Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Lock and Load

This article suggests that the Florida legislature is about to pass a measure guaranteed to raise the level of uncertainty, and anxiety, among its sizable population of thugs, criminals, and other miscreants:

MIAMI (AFP) - Florida's legislature has approved a bill that would give residents the right to open fire against anyone they perceive as a threat in public, instead of having to try to avoid a conflict as under prevailing law.

Outraged opponents say the law will encourage Floridians to open fire first and ask questions later, fostering a sort of statewide Wild West shootout mentality. Supporters argue that criminals will think twice if they believe they are likely to be promptly shot when they assault someone.

Republican Governor Jeb Bush, who has said he plans to sign the bill, says it is "a good, commonsense, anti-crime issue."

Current state law allows residents to "shoot to kill if their property, such as their home or car, is invaded by an unknown assailant." But it also states that if a resident is confronted or threatened in a public place, he or she must first try to avoid the confrontation or flee before taking any violent step in self defense against an assailant.

The bill, supported by the influential National Rifle Association, was approved by both houses of the Republican-run legislature on Tuesday.

Viewpoint agrees with Governor Bush. There was a time when I thought we needed more gun control, but that was long ago when I was young and dumber. As I examined the arguments for taking guns out of the hands of citizens I realized that they just didn't make much sense. They were emotional rather than rational. Gun crimes are rarely committed by those who are licensed to carry concealed weapons, but those who perpetrate violent crime would hardly scruple to observe laws which prohibited them from possessing, and using, guns. All that gun control would accomplish would be to assure criminals that their intended victims would not pose any threat to them.

The Florida bill takes the right of self-defense one step further and seems eminently sensible. Why should the burden fall upon the victim to avoid a criminal attack? Why should the streets be conceded to the brutes? Why must citizens cringe, cower, and flee the threats of thugs? Why should laws be such that they emasculate the law-abiding and empower the wicked?

Violent crime is a serious threat to civilization. A few intrepid acts of self-defense with a suitable weapon, preferably one whose caliber begins with a four, would have a salutary effect on Florida's recidivism rate and provide a powerful object lesson for those predators contemplating similar assaults on innocent life or property.

The law might also go a long way toward restoring civility to our public intercourse. Bullies and other obnoxious louts might be much more reluctant to appear threatening to others if they think their demeanor might win them a view down the barrel of a semi-automatic. Such an experience can be as chastening as it is thrilling, and there are a lot of people out there who might benefit from a little chastening.

Attack on Abu Ghraib

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail analyzes the significance of the recent attack on Abu Ghraib prison. After discussing the insurgents' evident change in tactics Roggio writes:

Al Qaeda obviously believes it will gain some psychological advantage in attacking American and Iraqi bases, but it may want to weigh the psychological effects on their own troops after repeated failures. The assault on the prison was a military failure. Al Qaeda in Iraq states ten of the attackers were killed in the raid. They also claim to have breached the walls and overtaken a guard tower, but the US military disputes this account. The US military estimates the attacking force suffered over fifty casualties out of an estimated sixty attackers. Continued military defeats and high casualty rates will sap the will of al Qaeda's cannon fodder over time.

If al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorists want to engage in large scale assaults on US and Iraqi forces, this is their choice. But it will be a bad one. Every large scale engagement against American forces has been a miserable failure for the terrorists, as they cannot match the firepower or flexibility of American forces. Blackfive recently documented the success of an outmanned and outgunned MP convoy escort in routing a numerically superior ambushing force. Phil, a soldier currently serving in Iraq, reports on the effectiveness of an Iraqi unit repelling an assault on their base. The recent assault on a terrorist training camp also highlights the military superiority of Iraqi and Coalition forces. The increased use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to provide intelligence on insurgent activities as well as the rapid reaction of air and ground assets when contact is made makes for a tactical nightmare for terrorists attempting to attack in large numbers.

Wretchard at Belmont Club adds some additional thoughts. He quotes one commentator as noting that:

Al Qaeda claimed the raid was a success, but a few more victories like this and their insurgency will be over.

Both Roggio and Wretchard are worth reading in full.

Jim Wallis: Unpartisan Liberal

As liberal democrats (I know. It's a tautology.) cast about for an authentic religious voice with which to persuade the red state voters that they're not all militant secularists eager to destroy everything that evangelical Christians hold dear, they have brought Jim Wallis of Sojourner's magazine to the nation's attention.

