Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Thoughts on the Gulag

I've gotten to the point where for the most part, I've become an opportunistic book buyer. I used to go looking for specific books and I would (mostly) buy the book I was looking for before buying anything else. Now, there are so many books that I want to read that unless it's by one of my rare "must have" authors, I don't bother until I find it cheap somewhere around town, whether it's in a used book store, or even better, at a yard sale. This week I picked up a nice paperback copy of Thackery's Vanity Fair. Eventually I'll read it.

I've already written about volume I of The Gulag Archipelago which I found as a paperback at the local YMCA's used book sale. Early this summer I found volume II in hardcover at a used book store. It's big, and it's heavy, and I'm guessing that very few people bought it, and even fewer people read it.

I am not like other people however, and I brought it to keep me company on the six hour train rides to and from Chicago. It is truly as fascinating as the first volume. As with the first volume, the irony and sarcasm keeps this book from making the reader suicidal.

With about 200 pages left to go, it suddenly hit me that a totalitarian society - as the USSR, as the other communist dictatorships, as the Third Reich, as Islamic countries are and always have been - suicidal. No, that's not right. They still survive. They are self-defeating. They can never rise up from the mud because they destroy their best and brightest. Solzhenitsyn writes of engineers, scientists, writers, composers, poets, artists, and others who should have been inventing and creating new products, and building the wealth, and forming the spirit of the USSR, being instead, forced to live as political prisoners and slave laborers in prison camps across Russia. Lenin had his opponents murdered, and the entire slave labor system began under his leadership. Stalin, in addition to imprisoning and killing the best and brightest Russia had to offer, purged his generals before WWII. Oops! And then there was China. How many brilliant, creative, hard-working people were murdered during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward? Under Pol Pot in Cambodia, people with glasses were killed under the assumption that they were dangerous intellectuals. How many political prisoners has Castro imprisoned?

You want to talk non-communist dictators? How about Zimbabwe's Mugabe turning a net food exporting country into a nation of starving disease-ridden beggars? Yes, the Rhodesian apartheid system was immoral, but are Zimbabweans better or worse off now?

Islam, although it has conquered a large portion of the world, as its holy book, the Qu'ran instructs its followers to do, it doesn't allow Muslims to rise in the world in any meaningful manner. Jihad doesn't allow for excellence in fields that improve the lot of mankind, there is no incentive to create and nurture industry, medicine, art, literature, etc. It's all about conquest and control over the lives of Muslims - and non-Muslims. We are supposed to be tolerated as dhimmis. Not that Islam has contributed nothing, but considering 20 percent of the world's population is Muslim, it seems to me that if there were genuine freedom in Islam and in Islamic nations, we would hear more positive news and less of the kind that insists we in "dar al harm" ignore the pathologies of Islam; jihad, honor killings, terrorism, rioting over cartoons, teddy bears, literature, etc.

But back to the gulag. As I was dawdling with this post over days and weeks, I finished the book. Turns out it's also a philosophy book. And it's not that Solzhenitsyn just tacked some philosophical musings on at the end to give it a bit more kick. Due to the previous 12 to 1300 pages, it is an integral part of the book. It fills a need that the reader (or at least this reader) doesn't even realize needs to be filled until it is filled. He has built a philosophy built on pain and death and the horrors of a slave labor system that is as bad or worse than any other that has ever been conceived by human beings. And I'm not sure he's totally satisfied with this philosophy, but he doesn't excuse himself as a victim. He doesn't "go Obama" on us. He presents his own weakness and fallibility to the reader. (I can't pretend that I would have done any better in his situation. In fact, I don't think I would have lasted very long at all.) He doesn't offer himself as a hero, but merely as another innocent Russian unjustly imprisoned who happened to be lucky enough to survive. His survival amidst all of those who died forces him and the reader to continue to think about the validity of these final thoughts. It also reminded me of Tolstoy's story, God Sees the Truth, but Waits.

