediate Algebra (aka “Algebra II”).

Yet I have also throughout my life been called “Einstein”, “Brainiac”, “Spock”, and various other less hostile names. As a child, I was more interesting in toys that let me build and deconstruct, things that functioned mechanically. I attribute this to a natural tendency toward logic and logical thinking, and the fact that my parents are a biologist and a mechanical engineer. So I grew up with a respect for what was real and what was not, the difference between wishing and truth.

So you may be asking, why was I an English major of all things? The answer is pretty simple: I’m a writer. It’s what I am, what I do, and what I work hardest to perfect among my skills. There is creativity in writing, obviously. But there is also logic and analysis, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either an idiot or a bad writer (possibly both).

I was taking a lot of English Lit classes (which is actually the absolute wrong path for someone who aspires to writing, but it wasn’t until I had been out of college for a few years that I figured that out). Traditionally, literature courses involve a lot of analysis of literature, a lot of reading. There is extensive exploration of concepts like symbolism, allegory, tragedy vs. comedy, the historical contexts of works (most of the classic Greek plays don’t make any damn sense unless you have some cultural context for them).

There were two courses, however, that stand out in my mind as examples of the humanities gone wrong. I have been told about a phenomenon called “deconstructionism” in which literature is taught as an extreme abstract in which the author isn’t actually imparting any fixed meaning or purpose to the work. Instead, it means what the reader wants it to mean.

I’ve had people (my own father-in-law, in fact) tell me point-blank that they don’t think authors intentionally put any meaning or symbolism into their writing. My jaw dropped. I’ve been writing for 16 years and I can tell you unequivocally that my works are constructed with purpose and intricacy. It means something, and that’s why there is a legitimate field of study in literature. It can be analyzed, and there is a lot to be learned in the analysis.

It is true that a reader brings a meaning to something they read that is unique and individual, and it affects how they respond to the work (this is called “personal text”), but it is a tiny part of the overall field of study. It is not a legitimate basis for explication of literature.

Now back to my two college courses. One of them was a required course (for English majors) called “Multiculturalism In Literature”. Scared already? I was too. The class was taught by a Prof. Neilsen, and it was the sorriest excuse for academic study I’ve ever experienced.

Course readings consisted of a number of authors and works which I had never heard of (many were local), of various minorities; aka “ethnic writers”. The one exception was Amy Tan, who I understand does not consider herself an ethnic writer. Not coincidentally, her story was the one selection in the course that was coherent and well written.

Our assignments were to read the literature selections. Term papers and “tests” were infrequent and consisted essentially of summarizing the work in question. That’s it. No analysis, no explication, no discourse. I’m not sure I was even required to write in complete sentences. Show up and get an A, basically.

Which is probably fortunate since there wasn’t anything in the assigned reading to analyze. These stories weren’t about anything. They were like verbal still lifes, descriptions of environment, things, but no motion. No conflict. No action. No meaning. They didn’t go anywhere. Most of the time I couldn’t even figure out what was being described, because it was so abstract that the author seemed to have neglected any concepts like a setting, a theme, characterization, etc.

I wondered if I was the only person in the class who was baffled by the readings, until one day I overheard two people behind me quietly discussing the latest inflicted trash. They were trying to decide what it was about. I turned around and said, “It isn’t about anything. None of this stuff makes any sense.” They both looked extremely relieved, and it didn’t take us long to determine that most of the class was just as bewildered as we were.

I think the professor knew it, too, which is why the “exams” and grading criteria were so laughably nonexistent. It was like the system had decreed this class was to be taught, and he’d drawn the short straw. He struggled to come up with something to talk about during classtime, and more often than not it degenerated into a class-wide chat session about something totally off-topic. I resented the waste of my time, so I didn’t even go to class most days, unless it was to work on something else while I was sitting there. I read the stories, showed up for tests, got an A, and moved on.