As a result he's been the topic of conversation recently in blogs and in journals like the The Weekly Standard. He's also been making appearances on television, most recently on Tim Russert's Face the Nation a week ago.

Jim Wallis presents himself as a man of neither the left nor the right but as one who desires simply to follow the scriptures. Yet, to listen to him speak he sounds for all the world as if he's a liberal first and a Christian second. Consider, for example, his responses on Face the Nation:

MR. RUSSERT: Reverend Jim Wallis, how do you see the Democrats, the Republicans, both of which you have written about, in terms of faith and spirituality and religion, approaching the Schiavo case?

JIM WALLIS: Well, first of all, our hearts go out this morning to Terri Schiavo and the family. It appears she's near the end of her life, and so deep compassion for the family, and all of us care so much about this.

Having dispensed with the necessary amenities, Wallis quickly heads for the fertile political territory Russert's question brought into view, and seeks to score political points by decrying the scoring of political points:

In principle we should always err on the side of life...that's the safer moral course, but we also should worry about the politicizing of any case, and I'm alarmed by memos that talk about firing up the base or defeating the Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. That's way out of bounds for a case like this.

I think the conversation about life is a good conversation. But then let's talk, as the Catholics do, about a consistent ethic of life. Today a silent tsunami will take the lives of 30,000 children because of hunger. Lives are lost in Iraq. On death row innocent people are executed. The bishops this week launched a new campaign against the death penalty. I think a consistent ethic of life is a good moral guide for politics and it cuts both ways, cuts Republican and Democratic. Religion should be able to critique left and right, not be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan.

Let's not talk about Schiavo, Wallis seems to be urging, since the Republicans were largely on the proper side of that one. Let's talk instead about those issues where we can be tacitly critical of Republicans even as we claim that as Christians we are not ideologically predictable(!), and let's at the same time disavow any intention of trying to score political points off the Schiavo tragedy.

Russert the reminded his audience that during the 2000 campaign candidate Bush was asked to name the political philosopher or thinker he most identifies with and why, to which he responded: "Christ, because he changed my heart."

When asked to elaborate, Bush replied: "Well, if they don't know, it's going to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that's what happened to me."

Russert then asked Wallis: "Can you imagine a Democrat responding in the same way?" Given a wonderful opportunity to amplify to a national secular audience George Bush's words about the importance and life-changing effect of a Christian commitment, Wallis quick-kicked, apparently unable to muster much enthusiasm for discussing the implications of Christian conversion on national television if it would make Bush look good:

REV. WALLIS: Well, there's no reason why [Democrats] shouldn't [answer the same way]. The part of that [Bush's answer] that I don't like was when he said, "And if people don't understand that, I'm sorry." As you know, I believe in bringing religious values into the public square. Where would we be if the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. kept his faith to himself? But, you know, religion must be disciplined by democracy. We have to argue on the basis of the common good, not say, "I'm religious, you won't understand, but I'm going to be talking Jesus."

Not only does Wallis misrepresent Bush's perfectly sensible concern that secular listeners might fail to understand the life-transforming power of the gospel if they haven't experienced it themselves, the rest of Wallis' answer is almost indecipherable:

Jesus talked about blessed are the peacemakers. Love your enemy. He talked about the poor over and over and over again. So I want to see the words of Jesus be part of our discourse. But we're a pluralist society how do you argue on the basis of what's best for the common good to convince a very pluralistic nation that what we think is good for all of us, not just the Christians?

He seems to be saying that he doesn't want to talk about how Christ can change peoples' lives, he doesn't want to talk about a personal encounter with Christ, he prefers instead to talk about the corporate political obligations Christianity imposes upon one, and those obligations are evidently to adopt left-liberal social and foreign policies.

So much for being ideologically unpredictable and non-partisan.

Wallis may not mean this, but he certainly seems to imply that the value of employing the language of evangelical Christianity is that it can be used as a code to put the denizens of Jesus Land more at ease and make them more amenable to the left's political project. The value of God talk, Wallis seems to aver, is that it befuddles the unsophisticated into thinking that liberal democrats are really at one with the folks in the pew. It's a way of winning their trust, of deceiving them, actually, so that they won't be so resistant to liberal political candidates and ideology.

Maybe this is unfair to Wallis, maybe he was just clumsy in expressing himself on Russert's show. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but a visit to the other sites linked above does nothing to reassure one that clumsiness is a satisfactory explanation for Wallis' apparent political partisanship.