I hate to gush, but it you have some spare time, you should read this monster.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I started riding my bike to work. It's not a long ride, only two and a half miles. And I'm not doing it to save the planet or improve my health, even though I inadvertently may be doing both. I'm doing it because we have three drivers and only two cars. Well, four if you count my daughter who just got her driver's license. But she can walk to school, or - as she too has been doing, ride her bike to school.

After riding for only a few days, I've realized something that I've never thought of before: When you drive through an area, no matter where you're driving through, you're not really there. You can see everything that is passing by, but you are in your car. You may think you are in the area, city, or neighborhood that you see out your window. You may tell people you are or have been there, but even if your windows are open, from the time you pull out of your driveway until you reach your destination, the only place you are is in your car.

On my bike, I am where I am. I am a part of all the places I pass through. I can talk to people, pull up to yard sales, dodge rocks, sticks, and small critters, get rained on, either battle or work with the wind. I can pass students on their way too and from school. I can stop easily for impromptu conversations with strangers. I'm not encased in my automobile. Its a very different feeling. I'm much more aware of my surroundings - which I'd better be if I'm going to get to work and back home safely and without incident. No plugging into any digital musical devices for me while I'm riding. I need to hear those trucks sneaking up on me from behind.

I'll be riding until January when my son returns to college. After that, especially if they weather is dicey, I'm sure I shall return to the embrace of my cocoon. Or maybe not. My next door neighbor leaves his house around 5:30 every morning, no matter what the weather is like for his ten mile bike ride to work. It does give one pause.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Korea's kids just like ours, 100 years ago

This is by Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. It's about education. And it makes a lot of sense. How can I not reprint it?
SEOUL, South Korea -- "If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America."

President Barack Obama said that last year. He was talking about school. He was talking about hours. He was talking about how hard South Korean kids work, how long they study, how much time they put in -- more than a month longer per school year than their American counterparts.

I am writing this from South Korea, where I have spent a week, much of it speaking to high school kids. And I can tell President Obama pretty confidently that we can't do what they're doing here.

Because we don't believe in it.

South Koreans treat school like a full-time job plus a full-time marriage. They put in day hours and night hours, followed by weekend hours. It is not uncommon to see children in school uniforms walking home late at night. It is not uncommon to see them studying through weekends. There is private English education on top of the public education. Families split apart to improve a child's training. You hear stories about schooling that runs from sunrise past sunset, with breakfast, lunch and dinner being served in the building.

What you don't hear is cheerleading squads. What you don't hear is spring break trips to Cancún. What you don't hear is classes to boost self-esteem, to celebrate an ethnic group, to explore the arts. What you don't hear is "Glee" or "High School Musical" or other coolness-driven entertainment fantasies about high school fashion, sex, talent or jockdom.

How are our kids supposed to mimic these kids when this place doesn't look anything like the American school system?

It's funny, because most of the kids here want to be American.
Battling to get ahead in life

Not in the citizenship sense. They don't want to join our army. They want to be American in speaking English, in gaining wealth and status, in rising to the top. One of the questions I was asked by media here was, "What do our children have to do to become global leaders?" That's not a common question in the U.S. -- not to a visiting writer, anyhow.

There is an obsession with getting ahead here that begins with the classroom and permeates the adult workplace, where rigid hours and meager vacation days are the norm. The attitude mimics one you heard among American immigrants in the early 20th Century: "If you don't do well in school, you won't get to college, if you don't get to college you won't get a god job, and if you don't get a good job, you'll be a loser."

There is no shame in that lecture here. It is not viewed as corny or clichéd. It is part of the national pride, if not the national obsession.

How are American kids going to copy that? We're not disciplined enough, we're not hungry enough, and, most importantly, either parents don't say it enough, or if they do, kids ignore them.

That also doesn't happen in Korea. Respect for elders is paramount in Korean society. There are actually different words used to reflect deference to age -- a much older person is addressed one way, a slightly older person another.

They don't make comedies here where the 10-year-old is the brilliant family member and Mom and Dad are bumbling knuckleheads -- and divorced. The family dynamic is different. And as most educators will tell you, family is where future school performance begins.