The second class I took was not as big of a joke as that one, but it comes to mind because of an incident that highlights the bizarre religious worship that some academicians seem to have toward certain canonical writers.

In this case it was Hemingway. I am not a big fan of Hemingway. I think the guy was a hack whose work was, at best, pulp level. There is nothing remarkable about it, including its heavy-handed allegorical tendencies (which some people seem to think is subtle — Conrad did it better). My teacher, however, was obviously enamored of the man, and inflicted a few of his short stories on us. We were divided into groups of 5 or 6 and asked to analyze the work in question.

I don’t remember the name of the story we studied (thank God), but what I did notice was that there was a very strong homoerotic subtext to it. This is a feature of Hemingway’s work that I think is perfectly obvious and easily defensible. I presented this idea to the group and they agreed, although had been unwilling to bring it up initially.

Homosexuality, of course, is a taboo subject where Hemingway is concerned, I suppose because of his romantic image as a “man’s man”. My group’s analysis was reasoned and certainly supported by the text. Our teacher was not amused. I sure was, though.

It’s reasonable to ask if college courses like these are the cause or the result of a lack of logical thinking in literature. I think it’s both. Students are exposed to this, believe it is normal and sophisticated, and do not inquire further. Also, truly classic works may be assigned but not studied in context, which makes them sort of look like the same meaningless babble as the modern stuff (to the untrained mind anyway). Some of the students go on to become the same kinds of incoherent, meaningless writers that they studied, perpetuating the cycle ad infinitum.

The writing that I do typically gets published on the web as fan fiction of one flavor or another. Over the years I’ve received a lot of commentary from various readers about my style, and two things keep coming up over and over. One is their amazement (and appreciation) for the fact that I know how to spell, use punctuation, etc. The other is their shock that my writing is coherent.

So it doesn’t surprise me that the humanities as a whole is currently devoid of any attention to reality or rational thinking. It’s in pretty short supply in the field anyway, and the post-modern obsession with further diluting it creates busloads of students who can’t make even simple cause-effect connections in the starkest circumstances.

Is it any wonder I married a software engineer and hang out with geeks instead of art students?

Warning: RPG lingo incoming.

Ok, so I’m playing Shadowbane last night. This is the new MMORPG that has an emphasis on PvP. Or more exactly, PvP is possible, anytime, anywhere. There is a strong guild structure to discourage PKs, and so far I have not run into any PK problems.

You can, however, loot other people’s corpses when they get killed. Muwahaha.

Last night I notice on the system information channel that there is a guy in my area whose name is “X-NaZgul-X Ring Wraith”. :rolls eyes:

In that instant I knew what my purpose in Shadowbane was. I am to be a thorn in the side of everyone with a retarded character name.

I wish I had logged the exchange I subsequently had with this guy, but the event goes something like the following. Keep in mind that we’re both minotaurs — big, tough, slow creatures that according to the game backstory are supposed to be fairly slow of wit, so I’m playing mine that way when he talks:

Nazgul dies. I loot his corpse while he’s gone, taking his armor and his cash, but leaving his weapon and gloves. Then I innocently go about my business killing local minor monsters. There’s another player nearby (centaur) but she isn’t paying attention to what I’m doing.

Nazgul comes back after respawning. The 360 camera interface of Shadowbane makes it possible to view anything going on around you without actually turning your character around, so it isn’t obvious when you’re staring at someone.

I see him loot his corpse, and then he says (the text appears over your head on the screen as well as in the chat window):

Him: “who stole my armor? wtf?” *turns to centaur female* “did u take my armor?”

Centaur: “Your armor? I wasn’t looking.”

Him: “who took my armor?” *turns to me* “did u take it?”

Me: *ignores him like I didn’t hear*

Him: “it must have been ganjen” (that’s me)

After he gripes for a minute, finally I turn to him.

Me: “Yes. Me took stuff.”

Him: “why? that’s ok, i have a guild, your now on kill on sight list if you ever go to the mainland. u are marked sir. why did you take my stuff.”

