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December 19, 2019

Conservatives and Reason

There is misconception, repeatedly resurfacing in conservative circles, which holds that naturalism in ethics implies a view of man as a barren valueless mechanistic being – only a supernaturalism can supply ethics and the concept of rights. On today’s editorial page of the New York Sun there is a quote by Ronald Reagan:

“Without God, there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience. Without God we are mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God there is a coarsening of the society. Without God democracy will not and cannot long endure. And that, simply, is the heart of my message: if we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under."

The conflation of naturalism with Hobbesian materialism is so common place in conservative circles that few conservatives can even imagine any other type of secular or naturalistic ethics. In Ancient Hellenic thought, the naturalism of Aristotle was teleological to a fault. He wrote the first treatise on ethics in human history; constructed on naturalistic grounds, it is a major pillar in the foundation of Western Civilization. But conservative intellectuals, when I try to remind them of this, look at me and say with a straight face that Aristotle must have believed in transcendent values (actually, guys that was Plato) and not the mere expedient nor in arbitrary convention (correct boys and girls, that was the Sophists).

Two recent authors who comment on this mistaken notion of naturalism are Tibor Machan and Robert Tracinski. I’ve written about this as part of my assessment of the conservative response to the Islamic threat.

I respect that many of my conservative friends cherish religion and turn to their religion for solace to deal with stressful issues of human mortality, etc. However, we’ll have common ground if we share a commitment to deal with the challenges of living this life by the use of our rational faculty. Since Aquinas, some Christians have found a way to accept reason as a potent tool to understand secular matters. I cheer my conservative friends when they find that liberty is in harmony with their religious beliefs. However, when religion is used to push aside reason and claim for religion what only reason can support, I must protest this dishonest turf grab. There is a growing hostility among conservatives against the core values of Western Civilization (as I discuss in my link above).

It’s time for our conservative friends to accept the heroic achievement of our secular/rational/scientific humanist tradition. If they can do that we have common ground. In the face of the theocratic Islamic threat, we need to take stock in the contributions of our tradition – on which rests our cultural achievements
December 18, 2019


I like Greek words; I wish I knew more of them. “Hubris” seems to be the Greek word of the day. What’s odd is the left is using it. After a century of utopian schemes that have left 100 million dead and confined over a billion to subjugation, they are still unrepentant. What intellectual right do they have to make charges of “hubris?”

It is even stranger when you read their interpretation of America’s influence in the world. According to the left’s narrative, the world would be full of blooming democracies – in the socialist sense, of course – if it weren’t for the fact that America, using a handful of covert CIA operatives, installed dictatorships all around the world. Wait a minute! It’s hubris to think that 150,000-200,000 men and women can bring liberal democracy to Iraq but we’ve derailed potential democracies and installed the regime of our choice all around the world with a few covert operatives?

And you thought the left was engaged in honest criticism!

However, cultural change is normally a slow process and those that result in liberty are the exceptions. Abrupt change – revolution, for example – seldom achieves its goal the first time. England had its Oliver Cromwell before the Glorious Revolution of John Locke’s time. The hopeful atmosphere of the early days of the French Assembly was replaced by the Reign of Terror and Napoleon before France got back on track. The democratic Kerensky revolution was replaced by the Bolshevik communist putsch. The Weimar democracy, in the aftermath of a war to “make the world safe for democracy” ended with the election of Hitler. No, most first attempts at liberal democracy don’t pan out.

Thus, we are attempting a bold and radical change – one which is a long shot. At this point we must hope that it is one of the exceptions. If not, it may have merely bought us time while we return to the drawing board. It is clear, however, that the generosity of the American people is praiseworthy and the mission is honorable. In light of the vicious attacks of the left, it is difficult to debate the fine points of an otherwise respectable course of action. Of course, the left wants nothing more than to demoralize and paralyze our national discourse. So far they are very effective.
December 17, 2019

New Guide to the Political Left ... a must read!

If you have the stomach, read the profiles in the far left’s hall of shame, compiled by the good folks at David Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine. He has recently created an information center on the left.

