Monday, January 21, 2008

Mexico promotes murder in America

With the assistance of the anti-death-penalty lobby

A methamphetamine dealer who gunned down a deputy during a traffic stop in Southern California. A man in Arizona who killed his ex-girlfriend's parents and brother and snatched his children. A man who suffocated his baby daughter and left her body in a toolbag on an expressway overpass near Chicago.

Ordinarily, these would be death penalty cases. But these men fled to Mexico, thereby escaping the possibility of execution. The reason: Mexico refuses to send anyone back to the United States unless the U.S. gives assurances it won't seek the death penalty a 30-year-old policy that rankles some American prosecutors and enrages victims' families. "We find it extremely disturbing that the Mexican government would dictate to us, in Arizona, how we would enforce our laws at the same time they are complaining about our immigration laws," said Barnett Lotstein, special assistant to the prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix. "Even in the most egregious cases, the Mexican authorities say, 'No way,' and that's not justice," Lotstein said. "That's an interference of Mexican authorities in our judicial process in Arizona."

Statistics have shown that for every person executed there are 18 fewer murders in states that have the death penalty. By thwarting that sentence Mexico is contributing to the murder of Americans while saving the lift of people who really deserve to die. What the story suggest is that these murders are calculating their crime with the idea that Mexico's screwy sense of "justice" will save their sorry butts. It is part of the false moral "superiority" of the anti death penalty jurisdictions. Some European countries have the same bad judgment.

Fleeing to Mexico should be seen as evidence of premeditated murder that a defendant would be required to rebut. The Mexicans need to wise up on the death penalty too. The lack of one certainly has not created better respect for the rule of law in Mexico where murders have become almost ritualistic in many cases.


Western blindness

Mazir-i-sharif. Ring a bell? In 2001, a 32-year-old Marine captain and CIA officer named John Micheal Spann was killed there in a prison riot, thus becoming the first American combat death in Afghanistan. Not incidentally, Spann, before violence broke out, had interrogated an uncooperative John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. This all took place before the United States military completely toppled Afghanistan's Taliban oppressors.

Nearly seven years later, American-liberated Mazir-i-sharif has again made headlines - well, one or two - as the site of the prison where a 23-year-old Afghan journalist has been detained for three months (and counting) on blasphemy charges. These charges derive, Reuters reports, from Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh "distributing an article which said Prophet Mohammed had ignored the rights of women." As President Bush might say... well, what might President Bush say: Let freedom reign?

Then there's Halabja. Remember Halabja? The name is notorious for being the town where in 1988, 15 years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurdish civilians to death. This month, American-liberated Halabja made headlines as the site of the court that sentenced a Kurdish author in absentia to six months in prison for blasphemy: namely, for writing in a book that Mohammed had 19 wives, married a nine-year-old when he was 54, and took part in murder and rape. (These points, Robert Spencer notes at, "can be readily established from early texts written by pious Muslims.") The author, Mariwan Halabjaee, who has asylum in Norway, says there's also a fatwa calling for his death unless he asks forgiveness.

Think about it. Where Americans have died, not just to de-fang jihadist threats but to "democratize" Islamic populations, freedom of speech is against the law. And not the law according to "militants," or "extremists," but the law as enforced by democratically elected governments that we, as a nation, support with everything we've got. What would Mr. Bush say to that?

I doubt he'd know what to say. Neither, for that matter, would anyone in his cabinet, starting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Nor, I doubt, would the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen. Nor - to open things up - would the presidential candidates, the Fox News All-Stars or Simon Cowell. The fact is, to discuss blasphemy laws in Afghanistan and Iraq (Kurdistan, even) is to discuss Islam - specifically, its laws and doctrines. And we, as a politically correct people, don't know how to do that. Instead, we act as though they don't exist.

And not just blasphemy laws. Jihad doctrine; Shariah (Islamic law); designs for a global caliphate through jihad (terrorism) and the spread of Shariah (Islamization): We pretend they are not factors in the free world's experience with Islam. We certainly don't discuss their implications for the freeness of the world. Look at what passes for "debate" among our presidential candidates: Republicans argue over who supported "the surge" first; Democrats argue over who will withdraw troops first.

Such resolute blindness on Islam probably explains the institutional apathy - including (with few exceptions) conservative apathy - on the termination of Pentagon analyst Maj. Stephen Coughlin, which I wrote about last week. The military's primary expert on Islamic law, Mr. Coughlin was reportedly fired at the behest of a highly placed Pentagon aide named Hesham Islam whom Steven Emerson has since thumb-nailed as "an Islamist with a pro-Muslim Brotherhood bent." Thankfully, Rep. Sue Myrick of the bipartisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus is considering action, but there is little public sense that this outrage of a story is happening to us as a nation.

