We live in a capitalist society. That means we allow the free market to determine prices and distribute goods to us. The other option is to allow government to do the same task, but a bureaucracy is never as efficient as the free market. I remember walking through the shopping areas of East Berlin during the 1980s when the Soviet Union was still strong and communism was the wave of the future. I saw for myself that the items for sale in communist East Berlin were inferior in number, quality, and desirability to anything I could purchase in free West Berlin. We did pick up some items from East Berlin, mainly because they were Russian-made knick-knacks like matryoshka dolls, not because they were good quality. We had a wonderful dinner for six in one of the Communist Party’s elite back rooms of a classy restaurant for about $20, including the best borscht soup I’ve ever eaten. But as good as the food was, the reason why we could afford to eat there was because of the purchasing power of Western currency in the hard-currency-starved East. Decades of bureaucratic control via communism had failed to compete in any meaningful way with the free and capitalist nations of the West.

But not everyone likes capitalism. I’ve held onto the picture below long enough that I can no longer remember where I found it. I’m guessing I got it from Zombie’s protest page, but I didn’t find it in a quick look through her archives.

useful idiots

To badly paraphrase Winston Churchill, it has been said that capitalism is the worst form of economics, save all the others that have been tried. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it is the best system we have–at least in part because it takes human nature into account. Communism has been tried and found wanting, but there are still plenty of people who believe that it only needs the right people to get it to work. But the good thing about capitalism is that it doesn’t require optimal conditions, and you don’t have to wait for the best people to show up. It doesn’t rely on people willing to work for the greater good of the communist borg collective, but out of self-interest.

Adam Smith wrote about this self-interest in The Wealth of Nations. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.”

The next time you buy a pizza, notice that the variety, quality, and availability are all direct results of capitalism at work. So thank the pizza guy for his willingness to make some money for himself by providing a great pizza for you. Then give him a good tip.

These days in Connecticut, your high school football team can’t be too excellent:

High school football coaches in Connecticut will have to be good sports this fall — or risk suspension.

The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports, is adopting a “score management” policy that will suspend coaches whose teams win by more than 50 points.

A rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and the coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire-based conference.

“We were concerned with any coach running up the game. There’s no need for it,” Mosa said Wednesday. “There were a number of games that were played where the difference of scores were 60 points or more. It’s not focused on any one particular person.”

Some states, including Iowa, continuously run the game clock in the second half if a team has a 35-point lead. The Connecticut committee rejected a similar proposal because members thought it would unfairly cut into backups’ playing time.

I remember a blowout football game between Brigham Young University and the University of New Mexico in which BYU won with a final score of 65-0. By the new Connecticut rules, BYU football coach Lavell Edwards would have been suspended from the next game because allowing a score to get that high is obviously unsportsmanlike. But I was at that game, and I saw that Edwards wasn’t just driving up the score. I watched as he put his 2nd and 3rd string players into the game, and they still scored against New Mexico. Football is a competitive sport, and in competitive sports, there are winners and losers. And part of playing is learning how to handle both a really high-scoring win and a devastating loss.

But not everyone wants kids to experience winning or losing. Non-scoring games are an attempt to teach kids to enjoy playing without the stress of victory or defeat, but the kids keep score anyway. If you don’t like the competitive nature of some sports, how about taking advantage of non-competitive ones?

All this brouhaha reminds me of the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. In this not-too-future world, everyone is finally equal because those with more than average intelligence, beauty, or skills are handicapped to bring them down to the lowest common denominator. This handicapping is overseen by the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers. After all, the reasoning goes, we can’t hurt the feelings of people who don’t excel by having them compete with others who are better than they. Equality of outcome is the law supreme, and a successful race is one where everyone crosses the finish line at the exact same time.

But I have long disliked the idea of equality of outcome and its result of universal mediocrity.

Memorial Day 2006

For this Memorial Day, the talent of Cox and Forkum gave us the above image, and Victor Davis Hanson wrote the following:

Looking Back at Iraq

A war to be proud of.

There may be a lot to regret about the past policy of the United States in the Middle East, but the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to birth democracy in his place is surely not one of them. And we should remember that this Memorial Day.