There you’ll find one Robert Scheer, Los Angles Times columnist and onetime follower of Kim Il-Sung of North Korea. While Scheer saw nothing wrong with Clinton’s firing 450 missiles into Iraq and bombing Serbia, he is now “writing columns which assert that even one Iraqi killed by American arms constitutes a war crime.”

Or perhaps you missed, Rachel Corrie, useful idiot who died supporting Palestinian terrorists. Want to know about Lynne Stewart, that poor excuse for a human being, who helps Islamist terrorists operate from jail? Or the ubiquitous Ramsey Clark, who never met a dictator he didn’t like? They are all there with the incriminating details. Be forwarned, it's not for the faint of heart.

You’ll also find an excellent library of articles on current affairs. Of course, you might lose a weekend or two reading these informative briefs. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll just hang the “be back tomorrow” sign and head over now.
December 16, 2019

Democracy isn’t enough!

It is often said that the solution to fundamentalist Islam is democracy. “Look at Turkey”, say these advocates, “or look at how Muslims thrive in the West.” The singular example of Turkey is considered the proof-of-concept that democracy can tame Islam. Let’s look at the picture in more detail.

Turkey didn’t become modern by adopting democracy. It was the autocratic rule of Ataturk – a dictatorial almost totalitarian-like ruler – that changed the culture of Turkey. Democracy came later. (The closest Ataturk imitator was the Shah of Iran.) For years the Turkish military stood ready to prevent Islamic recidivism, making Turkey known as a “guided democracy.”

Consider the case of Algeria. The military suspended democracy when it was clear that fundamentalists were going to be elected. Algeria wasn’t always a fundamentalist hotbed. After the French abandonment of Algeria, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism came with a revival of Arab culture and the goal of establishing “authenticity.” Over the last 15 years, over 150,000 have perished in civil strife in Algeria. If this is Arab authenticity, donne-moi les Francais.

Many Muslims in America and Europe embrace liberal values (perhaps this is self-selection by emigration). However, some turn to Islamism. Mohammad Atta turned to radical Islam in Hamburg – not Egypt. In France, children of secular Muslims are turning to fundamentalist Islam. In Holland, a policy of permissive toleration has failed to inspire toleration in some Muslims and the policy is discredited. This raises doubts about assimilation.

Liberal democracy is still a proper long-term goal but it requires a critical examination of Islam. The first order of business must be an honest and open discussion of Islam. Until the problem is discussed, faced, judged, and when found harmful, condemned, no lasting change can take place. Since this may not be possible in societies where you will be killed for being critical of Islam, this must happen here – in America – and in Europe.

If we fail to pass moral judgment, if we tacitly sanction the jihadist ideology, if we become morally complicit in whitewashing Islam, if we stand by and do nothing we have failed as human beings. This is not a job for governments; this must be done by individuals – especially intellectuals. How often have we looked back in history and said we would have taken a moral stand? Why not now?
December 15, 2019

Islam and its Denial. Part I

The inability to face the Islamic threat, indeed, the outright whitewashing of Islam, has striking similarities with past difficulties coming to grips with the nature and threat of Communism. During the first thirty years of Communism, from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech of 1947, social democrats refused to face the stark evilness of Communism. Seen as a brave “social experiment” to engineer a new human nature devoid of “selfish” impulses, the left denied, apologized, diminished, trivialized, or otherwise excused the Soviet catastrophe.

Few social democrats or left-liberals were immune to the collectivist dream, one that turned into a nightmare in Russia and eventually China, Cambodia, etc. Even that most respected of American intellectuals, John Dewey, went through a sympathetic period in the late 20s but come to his senses and spearheaded a critical examination by the mid 30s. Both The New Republic and The Nation downplayed the problems of International Communism during the whole decade of the 1930s – the “Red Decade”.

Today, Islam is new to most people in the West, and we are going through a similar denial stage. Only this time the denial is on the left and the right. The left dismisses the threat of Islam as a mere epiphenomena reflecting what they see as the underlying dynamics of American empire and oppression. On the left, there is sympathy of our Islamist enemy even if the religious form is seen as an unfortunate by-product. I’ve written about this in detail here and here.

The right has a hard time believing a religion can be bad – especially the ecumenical intellectual conservatives who dominate the main venues of conservative discourse. Fresh from victory in the Cold War, where they see Godless Communism defeated by the Judeo-Christian West, they are unprepared for the threat of a super-religion. How could trust in God lead one astray? I’ve discuss the conservative’s mistake here.

