The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: July 2007

State Department’s Faith-Based Initiatives

I sent this letter to The Wall Street Journal on July 28th. It may or not be printed. I sent a copy of it to the State Department; there has been no response to it. But, I thought it important to post here, as well.

Sirs:

I read Alina L. Romanowski’s letter of July 27 in response to Bret Stephens’s Global View column, “Public Diplomacy for Dummies” (July 10). I have two questions for the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department:

First, where in the Constitution is any branch of the federal government empowered to “reach out” to any religion or to any of its adherents? Didn’t the Founders go to great pains to ensure the separation of church and state? Many of the Founders asserted quite rightly and unequivocally in their letters and public correspondence that the United States is in no way a “Christian” nation, nor was it founded on Christian moral principles.

For example, the treaty of 1797 between the U.S. and Tripoli stated that since the U.S. is not a “Christian” nation, neither Tripoli nor any of the other Barbary States had an excuse to capture “infidel” American merchant vessels and enslave their crews and passengers. (Not that this made much difference to the North African Islamist pirates, who raided Western European coastlines for slaves as far away as Iceland until well into the 18th century, acting on orders from their caliphs and sultans back home. Estimates of Europeans and Americans taken as slaves range between a million to one and a half million persons, most of whom presumably perished in servitude under their Islamic masters. But, I’m betting that neither Condi nor Karen Hughes raise this subject on their glad-handing junkets to Islamic dictatorships.)

Jefferson, Madison and John Adams remarked succinctly on the fact that the U.S. was founded on the secular, natural rights philosophy of John Locke and other political philosophers of the age, a rights philosophy that had little or nothing to do with God. “God” and “nature” were, in their deist minds, nearly synonymous. (Though Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in their recent books suggest that Jefferson especially was a “closet” atheist.)

Doubtless the “out reach” programs described by Romanowski in her letter are extensions of President Bush’s wholly unconstitutional faith-based initiatives.

Second, what makes Romanowski or anyone else in the State Department think that there could be such a thing as a “more moderate version of Islam”? Since the term “Islam” means submission, the inference is that those who submit to the creed are either converted or conquered. However, Islam can no more be made “moderate” than Christianity. It is as bloody-minded and bent on conquest as the Old Testament. It cannot be “tamed” as Christianity was in the West. It is fundamentally a political-religious moral system.

The programs Romanowksi describes constitute an unacknowledged concession that Islam is a political force, not just a religious one. Why else refer to one program as “Citizen Dialogue”?

Strip Islam of its political attributes, and most of its “moral” and religious precepts would be eviscerated, as well. What would be left would not be “Islam,” but a creed as pacific as the Amish’s.

In short, there is no accommodation of a separation of mosque and state to be found anywhere in the Koran, the Hadith, or in any Islamic jurisprudence based on Sharia law, which is to Muslims as much a guide to “moral” action as the Ten Commandments are to Christians. There is no statement in Islamic literature that even closely approximates the Christian dictum, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Caesar and God, in Islam, are the one Allah, and Mohammed is his “prophet.”

On the whole, the programs that Romanowski boasts of implicitly promote religion. Sending American Muslims to engage in “dialogue” with foreign Muslims is no better than sending American Christians overseas to banter with foreign Christians. Or is the State Department also engaged in that unconstitutional, taxpayer-supported activity, as well?

Sincerely,

Edward Cline
Yorktown, VA

Your Papers, Please

Earlier this year, under “Chertoff the ‘Crime Czar’” (April 7) I remarked:

“The strongest evidence that the U.S. is not only losing the “war on terror,” but will be struck again with perhaps greater force, is the siege mentality of those charged with protecting the nation. Instead of destroying the states that sponsor terrorism, the U.S. is conducting the ‘war’ as though the enemy was some kind of super-Mafia gang whose members had to be detected and deterred. All we need do, goes the thinking, is identify the bad guys and keep them from entering the country. It elects to fight enemies dedicated to destroying this country with the methods suitable to Eliot Ness in his pursuit of bootleggers.”

I might have added that the “enemy” also includes Americans and harmless foreign visitors flying the American skies.

On my way back from the OCON conference on July 16th, I had a three-hour layover at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport (DFW) before boarding my flight to Richmond. This airport is one of the most traveler-unfriendly airports in the country. There are four main terminals – A, B, C, and D – and if one is unlucky enough to taxi up to terminal A and one’s connecting flight is at terminal D, one must rush through the throngs to find the “Sky Link” train to take to D. If one’s connecting flight is at terminal B, the same grueling exercise is necessary; on a map of DFW, A is adjacent to B, but actually not connected to it. At least, I couldn’t find a short crossover to it indicated in the bewildering array of signs.

