Resolved: Western Civilization is Morally Superior to Certain Other Cultures. Discuss.

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

One of my favorite lesbian clerics (yes, I have more than one such favorite), the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, has a post on her Episcopally renowned Telling Secrets blog about an op-ed last week in which an Anglican bishop in Uganda urged passage of…

… the proposed “new” law in Uganda which calls for capitol punishment for the “crime” of what they call “aggravated homosexuality.”

Translation: Anyone who is open and honest about being an LGBT person.

Digging into the original op-ed, I find that even though the bishop in question supports the comprehensive anti-gay legislation in question, he doesn’t actually WANT to kill gay people.  He wants scientists to cure them.  I suspect this qualifies him as a liberal by Ugandan standards.

Anyway, since most of you won’t actually click the link to Mother Elizabeth’s blog (I double-dare you!), I’m taking the liberty of reprinting here the comment I posted on her blog:

Kirk Petersen said…

Elizabeth, I agree that it’s about power. Power matters, and the culture of the power-holder matters.

Some cultures are morally superior to others. As tolerant people it makes us uncomfortable to hear that, but it’s been true for centuries.

In the 1840s, when India was a British colony and General Sir Charles Napier was its President, a group of Hindus complained to him about the prohibition of suttee — the practice of burning widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre.

His reply? “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we shall follow ours.”

To stave off any tedious “Wikipedia is not authoritative” arguments, I tracked down a scholarly reference, one of many:

If you Google “Charles Napier ‘burn widows’” you’ll get 22,000 hits.

Yes, the British have to answer for some despicable actions over the centuries…. but they also seeded Western values around the world. Eventually those values may take hold in Uganda.

Long-time readers of All That Is Necessary may realize that this discussion has implications for Islamic Fascism.

If you’d like to argue the other side of the “resolution” in the headline, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  I will be at least as civil as you are.


Support the War, Mr. President — It’s Personal

Harry on his way to the Nimitz from my back yard in New Jersey.  He subsequently got his third green stripe.

Harry on his way to the Nimitz from my back yard in New Jersey. He subsequently got his third green stripe.

Update: Welcome, readers from Navy For Moms (in the comments),  Maplewood Patch and Maplewoodian.  (I love the Internets!)

Updated update: Welcome, New York Times readers! It’s a Maplewood BlogolopolisTM trifecta!

Candidate Obama called Afghanistan “the war we need to win.”  Just last week, President Obama vowed to “finish the job.”  In a prime-time speech on Tuesday evening, he intends to announce his plans for prosecuting the war, including whether he will supply the 40,000 additional troops requested by his hand-picked general, Stanley McChrystal.

Prominent conservatives, pundits, and even a key foreign ally have all accused Obama of “dithering” over his decision, and thereby weakening troop morale and public support for the war.  I share these frustrations to some degree, but I think it is still possible to turn the situation around with decisive leadership.  The big question is whether such leadership will occur.

I’ve been a continuous supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from the beginning, and now I’ve got a personal reason. Last month, my son Harry reported for duty on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), currently somewhere in the Indian Ocean in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  (Obviously, Harry is not responsible for his father’s opinions about his commander in chief.)

The Nimitz, the oldest of America’s 10 Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carriers, has been in service since 1968, making it about 20 years older than Harry.  With a complement of more than 4,000, it’s a small floating city — the carrier’s welcome brochure notes that the Nimitz features a dental facility with five dentists (which seems like a lot, given the population).  When he gets off duty, Harry usually goes to the gym or the library, where he can send emails from his military account.


Aviation Boatswain's Mate insignia

Harry, currently an E-3 Airman, is working toward promotion to petty officer as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) — the folks who operate and maintain the catapults, arresting gear and other mission-critical equipment, enabling the aircraft to take off and land successfully.  He works long hours, but likes the work and the people around him.

He’s already suffered his first “war wound” — two stitches on the top of his head for a gash caused when he stood up too quickly while he was, I kid you not, swabbing the deck.  Joking aside, there are real dangers involved in tending the powerful launching and recovery equipment, but I’m grateful that I don’t have to worry much about an enemy attack.

President Obama, the brave men and women of the United States armed forces are looking to see if you are committed to victory in Afghanistan.  On Tuesday evening, I hope you’ll start showing them that you are.

Harry, be safe, and thank you for your service.