Me: “Because you have dumb name.”

Him: “huh? what’s wrong w/my name!”

Me: “You no think for yourself. You steal other person’s idea and take name. You even have to use extra letters because name already being used.”

Him: “ive been using this name for a long time, on every game i play, everybody knows me by this name.”

Me: “Make no difference.”

Centaur: “Play nice boys.”

Him: “give me my stuff”

Me: “Ask nice.”

*long pause*

Him: “may i please have my hard earned armor back. u can keep the gold.”

Me: “Ok. Because you earned. Me get stuff.”

Him: “thank you”

Centaur: “Good I’m glad you worked it out.”

*I open trade window, return the things I took, including his gold plus a bit extra since I couldn’t remember the exact amount*

Me: “But you no use dumb name in future.”

Him: “i have one comment for u. FUCK U.”

*then he runs off before I can reply*

Me (to no one in particular): “Oh that mature. He can’t even use whole words when he insult me.”

I reported the gist of this encounter to the public Info channel, adding, “So make sure none of you use dumb name, or me take stuff.”

One guy (Erikson) said, “I’ll be sure to remember that.”

I said, “You no have dumb name. You no worry.”

Heh.

Occasionally I still encounter people who cite Michael Moore as some kind of authority on, well, anything. I always wonder if they’re serious, because it’s pretty obvious that the guy is a total crank.

At the Academy Awards this year he disgraced himself, his profession, the Academy, and the United States in general by acting like a complete asshat. His remarks included the phrase “Any time you’ve got both the pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you’re not long for the White House”. I think he was actually serious.

Here I offer a tear-down of a letter Moore has posted on his own website dated 3/17/03.

The generally juvenile nature of this letter is quite amazing, as is the fake “working man” image Moore cultivates with his flannel shirt, worn jeans, baseball cap and unwashed hair. He’s made quite a bit of money for himself talking down to the rest of us, if his nice apartment in Upper Manhattan is any indication. He states he doesn’t even own a car, which is probably true since he gets chauffered around in limos all the time.

My comments are in bold italics.

————————–


Dear Governor Bush:

So today is what you call “the moment of truth,” the day that “France and the rest of world have to show their cards on the table.” I’m glad to hear that this day has finally arrived. Because, I gotta tell ya, having survived 440 days of your lying and conniving, I wasn’t sure if I could take much more. So I’m glad to hear that today is Truth Day, ’cause I got a few truths I would like to share with you:

You may commence lying…now.

1. There is virtually NO ONE in America (talk radio nutters and Fox News aside) who is gung-ho to go to war.

Probably true, but then, war for war’s sake is not the issue at hand. This is wordplay intended to twist the subject of the debate.

Trust me on this one.

You have no credibility regarding telling the truth, so unfortunately we cannot extend such trust in the absence of evidence. That’s reserved for people who have a good reputation for honesty.

Walk out of the White House and on to any street in America and try to find five people who are PASSIONATE about wanting to kill Iraqis. YOU WON’T FIND THEM! Why?

Because, again, killing Iraqis is not the issue under debate.

‘Cause NO Iraqis have ever come here and killed any of us!

Not relevant, as this conflict is not about revenge or tit-for-tat.

No Iraqi has even threatened to do that.

Then I suppose you have conveniently forgotten all the rhetoric Saddam is famous for spouting, especially back in the 1980’s, about vowing to destroy America. Plus there’s all that awkward rhetoric from the Iraqi ambassador.

You see, this is how we average Americans think: If a certain so-and-so is not perceived as a threat to our lives, then, believe it or not, we don’t want to kill him! Funny how that works!

This statement is not worthy of analysis since its premises have already been refuted above.

2. The majority of Americans — the ones who never elected you — are not fooled by your weapons of mass distraction.

Yes, ha ha, that’s very clever. Don’t change the subject.

We know what the real issues are that affect our daily lives — and none of them begin with I or end in Q.

