Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Knights of Free Speech

The ranks of the defenders of free speech continue to thin:

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries.

"For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority," Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.

The magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism in suburban Amherst, includes four of the drawings that originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, including one depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse.

"What is at stake is the precious right of freedom of expression," said Paul Kurtz, editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry. "Cartoons often provide an important form of political satire ... To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press - so vital for our democracy."

Bingham said the decision was made before the magazine arrived at the company's stores. Borders Group, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., operates more than 475 Borders and 650 Waldenbooks stores in the United States, though not all regularly carry the magazine.

"We absolutely respect our customers' right to choose what they wish to read and buy and we support the First Amendment," Bingham said. "And we absolutely support the rights of Free Inquiry to publish the cartoons. We've just chosen not to carry this particular issue in our stores."

There's something very odd about this. Borders would not hesitate to carry a magazine which contained content offensive to Christians because they don't fear Christian violence, but because they are afraid of Muslims, they won't do anything to offend them. The very least they can do, given their capitulation to the Islamic Mau Maus, is to acknowledge the cowardice of their decision and atone for it by agreeing not to carry material offensive to any religion. If they're not willing to do that, however, then they shouldn't privilege one religion over another, and they especially shouldn't do it out of fear of the consequences of standing on a principle enshrined in the First Amendment.

It's funny in a macabre sort of way, but ever since the Danish cartoons precipitated the paroxysms of Muslim violence, we haven't heard many liberals recite the refrain about hating what you say but being willing to fight to the death for your right to say it. All of a sudden many of the formerly pious crusaders for freedom of speech have grown strangely silent. To paraphrase Machiavelli in The Prince, in quiet times every one is full of promises and each one is ready to die for the First Amendment, when death is far off; but in adversity, when death is near and the freedom of speech has need of defenders, then it will find but few.

Yes, but let the speech be obscene or pornographic and the heroic knights of the First Amendment suddenly reemerge onto the field astride their white steeds, acclaiming with their battle cry their willingness to die for your right to to be as disgusting as you want to be.

The Rescued CPT Abductees

My friend Byron, who has disagreed with our criticism of officials of Christian Peacemaker Teams for not showing much gratitude toward the troops which rescued their three kidnapped brothers, sends along this column from Sojourners which gives a little more background on the victims themselves. Evidently, at least two of them did express thanks to, and for, their rescuers, and we are pleased to report that.

Incidently, Byron's most recent reply to me about the CPT business is posted on our Feedback page.

Marriage is For White People

The joys and benefits of the sexual revolution, we were told back in the seventies, are manifold. Joy Jones points out the absurdity of this delusion in this sad piece in the Washington Post. She writes:

I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.

[Y]ears back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington, I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."

And that's when another boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

Jones goes on to give some depressing statistics about the state of the black family in America. Then she delivers this shocker:

I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin.

The dysfunction is primarily a black problem, but blacks are just the canary in the coal mine. They're often the most vulnerable to dysgenic social trends, but those trends eventually affect everyone:

Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.

The sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies reduced sex to a form of recreation, and in so doing it insured that sex would be available to men without the necessity of committing to a marriage. If women continue to favor men with sex without demanding commitment in return the statistics Jones cites will simply continue to get more dreary. Young men simply are not going to take on the responsibilities of marriage as long as the benefits are available to them for "free." As a consequence, boys will increasingly grow up in fatherless homes, and the cycles of crime and poverty will simply grow proportionately more bleak.

LaShawn Barber also has a lot to say about the topic of black marriage (Caution: She's not happy).

Build the Fence

Tim Gaynor at MyWay News writes an article that has some good information in it on the proposed fence that would run for 700 miles along our southern border. Here are some excerpts:

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurling himself over a steel fence into the no-man's-land between Mexico and California, an undocumented migrant sprints across a narrow strip lit by harsh arc lights and watched over by video cameras on tall posts.

Before he can shin up a second barrier of tall concrete pillars topped with seismic sensors and a layer of steel mesh more than an arm's-length wide, U.S. Border Patrol agents close in fast and arrest him.

That scene is repeated dozens of times each day along a 14-mile (22-km) stretch of state-of-the-art fencing separating San Diego, California, from Tijuana, Mexico, that has become a model for no-nonsense policing of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Inspired by the San Diego fence, the U.S. House Representatives voted in December to build a similar barrier to stop illegal immigrants across one-third of the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexico border, seen as a weak spot in homeland security since the September 11 attacks.

