Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shock and Despair

The two Muslim students booted from a plane the other day when passengers mutinied are expressing their "shock" and "despair" at what happened to them:

Two Asian students have revealed their shock and despair after being thrown off a plane because other passengers feared they were suicide bombers.

Manchester Umist students Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb, both 22, said they sympathised with nervous travellers, but urged people not to be paranoid about Muslims.

"We might be Asian, but we're two ordinary lads who wanted a bit of fun," Mr Ashraf told the Daily Mirror. "Just because we're Muslim does not mean we are suicide bombers."

No, but it does raise the odds, and who wants to take unnecessary chances? See also this development and this follow-up.

Bad Polls Rising

President Bush's approval rating, which had been dragging along the bottom of the political lake, has perked up recently, and is now hovering around 41%. It's hard to say exactly why this is except that it seems that approval ratings are buoyed not by any particular successes, but rather more by the absence of bad news. There hasn't been too much of this lately, so Bush has recovered the (tentative) approval of most of his GOP base.

Should the bad news continue to remain in hiding Bush's numbers will probably rise to around 47%, almost all of which would reflect his Republican support. If, beyond all precedent for this administration, there should be a string of positive developments taking up space in the MSM his approval rating might even crack the 50% barrier as a few independents sashay in his direction.

If so, we'll have to post guards on all the bridges and high buildings to prevent Democrats from attempting to put an end to their despair, as the object of their animus rises phoenix-like from the ashes of what they thought for sure was his political auto-de-fe.

Free Speech: The Ongoing Battle

There was a time when the ideological left was the champion of the first amendment. This was back a generation or two ago when the perceived threats to free speech came from conservatives who wished to prevent salacious literature and pornography from flooding our culture. When it was the freedom to use vulgar and profane speech and lewd images in our public entertainment and discourse, the left was in full throat demanding that we respect first amendment guarantees of free expression. Statements like these were commonplace:

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise," Noam Chomsky said, "we don't believe in it at all."

"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us," opined Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

How times have changed. Today censorship and speech codes are almost exclusively promulgated by the left, and, of course, it's not pornography they seek to stifle but rather political and religious speech which are clearly protected by the first amendment. Consider the story of two young women at Georgia Tech, Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar, as told by themselves:

In March, we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Georgia Tech for its blatantly unconstitutional speech policies. Our love of liberty and for Georgia Tech have compelled us to take this stand so every student's rights to free speech and religious liberty will be respected.

The purpose of the lawsuit has been seriously distorted in the media and on campus. The suit was filed to hold Tech accountable for selective enforcement of its speech codes. This resulted in mainstream conservative speech being banned as "hate speech." Politically charged, far-out-of-the-mainstream leftist speech was considered part of the "intellectual diversity" purportedly valued by Tech.

We also challenged Tech's unlawful refusal to fund religious and political groups.

This week, we won a decisive victory when a federal judge ordered the repeal of Tech's speech code. The speech code violated our First Amendment rights because it prohibited any kind of student speech that administrators subjectively deemed intolerant or offensive. It was not a narrow policy that only affected campus housing, but was used against us several times to censor activities all around campus.

Over the past three years, we've had our speech censored, and we've had our protests shut down by campus police. Tech officials have repeatedly warned us against speaking out on important public issues when we did not conform to their unbalanced agenda. Contrary to the spin that the administration and many in the media have placed on the case, we have never sought the right to "insult" or "demean" any person. Our desire is to debate ideas, not attack individuals.

The nature of speech codes, however, has proved to be arbitrary and one-sided. Consider this: Our peaceful and respectful protests - including one against the feminist play "Vagina Monologues" and another against affirmative action - were aggressively silenced. But Georgia Tech has done nothing to stop the blatant personal attacks that we have encountered.

The "tolerant" left has used explicit racial and sexist slurs against us. Students handed out fliers in dorms calling Ruth, a person of Indian descent, a "Twinkie" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). On Internet sites, we've seen swastikas superimposed on our faces. We have received an avalanche of vile, personally insulting hate mail. We have even been physically threatened. All the while the administration stood silent.

Although such reactions are disturbing and we are disappointed that fellow students would act in such a manner, we don't need a speech code to protect ourselves. We simply want the opportunity to speak and express our ideas without fear of censorship or punishment.

We believe in legal equality for all students in the marketplace of ideas. May the best ideas win. But Georgia Tech believes that its ideas are not strong enough to withstand scrutiny, and it apparently has decided that it knows all the answers to the major political and even religious issues of the day. That is why it pushed to silence us. That is why it de-funds student political and religious organizations at the same time that it tries to teach us what our religious beliefs should be (to give you a hint: Georgia Tech prefers Buddhists over Baptists). This is disingenuous, unconstitutional and demonstrates the selectivity in enforcement.

With this week's court order, we won an important victory for free speech. But the case is not over, and we will not rest until the school we love abides by the Constitution that protects us all.

A few notable exceptions like Nat Hentoff notwithstanding, the secular left, including the ACLU, seems to have lost interest in the old battle cry attributed to Voltaire: "I might hate what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it." It seems instead that they're only interested in defending the Bill of Rights when the protections it guarantees can be used to advance their own ideological agenda.

Two Options

Strategy Page gives us a history lesson on how Hezbollah came about and why it wields so much power. Their analysis also discusses Israel's options which SP thinks are limited to two:

The Hizbollah attack left Israel with two options. They could either launch a massive invasion, and overrun all of Lebanon and Syria, or do what they did (to encourage the Lebanese and UN to deal with Hizbollah.) The trouble with the second ("small war") option is that it takes longer, and that leaves Hizbollah intact for longer. But the first ("big war") option would leave thousands of Israeli soldiers dead, and involve the occupation, for months, if not years, of Lebanon and Syria. That strategy would involve handing Lebanon back to its elected government with the understanding that there would be no more Hizbollah. But there would still be the a Shia minority, and within that minority there would still be Shia radicals who took orders, or at least direction, from Shia radicals in Iran.

Syria has to be overrun because, if you don't, Hizbollah can retreat to there from occupied Lebanon and set up shop in Syria. Take Syria and you eliminate any refuge (except Iran, where at least the senior Hizbollah people would flee to). While the Syrian military is no pushover, their armed forces have fallen apart since the end of the Cold War, and Soviet subsidies.

The column closes with this:

The "big war" strategy has other costs. Mobilizing the entire Israeli armed forces means shutting down much of the Israeli economy, because so many key people are reservists. There is also the risk, however slight, of other Arab states declaring war on Israel. This risk is slight because those other Arab states are Sunni Moslem, and welcome the removal of Iran backed Shia entities (Hizbollah and Syria). But the risk is there.

There's always risk, it's a question of which one you estimate will do you the most good. Israel still has the "big war" option available, and Lebanon and Syria know it. If the small war option doesn't work out, Hizbollah, Lebanon, Syria and Iran know what comes next.

The whole piece is very much worth reading.