Which, by the way, doesn't mean Korean kids are happier. It may be quite the opposite. Everywhere I went, I encountered teenagers in love with my book "Tuesdays With Morrie," because the teacher in it showed compassion and encouraged humanity, not just grades. Many kids told me, "I wish in my life I would meet a Morrie."

Many older kids wondered how you find meaning in your life if you are studying and working almost every spare hour.

And studies show that while Korean kids do amazingly well on certain standardized tests, those who come to America for college often drop out, unaccustomed the approach we take.

All of which suggests that Obama was a bit naive to think an extra month in school is going to put our kids on par with the high-scoring South Koreans. Their success runs much deeper than that. Their issues do, too.

Our kids laugh more, play more sports, express themselves more openly. The kids here are serious beyond compare, and they are driven to succeed. I'm not sure which system I'd prefer, but I know they are apples and oranges, and the length of a school year is only a tiny difference. It may take a village to raise a child. But it takes a country to educate one.

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Islam Must Turn the Other Cheek

This is by Nolan Finley from the Detroit News:
How absurd is it that the deranged pastor of a tiny Florida church can make the entire world hold its breath just by threatening to burn a book?

The Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville is a hate-filled nut, for sure. But nothing he's done or vowed to do in offering what can only be viewed rationally as a minor insult to Islam merits the paranoia in the West about a worldwide wave of bloodshed at the hands of offended radicals.

Jones was implored not to carry out his promise to burn a copy of the Quran by, among others, the United Nations, the pope, Gen.general David Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

His back-and-forth deliberating was covered as if it was another Bay of Pigs stand-off and this scruffy preacher had his finger on the button.

Come on. Jones should have been entirely ignored. He's not an official of our government, nor is he a national leader in any fashion. He's an obscure redneck, or at least he was until the cameras showed up at his 50-member church.

That Jones captured so much attention is an indication of what the West is up against in its effort to coexist with Islam.

Yeah, I know -- all Muslims aren't mayhem makers. But the lunatic fringe is apparently wide enough to trigger an extreme overreaction from our nation's top offices to a silly little publicity stunt.

If Muslim sensibilities are so tender they can't ignore the bizarre rants of an insignificant American fanatic then this is a culture with a serious anger management issue, and one the West can't help with.

There's no way to head-off every potential slight to Islam. Last time it was Danish cartoons, this time it's a Pentecostal pew jumper who lays down his snakes to strike a match.

Tomorrow, an atheist in Italy may name his dog Mohammad, or a biker in Australia will have a likeness of the prophet tattooed on his backside.

The only answer is for Islam to grow up. Religion invites antagonism; get used to it.

Using the destruction of a book as an excuse to rampage is unacceptable and immature. A Quran, like a Bible, is a physical thing. What makes both books holy are the ideas and inspiration they contain, not the pages and ink. The religion won't be broken by taunts, or by bonfires.

Burning a Quran in the Florida swamps doesn't weaken the foundation of Islam any more than burning an American flag in Pakistan dents our nation's underpinnings, or coating an icon of the Virgin Mary with elephant poop, like that "artist" once did in Cincinnati, undermines Christianity.

Grown-ups shrug off such affronts for the ignorance they are, and move on. They don't go nuts, as the radicals did after the cartoon episode.

We've had the mantra "Islam is a religion of peace" drilled into us for the past nine years. But Muslims still have some work to do to make that case. Peaceful religions aren't so easily provoked to violence. Religions of peace turn the other cheek.
What more is there to say?

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Free Press Reaction

In the previous post I forgot to mention that in one of the propaganda pieces the Free Press ran, someone gave the bogus analogy of Muslims being subjected to the same senseless discrimination that other ethnic groups were forced to endure when they first came to these shores. That is more fantasy. No other ethnic group came to these shores demanding that we give up our ways in order to follow their ways. And we have to do it for Muslims in order to remain sensitive to their needs, so we don't humiliate them, and because others have suffered in the past. Oh, and because if we don't, some misguided Muslim might, through a misinterpretation of that holy book of peace, tolerance, and love, the Qu'ran, become violent toward the United States.