Currently, I’m reviewing the denial phase during the rise of Communism. I suspect the parallels will be revealing. I’d appreciate references on this period. Leave a comment or e-mail your suggestions
December 14, 2019

Bat Ye'or on C-Span

Bat Ye’or, on a C-Span rebroadcast, discussed the ominous rise of Islam in Europe and her latest book on the subject: Eurabia. This brave woman has written on Islamic history and the Islamic threat for over 3 decades.

Because of the taboo (and laws in some cases) against being critical of Islam, Europe lacks intellectual leadership. Ye’or mentioned in the Q&A, that a proper understanding of the problem must be differentiated from a xenophobic attack on the demographic group, which includes moderate assimilated Muslims. Without discussion and proper intellectual leadership, there will be an inadequate understanding of the threat of Islam by both those who dismiss it and those who distort it.

This is a woman who talks calmly, patiently, clearly and forcefully – all in the face of an unresponsive and hostile culture that doesn’t want to take its head out of the sand. The dignity of this woman is inspiring. If the C-Span broadcast is repeated, don’t miss it.

Her website: Unfortunately, I missed her talk at Columbia University.
December 13, 2019

Have you read Das Kapital or ...

Have you read the Koran?

Muslims, who lie on principle (taqiyya), will insist you can only understand Islam by reading the Koran. After you read it in English, you’ll be told you can only understand it by reading it in Arabic. If you learn Modern Arab, you’ll still be hampered as the Koran is written in Classical Arabic. Of course, all this is bull just to intimidate you to accept the party line. After all, was it unfair to be critical of Nazism without reading Mein Kampf in German? Or should you ignore the 100 million that have died under communism because you didn’t read Das Kapital?

The Koran actually isn’t hard to understand. Amber Pawlik systematically analyzes the Koran and subjects it to a scientific analysis (over here). Half of the verses of the Koran are vitriol against the Infidels. Most of the rest is about Allah, believers and the judgment day. Only about 5% concerns itself with ethics for living this life.

Pawlik illustrates how you can sample the Koran and get a representative picture that continues to holds with further study. Thus, you can verify her results without spending years and years of worthless study. After all, we’re not talking about some esoteric detail; we’re talking about the general tenor and message of the religion.

Here are some super quotes from Amber:

“In order to judge Islam, I did what most Islam apologists and most Muslims (many of whom are illiterate) did not do: I read the Koran.”

“There is no moral system outlined in the Koran - with the exception of allowing men to beat their wives, sleep with their slaves, and there is an occasional, ‘give to the poor.’ There certainly is no unequivocal ‘Do not kill’; ‘Do not steal’; or ‘Do not lie,’ let alone any other insight into how to behave properly as a human being. Most of the ‘moral’ guidance given in the Koran is not a restraint on humans but permission to do what they want - mostly for men to do what they want.” … “Indeed, the Koran gives men full right to have sex with female slaves and their allotted four wives.”

“What has a tendency to shock most people about Islam and the Koran is its belief in predestination … the Koran says that it is Allah who causes people to believe or not believe.” … “Almost the entire Koran is dedicated to delegating to infidels an inferior status. They are called blind, stupid and ignorant. No proof is given of why they should believe.” … “All of this sets up for what the Koran, at heart, is: one long battle cry against infidels.” … “Muslims are taught to wage war on nonbelievers. It is written in plain language. Muslims are to fight until nonbelievers convert or pay alms. All else are to be killed.” “Everything about Islam prepares its people to be fighters. It riles them with hatred. It prods them to fight.

The terrorists who attacked us on September 11, 2001 did not do so in the name of their country or for any demand, such as money or land: they did it openly and proudly in the name of Islam. They were not misguided; they were in every way Islamic.“ … “Islam is a fighting ideology with an uncanny hatred for those who don’t believe as they do. But don’t take my word for it. Please, by all means, read the Koran for yourself.”

Read her whole report and analysis. If you are still in doubt put the Koran to the test yourself. It’s not that hard. It’s easier than reading Das Kapital ... in English!