But it's something that should deeply concern Americans, particularly as a nation with soldiers under arms. Mr. Coughlin's meticulously researched legal brief not only links Islamic law to Islamic terrorism, but also demonstrates the professional negligence involved in ignoring Islamic law when devising strategies against Islamic terrorism.

Of course, that right there may explain the silence, particularly among many conservatives. The kind of negligence Mr. Coughlin is talking about, deriving from a PC ignorance of Islamic law, is quite evident in the strategies and tactics of the so-called war on terror that conservatives have widely championed - up to and including "the surge" in Iraq, which, for example, presupposes that American-won security will trigger a set of cultural behaviors and aspirations in Iraqi society best described as non-Islamic.

In other words, we seem to have arrived at a strange junction where neither jihadist apologists nor surge enthusiasts want to hear the facts about Islamic law. You might say it's become the new blasphemy.


Democrats coshed by their own political correctness rhetoric

Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ... It took a president to get it done. -- Hillary Clinton, Jan. 7

So she said. And then a fight broke out. That remarkable eruption of racial sensitivities and racial charges lacked coherence, however, because the public argument was about history rather than what was truly offensive -- the implied analogy to today.

The principal objection was that Clinton appeared to be disrespecting Martin Luther King Jr., relegating him to mere enabler for Lyndon Johnson. But it is certainly true that Johnson was the great emancipator, second only to Abraham Lincoln in that respect. This was a function of the times. King was fighting for black enfranchisement. Until that could be achieved, civil rights legislation could only be enacted by a white president (and a white Congress).

That does not denigrate King. It makes his achievement all the more miraculous -- winning a permanent stake in the system for a previously disenfranchised people, having begun with no political cards to play.

In my view, the real problem with Clinton's statement was the implied historical analogy -- that the subordinate position King held in relation to Johnson, a function of the discrimination and disenfranchisement of the time, somehow needs recapitulation today when none of those conditions apply.

The analogy Clinton was implying was obvious: I'm Lyndon Johnson, unlovely doer; he's Martin Luther King, charismatic dreamer. Vote for me if you want results. Forty years ago, that arrangement -- white president enacting African-American dreams -- was necessary because discrimination denied blacks their own autonomous political options. Today, that arrangement -- white liberals acting as tribune for blacks in return for their political loyalty -- is a demeaning anachronism. That's what the fury at Hillary was all about, although no one was willing to say so explicitly.

The King-Johnson analogy is dead because the times are radically different. Today an African-American can be in a position to wield the emancipation pen -- and everything else that goes along with the presidency: from making foreign policy to renting out the Lincoln Bedroom (if one is so inclined). Why should African-American dreams still have to go through white liberals?

Clinton is no doubt shocked that a simple argument about experience versus inspiration becomes the basis for a charge of racial insensitivity. She is surprised that the very use of "fairy tale" in reference to Obama's position on Iraq is taken as a sign of insensitivity, or that any reference to his self-confessed teenage drug use is immediately given racial overtones.

But where, I ask you, do such studied and/or sincere expressions of racial offense come from? From a decades-long campaign of enforced political correctness by an alliance of white liberals and the black civil rights establishment intended to delegitimize and marginalize as racist any criticism of their post-civil rights-era agenda.

Anyone who has ever made a principled argument against affirmative action only to be accused of racism knows exactly how these tactics work. Or anyone who has merely opposed a more recent agenda item -- hate crimes legislation -- on the grounds that murder is murder and that the laws against it are both venerable and severe. Remember that scurrilous pre-election ad run by the NAACP in 2000 implying that George Bush was indifferent to a dragging death of a black man at the hands of white racists in Texas because he did not support hate crime legislation? The nation has become inured to the playing of the race card, but "our first black president" (Toni Morrison on Bill Clinton) and his consort are not used to having it played against them.

Bill is annoyed with Obama. As Bill inadvertently let on to Charlie Rose, it has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with entitlement. He had contemplated running in 1988, he confided to Charlie, but decided to wait. Too young, not ready. (A tall tale, highly Clintonian; but that's another matter.) Now it is Hillary's turn. The presidency is her due -- the ultimate in alimony -- and this young upstart refuses to give way.

But telling Obama to wait his turn is a tricky proposition. It sounds patronizing and condescending, awakening the kinds of racial grievances white liberals have spent half a century fanning -- only to find themselves now singed in the blowback, much to their public chagrin. Who says there's no justice in this world?