So halal food must be served in schools that Muslim children attend. Prayer rooms and foot baths should be set up for Islamic usage - oh wait - anyone, not only Muslims, can use them, but the prayer rooms must be segregated by sex because you-know-which-religion demands it, and the foot baths - who else would really think of using them? During Ramadan we shouldn't eat or drink in the presence of a fasting Muslim. So we'd better be fluent in the Muslim calender. Health clubs and public swimming pools should have women only hours so that Muslim women aren't forced to exercise in the leering presence of a man.

When a Muslim or Muslims have launched or are caught preparing a terror attack we are strictly forbidden to entertain the slightest thought that it is a terror attack by Muslims. We are encouraged to suspect any person or any group on the political right. And once it is conclusively proven that Muslims were involved, we must agree, under the pain of being called an "Islamophobe" that the perpetrator(s) are either insane or perverting the teachings of yada, yada, yada . . .

They must be allowed to murder their daughters if their daughters stray from daddy's will. They can beat their wives. They are entitled to welfare as soon as they enter the country. (I think that is true of all new immigrants though). My grandparents had to work. And so did all of the other immigrants from all of the other nations of the Earth who came to the United States in search for a better life. And the only favor they expected was to be allowed to work in order to better their own and their children's lives. No accommodation were expected by them or made for them. Sensitivity to their old country cultural norms if one of their community was arrested? Yeah, right. They were expected to learn the language - English, that is - and become Americans.

So don't try and make me believe that Muslims are just like any other ethnic or religious group in this country. It simply isn't true. No other group in the history of this nation has demanded so much while contributing so little (well, except maybe for teenagers, but most people grow out of that.) No group has been so adept at developing unearned whining to the art form it has become. They've quickly learned to take advantage of the surfeit of liberal guilt that is eating away at the fabric of our nation. Responsibility for their actions? Forget it. It's always somebody else's fault.

Like others have said, Muslims, like everybody else are welcome to come to this country. But if they are going to become Americans, then they have to adapt to American society. Don't expect me to adapt to Islamic society because I will not submit.

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Shills for Islam

The Detroit Free Press has gone into full pro-Islamic propaganda mode today, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. There are two articles and an editorial all about the strain on Muslims since that fateful day and about how members of all monotheistic faiths are coming together to promote tolerance, and battle intolerance, and to let the world know about the tiny minority of Muslims who pervert a religion of peace, and-. But let's face it. We've been force fed this crap for the past nine years, and it is still a load of crap.

The Free Press managed to interview people of differing religions to get their 9/11 stories, and wouldn't you know it, they all agree that because of that attack, innocent Muslims have been unfairly maligned, and these fine folk have gone out of their way to improve relations between themselves and people of other faiths. The deaths of the almost 3000 Americans murdered that day actually made the interviewees better people. Wasn't that a lucky break for them? And it helped make the United States a more moral nation - well, except for that war stuff, you know, when President Bush made that reactionary, non-progressive, non-enlightened decision to fight back. At least that's the way I read these interviews. Random quotes:
I'd like to think it's made everybody more aware in a better way. But I think in some way, the paranoia hasn't helped.
On a personal level, I became actively engaged in conversations with my Muslim neighbors. ... Upon moving to southeast Michigan, my opportunities to work closely with Muslims have only increased due to the much larger Islamic presence in this area. Yes, I do believe that 9/11 has changed me dramatically, and ironically I believe that on a personal level, that has been for the better.
Since 9/11, life has been filled with more work and blessed moments to enlighten others on my faith and culture. Immediately post-9/11, I found myself overanxious, more cautious of where I went, how I traveled and the people I associated with. I felt I had to constantly defend my faith, culture and fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who were being persecuted for the actions of a rotten few.
and finally
9/11 stoked our country's best and worst sides. As a country, we mobilized with incredible speed and unity. We paid beautiful tribute to the people who lost their lives and sacrificed themselves to save lives. We lost our way through wars and still have not found the courage or means to articulate the strength of our country to ourselves and the world. Our religious hostility and fear continue toward the Muslim world. We have not convincingly articulated America's strength, goodness and promise. ... Our country began chasing demonic enemies, instead of leading ... with integrity and hope.
Either the reactions I read are kind of bizarre and twisted, or I'm the one who is nuts. For some reason, I keep thinking that we should not be accepting the words of our local imams. I've read opinion pieces by some of them in our various local news rags, and based on these writings and interviews in these same rags, I don't trust them.