“Hide the Decline”: Birth of a Blog Post, and Credit Where Credit is Due

Iain Murray

Iain Murray

Short version: My BFF Iain Murray wrote the best analysis I’ve seen about exactly why last week’s revelation of suspicious global warming documents is so incriminating to the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

Iain (I call him Iain because last year he linked to me — twice!) relentlessly uses the scientists’ own words to incriminate them, with each passage carefully linked to a specific damning document in the treasure trove.

If you think global warming is probably “settled science,” but you’re willing to read one article to give skeptics a chance to change your mind,  read this remarkable indictment, published all the way last Tuesday, while the pixels of the original leak were still quivering.

Long version (back-story): Yesterday, before I posted “Hide the Decline”: Global Warmists Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do, I spent a great deal of time trying to find the seminal articles that first piqued my interest in the topic that is becoming known as Climategate — incriminating emails and programmers’ notes revealing the apparent falsification of global warming data.

This happens to me a lot, I need to find a better system for doing research.  I see something that interests me slightly, then I move on and forget about it — I don’t think I know enough about the subject to even consider blogging about it.  Then I stumble upon links showing that the blogosphere is ramping up to focus on the topic, and I start to get more interested.  Then I do more research, and start to think maybe I do have something to say on the matter.  This plays out over a period of a few days, while I go on about my complicated life.

By the time I’m interested enough to blog, I can’t find the documents that first got me interested.  Then I find something, but I’m not sure it’s the right post.  This time, however, I found something that clarified the matter for me.

I must have skimmed Iain’s article without noticing his byline, because his name would have jumped out at me.  Near the bottom of his second page is this passage:

So what does this all mean? It does not mean that there is no warming trend or that mankind has not been responsible for at least some of the warming. To claim that as result of these documents is clearly a step too far.

The boldface is the clinching factor.  I used that Briticism in my previous post without knowing why I chose the words.  Iain Murray, unlike your humble scribe, is actually a Brit by birth.

“Hide the Decline”: Global Warmists Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

These two may be endangered, but is the species?

These two may be endangered, but is the species?

Long-time readers (hi, Sweetie!) know that I am not a fan of Rush Limbaugh.  Even though my credentials as a critic of President Obama can be easily verified by skimming the Obama tag on my website,  I thought it was disgraceful, bordering on unpatriotic, when Limbaugh said of the Commander-in-Chief-elect, “I hope he fails.”

But I am a fan of a lot of conservative bloggers and pundits, which makes it impossible to avoid some exposure to Limbaugh’s oeuvre.  So I know that for years, Limbaugh has relentlessly referred to climate-change concerns as “the global warming hoax“.  I dismissed this as one more instance of Limbaugh preaching to the dittoheads.

I’ve long been skeptical about the sense of urgency that (some) climate activists display, but I’m not ready to back Limbaugh’s play and call global warming itself a hoax.  I think there is enough evidence to warrant concern about global warming, and I certainly think it’s a good idea to explore ways of reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels such as oil — if for no other reason, because much of the world’s oil supply is under the control of regimes hostile to the United States.

But while referring to “the global warming hoax” may be a step too far, I think it’s clear now that there have been multiple global warming “hoaxes“.  If you have no idea what I’m leading up to, you might want to consider broadening your information sources.

I’m talking about a trove of data, code and emails acquired (“stolen,” if you prefer) last week from the influential Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England — which for years has collated much of the data used to substantiate the danger of global warming.  You won’t find much about it in the mainstream news media, but here’s the email that is quickly becoming iconic in the world of global warming skepticism:

From: Phil Jones
To: ray bradley ,,
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Cc: k.briffa@xxx.xx.xx,

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or
first thing tomorrow.
I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps
to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two…

The “decline” in question appears to be a prediction of recent global cooling that would result from a computer model used to “calculate” long-ago global temperatures — if that model were carried  through to  the current day.  In other words, the model has been used to establish low baselines for long-ago temperatures, to set up the case for recent global warming.  But if the assumptions of the model are carried through to the last few decades, for which we have actual data on global temperatures, the model says temperatures should be declining — which is inconvenient if you are trying to make the case that global warming is a serious threat.  So in generating data based on their model, they use the (suspicious) model data for the early years, and substitute “real temps” for recent years.

In other, other words: They cooked the books.