A lot of them do start with T and end with M, however.

Here’s what threatens us: two and a half million jobs lost since you took office

1,507,000, actually, according to the House’s own website. And everybody knows that the President has little if any direct influence over the economy.

the stock market having become a cruel joke, no one knowing if their retirement funds are going to be there

Long-term investment funds are performing more or less normally. Anyone who has the bulk of their retirement in volatile stocks is a fucking moron anyway.

gas now costs almost two dollars — the list goes on and on.

Iraq supplies about 5% of the total oil in the world. In the world, Mike. And most of it doesn’t go to us anyway. Guess where it does go? That’s right. France.

Actually the price of oil fell yesterday and will probably continue to drop. Also, it isn’t the Iraq situation that’s causing that, as we get basically none of our oil from there. It’s the 2 month strike in the industry in Venezuela, from where we get about 1/5th of our oil. Funny how that doesn’t get much news coverage.

Bombing Iraq will not make any of this go away. Only you need to go away for things to improve.

I don’t think anyone has suggested that liberating Iraq will magically solve everyone’s problems and turn the world into the end of a Disney movie.

3. As Bill Maher said last week, how bad do you have to suck to lose a popularity contest with Saddam Hussein?

That is not an argument. It is the opinion of one person, and not even a funny joke at that.

The whole world is against you, Mr. Bush. Count your fellow Americans among them.

Don’t presume to speak for me, Mike.

Last time I checked we had 45 countries on our side. And if all Americans really were against the war, wouldn’t that include the military forces that are fighting it so professionally? Wouldn’t that include all the people I see flying flags on their cars? Wouldn’t that include all the people I see showing up at pro-liberation demonstrations?

4. The Pope has said this war is wrong, that it is a SIN. The Pope!

And you, king of the liberal leftist spin-masters, have suddenly found religion? Since when do you give Christianity the time of day?

UPDATE: It has since been pointed out to me that Moore is in fact a Catholic. to that I can only remark: How do Catholicism and Marxism go together?

But even worse, the Dixie Chicks have now come out against you! How bad does it have to get before you realize that you are an army of one on this war?

It’s right here that I start to doubt that this is a real letter from Michael Moore and that instead it’s an article in the Onion someone hijacked and posted on Moore’s website.

Of course, this is a war you personally won’t have to fight. Just like when you went AWOL while the poor were shipped to Vietnam in your place.

Bush did not go AWOL. He signed up for the Texas Air National Guard and was given the chance to serve his term at a base in Texas. Many people took advantage of this, not just him, to avoid going to the war zone in Vietnam. This is not dishonorable, as the Vietnam war was a war fought without goal, without real purpose, and with much interference from the presidential administration.

As to “the poor” sent in his “place”:

88.4% in Vietnam were caucasian (includes Hispanics)
10.6% were black.
1% were asian,polynesian americans, American Indian,Native Pacific Islanders,etc.

86.3% of deaths were caucasian.
12.5% were black.
1.2% asian, polynesian, Indian,etc.

86.8% of deaths by hostile action were caucasian.
12.1% were black,
1.1% were asian, polynesian, Indian,etc.

34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.

12.5% of the deaths in Vietnam were black, while the percentage of blacks of military age was 13.5% of the total population.

Source.

———-
76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.

Three-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle-income backgrounds.

Some 23% of Vietnam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.

79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service. (63% of Korean War vets and only 45% of WW2 vets had completed high school upon separation.)

Source.
————
Your statement about the “poor” fighting in Vietnam is just one of many myths perpetrated by people like you.

5. Of the 535 members of Congress, only ONE (Sen. Johnson of South Dakota) has an enlisted son or daughter in the armed forces!

Irrelevant. Also an outright lie. Several Reps and one Senator have children in the military. They include:

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.C.
Rep. Ed Schrock, R-Va.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. (still in the National Guard and a Gulf War Veteran)
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.