But there was an editorial in today's Free Press defending the peacefulness of Islam (because that's what the Qu'ran is all about, we are told) that had a line that I do agree with:
We need more dialogue, more reading of the Quran, both inside the Muslim community and out.
Yes, we should all read the Qu'ran. My son bought a copy, but it was translated by a non-Muslim. I'm not sure how accurate it is. I'd like to find one of the ones that CAIR passed out a few years ago. I've been checking used book stores. I tried reading my son's but it is a tough slog. The narrative is kind of weak, and it seems to be full of non sequitors. I can't let that stop me though. Read, I must.

When it comes to this claim in the editorial though:
The Quran is filled with such verses calling on Muslims to practice every kind of goodness. Yet most Americans know little or nothing about them. An August Pew Research poll concluded that 35% of Americans believe Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, while 24% weren’t sure.

Of course, it’s not difficult to understand why. Approaching the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, we can’t forget the violence of that day. The really ugly truth: The 9/11 attackers, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are all doing far more harm to the Quran than Jones is by burning it. By distorting the verses of the Quran to justify their violent agenda, these terrorists and their sympathizers continue to breed hostility toward Islam and Muslims. Instead of spreading the Quran's message of peace, they are spreading their own message of hatred
I have to ask: how do you distort verses like:
Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.
Fight those who do not believe until they all surrender, paying the protective tax in submission.
So fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief [non-Muslims]) and all submit to the religion of Allah alone (in the whole world).
When you clash with the unbelieving Infidels in battle (fighting Jihad in Allah's Cause), smite their necks until you overpower them, killing and wounding many of them. At length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind them firmly, making (them) captives. Thereafter either generosity or ransom (them based upon what benefits Islam) until the war lays down its burdens. Thus are you commanded by Allah to continue carrying out Jihad against the unbelieving infidels until they submit to Islam.
The infidels should not think that they can get away from us. Prepare against them whatever arms and weaponry you can muster so that you may terrorize them.
and I could go on and on, or I can recommend Prophet of Doom for more quotes from the Qu'ran and other Islamic sources that the apologists, and the imams, and the spreaders of "dawah" don't talk about and don't want us to talk about. We are supposed to ignore a vast body of Islamic teaching that is not as savory as the tiny verses of love and honesty, that may have even been revoked according to the the Islamic concept of abrogation.
In an attempt to polish Islam's image, Muslim activists usually quote verses from the Quran that were written in the early days of the Islamic movement while Mohammed lived in Mecca. Those passages make Islam appear loving and harmless because they call for love, peace and patience. Such is a deception. The activists fail to tell gullible people that such verses, though still in the Quran, were nullified, abrogated, rendered void by later passages that incite killing, decapitations, maiming, terrorism and religious intolerance. The latter verses were penned while Mohammed’s headquarters was based in Medina.

When speaking with people of Christianized/Western societies, Muslim activists deliberately hide a major Islamic doctrine called "al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh" (the Abrogator and the Abrogated). This simply means that in situations wherein verses contradict one another, the early verses are overridden by the latter verses. The chronological timing in which a verse was written determines its authority to establish policies within Islam. Non-Muslims cannot afford to be ignorant about the full implications of the Abrogator and the Abrogated Doctrine (al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh). When Islamic spokesmen say that Islam is a religion of peace and that the Quran does not support such things as human rights infractions, gender bias and terrorism, they are lying. This means that the Western politicians and liberal journalists, who continually spout that Islam is a noble religion of peace, are in reality propagating a deception that they have been deceived into parroting.
I'm sure they won't be discussing any of that today as the imams slide some more taqiyya past the gullible Christians and Jews, and these silly infidels won't care because they can engage in vast amounts of self-congratulation based on how tolerant, accepting, and enlightened they are. Rather than be part of that charade, I'll be thinking of those murdered in the 9/11 attacks and in all of the over 16,000 Islamic terror attacks since then.