So one boards the train and perhaps seven stops later, one arrives at the connecting terminal. Then one must find the right gate, and that could be in one of three directions and is usually a five to ten minute hike at a near run. With luck, one’s connecting flight gate hasn’t been changed.

I don’t know the financial history of DFW, that is, who or what paid for this “multiplex” abomination. But I’m betting that the Sky Link train was built with some Federal funds, and that the rest of this locked-down prison received a big share of state and Federal loot, as well, to make it so “modern.”

I confess a contempt for Texas in general. I lived there once. Its native boosters posture as really free, proud, independent individuals – “Howdy, pardner!” – whose ancestors were at the Alamo and all that. But, thanks to pork barrel politics, Texas is one of the biggest pigs at the Federal teat. The Lone Star state degenerated into the Lone Statist state, and taxpayers from Maine to Idaho are helping those “rugged” loners buy the ten-gallon hats that are as phony as the vaunted Texan “independence.”

DFW is also smoker hostile. What accounts for that must be the Bush family influence and the pull of other native anti-smoking evangelists. Unlike many other airports in the country, such as the Cincinnati airport, which provides several smokers’ lounges in its terminal complete with wall-installed lighters, DFW forces smoking travelers to make a decision: “quit” for perhaps hours before boarding a connecting flight, or go outside, if you can find an exit close to your connecting gate. That’s Texas hospitality for you.

The catch is: go outside, and go through the TSA’s pickpocket alley again. Even with a boarding pass. Which brings me to my main subject: the Transportation Safety Administration, and how futile, invasive, abusive, corrupt, and costly it is.

The TSA is futile on three counts: if Islamic terrorists strike the U.S. again, they won’t be coming through its airports. They are already here, or will find other ways into the country. Any Islamists with killing on their agenda will know that they are on various national and international watch lists (not that these are very effective anyway) and that their profiles must practically include their shoe sizes as well as their education history and national origin. They are going to poison a reservoir or run an oil tank truck through a shopping mall or the like, or work quietly to assemble the parts for a “dirty” bomb to detonate in some major city’s business district or seaport –and not to try to turn commercial aircraft into missiles again. Simply put, they are going to bypass the TSA and any other barriers erected by Homeland Security.

(The denizens of Washington D.C. needn’t worry about anything bad happening there; the Islamists have too many good friends in Congress, the White House, and the State Department whom they wouldn’t want to risk hurting or killing. So, all the security arrangements in Parasite City intended to deter terrorist attacks – the blockaded streets and surveillance and the like – are quite pointless.)

The TSA is futile because if President Bush dealt properly with this country’s enemies – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan – it would not be necessary. When this country was genuinely in a declared war with two formidable enemies in the 1940’s, air travel was not made miserable by any kind of federally imposed policy of search and seizure. Knock out or overthrow our current enemies, and their fellow travelers and jihadists in the U.S. and Europe would scurry back into their holes of anonymity, grateful that they weren’t vaporized or caught in the imam and mullah roundups. And all those power-happy unemployables waving their wands and picking through purses and feeling one’s rolled-up socks at our airports would have to find honest, productive work elsewhere.

The TSA is futile, because I got through three lighters and several packs of matches right under the noses of its thugs. I put them in the gray basket in which one is supposed to put one’s shoes and all pocket paraphernalia, including belts (women’s jewelry goes into what looks like white bedpans). Four times my basket went through their much-touted metal or illegal substance detectors, and all four times the baskets came down the ramp, their contents untouched, unscrutinized, unmolested. There is a way to fool the machines and the mini-minds that run them, which I will not divulge here. So much for the severity and thoroughness of airport security.

But a new, absurd TSA rule is: no bottled water can be brought through “security.” The water must be consumed or emptied out before a bottle can pass. Then one can fill it at a water fountain inside the terminal. Which obviates the purpose of buying spring water. What do these geniuses think anyone is going to take onboard? Nitro? Or some other, unstable, colorless, odorless liquid that won’t blow up in one’s backpack or purse on the way to the airport?

The TSA is abusive and invasive. At DFW I had my smoke, came through “security” again, then stopped to watch the unemployables put some Russian- or Polish-speaking tourists through hell. The irony is that everyone in this group was wearing an “I love America” shirt or sweater. Two were carrying small American flags on sticks. (The sticks somehow didn’t qualify as potential weapons, I guess.) One woman, who was at least 75, was made to walk through the X-ray four or five times. Each time she activated the alarm. Finally, they took her aside and repeatedly waved a wand over every inch of her body, including through her hair and between her toes. In the meantime, she was made to stand with her arms in the air. The unemployables just couldn’t figure it out.