And that’s even leaving out the Reps and Senators who are themselves either military vets or still active in the military.

If you really want to stand up for America, please send your twin daughters over to Kuwait right now and let them don their chemical warfare suits. And let’s see every member of Congress with a child of military age also sacrifice their kids for this war effort. What’s that you say? You don’t THINK so? Well, hey, guess what — we don’t think so either!

You’re advocating slavery now? Forcing one’s children to go fight in a military force that is volunteer only? If they’re adults you can’t make them anyway, and if they’re minors I think that’s sort of illegal. I think if they wanted to, they would have.

6. Finally, we love France. Yes, they have pulled some royal screw-ups. Yes, some of them can be pretty damn annoying. But have you forgotten we wouldn’t even have this country known as America if it weren’t for the French? That it was their help in the Revolutionary War that won it for us? That our greatest thinkers and founding fathers — Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, etc. — spent many years in Paris where they refined the concepts that lead to our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution? That it was France who gave us our Statue of Liberty, a Frenchman who built the Chevrolet, and a pair of French brothers who invented the movies?

Yeah. And?

Besides, France didn’t win the Revolutionary War for us. The Battle of Yorktown was pivotal, yes, but it seems to me like there were some other people who played a major role in our revolution. People like, oh, General George Washington.

And now they are doing what only a good friend can do — tell you the truth about yourself, straight, no b.s. Quit pissing on the French and thank them for getting it right for once. You know, you really should have traveled more (like once) before you took over. Your ignorance of the world has not only made you look stupid, it has painted you into a corner you can’t get out of.

And like any self-respecting individual, we are not allowing blind loyalty to deter us from doing what we know is right.

Well, cheer up — there IS good news. If you do go through with this war, more than likely it will be over soon because I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of Iraqis willing to lay down their lives to protect Saddam Hussein.

I’m sure that would delight Bush tremendously. Aren’t you happy? You don’t sound it.

After you “win” the war, you will enjoy a huge bump in the popularity polls as everyone loves a winner — and who doesn’t like to see a good ass-whoopin’ every now and then (especially when it ‘s some third world ass!). So try your best to ride this victory all the way to next year’s election. Of course, that’s still a long ways away, so we’ll all get to have a good hardy-har-har while we watch the economy sink even further down the toilet!

The true winners of this war will be the Iraqi people. And that’s all that really matters. Whether we get thanked for it or not, they will be free of Saddam Hussein.

But, hey, who knows — maybe you’ll find Osama a few days before the election! See, start thinking like THAT! Keep hope alive! Kill Iraqis — they got our oil!!

Actually they’ve got France’s oil. Why do you think Chirac is so ticked off. ๐Ÿ™‚

I find the liberal leftist attempts to rework reality to their own liking quite fascinating. Today I offer an article from the UK Independent by columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She recently appeared on a TV program there called Question Time. I have inserted my own remarks in bold italics.

War or no war, I refuse to be blackmailed
The baying warmongers have not shown a flicker of pity for the dead and dying of Iraq

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
31 March 2003

Now the most vicious of tactics are being used by the pro-war brigades to discredit those of us who still firmly believe – from left to right – that this war is immoral,

Why? You think allowed the regime of Saddam Hussein to continue is moral?

. . . illegal. . .

Illegal according to whom?

. . .and dangerous.

Granted. And how is that relevant?

I got a taste on Question Time last week. As I walked in, people in the front rows were already hissing and hooting to undermine me.

That is generally the purpose of hissing and hooting, yes. It’s called being in front of an audience that doesn’t agree with you, a situation that I’m sure you find quite baffling.

Geoff Hoon got massive applause immediately afterwards. Obviously delighted, he looked 10 years younger suddenly.

This was in London, a city with people of many colours, most against the war.

How do you know that? Did you ask them all?

But here, somehow, we had an almost white audience, various pro-war collectives (you can obviously get block bookings for the programme) – and not a single anti-war Muslim, black or Asian voice.