There’s much more than a single damning email from 10 years ago.  Watt’s Up With That has a relentless compilation of CRU programmer and database notes that indicate CRU personnel repeatedly falsified data when necessary to avoid inconvenient results.  Pajamas Media has been all over the story (unfortunately  the functionality of their compilation page sucks), as have Taranto, Instapundit and National Review.

Soon even the MSM will be forced to take notice — the evidence is just too damning, senior Republicans are talking about congressional hearings, and the start of the UN’s long-anticipated Copenhagen climate conference is little more than a week away.

These revelations do not “settle”  the global warming issue — but they certainly should unsettle the so-called “consensus”.  Can we at least have an end to Ellen Goodman’s morally tone-deaf meme that “global-warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers”?

(Hat tip: “Global Warmists” in my title is an homage to Taranto, who told me in a private email that he came up with the term, but is not certain he was the first to do so.)

Hope (and Ammunition) for Opponents of Socialized Medicine

It seems clear after Saturday’s Senate vote that America will avoid the worst excesses of the various Democratic proposals to remake the health care system.  The Senate voted 60-39 to allow the debate to reach the Senate floor, but although the vote was a nominal victory for the Democrats, they had zero votes to spare as they (temporarily) averted a Republican filibuster.

In particular, while stalwart Independent ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman sided with the Democratic caucus on this procedural vote, he has made it clear he will join Republicans in blocking any bill that includes the single-payer stalking horse known as the “public option.”  A few Democrats have also signaled that the party cannot necessarily count on their votes on an actual bill, while I’ve seen no signs that any Republicans are likely to break ranks.

Thankfully, the public “option” appears to be dead.

But just in case it attempts to lurch zombie-like from the grave, I’m glad to see an increasing number of resources available making well-articulated arguments against the move toward socialized medicine.

The video at the top of this post is perhaps the best of four well-made films available at, a website “dedicated to correctly diagnosing the problems with the U.S. health care system and promoting solutions which preserve and extend individual liberty.”  Three of the films feature Canadians describing why America should not emulate Canada’s health care system, and the fourth examines the famous battle cry of  “45 million Americans without health care” and shows how it vastly overstates the problem.

The other health care system we’re told we should covet is the fully socialized European model.  Here, too, there is a helpful video, this time from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity,  titled “Don’t Copy Europe’s Mistakes: Less Government Is the Right Way to Fix Healthcare.”  (Hat tip: America on the Rocks.)

Another great resource, although a more cumbersome one, is James Taranto’s “Great Moments in Socialized Medicine” — a frequently recurring feature in his trenchant Best of the Web Today column on the Wall Street Journal‘s website.  These items cite news stories describing instances where the bureaucracy of the British health care system has impeded quality health care, and often are set up by Taranto’s trademark dry wit.  From an example last week:

If women are discouraged from getting mammograms, as a U.S. government panel recently advised, some will die, but at least others will be spared the discomfort of getting mammograms. There isn’t a similar upside to the following decision by Britain’s socialized medical system, described by London’s Daily Mail:

Liver cancer sufferers are being condemned to an early death by being denied a new drug on the Health Service, campaigners warn….

Each individual item could be dismissed as anecdotal evidence, but Taranto has posted dozens of such items, and the recurring drumbeat is quite effective.  It’s a pity that it’s so hard to find them.

Taranto is an important pioneer of the blogosphere — I’ve been reading his BotWT every weekday since before 9/11, and he continues to polish his craft.  Unfortunately, his site hasn’t kept up with innovations in blogging software.  His primitive format doesn’t even provide a way to link to individual items within his daily roundup, let alone make use of elementary organizational tools like tags, and the search function is highly unsatisfying.  But a jerry-rigged Google roundup of his columns that include “Great Moments” posts can be found here.

Rep. Artur Davis

Rep. Artur Davis

This is a bit of a tangent, but one last hopeful sign can be found in a particularly flagrant example of rhetorical over-reaching.  Jesse Jackson, who long ago squandered whatever moral authority he might once have had, last week said at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”  This was a reference to a vote against Pelosi-care by Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, who does call himself, and who from his photo appears to be, in fact, a black man.

If the increasingly desperate proponents of health care “reform” continue to serve up this type of poisonous rhetoric, it will only serve to stiffen the spines of Americans across the country who have been pressuring their representatives to tread carefully in remaking one-sixth of the economy.