I approached the TSA goon nearest me. “It’s the sequins,” I said.

“Huh?” the goon said, turning to me with suspicion.

“What’s setting off the alarm in the wand too is the metal in her sequins. Those sparkling things on her pullover sweater that say ‘I love America’?” I almost added “stupid,” but I wanted to see this woman’s humiliating ordeal ended, and held my tongue.

“Sir, please stand outside the security area,” answered the goon with all the patronizing officiousness of a school crossing guard.

But the goon then had a powwow with his colleagues. The woman was told to remove her sweater. She did, and walked through the X-ray again. No alarm. She was allowed to keep the sweater. Big-hearted Texans, I guess. Welcome to America, land of the free, home of the searched.

The TSA is corrupt. I have yet to see a TV special report on what happens to all the private property confiscated from passengers’ personal effects and luggage by the TSA. Its value by now must be in the billions. I’m certain it isn’t “destroyed,” and that a whole new racket has sprung into existence to “dispose” of that property. The TSA and its otherwise unemployable employees must have a vested interest in it since they’re the ones who steal it and must stow it somewhere.

But, this is a job for John Stossel and 20/20.

A brief news report on ABC last night featured an interview with a TSA official who said that “someone” is testing airport security by sending fake “bombs” through it, such as bricks of cheese with wires stuck in them. Frankly, these are either pranks or jihadists just ribbing the TSA.

The TSA is costly, not only in terms of taxpayer dollars to run and staff it and in terms of all the property that is confiscated that disappears into the black hole of corruption, but, far more importantly, in terms of abridged or surrendered rights. Are Americans growing too inured to the TSA’s legalized shakedowns? I think many of them are. The Bush administration has adopted a siege policy; most Americans have accepted and tolerate the role of being suspects.

Back in Washington D.C., Jihad Watch reports that Democrats want to remove from a Homeland Security bill a provision that protects Americans from lawsuits if they report suspicious activity on the part of Muslims and the Muslims are subsequently inconvenienced by the authorities. Doubtless Congressman Keith Ellison, Muslim and Democrat from Minnesota, is one of those who oppose the provision. Recall that Ellison, like Rosie O’Donnell, suggested that 9/11 was staged by President Bush as a ruse to seize power and blame the Muslims for the attack, just as the Reichstag fire in 1933 was staged by Hitler as an excuse to seize power and blame the Communists for the fire. He made the analogy, I didn’t.

On June 27th, several senior White House officeholders attended the rededication of the Islamic Center in Washington on its 50th anniversary. That was bad enough. Several of these “dignitaries” were women, including Fran Townsend, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Karen Hughes, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (another Texan and longtime crony of Bush’s). The Getty Images photo of the American dhimmis shows all the women wearing headscarves.

The White House itself has chosen to cozy up to such Islamic organizations as CAIR and MPAC, while Douglas Farah’s Counterterrorism blog reports that Bush has even extended a hand of friendship to the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of most Islamic jihadist gangs. Through third parties – chief of whom is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an unemployable of elevated rank – it is dealing with Hamas, and has publicly announced its support of Palestinian Fatah.

Yesterday, July 24th, Bush’s envoys had their second round of talks with Iran, but not about the Americans being held hostage by Snake Eyes Ahmadinejad. To demand their release would be too tactless, you know. But the spineless, Christian character of Jimmy Carter is held to be a model of moral behavior to be emulated. (But, don’t forget Ronald Reagan, who did nothing to retaliate against the murder of over 200 Marines in Lebanon.) Why accuse Iran of killing American soldiers in Iraq when its leader is open to negotiation? That would only make Ahmadinejad angry.

In the meantime, all over America, arrogant unemployables in spiffy rent-a-cop style uniforms are closely examining the contents of women’s purses and nebnosing through men’s briefcases in search of threats to the “homeland.”

And, in the meantime, I keep thinking of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who so badly wanted to chastise the Barbary States for enslaving American citizens and seizing American property in the Mediterranean, and who each finally got his chance in 1805 and 1815. Neither Jefferson nor Madison elected to put Americans through a security wringer to ensure that the Islamists of their time didn’t slip into the “homeland” to sabotage all the canal-building projects.

They sent the U.S. Navy to the source of the problem, and that was the end of that.