Whatever our righteous anger at Khomeinist Iran, it was wrong, well aside from the arms-for-hostages scandal, to provide even a modicum of aid to Saddam Hussein, the great butcher of his own, during the Iran-Iraq war.

Inviting the fascist Baathist government of Syria into the allied coalition of the first Gulf War meant that we more or less legitimized the Assad regime’s take-over of Lebanon, with disastrous results for its people.

It may have been strategically in error not to have taken out Saddam in 1991, but it was morally wrong to have then encouraged Shiites and Kurds to rise up — while watching idly as Saddam’s reprieved planes and helicopters slaughtered them in the thousands.

A decade of appeasement of Islamic terrorism, with retaliations after the serial attacks — from the first World Trade Center bombing to Khobar Towers and the USS Cole — never exceeding the occasional cruise missile or stern televised lecture, made September 11 inevitable.

A decade was wasted in subsidizing Yasser Arafat on the pretense that he was something other than a mendacious thug.

I cite these few examples of the now nostalgic past, because it is common to see Iraq written off by the architects of these past failures as the “worst” policy decision in our history, a “quagmire” and a “disaster.” Realists, more worried about Iran and the ongoing cost in our blood and treasure in Iraq, insist that toppling Saddam was a terrible waste of resources. Leftists see the Iraq war as part of an amoral imperialism; often their talking points weirdly end up rehashed in bin Laden’s communiqués and Dr. Zawahiri’s rants.

But what did 2,400 brave and now deceased Americans really sacrifice for in Iraq, along with thousands more who were wounded? And what were billions in treasure spent on? And what about the hundreds of collective years of service offered by our soldiers? What exactly did intrepid officers in the news like a Gen. Petreus, or Col. McMaster, or Lt. Col Kurilla fight for?

First, there is no longer a mass murderer atop one of the oil-richest states in the world. Imagine what Iraq would now look like with $70 a barrel oil, a $50 billion unchecked and ongoing Oil-for-Food U.N. scandal, the 15th year of no-fly zones, a punitative U.N. embargo on the Iraqi people — all perverted by Russian arms sales, European oil concessions, and frenzied Chinese efforts to get energy contracts from Saddam.

The Kurds would remain in perpetual danger. The Shiites would simply be harvested yearly, in quiet, by Saddam’s police state. The Marsh Arabs would by now have been forgotten in their toxic dust-blown desert. Perhaps Saddam would have upped his cash pay-outs for homicide bombers on the West Bank.

Mohammar Khaddafi would be starting up his centrifuges and adding to his chemical weapons depots. Syria would still be in Lebanon. Washington would probably have ceased pressuring Egypt and the Gulf States to enact reform. Dr. Khan’s nuclear mail-order house would be in high gear. We would still be hearing of a “militant wing” of Hamas, rather than watching a democratically elected terrorist clique reveal its true creed to the world.

But just as importantly, what did these rare Americans not fight for? Oil, for one thing. The price skyrocketed after they went in. The secret deals with Russia and France ended. The U.N. petroleum perfidy stopped. The Iraqis, and the Iraqis alone — not Saddam, the French, the Russians, or the U.N. — now adjudicate how much of their natural resources they will sell, and to whom.

Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is uncontestable. Before they came to Iraq, there was a fascist dictatorship. Now, after three elections, there is an indigenous democratic government for the first time in the history of the Middle East. True, thousands of Iraqis have died publicly in the resulting sectarian mess; but thousands were dying silently each year under Saddam — with no hope that their sacrifice would ever result in the first steps that we have already long passed.

Our soldiers also removed a great threat to the United States. Again, the crisis brewing over Iran reminds us of what Iraq would have reemerged as. Like Iran, Saddam reaped petroprofits, sponsored terror, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But unlike Iran, he had already attacked four of his neighbors, gassed thousands of his own, and violated every agreement he had ever signed. There would have been no nascent new democracy in Iran that might some day have undermined Saddam, and, again unlike Iran, no internal dissident movement that might have come to power through a revolution or peaceful evolution.