Why Capitalism is Good for the Soul

Capitalism provides the conditions for creating worthwhile lives, argues Peter Saunders

The problem for those of us who believe that capitalism offers the best chance we have for leading meaningful and worthwhile lives is that in this debate, the devil has always had the best tunes to play. Capitalism lacks romantic appeal. It does not set the pulse racing in the way that opposing ideologies like socialism, fascism, or environmentalism can. It does not stir the blood, for it identifies no dragons to slay. It offers no grand vision for the future, for in an open market system the future is shaped not by the imposition of utopian blueprints, but by billions of individuals pursuing their own preferences. Capitalism can justifiably boast that it is excellent at delivering the goods, but this fails to impress in countries like Australia that have come to take affluence for granted.

It is quite the opposite with socialism. Where capitalism delivers but cannot inspire, socialism inspires despite never having delivered. Socialism's history is littered with repeated failures and with human misery on a massive scale, yet it still attracts smiles rather than curses from people who never had to live under it.(2) Affluent young Australians who would never dream of patronising an Adolf Hitler bierkeller decked out in swastikas are nevertheless happy to hang out in the Lenin Bar at Sydney's Circular Quay, sipping chilled vodka cocktails under hammer and sickle flags, indifferent to the twenty million victims of the Soviet regime. Chic westerners are still sporting Che Guevara t-shirts, forty years after the man's death, and flocking to the cinema to see him on a motor bike, apparently oblivious to their handsome hero's legacy of firing squads and labour camps.(3) ...

Boring capitalism cannot hope to compete with all this moral certainty, self-righteous anger, and sheer bloody excitement. Where is the adrenalin in getting up every day, earning a living, raising a family, creating a home, and saving for the future? Where is the moral crusade in buying and selling, borrowing and lending, producing and consuming? The Encyclop`dia Britannica describes `soul music' as `characterised by intensity of feeling and earthiness.' It is in this sense that capitalism is soulless, for although it fills people's bellies, it struggles to engage their emotions.

It is not difficult from within the Judeo-Christian tradition to argue that capitalism is `a highly moral system, nourishing the best that is in us and checking the worst.'(9) But as Michael Novak reminds us, the revelations of God recorded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims centuries ago were intended to be universal, and were not tied to any one system of organising human affairs.(10) Therefore, it is probably a mistake to trawl through the scriptures searching for nuggets that might support this or that system of political economy, for the word of God was never intended to be used as a blueprint for designing socioeconomic systems.

If we want to know if capitalism is bad (or good) for the `soul,' it probably makes more sense to approach the question metaphorically rather than theologically. Approached in this way, saying something is `good for the soul' implies simply that it enhances our capacity to live a good life. On this less literal and more secular interpretation of the `soul,' capitalism fares rather well.

We have known since the time of Adam Smith that capitalism harnesses self-interest to generate outcomes that benefit others. This is obvious in the relationship between producers and consumers, for profits generally flow to those who anticipate what other people want and then deliver it at the least cost. But it also holds in the relationship between employers and employees. One of Karl Marx's most mischievous legacies was to suggest that this relationship is inherently antagonistic: that for employers to make profit, they must drive wages down. In reality, workers in the advanced capitalist countries thrive when their companies increase profits. The pursuit of profit thus results in higher living standards for workers, as well as cheaper and more plentiful goods and services for consumers.

The way this has enhanced people's capacity to lead a good life can be seen in the spectacular reduction in levels of global poverty, brought about by the spread of capitalism on a world scale. In 1820, 85% of the world's population lived on today's equivalent of less than a dollar per day. By 1950, this proportion had fallen to 50%. Today it is down to 20%. World poverty has fallen more in the last fifty years than it did in the previous five hundred.(11) This dramatic reduction in human misery and despair owes nothing to aging rockstars demanding that we `make poverty history.' It is due to the spread of global capitalism.

Capitalism has also made it possible for many more people to live on Earth and to survive for longer than ever before. In 1900, the average life expectancy in the `less developed countries' was just thirty years. By 1960, this had risen to forty-six years. By 1998, it was sixty-five years. To put this extraordinary achievement into perspective, the average life expectancy in the poorest countries at the end of the twentieth century was fifteen years longer than the average life expectancy in the richest country in the world-Britain-at the start of that century.

By perpetually raising productivity, capitalism has not only driven down poverty rates and raised life expectancy, it has also released much of humanity from the crushing burden of physical labour, freeing us to pursue `higher' objectives instead. What Clive Hamilton airily dismisses as a `growth fetish' has resulted in one hour of work today delivering twenty-five times more value than it did in 1850. This has freed huge chunks of our time for leisure, art, sport, learning, and other `soul-enriching' pursuits. Despite all the exaggerated talk of an `imbalance' between work and family life, the average Australian today spends a much greater proportion of his or her lifetime free of work than they would had they belonged to any previous generation in history.