Which kind of suggests that there are a lot of people in London who are pro-liberation, doesn’t it? Your insinuation that Muslims, blacks, and Asians should all be anti-war is a little peculiar, as well as racist.

Now I think Question Time has become much better since it started to allow more assertive challenges from audience members – the old reverence has gone and an excellent thing too. Panellists should be able to deal with the cut and thrust of hot exchanges. But when it tips over into the Jerry Springer mode the programme loses its stature. I have seen this before when people booed Melanie Phillips and Ann Widdecombe (not my soul sisters), refusing to let them finish their points.

Careful. You’re starting to sound a little whiny. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go on the show.

When this happens it gets to you, and it did to me.

Good.

It didn’t help that Charles Kennedy, who started off well enough, simply shifted his bum around on the fence leaving me alone to put the case against the war.

It’s difficult to present a convincing argument for an irrational cause when you don’t have a bunch of your fellow sycophants backing you up, isn’t it?

In the middle of my very first answer, a Kurdish lady launched herself at me. She says she is a victim of terrible torture, rape, and punishment by Saddam’s inhumane forces. I had already watched her on several recent programmes. I said I was very sorry that she had suffered so much but that I was still anti-war. So she harangued, saying I was “clueless”.

Sounds like you are.

Her husband has emailed me to say that his wife believes “not being willing to get rid of Saddam by any means necessary makes a person a Saddam supporter”. I told her she was emotionally blackmailing me

That’s easier than addressing his point coherently, isn’t it?

and, even though many people were outraged at this, I would say it again. Neither she nor the baying warmongers showed a flicker of pity for the dead and dying of Iraq.

Just as you show not a flicker of pity for the victims of Saddam’s regime, or the thousands and thousands of brutally murdered whose killers are trained and funded by Saddam. And anyway, most of the dead and dying in Iraq currently are enemy combatants, a fact conveniently ignored in the various “body count” statistics.

They were furious, however, that al-Jazeera – which rightly won an Index Against Censorship award last week –

Actually, that award is called the Award for Best Circumvention of Censorship. And al-Jazeera is not exactly an objective, independent media outlet, considering that it’s funded almost entirely by the government of Qatar.

was showing footage of our dead soldiers.

And this does not outrage you? I quote from the Articles of the Geneva Convention, which you, interestingly, have ignored in your tirade:

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

Imagine the chief rabbi on a panel being berated by a Palestinian victim of the Israeli army

Inappropriate analogy. The rabbi is not assumed to be in favor of whatever the Israeli government is up to. You, however, stated a firm position for which the Kurdish woman attacked you.

or the US ambassador silenced by the shrieking pain of parents whose sons have been caged in Guantanamo Bay.

The Guantanamo prisoners are not being tortured or inhumanely treated. And I would hope that the ambassador in question would lecture the parents on this fact, and perhaps point out why their son was captured in the first place.

Would people expect these two leading figures to surrender to the emotions, or would they too feel this was unacceptable blackmail?

I would expect them to answer the question, which you did not do, and are not doing now.

The war is not going well.

Naturally not, from your point of view, considering how successful it’s been. We’ve laid siege to Baghdad after only 11 days from the start of the war, have killed fewer civilians than the Watts Riots, and captured thousands of enemy soldiers, possibly killing or severely injuring Saddam and his sons. That sounds pretty good to me.

Most Iraqis have not rebelled and there is no overwhelming welcome for the troops.

Ummm. Ok. If you say so. Personally I saw it on live TV, but what the hell.

Allies are losing soldiers for an unjustified war; mounting civilian casualties will soar when they really raze Baghdad.

Raze Baghdad? Why would we do that? We’ve been launching JDAMs at the city for over a week now and we’ve killed a grand total of about 100 civilians. They still have electricity and running water for Pete’s sake. It’s the most accurate military strike in history.

They have not won the hearts and minds of millions around the world.

