The Growth of the Soil
Thursday, March 31, 2005
The American Taliban Exposed
n. pl. mo·ral·i·ties

1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality.
3. Virtuous conduct.
4. A rule or lesson in moral conduct.


1. A set of principles of right conduct.
2. A theory or a system of moral values: “An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain” (Gregg Easterbrook).
2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
OK, I admit it. The premature death of Simon's blog has left me, well, glum. I find that my days aren’t nearly as exciting now that I’m not engaging the great problems and triumphs of our times. Getting picked on by Cyetain was also kind of fun too, if only to shed light on what a terribly depressed and irrational lot radical lefties are these days. Did I say “these days”? Forgive me. Maybe it’s just the case that recent events have allowed their views to rise above the water line (so to speak), and they have always, and will always, be as such.

So, I have hijacked this blog until Simon reformats the thing. Give me your thoughts, or wallow in benign ignorance! (picture me holding you up with a pen...)

The article I have linked to is a perfect caricature of modern moral relativism, which I believe is in part responsible for the recent electoral troubles of the Democratic Party. Middle America doesn’t frame it as such, but like Justice Potter Stewart, they know it when they see it. Quindlen is not only saying there is no “Culture of Life” (a prima fascia ridiculous claim), she is saying that all personal moral codes are relative, and thus equal: My moral code is as good as your moral code, which is as good as Idi Amin’s moral code.

This, of course, is rubbish. It is also a disaster for human dignity.

A moralist perspective believes deeply that life is a gift, and that not even the owner of that gift has the right to give it away. The case of Terri Schiavo is tragic, beginning with the fact that many Americans, their moral compass demagnetized by years of liberal browbeating, now place personal convenience and pragmatism over life.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
The End Has No End
The time has come to put GOTS in its current form to bed. I started the site in January with the goal of creating a forum in which people who have influenced my thinking could have an opportunity to influence each other. There have been some great posts, and a few exchanges that made me happy that I gave this a try. On balance, however, I think this little experiment has run its course. Too often, the site has devolved into partisan bickering, opposition-baiting, and name calling. Simply put, I’m bored with it, and I bet you are too.

To everyone who contributed, I really appreciate the time and effort that you put into it. I, for one, often found my positions challenged or strengthened by what I found posted here.

Now, I said before that my plan was to put GOTS in its current form to bed. So, what’s next? I am going to leave the site as-is for a couple of days so that anyone who has contributed has time to log some final thoughts and copy anything that they would like to save off the site. Early next week, I will be removing all contributors from the site and starting something new. For the immediate future, I will probably be the sole contributor to the site, posting a piece ever other day or so. In the meantime, I will be trying to cultivate four to five regular contributors of short essays on politics, art, film, whatever.

I have not thought the structure of the site through completely, but I can promise that it will not be the combat zone that it is now. It is my guess that a few potential contributors were scared off by the thought of engaging in the Ultimate Fighting Championship that this site has become. If that is so, I hope that you will seriously consider contributing to the site in its new form.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Pop Quiz Hotshots
OK, a few question to get your minds thinking:

A) All things being equal, do you prefer to receive a dollar today, or a dollar a year from now?

B) Assuming that the interest rate is 3.8%, would you prefer $3.50 today or $3.63 a year from now?

C) Let’s say I owe you $10.00 in three years, and that the interest rate is again 3.8% (assume that it's 3.8% for all three years). Which do you prefer, $10.00 three years from now or $8.94 today?

Understanding the answers to these questions is key to understanding a part of the debate over Social Security.
Friday, March 11, 2005
President Participates in Social Security Conversation in Alabama


THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something about the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a Thrift Savings Plan that has a mix of stocks and bonds?

MS. WEBSTER: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, how hard was that to learn how to do that?

MS. WEBSTER: And I chose the safe plan, government bonds. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's all right. Well, not so safe, unless we fix the deficit. But other than that -- (laughter). We're fixing the deficit. (Applause.)



The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in supressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

-14th. Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Section 4.



"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

-Presidential Oath of Office

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Michelle Malkin on Giuliana Sgrena

Michelle Malkin does not have many fans here, I know that. But she makes a good point regarding the Sgrena story, more forcefully than I've seen it stated anywhere else.
The scandal is not that an anti-war propagandist has accused the U.S. of targeting journalists. That's par for the course. (Yes, hello again, Eason Jordan.)

The scandal is not that mainstream media sympathizers are blaming our military and dredging up every last shooting accident along the treacherous routes to Baghdad Airport. Again, no surprise here.

The scandal is that Italy—our reputed ally in the global War on Terror — negotiated with Sgrena's Islamist kidnappers and may have forked over a massive ransom to cutthroats for Sgrena's release.

Where is the uproar over this Islamist insurgency subsidy plan?

I hope that behind the scenes, we're letting Italy know how we feel about this practice. But instead of joining the world chorus in shaming ourselves, I would appreciate it if someone other than a far-right pundit were screaming mad about this apparent Italian policy.

Meet Steven den Beste

Yeah, it's a little late, since he "retired" as a blogger over a year ago. But his site is still up, and it's worth reading, maybe now more than ever. The link in the title is to an outline he wrote of the strategic situation in the Middle East vis a vis the US in July 2003. Follow the links to some of his other musings on the subject. Events have been kind to his insights and predictions.

Somewhat relatedly, there's a meme making the rounds these days in many of the begrudgingly appreciative pieces on Bush's foreign policy. It's not new, but it appears reinvigorated--a gloomy outlook on potential emerging democracies in the Middle East, particularly in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The main concern, or reasons for pessimism, can be summarized as:

-The Islamists might win in a free election
-Even if the Islamists do not win, an anti-American government might win

Apart from the likelihood of these predicted scenarios, which is a subject for debate, other questions must be asked.

-Is this necessarily a terrible short/medium term outcome for the US, as long as a civic infrastructure is being created that will enable future free elections?

-Is this counter to our objectives of ending tyranny and eliminating root causes of terrorism in the region, in the longer term?

More broadly speaking, I wonder whether the fear of Islamist electoral victories is something to act on. Acknowledging that such victories are and well should be a terrifying proposition to many of the region's inhabitants, what if these opposition forces have the means (electoral process, reasonably free media, the internet) to combat Islamism through the political process? Islamism's confrontation with reasonably free and fair electoral politics, a political battle with a more liberal Arab/Muslim ideology, is an essential step in the transformation of the region. I don't see another way to a homegrown democracy there, even if the politically and culturally regressive aspects of Islamism, especially regarding individual liberties and women's rights, are unappealing.

UPDATE: This Onion piece is sorta relevant. Headline: "Bush Announces Iraq Exit Strategy: 'We'll Go Through Iran'"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a sobering piece from an Iraqi blogger about democracy's prospects in Iraq. I would quote from it, but I deleted the intro stuff, and don't want my post to run much longer. Read this one.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Politics In Art
I've been troubled by a response to some images that I posted a few days ago (see "Color Me Gone"). I have the impression that all backhanded remarks on this site are designed to be provocative, so I'm providing this link (cut and paste may be necessary):

I think it speaks for itself.

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