No, Saddam’s police state was wounded, but would have recovered, given high oil prices, Chinese and Russian perfidy, and Western exhaustion with enforcement of U.N. sanctions. Moreover, the American military took the war against radical Islam right to its heart in the ancient caliphate. It has not only killed thousands of jihadists, but dismantled the hierarchy of al Qaeda and its networks, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Critics say that we “took our eye off the ball” by going to Iraq and purportedly leaving bin Laden alone in the Hindu Kush. But more likely, al Qaeda took its eye off the American homeland as the promised theater of operations once American ground troops began dealing with Islamic terrorists in Iraq. As we near five years after September 11, note how less common becomes the expression “not if, but when” concerning the next anticipated terror attack in the U.S.

Some believe that the odyssey of jihadists to Iraq means we created terrorists, but again, it is far more likely, as al Qaeda communiqués attest, that we drew those with such propensities into Iraq. Once there, they have finally shown the world that they hate democracy, but love to kill and behead — and that has brought a great deal of moral clarity to the struggle. After Iraq, the reputation of bin Laden and radical Islam has not been enhanced as alleged, but has plummeted. For all the propaganda on al Jazeera, the chattering classes in the Arab coffeehouses still watch Americans fighting to give Arabs the vote, and radical Islamists in turn beheading men and women to stop it.

If many in the Middle East once thought it was cute that 19 killers could burn a 20-acre hole in Manhattan, I am not sure what they think of Americans now in their backyard not living to die, but willing to die so that other Arabs might live freely.

All of our achievements are hard to see right now. The Iraqis are torn by sectarianism, and are not yet willing to show gratitude to America for saving them from Saddam and pledging its youth and billions to give them something better. We are nearing the third national election of the war, and Iraq has become so politicized that our efforts are now beyond caricature. An archivist is needed to remind the American people of the record of all the loud politicians and the national pundits who once were on record in support of the war.

Europeans have demonized our efforts — but not so much lately, as pacifist Europe sits on its simmering volcano of Islamic fundamentalism and unassimilated Muslim immigrants. Our own Left has tossed out “no blood for oil” — that is, until the sky-rocketing prices, the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, and a new autonomous Iraqi oil ministry cooled that rhetoric. Halliburton is also now not so commonly alleged as the real casus belli, when few contractors of any sort wish to rush into Iraq to profit.

“Bush lied, thousands died” grows stale when the WMD threat was reiterated by Arabs, the U.N., and the Europeans. The “too few troops” debate is not the sort that characterizes imperialism, especially when no American proconsul argues that we must permanently stay in large numbers in Iraq. The new Iraqi-elected president, not Donald Rumsfeld, is more likely to be seen on television, insisting that Americans remain longer.

A geography more uninviting for our soldiers than Iraq cannot be imagined — 7,000 miles away, surrounded by Baathist Syria, Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, and theocratic Iran. The harsh landscape rivals the worst of past battlefields — blazing temperatures, wind, and dust. The host culture that our soldiers faced was Orwellian — a society terrorized by a mass murderer for 30 years, who ruled by alternately promising Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish collaborationists that cooperation meant only that fewer of their own would die.

The timing was equally awful — in an era of easy anti-Americanism in Europe, and endemic ingratitude in the Muslim world that asks nothing of itself, everything of us, and blissfully forgets the thousands of Muslims saved by Americans in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Somalia, and the billions more lavished on Jordanians, Palestinians, and Egyptians.

And here at home? There are few Ernie Pyles in Iraq to record the heroism of our soldiers; no John Fords to film their valor — but legions to write ad nauseam of Abu Ghraib, and to make up stories of flushed Korans and Americans terrorizing Iraqi women and children.

Yet here we are with an elected government in place, an Iraqi security force growing, and an autocratic Middle East dealing with the aftershocks of the democratic concussion unleashed by American soldiers in Iraq.

Reading about Gettysburg, Okinawa, Choisun, Hue, and Mogadishu is often to wonder how such soldiers did what they did. Yet never has America asked its youth to fight under such a cultural, political, and tactical paradox as in Iraq, as bizarre a mission as it is lethal. And never has the American military — especially the U.S. Army and Marines — in this, the supposedly most cynical and affluent age of our nation, performed so well.