A Good Choice to Head the Fort Hood Investigation

Carter_F._Ham_low-resKudos to the Army for appointing General Carter Ham to lead the investigation into the Fort Hood massacre.  Here’s why I like it, from the Wall Street Journal:

Gen. Ham, who commands U.S. Army Europe, is a decorated four-star general with a personal connection to mental health: Almost alone among his peers, the officer has spoken publicly about his own struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after he returned from Iraq in 2005.

I remember reading about General Ham in USA Today a year ago when the news first came out that he and another general had sought counseling to help them deal with PTSD.  The competition in the upper levels of the military is fierce, and careers can be ruined or derailed over very minor weaknesses or shortcomings.  The article pointed out that by being candid about his own mental health issues, the general hoped to reduce some of the stigma that often deters military personnel from seeking psychological help.

I thought his candor was a welcome development, but that it still might be harder for a junior officer or enlisted person to seek help than it would be for a general.  I also wondered whether Ham’s career would suffer after making his revelation.

Apparently not — he was already a four-star general when the story came out, but the timeline in his Wikipedia listing indicates he was a one-star when his traumatic event occurred (a suicide bomber killed 22 people in Iraq, including 14 troops under his command).  The timeline isn’t precisely clear from the USA Today article, but it appears he was “only” a two-star when he sought help.  So after seeking help he was promoted twice and put in charge of U.S. Army Europe — and now he’s been named to an important and highly public role, investigating the Fort Hood massacre.

Ham seems ideally suited to achieve a delicate balance in the Fort Hood inquiry.  He can be sensitive to whatever factors may have prompted Major Hasan’s rampage, while still serving as a walking reminder that even people with mental health issues can be, and need to be, responsible for their own actions.

People in my life have grappled with mental health problems.  I know that mental illness often can be treated — but only if the individual has the courage to seek help.  I salute General Ham for his bravery and his service.

The Folly of KSM’s Civilian Trial


What happens if KSM (and his co-defendants) “do not get convicted,” asked Senate Judiciary Committee member Herb Kohl. “Failure is not an option,” replied Holder. Not an option? Doesn’t the presumption of innocence, er, presume that prosecutorial failure — acquittal, hung jury — is an option? By undermining that presumption, Holder is undermining the fairness of the trial, the demonstration of which is the alleged rationale for putting on this show in the first place.

Senator Graham vs. Senator Clueless, on Trials for Jihadists

This clip of Senator Lindsey Graham questioning Attorney General Eric Holder on the decision to try KSM in civilian court is well worth 4:40 of your time.  The South Carolina Republican eloquently and passionately illustrates the folly of treating jihadists like common criminals.

“If you’re going to prosecute anybody in civilian court, our law is clear that the moment custodial interrorgation occurs, the defendant — the criminal defendant — is entitled to a lawyer, and to be informed of their right to remain silent.  The big problem I have is that you’re criminalizing the war. That if we caught bin Laden tomorrow, we have mixed theories and we couldn’t turn him over to the CIA, the FBI or military intelligence for an interrogation on the battlefield, because now we’re saying that he is subject to criminal court in the United States, and you’re confusing the people fighting this war.

What would you tell the military commander who captured him?  Would you tell him that he must read him his rights and give him a lawyer? And if you didn’t tell him that, would you jeopardize the prosecution in a criminal court?”

Graham’s masterful performance struck me when I first saw it last night, but I was moved to post about it today after another senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, took issue with his colleague and said no interrogation would be necessary.  “For one thing, capturing Osama bin Laden — we’ve had enough on him, we don’t need to interrogate him,” Leahy said.

Yes, we doubtless could convict Osama bin Laden based on evidence already in our hands.  But Senator Leahy, don’t you think there are a few questions we might want to ask a captured bin Laden? Such as: “Dude, where you been hanging out all these years?”  Or: “Hey, any of your peeps have any plans we might wanna know about?”

I don’t want to make too much out of a statement that Leahy must already regret.  I sure wouldn’t want to be held accountable for the dumbest things I ever said.  But it’s hard to imagine a starker demonstration of the difference between a war mentality and a crime-fighting mentality.

Update: Andy McCarthy, who has been all over the the civilian trial debacle since the news first broke last Friday, made very similar points about Senator Leahy in The Corner — posting at almost exactly the same time.