Mount Olympus

Very likely it is a common occurrence: attending an OCON induces in me, from the first day to the closing banquet, a state of mind that permits me to forget the “outside” world for a while, at least in a selective sense. It is out there, but I feel no compulsion to read a newspaper or watch TV news or don mental “body armor” to deflect the slings and arrows of Christians, Muslims or statists or maintain the hide of a rhinoceros when dealing with my fellow men. It is Galt’s Gulch for a week and a half, regardless of its venue. It is safe to say that most attendees, and even most OCON speakers, look forward to the respite such a conference promises, to be immersed, for all too brief a time, in a social and intellectual milieu in which one doesn’t need to fight or be in a constant combative mode. The “ominous parallels” of the outside world are left behind.

This year’s conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It was held, appropriately, in the high reaches of the Rockies, about an hour and a half’s drive from Ouray, the little town that served as a model for Galt’s Gulch, where in the novel the “best and the brightest” – and the most rational – retreated from a cannibal world they chose no longer to “serve.” The official attendee count was 515, the largest attendance ever.

This is not to say there weren’t sour notes. Mountain Village, where most of the attendees stayed and which was a ten-minute gondola ride up the “hill” from Telluride, apparently reneged on its contract with ARI, so that lecture rooms and other facilities were abruptly not available because of renovations (although I observed no renovations being done in the hotel). This resulted in many of the events, including breakfasts, lunches, meetings and lectures, having to be held inside a circus-size tent erected in the plaza outside the conference center.

The other gaffe was the lunch arranged in Ouray itself. The staff at the Elks Lodge where it was to be served underestimated the appetites of some 300 Objectivists who were bussed there, leaving many attendees to find their own midday meals in town. I don’t think many attendees complained; everyone on the side trip seemed to be happy to tread the streets where Ayn Rand and Frank O’Connor walked in 1948. I hope ARI is refunded some of its money on both counts.

I went separately with some friends to Ouray that same day, arriving about two hours ahead of the bus convoy. When we parked, I immediately noticed a hand-made wooden sign in a shop window: “Galt’s Gulch, Colorado: Elevation 7,705 ft.” I went inside and asked the girl clerk about it. She knew the significance of the sign – her father, the shop’s owner, had read Atlas years ago – and said that only five of them had been made. All she knew was that some Objectivists were expected to visit the town. I warned her that she should expect to be mobbed and that she would sell every one of them, even at the posted price of $145 each.

When we returned to Ouray at the end of the day from our jeep safari to 11,700 feet, the shop window now sported an “Ouray” sign. The girl told me, with a residue of happy incredulity, that not only had she sold every one of the “Galt’s Gulch” signs (“we were wall to wall people!”), but that she had taken orders for dozens more, and had spoken with someone with ARI to make smaller reproductions of the sign for sale through ARI. As Felix Leiter once remarked to James Bond, “Nothing propinks like propinquity.” Especially in the fellowship of trade.

The main attraction of the conference was Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s six-lecture presentation, from his forthcoming book, on his DIM theory (Disintegration, Integration, Misintegration), of how to evaluate philosophical, cultural and political trends. Tore Boeckmann, Darryl Wright and Shoshana Milgram talked about the uniqueness of Atlas Shrugged as a literary work and as a philosophical phenomenon. Optional courses covered mathematics, economics, American and British history, the history of science, Plato’s Laws, property rights, the giants of law from Babylonian times up to the 19th century, and great plays. Dr. Milgram’s talk was especially fascinating; she discussed the literary origins of John Galt.

A highlight for me was Dr. John Lewis’s “The Meaning of Victory: 1945,” in which he presented the U.S.’s policy of dealing with a vanquished Imperial Japan. The principles he explicated in those lectures could just as easily have been applied to Nazi Germany, and were to a limited extent – except that the underlying irrational philosophy that governed Hitler and German culture has not been eradicated root and branch, as it was in post-war Japan by MacArthur. Dr. Lewis might agree with me that the de-Nazification of Germany should have been broadened to include a program that “de-Kantized” Germany. But, that would have been a task for a philosopher, and none practicing at the time had the proper credentials.

The same principles and policy could have been applied to a defeated Iran and Saudi Arabia, the chief state sponsors of Islamofascism, our most immediate international threats today, had our political leaders ever chose to acknowledge them and acted on that knowledge. Which is not likely now. Most of the anti-intellectual rubes, short-rangers and power-seekers in Washington want to throw in the towel in the “war on terror” and focus more on how to bring full-scale socialism to the U.S., among other statist dreams.

Coming back to the “real world” – one that we didn’t need to take seriously for a week and a half, or at least have to contend with at every corner – was as depressing an experience as I guess it was for Dagny Taggart, when John Galt dropped her off in the middle of nowhere after spending a month in “Atlantis.”

At least she didn’t need to undergo a body frisk and a baggage check.

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