We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.

I admire my cousin Tom’s Army service. He served in Iraq, and his Army buddies are heading out to a deployment in Afghanistan. But Tom won’t be going with them. You see, he was born in Canada through no fault of his own, and he was adopted by an American family. He has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since he was 12 years old, but because he also has Canadian citizenship, he can’t get the top secret clearance needed to serve in Afghanistan. I don’t understand the need for that level of secrecy. It’s not like we don’t know it’s there. In my mind’s eye, I can almost hear the top secret briefing as Tom’s buddies fly into the country — “This here is Afghanistan. But don’t you be telling anyone about it.”

I don’t see why it is necessary for Tom to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Canada is an ally in our war against terror, and Tom has proven his loyalty with almost ten years of service in the Army. Why is his dual citizenship such a problem? After all, his Swedish-born grandfather served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, and he did so before becoming an American citizen. In fact, many people who serve in our military are not American citizens.

I can understand Tom’s dilemma. He wants to answer our country’s call to service and work with his Army buddies, but our country is asking that he renounce a part of who he his. And I don’t see why his dual citizenship should bar him from serving.

Now, if he had dual U.S./French citizenship, then I’d understand the military’s reluctance completely.

Glenn Reynolds, the Blogfather, has an excellent post about the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government and the latest scandal: the searching of the offices of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA).

MORE ON CONGRESS AND THE SEPARATION OF POWERS: What’s frustrating in these discussions is the failure to distinguish between what the law should be in somebody’s opinion, and what it actually is, based on the Constitution and the caselaw. This entry on Congressional immunity from Jerry Pournelle — a smart guy, but no lawyer — is a good example:

Just as each House is the judge of the qualification of its members, each House is responsible for enforcement of ethics and criminal actions of members. The Houses have sufficient authority to do as they will in those cases.

When you bring the executive power into direct enforcement against sitting Members of either house of Congress, you end the separation of powers. It is easy for the executive to fake ‘evidence’ if it chooses. Once the executive power can intimidate sitting Members of Congress, you have an entirely different kind of government.

Now it is required that the Houses inquire into the criminal actions of Members. But that is done by their own agents, or at the request of the Speaker or President pro tem; not by the executive authority.

Now you may think that this is a good idea — I don’t, but Pournelle apparently does — but it is not now, nor has it ever been, the law. In fact, with the sole exception of impeachment (which doesn’t run against members of Congress), the Congress cannot investigate or try offenses, and impeachment is carefully distinguished from criminal prosecution in the Constitution. The Constitution’s prohibition of Bills of Attainder, in fact, explicitly forbids Congress dealing with criminal matters.

Well worth reading the whole thing. Something that he doesn’t bring up in his article is a Article 1 Section 6 of the Constitution as it deals with the Legislature:

They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) tried to invoke the “Speech or Debate” clause of the Constitution even though the all important vote he said he was headed to happened hours earlier. Rep. Jefferson has no leg to stand on because he is under investigation for a felony, and that makes him fair game under the Constitution. This goes directly against the joint statement by political odd-fellows, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

No person is above the law, neither the one being investigated nor those conducting the investigation.

The Justice Department was wrong to seize records from Congressman Jefferson’s office in violation of the Constitutional principle of Separation of Powers, the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, and the practice of the last 219 years. These constitutional principles were not designed by the Founding Fathers to place anyone above the law. Rather, they were designed to protect the Congress and the American people from abuses of power, and those principles deserve to be vigorously defended.

There is something sadly pathetic about watching two grown adults who swore to uphold the Constitution prove that they just don’t understand it.

Not having much else to do, some people on the left are up in arms about Tony Snow using the phrase “tar baby” during a recent press conference.

Again, I would take you back to the USA Today story, simply to give you a little context. Look at the poll that appeared the following day. While there was — part of it said 51 percent of the American people opposed, if you look at when people said, if there is a roster of phone numbers, do you feel comfortable that — I’m paraphrasing and I apologize — but something like 64 percent of the polling was not troubled by it. Having said that, I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program — the alleged program — the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.