There is another sense, too, in which capitalism has freed individuals so they can pursue worthwhile lives, and that lies in its record of undermining tyrannies and dictatorships. As examples like Pinochet's Chile and Putin's Russia vividly demonstrate, a free economy does not guarantee a democratic polity or a society governed by the rule of law. But as Milton Friedman once pointed out, these latter conditions are never found in the absence of a free economy.(12) Historically, it was capitalism that delivered humanity from the `soul-destroying' weight of feudalism. Later, it freed millions from the dead hand of totalitarian socialism. While capitalism may not be a sufficient condition of human freedom, it is almost certainly a necessary one.

Interestingly, Hamilton does not deny any of this. In a recent article he admits: `It was not socialism that broke down the barriers of poverty and class, it was capitalism.' He even accepts that `the arrival of widespread material abundance in the West for the first time provided the opportunity for the mass of ordinary people to pursue self-realisation.'(13) Like Marx before him, Hamilton is happy to acknowledge capitalism's historical accomplishments. But, again like Marx, his argument is that capitalism has now outlived its usefulness: what once promoted human progress now restrains it.(14)

Hamilton's complaint is that the opportunity for a full and meaningful life that capitalism opened up has not been grasped. This is because a growing preoccupation with consumption, economic growth, and the pursuit of wealth has subverted our search for authenticity and self-realisation. The charge against capitalism is that it has gone too far; it has made us too materialistic, and our preoccupation with money has invaded every corner of our lives, driving out much more important concerns. As a result, we are increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied, and only by turning against capitalism will we be able to move on.

When I was a university teacher, I frequently encountered students who argued just as Clive does. We are too materialistic, they told me, we don't need all these possessions, we should stop the capitalist machine and devote our energies to better and higher pursuits. But whenever I asked them at what point in history they thought the machine should have been turned off, they would invariably reply, `now!'

These students wanted everything that industrial capitalism had delivered to their generation up to that point-the comfortable housing, the audio systems, the cheap flights to foreign countries, the medical advances, and the increased education and leisure time-but they thought future generations should go without the additional benefits that would be generated in the years of capitalism to come. I used to wonder what they would think if their parents and grandparents had reasoned along similar lines, and switched off economic growth twenty, or fifty, or one hundred years ago.

Clive says the problem of excess materialism has come about `over the last two or three decades.'(15) So what would we have lost if he had been able to impose his anti-growth ideology in, say, 1980?

The web is not the only innovation we would have gone without if Clive had been given his head. There would be no PCs. No satellite navigation (an extraordinary feat of human ingenuity destined to make street maps redundant for pedestrians and drivers alike). No mobile phones or cheap intercontinental telephone calls. No digital music on CDs or iTunes, and no digital images on cameras, televisions and DVDs. No hybrid cars and very little solar or wind powered electricity generation. No International Space Station or space shuttle missions to continue exploring the heavens. No genetically modified crops so farmers can guard against insect attack without using insecticides. No human genome map with its potential cures for Alzheimer's and heart disease. No AIDS treatments or MRI scans. And (although Clive detests them) no plasma TVs!

True, most of us could live without all these things. But on what possible grounds could it be argued this would benefit our souls? ....

Andrew Norton notes that disaffected intellectuals since Rousseau have been attacking capitalism for its failure to meet `true human needs.'(26) The claim is unfounded, so what is it about capitalism that so upsets them? Joseph Schumpeter offered part of the answer. He observed that capitalism has brought into being an educated class that has no responsibility for practical affairs, and that this class can only make a mark by criticising the system that feeds them.(27) Intellectuals attack capitalism because that is how they sell books and build careers.

More recently, Robert Nozick has noted that intellectuals spend their childhoods excelling at school, where they occupy the top positions in the hierarchy, only to find later in life that their market value is much lower than they believe they are worth. Seeing `mere traders' enjoying higher pay than them is unbearable, and it generates irreconcilable disaffection with the market system.(28)

But the best explanation for the intellectuals' distaste for capitalism was offered by Friedrich Hayek in The Fatal Conceit.(29) Hayek understood that capitalism offends intellectual pride, while socialism flatters it. Humans like to believe they can design better systems than those that tradition or evolution have bequeathed. We distrust evolved systems, like markets, which seem to work without intelligent direction according to laws and dynamics that no one fully understands.

Nobody planned the global capitalist system, nobody runs it, and nobody really comprehends it. This particularly offends intellectuals, for capitalism renders them redundant. It gets on perfectly well without them. It does not need them to make it run, to coordinate it, or to redesign it. The intellectual critics of capitalism believe they know what is good for us, but millions of people interacting in the marketplace keep rebuffing them. This, ultimately, is why they believe capitalism is `bad for the soul': it fulfils human needs without first seeking their moral approval.

Much more here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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