Would you like to introduce any evidence to that effect?

This is a war by the US for the sinister cabal influencing the US government. . .

*spits tea onto the monitor* AAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! *ahem* Sorry. You were serious, weren’t you? Why don’t you just use the phrase “Imperialist aggressors” and get it over with?

. . .and the rest be damned.

Let’s see, 50 countries on our side now. 193 countries in the world. You do the math.

The action remains illegal, and condemned by the world’s statesmen, including Mandela.

And this would be the same Nelson Mandela who on 1/30/03 said, and I quote: “They (Bush and Blair) do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man?”

The same Nelson Mandela who has also stated:

“All that (President Bush) wants is Iraqi oil….because Iraq produces 64 percent of the oil in the world. What Bush wants is to get hold of that oil.”

This in spite of the fact that Iraq only accounts for about 5% of the world’s oil, total. Even CNN admitted that.

Mandela is a Communist. He wrote a manuscript entitled “How to Be a Good Communist” (no, I’m not making that up), in which he stated, “Under a Communist government, South Africa will become a land of milk and honey.”

Of Castro and Cuba, Mandela stated: “There’s one thing where that country stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is in its love for human rights and liberty.”

Of Moammar Qaddafi, Mandela praised his “commitment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.”

The pro-war side show no understanding that now Saddam will kill thousands more because we have unleashed chaos and he can always blame these deaths on our forces.

Not after we’re done killing his ass, he won’t.

They make dishonest assertions that “all Iraqis” want this war. Some do and some don’t, but few are begging “yes please kill me and my babies so I can be free and thank you so much for that bag of flour and American flag”.

*rolls eyes* It wouldn’t be a leftist screed without some good old-fashioned hyperbole, would it?

Why should they trust and love us after years of betrayal and sanctions which enabled Saddam to do his worst against his people?

A good question. One might even wonder why people like you never raised a stink about it before.

Where were these pro-war people when we were trying to highlight the suffering of Iraqis?

That’s an interesting bit of revisionist history, considering that the anti-war left was recently (and still is) arguing that Iraq is some kind of utopia and that the US is a murdering bully.

We could have armed the various Iraqi opposition groups, but we did not do so because we don’t want a truly independent Iraq.

Um, we ARE arming the opposition. We’re providing them with intelligence, too, and have been for years. Strangely enough, it’s kinda tough for a small group of resistors to topple a regime that controls large amounts of artillery, tanks, planes, and nerve gas.

When 5,000 young Iraqi exiles go back from Jordan to fight against the invasion, when enemies of Saddam say they see this as the new colonialism, we should take heed.

They’re just upset now that they’ve figured out that we’re not going to liberate their country for them and then hand the reins over to them and leave.

Most Arabs are not brainless dupes who can be bought off even when they are suffering immeasurably.

Never said they were.

Many of us who have taken a public stand against the war are now being demonised – in print, through private briefings and other means. John Reid is terrorising the BBC for being anti-war. I am being blacked and blocked – but since they can’t say I am a worthless peacenik (I will always be grateful that the US took action against Milosevic) they say I am dangerous.

Freedom of speech does not protect you from the disagreement of others.

Last night I dreamt I was in the asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Alastair Campbell coming at me with a syringe. Like I said, it is getting to me.

GOOD!

But when the going gets tough the tough must keep talking – and I must do so with less obvious frustration than I did on Question Time.

Oh, I don’t know. It’s fun to watch the liberal left squirm.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

Just in case you feel like sending her some comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oscar Cwajbaum, who runs the baby ISP on which this blog lives, recently moved it to a new host. The move was, shall we say, somewhat problematic in that it totally screwed the Moveable Type install on which the blog runs. So now, one fresh install of MT later, the blog is back running but the handfull of earlier entries have been lost. I’ve got copies, though, so I’ll be reposting them in a few minutes.

The comments, such as they were, are sadly lost to the mists of time.