“Ahh! He said ‘tar baby!’ Quick, take me to the fainting couch!” Sheesh. Here’s how the ThinkProgress.org site wrote up this issue:

Based on the context of the term, we believe you meant tar baby to mean: “a situation almost impossible to get out of; a problem virtually unsolvable.”

But in “American lore,” the expression tar baby is also a racial slur “used occasionally as a derogatory term for black people.” Use of the term has resulted in demands that people be fired.

As Random House notes, “some people suggest avoiding the use of the term in any context.” Now that you are no longer at Fox News, you may want to take them up on their advice.

And since “some people suggest” it, by gum, Tony Snow had better jump to it! Again, sheesh! The phrase “tar baby” is best known from the “Uncle Remus” stories, written down by Joel Chandler Harris over 100 years ago. In the story about the tar baby, Br’er Fox sets out a humanoid figure made out of tar as a trap for Br’er Rabbit. Br’er Rabbit loses his temper and proceeds to get stuck in the tar baby.

Br'er Rabbit and the tar baby

The tar baby story is not particularly offensive, but it is the phrase’s later use as a mean-spirited racial epithet that has caused such controversy. And since the ThinkProgress.org story mentions three situations where people were in danger of being fired over their use of the phrase “tar baby,” let’s look them over. Since there are two possible meanings for “tar baby,” it only makes sense to examine each story to see if the person who used it intended to refer to a sticky situation or to a racist epithet.

In the first story, we don’t have the actual phrase involved, but there is this telling sentence: “Although the e-mail recipient, Rigsby, is white, the term “tar baby” is commonly known to be a racial slur.” Yeah, but why send a racial slur used against black people to a white person? I’m willing to bet that if we saw the original memo, we would find ample evidence that the writer was thinking of a sticky situation.

In the second story, “Commissioner Leigh Lenzmeier described the St. Cloud Human Rights Office as a ‘tar baby.’ Lenzmeier says he used the term to describe a ‘sticky’ situation. But some leaders of the African American community have complained, saying the phrase is also considered a racial slur.” Again, this sounds like a legitimate use of the phrase “tar baby” to describe a sticky situation that gets worse. But I like the response from Professor Christopher Lehman.

But Lehman says over the years, “tar baby” has also been used as a racial slur. And because of that, unless you’re telling the story of Br’er Rabbit, it’s wise to avoid the term.

“I would say, because of the connotations, that it has as a racial slur; it would be one phrase that should be avoided unless you’re talking about the Joel Chandler Harris story, in and of itself,” Lehman says.

How about we apply a little maturity to the “tar baby” phrase, mmmkay? If it is being used to describe a sticky situation that is hard to get out of, we can assume it’s not a racist term. If it is being used in a derogatory way against a black person, we can assume that it is a racial slur. Isn’t that simpler than automatically freaking out?

In the third story, Mayor Pro-Tem John Buhman stated that “he used the term to describe a piece of property that would be difficult to develop.” But the mere use of the phrase was sufficient for councilwoman Dee Wright to call for his head on a platter resignation. This automatic freak-out over the phrase brings to mind the way some people react when they hear someone use the word “niggardly.” Here are two examples:

A fourth-grade teacher at Williams Elementary School has received a formal reprimand for teaching her students the word “niggardly,” the teacher’s son said Tuesday.

Last week, teacher Stephanie Bell said she used the word “niggardly,” which means stingy or miserly, during a discussion about literary characters. But parent Akwana Walker, who is black, protested the use of the word, saying it offended her because it sounds similar to a racial slur. (from The Wilmington Star, Star-News Online, 09-04-02)

Student Amelia Rideau is upset that her professor used the ‘N-ardly’ word at least twice: Once on Jan. 25 during a class on 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and once in a subsequent class to explain the word’s meaning. Ms. Rideau was outraged, and is demanding the UW implement a speech code which would punish anyone using what she described as ‘offensive’ language – including the ‘N-ardly’ word. She urged the university not to require proof of intent before punishing verbal villains such as her professor.