I'm just not very enlightened.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Burn, Baby, Burn

First of all, publicly burning a Qu'ran is a stupid thing to do. Being a book lover, I look at the burning of any book, even a lousy one, as a desecration. The "pastor" in charge of this fiasco needs to find a more intelligent way to make his point, like maybe doing some research into Islam so that he can spread that information. The more people who understand Islam and the terror and abuse it has spread, the brake it's put on freedom and civilization, the better we infidels will be able to battle it, along with its Leftist dhimmi enablers.

So far, the best commentaries on this silly episode come from Debbie Schlussel
Here’s what I view as far more offensive than the burning of Korans: that the outrage over this is more so than the outrage of any Islamic murder of Americans, any jihadist beheading videos featuring Westerners being slaughtered in the name of the Koran.
and Ann Coulter
Also, as I recall, there was no Guantanamo, no Afghanistan war and no Iraq war on Sept. 10, 2001. And yet, somehow, Osama bin Ladin had no trouble recruiting back then. Can we retire the "it will help them recruit" argument yet?
Michelle Malkin does a good job of reminding us that there are always Muslims somewhere outraged over something we in the West are doing or not doing.

I keep wondering when some big time pundit will point out that this tells us more about both Islam and the West than either their our our leaders are willing to admit. We are bombarded with worry warts insisting that this Qu'ran burning will be a tremendous recruiting tool for Al-Quaeda and the Taliban. These days it's hard to find any behavior from the West that isn't claimed as a propaganda coup for Islamic terrorists; cartoons of Mohammed, protests against the "Ground Zero Mosque", killing terrorists, the list is endless.

If, as we are constantly assured by the apologists, that it is only a "tiny minority" of Muslims who engage in terrorism, where are they finding so many Muslims who are inspired to be terrorists at the slightest provocation? Wait - not provocation - it's any act that any Muslim finds distasteful. And if it isn't terrorism, there will be riots, lots of riots featuring burning American flags, screaming, ranting, and more than a few random murders from outraged members of what we are - again - constantly assured, is a religion of peace (just chock full of Ghandis don't you know) . . . as long as we follow their rules, you know, as long as we act as dhimmis. If they're as peaceful as the apologists claim they are, why are they so damn easy to provoke?

It's past time to let the Islamic world know that we aren't interested in being lorded over by misogynistic, insecure, tyrannical, parasitic, seventh century barbarians. But that's the problem, isn't it? Our spineless leaders, along with our mainstream media, is afraid to take that stand. Somehow, they continue to take the coward's way out and insist that - really, it really is a religion of peace, honest, and anyone who claims otherwise is an "Islamophobe." And this is from the leaders and elites of the richest, most powerful society ever developed by mankind. They have decided to wimp out. It's every infidel for himself.

The Roman historian, Tacitus insisted that in order to remain strong, a society needs to be engaged in constant warfare (but I can't find the exact quote). Stop fighting, and men become lazy and indolent. I've never been much of a fighter myself, but as I've gotten older, and had a family, and have finally come to the understanding that there are things worth fighting for, and sometimes one does have to stand up or be trampled on, I've become more willing to stick my neck out, raise my voice, and challenge the enemies of civilization. While I don't relish war, when you compare Islam to the West, not only are they willing to die (but for all the wrong reasons), they're willing to watch their children die too, if not murder them outright. Meanwhile, our children are learning that there is nothing worth fighting for, that's in morally superior not to fight, and if we just reach out to our enemy, not think of them as "the other" and try and understand their grievances against us, and compromise, we will all learn to love one another and live together in peace and harmony, if you accept slavery as peace and harmony.

I'm sure our wonderful elites would make great slaves. They could work and demonstrate their moral superiority at the same time.

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