“If you’re going to prosecute anybody in civilian

court, our law is clear that the moment custodial

interrorgation occurs, the defendant — the criminal

defendant — is entitled to a lawyer, and to be

informed of their right to remain silent.  The big

problem I have is that you’re criminalizing the war.

That if we caught bin Ladin tomorrow, we have mixed

theories and we couldn’t turn him over to the CIA, the

FBI or military intelligence for an interrogation on

the battlefield, because now we’re saying that he is

subject to criminal court in the United States, and

you’re confusing the people fighting this war.  What

would you tell the military commander who captured

him?  Would you tell him that he must read him his

rights and give him a lawyer? And if you didn’t tell

him that, would you jeopardize the prosecution in a

criminal court??

Pelosicare Would Vastly Expand Government, Penalize Millions

housecoveragecms_thumb copyGWB advisor Keith Hennessey drills down into the report of the Chief Actuary of the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) to describe the effects of the health care “reform” bill passed by the House.  In 2019:

  • The bill would mean almost 30 M new people in government-run insurance, more than four times as many as would be newly insured through private coverage.
  • By far the largest effect of the bill would be to enroll more than 23 M new people in two existing government programs, Medicaid and S-CHIP. Medicaid is today widely regarded as fiscally unsustainable before adding more people.
  • Foster estimates that 18 M people would remain uninsured and have to pay the penalty tax. These people are clearly worse off than they would be under current law.

Emphasis added.  Sounds like a pretty huge cost to pay while not achieving universal coverage.

Hat tip: Mankiw — yeah, like he needs traffic from me 🙂

Politics Outweighs Principle in Ordering a Civilian Trial for KSM

Wanted: Impartial Jurors

Wanted: Impartial Jurors

The Obama administration’s announcement that it would transfer the 9/11 mastermind and four of his accomplices to New York City for a criminal trial can only be understood as yet another cynical ploy to mollify the Left by focusing on the alleged misdeeds of the Bush administration.

It certainly can’t be understood as a principled decision.  The administration intends to continue on the path of holding military commissions for other captured jihadists.  I know of no way to articulate a principled reason for bringing some but not all terrorists into the criminal justice system.

Much has been written about the folly of giving all of the rights of an accused American citizen to a captured enemy combatant.  Andrew C. McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombers, sums it up as well as anyone today in an article posted on National Review.  Excerpts:

As experienced defense lawyers well know, when there is no mystery about whether the defendants have committed the charged offenses, and when there is controversy attendant to the government’s investigative tactics, the standard defense strategy is to put the government on trial.

That is, Pres. Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, experienced litigators, fully realize that in civilian court, the Qaeda quintet can and will demand discovery of mountains of government intelligence. They will demand disclosures about investigative tactics; the methods and sources by which intelligence has been obtained; the witnesses from the intelligence community, the military, and law enforcement who interrogated witnesses, conducted searches, secretly intercepted enemy communications, and employed other investigative techniques. They will attempt to compel testimony from officials who formulated U.S. counterterrorism strategy, in addition to U.S. and foreign intelligence officers. As civilian “defendants,” these war criminals will put Bush-era counterterrorism tactics under the brightest public spotlight in American legal history.

This is exactly what President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder know will happen. And because it is unnecessary to have this civilian trial at all, one must conclude that this is exactly what Obama and Holder want to see happen.

From indictment to trial, the civilian case against the 9/11 terrorists will be a years-long seminar, enabling al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies to learn much of what we know and, more important, the methods and sources by which we come to know it. But that is not the half of it. By moving the case to civilian court, the president and his attorney general have laid the groundwork for an unprecedented surrender of our national-defense secrets directly to our most committed enemies.

Waging war is not like fighting crime.  If you are a civilian police officer and you see an unidentified person lurking where nobody should be, you ask to see ID.  If you are a soldier in a battle zone, you shoot.  The rules are different because they have to be different.

Several months ago, author Robert Wright declared that if we cannot convict terrorists in court — for example, if evidence is tainted because of the way it was gathered — we should set them free.  He specifically included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  Wright is a principled liberal whom I met as an undergraduate, and whose intellect I respect.  But this is folly.

What is the government going to do if the case against KSM is thrown out of court?  Tell him, “here’s 100 bucks for cab fare out of the city — good luck”?