According to the Star Tribune: “Upset about the word’s similarity to a racial slur, Rideau talked to her professor, who then explained the word’s background, she said. On Friday, the professor repeated the word and defined it for the class, Rideau said. Angry he revisited the topic after she asked him not to, Rideau began to cry and stormed from the room. On Monday, she brought three black friends with her to the class for support, she said.” (from the Associated Press, via Star Tribune 02/03/99)

Neither the real definition of the word, nor its origins are sufficient to change the minds of people who are determined to be offended because it “sounds similar” to another word. The controversy has nothing to do with the facts — it has everything to do with their feelings.

Besides, the best way to react to someone offending you is not to ask for them to be fired or implement a speech code. You get better results if you claim the offense is against Islam.

Charles at Little Green Footballs has pointed to a reprint in Harper’s Magazine of an article first published in March. Only two months later, they either figured that they needed to do repeats for the summer crowd, or the article’s popularity demanded a reprint this quickly. I don’t know why the article was published under the title “I’m Hatin’ It,” a take-off of the McDonald’s slogan “i’m lovin’ it.” My title is far better. The Harper’s article comes from an interview with Rashad Akhtar, a Muslim who claimed that Burger King’s ice cream swirly motif spelled out the Arabic word for “Allah.” Quelle horreur! I normally don’t quote an entire article, but I’ll make an exception here. There are too many interesting bits to consider.

The Enlightenment happened at half past 12 a.m. in Burger King, Park Royal. I had ordered my food, and a French guy got talking to me and asked, “Are you Muslim?” He said, “Look at this,” and he showed me the cone. I saw it and I thought, “Wow,” like anyone would. He said, “Turn it around.”

I was thinking of my stomach. I was hungry. I would have loved to eat an ice cream. When I saw it, my mouth fell open. I dropped the ice cream. I canceled my order. That was the defining moment of my life.

The Burger King logo is there in Arabic. “Allah” is spelled exactly how it is there, and the Burger King logo is where the ominah should be. Why, there is no way it could be a coincidence. How can you say it is a spinning swirl? How does it spin on something that is static? You cannot spin it around unless you have a mechanical device. You spin it one direction, to the right, and it is offending a billion people.

I’m not talking about Muslims in the Park Royal vicinity, or in the U.K. I’m talking about globally. Everyone who sees this is going to be offended. If you put a different symbol on there, you’re offending Jews, Christians, Sikhs, or Hindus. I am going to try my best in life, so that these people do not operate in a single Muslim country again, so that we get an apology to every single Muslim on this planet in their language, in their country, on a national TV station: “Sorry. We, as an American company, are sorry. We didn’t mean to offend you.”

What angers me most is that most people, once they have finished with it, they look at it and say, “Nice cone. Nice design. Nice cone design.” They chuck it away. That is disrespectful. Don’t throw it away. Keep it as evidence. A reminder of what these people are doing every single day of our lives.

We showed this to Muslim customers in Burger King and they were disgusted. We went to the manager. “Is this true?” we asked. He said, “Yes, my brother. It is true.” I spoke to two other Pakistani Muslim guys there and they said, “We are sickened.” They were cussing Burger King.

I feel humiliated. I want to humiliate the person who did this to an extent that he never works again. I’m going to make him see that it was the biggest mistake in his life. I want to meet the guy. I want to ask the guy, “What does this mean to you?” then never see his face again.

In a way, I’m glad he did this to me. It has opened my eyes. The fear of God, the love of God, the love of not letting anyone disrespect God. Even though it means nothing to some people and may mean nothing to some Muslims in this country, this is my jihad. I’m not going to rest until I find the person who is responsible. I’m going to bring this country down.

Did you notice his level of response? He sees “Allah” in the swirl of a stylized ice cream cone, and America must crumble for it. Yeah, that’s like stubbing your toe and then shooting up the neighborhood in reprisal. Sadly, Burger King caved and apologized for this guy seeing something that wasn’t intended to be there. But Rashad Akhtar is not alone. Years earlier, Muslims reacted to another stylized logo, claiming that it, too, was the Arabic word for “Allah”–this time in the word “air” on the back of a Nike shoe. Judge for yourself by comparing the evil BK ice cream logo, Allah written in Arabic, and the Nike shoe name.