It is the most controversial proposal in a debate in the U.S. Congress over immigration reform that has split Republicans and sparked protests by Hispanic immigrants in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Detroit. Although the San Diego fence is seen as a success in cutting illegal immigration, the plan for the bigger barrier is struggling to win further support in Congress.

Critics compare it to the Berlin Wall and say it goes against the American spirit of openness, sending the wrong message to the rest of the world about the United States.

The critics of the fence compare it to the Berlin wall. That's a good one. The Berlin wall was built to keep people from escaping the socialist hell of East Germany. People who tried to scale the wall were shot dead by East German soldiers. Sounds like a reasonable comparison.

The fence, critics say, goes against the American "spirit of openness" and "sends the wrong message" about us. Exactly what message is that? That we don't wish to become like France, overrun with people we can't assimilate even if they wanted to be assimilated? America is open to immigrants. All we ask is that they come here in an orderly and lawful manner. The U.S. is a bit like a grand hotel. We want guests, we need them, but we'd like them to make reservations. We don't wish to have hundreds of people suddenly show up in our lobby demanding a room with all the amenities.

Calif. Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who authored the fence plan and estimates it would cost about $2 billion, points to a sharp drop in the number of immigrants nabbed heading for the United States through San Diego in recent years as evidence the security barrier works.

In the early 1990s, some 550,000 immigrants were caught every year but with the addition of double fencing, high-tech surveillance systems and more border police, the number plunged to just 138,700 in 2004.

"There is no doubt that its duplication at specific locations along our southern border will be equally successful and bring us one step closer to a border region that is no longer overrun by illegal aliens," Hunter said.

But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security described the planned barrier, which would run for 698 miles, as a "stupid fence" and said it would most likely be ineffective, while the Mexican government slammed it as a disgrace.

"Stupid fence." Someone in Homeland Security calls it a "stupid fence." How the adjective "stupid" might apply to a fence we can't imagine although we have no trouble imagining how it might apply to spokespersons for government agencies. This solecism emerges from the same department that is charged with protecting our homeland against terrorist infiltration, but which has not lifted so much as a pinkie to prevent would-be terrorists from sauntering across our "stupid border" with Mexico.

A similar fence in Israel has certainly not been ineffective and the fact that Mexico deems the proposal to build a fence a disgrace is all the more reason to put the thing up. What's a disgrace is the inability of Mexico's government, despite sitting on much of the world's oil wealth, to give it's people a reason to want to stay in their native land.

The fence plan envisages a double barrier made from former U.S. military aircraft landing mats stood on their side on the south and a high-tech steel and concrete wall to the north. It would run for 22 miles across California, and 361 miles over the sun-blasted Arizona desert, a strip crossed by half of the 1.18 million immigrants nabbed on the border last year.

A remaining 315 miles of fence is proposed to seal three strips between Columbus, New Mexico and Brownsville, Texas, two of them along stretches of the Rio Grande River that became notorious last year as routes for Central American and Brazilian immigrants.

Border police in San Diego warn the fence has also strengthened the resolve of some die-hard immigrants and traffickers who have become wilier and more confrontational. Attacks by frustrated traffickers on agents are soaring, with 119 gun, knife and rock assaults reported between October 1 and the end of February, more than double the number noted in the same period a year ago, the Border Patrol said.

So what are we to conclude from this? As soon as lawbreakers become more determined to break the law we should stop trying to enforce it? As soon as potential terrorists become more determined to breach our security we should give up trying to prevent them from succeeding? People who would use deadly weapons against American law enforcement officials are precisely the sort of people we don't need more of in this country.

Immigrant welfare groups are also critical of the proposal, and point to the fact that past policing crackdowns such as "Operation Gatekeeper" in the San Diego sector in 1994 only succeeded in rerouting the flow of immigrants to more remote and dangerous areas of the border.

Exactly so. That's why the fence needs to cover the entire length of the border so that anyone who wishes to circumvent it has to make the trip by boat.

"Nothing has actually succeeded in slowing down the number of migrants crossing the U.S. border," said Rev. Robin Hoover, president of Tucson-based welfare group Humane Borders. "The fence is just another gimmick that will just expose migrants to greater danger," he added.

A useless "gimmick"?! What the good reverend must really mean is that he's actually afraid the fence will indeed work and that in order to circumvent it illegal immigrants will have to risk more difficult crossings, but isn't that the point? Does the Rev. Hoover believe the U.S. is obligated to make illegal entry into our country easy?