The Triumvirate of Ice Cream, Allah, and Shoes

Apparently, the moral of the Nike story is that you can get some nice goodies if you claim to be offended. It’s a good gig if you can get it. Daniel Pipes wrote about this logo lunacy on his blog, and he offered up other examples that could be used to provoke outrage. The reader’s comments are interesting. I understand that it is wrong to classify a people based on a single person’s writings, but I have to point out the way one reader responded to the logos on Pipes’ blog. It’s reprinted here in its entirety, misspellings and all. I’ll bold two bits that sound very similar to Rashad Akhtar’s response to seeing the ice cream logo:

Submitted by abdulrahaman, Feb 17, 2006 at 10:36

One thing i don’t understnatd why people hate muslims and Islam? Is it because we are better than you. Or is it because we are living right and the nonmuslim are living like animals, and what’s up with the pictures of the prophet muhamed? This explains the way the nonmuslims hate the muslimes people. We don’t make fun of other people religions, so stop this stupid things or else.
One day muslims are going to do something that you don’t like if u don’t stop doing what your doing to muslims and Islam.

I noticed the “or else” threat. And there is the difference between Islam and other religions like Christianity. Madonna might choose to perform a song while hanging from a large mirrored cross in her latest tour, and while Christians around the world would condemn the act for making light of their faith, they would not tell her to change her show “or else.” But when Muslims are offended, their first response includes threats, violence, beheadings and murder.

This morning I got an email message telling me to keep an eye out for a teen girl who has gone missing. The email was forwarded in all sincerity, but the actual information was fake. The teen girl mentioned was not missing, and never had been. A quick search on snopes.com pulled up the specific urban legend, and I fired an email back to my cousin with the link to Snopes. A few minutes later, she sent out an apologetic letter to let the people on her mailing list know that the story was not true. Hopefully the information was sent out soon enough to keep others from forwarding the message along. I’m not mad at my cousin in any way, since I am sure that most of us have been guilty of accidentally forwarding inaccurate information, but it pays to spend a bit of time to check things out first.

I’ve written before about how it is a good idea to be patient when news comes out. It’s very possible that the initial news reports are inaccurate or misunderstood. This happened when a premature report went out that the West Virginia miners had been found, and everyone assumed that they had been found alive. People were anxious for any news, so the report flashed around the globe. But hopes were dashed when the full, tragic story came out. A bit of patience would have avoided some of the heartache, but I understand that people in the news industry want to publish first.

Recently I heard an Air America Radio host report with bubbly glee that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the FBI. She promptly went into a long rant about all the horrible, evil things that Speaker Hastert has done. Why, he even took campaign contribution money from Jack Abramoff! *gasp* Interestingly enough, within ten minutes I was at my computer and pulling up a Reuters report debunking the Speaker Hastert story, citing the U.S. Justice Department in opposition to the “Federal officials” quoted in the ABC News story. If the latter proves to be the case, then my basic rule of thumb of being a bit patient before flying off the handle has again worked out to be a good rule. In this case, the talk radio host doesn’t have to be embarrassed for reporting the story, but the people responsible for filing the story in the first place should be highly embarrassed.

Finally, we come to the story of Jessie or Jesse MacBeth. Mr. MacBeth came forward, representing himself as a veteran of the Iraq war, a Ranger, and a member of Special Forces. He spoke in a long taped interview for the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization, claiming to have committed horrible acts while under orders.

But in the Internet age, false news just doesn’t last long without being debunked. The Blogosphere quickly looked at MacBeth’s service photograph in the video and spotted errors in his uniform. The Army has stated that it has no record of MacBeth ever having served in any capacity. Since the information debunking MacBeth has come out, sites that hyped the interview have vanished, the interview video is gone, and other MacBeth webpages are quietly disappearing. Even the Iraq Veterans Against the War people are backing off. You can read more about the debunking of MacBeth at Michelle Malkin’s site and as a Hot Air video.

Did you hear the wonderful news that came out over the weekend? If you actually heard that Iraq now has a permanent government, it was probably buried under reports of road-side bombs exploded and servicemen killed. Ralph Peters wrote up a great summary in his New York Post article of where we are in our war on terror.

* The mainstream media said it couldn’t be done, so the Iraqis did it: Under new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, they formed a permanent government based on free elections. (Those free elections were supposed to be impossible, too – remember?)

Yes, Iraq could still break into bloody bits. But it hasn’t, despite ceaseless predictions of doom. Now the great danger isn’t from terrorists but from a premature troop draw-down before our midterm elections. We could throw it all away over a few congressional seats.

We are winning. But we can still lose if the cowards gain control and pull our talented service men and women from their assigned posts. Ralph continues with this theme:

* Al Qaeda has been broken. Yes, its remnants remain deadly. Yes, autonomous terror cells pose a growing threat. But the organization behind 9/11 has seen its surviving leaders driven into caves and remote villages where they live in constant fear. Islamist terror may have moved beyond al Qaeda, but our government and our military deserve credit for shattering the greatest international terror ring in history.

We have done incredible damage to al-Qaeda, but we can still lose this fight if our will as a nation to combat this evil is sapped away by negative news and political wimps. He finishes up with the following:

Plenty remains to be done. We must see our Iraq mission through to the end – unless the Iraqis fail themselves. We must restore integrity and common sense to our foreign policy by ceasing to pretend that the Saudis are our friends and by living up to our rhetoric about support for democracy. And we need to take a very hard line on China’s currency manipulation and cheating on trade.

Still, any fair-minded review of the last several years of American engagement abroad would conclude that, despite painful mistakes, we’ve changed the world for the better. The results have been imperfect, as such results always will be. But the bewildering sense of gloom and doom fostered my many in the media is as unjustified as it is corrosive.

Our global report card right now? A for effort. B for results. C for consistency. D for media integrity. And F for domestic political responsibility.

We haven’t been perfect in our fight against the terrorists, but we have achieved great things with our allies. 50 million people now live out from under the thumb of dictators, and a permanent government now sits in Iraq that was freely elected by the people. The nay-sayers said it couldn’t be done, but the Iraqis have shown that they can. Has President Bush handled everything perfectly? No, but he has done a better job than any of the alternatives.

And I can live with that.

The United States is a nation that is open to immigration, as opposed to Mexico. Little Green Footballs points to a news story about the differences between the U.S. and Mexico when it comes to immigration:

The foreign-born make up just 0.5 percent of Mexico’s 105 million people, compared with about 13 percent in the United States, which has a total population of 299 million. Mexico grants citizenship to about 3,000 people a year, compared to the U.S. average of almost a half million.

This article starts off, interestingly enough with a dateline of Mexico City, talking about how Mexico limits its immigrants.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger had migrated to Mexico instead of the United States, he couldn’t be a governor. If Argentina native Sergio Villanueva, firefighter hero of the Sept. 11 attacks, had moved to Tecate instead of New York, he wouldn’t have been allowed on the force.

Even as Mexico presses the United States to grant unrestricted citizenship to millions of undocumented Mexican migrants, its officials at times calling U.S. policies “xenophobic,” Mexico places daunting limitations on anyone born outside its territory.

In the United States, only two posts — the presidency and vice presidency — are reserved for the native born.

In Mexico, non-natives are banned from those and thousands of other jobs, even if they are legal, naturalized citizens.

I’ve written about the problems Mexico has on its own southern border, but I can’t help but dream of a state of reciprocity. In my dream, President Bush gives Presidente Fox a phone call and tells him that the U.S. will get rid of all its repressive laws about immigration and implements here in the U.S. the same sort of laws that Mexico uses for her own immigrants. After all, if these laws work so well in Mexico for the Guatemalans crossing the border, then the same type of laws should be equally good here in the U.S. for the Mexicans crossing our border.

But we won’t because we actually like legal immigrants here in the U.S.