Cheap Seats Online 2015
Cheap Seats 092414
By Rich Trzupek
So, apparently, the truth-challenged theocrats who run the intolerant nation of Iran have come to agreement with a deal that will allow the west to enforce a treaty that ensures that Iran is unable to produce nuclear weaponry in the future. Or so the story goes.
Negotiations with Iran necessarily involved some aspects of self-deception. For the western powers, a prerequisite was the assumption that Iran was working toward some sort of legitimate, non-aggressive, goal by developing a nuclear program. Why in the world would anyone attempt to limit, rather than eliminate, this tyrannical theocracy’s nuclear capabilities unless that theocracy could establish some peaceful reason for needing that technology?
In reality, everyone – including the Obama administration – clearly understands that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are solely about the development of weapons of mass destruction. Sitting atop a virtually unlimited pool of oil, Iran doesn’t suffer from a desperate need of alternative forms of energy.
What of non-energy related nuclear science applications, like within the medical realm for example? Iran could obtain the isotopes needed for such work far more cheaply and much more easily by purchasing the material from established nuclear nations like Russia, France or the United States.
Accordingly, we play this game. We pretend that Iran has legitimate need of a nuclear program and Iran pretends to be shocked that anyone would think otherwise.
The President has pledged that Iran won’t get the bomb on his watch, a promise that would be comforting but for Obama’s failure to follow through on such pledges in the past. Remember that line in the sand that Assad was forbidden to cross, for example? Not only did the Syrian thug cross it, he positively danced his way across.
I take the President at his word when he says that he doesn’t want Iran to get the bomb, in other words, but I have long ago lost any confidence that the guy knows what the hell he’s doing, particularly when it comes to dealing with foreign thugs. This is the administration who presented Russia with a “Reset” button for cripes sake. How’s that been working out?
Part of the problem is that the administration, and many of the left, pretend there are only two ways to keep Iran from getting the bomb: reach an agreement, or bomb ‘em. But, there is a third way, one that we know works: keep the sanctions in place and, if possible, tighten ‘em up.
Our message should have been “dismantle your nuclear infrastructure or we’ll double down on sanctions. You think your economy is up crap-creek now? Just wait.”
Consider that about eighty percent of Iran’s populace are less than thirty years old. How long do you think young people like that are going to put up being ruled by eighty year old mullahs forcing a medieval form of theocracy down their throats if their economy continues to go to hell in an handbasket.
Pressing forward with the sanctions would continue to destabilize the mullahs and – just as we saw in the USSR at the end of the last century – people will eventually rise up against tyrants when conditions get bad enough. Regime change represents our best chance of getting Iran to abandon its nuclear program and the sanctions represent our best chance of fermenting enough unrest to force regime change.
Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be stuck with this silly deal, which does nothing to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Instead, we have to hope that Iran will keep its promise not to use it.
And once the sanctions have been lifted, how long do you think it will be before the mullahs start to refuse international inspection? I’d give it like a month.
The people that will ultimately pay the price for this idiocy are the citizens of Israel. Unless Bibi takes action, which – once this deal starts to fall apart – I’d wager he’ll do in a heartbeat.
By Rich Trzupek
It is pretty clear at this point that the tragedy that cost 150 people their lives when a Germanwings airliner crashed in the French Alps was the deliberate act of a mentally disturbed co-pilot.
One needs no more evidence than the fact that First Officer Andreas Lubitz set the auto-pilot on the doomed Airbus 320 to descend to 100 feet and then deliberately locked Captain Patrick Sonderheimber out of the cockpit as the plane plunged to earth. Sane people don’t do such things, by definition.
Further details continue to emerge. It appears that Lubitz suffered from depression in the past and that his long-time girl-friend had left him the day before the crash. Vision problems that could have resulted in Lubitz losing his pilot’s license may have exacerbated a fragile mental state. His girl-friend chillingly recalls how Lubitz was determined to do something – presumably anything – that would make the name Andreas Lubitz resonate through history.
Lubitz succeeded in his supposed quest for immortality. Air carriers have already instituted new procedures, and will continue to institute such procedures, to prevent a disturbed pilot from being able to commit mass murder in the future.
As is, and has always been the case, the response to tragedy will be imperfect. Whatever corrections and protections we make as a society, evil will find a way around them. It has ever been so and will ever be thus.
Yet, the knowledge that we mere humans are incapable of achieving perfection should never persuade us to abandon the pursuit.
In that spirit, the Great Lesson that we ought to have learned from the Germanwings tragedy is the same one that we should have learned from the Newtown massacre and Columbine slaughter and the Egyptair crash – to name but a few examples: we need to take mental illness more seriously.
I make that statement as one who has to deal with mental illness. Notice I didn’t say “suffers from mental illness”, because I think that use of a pejorative like “suffers” demands a victim status that is ultimately counter-productive. There is little practical difference between mental illnesses and breaking a bone. Both are painful, disruptive and – thanks to today’s medical miracles – ultimately treatable.
My particular mental illness is defined as “anxiety disorder”, which is a form of bi-polar disorder that makes the un-medicated me somewhat manic/depressive and acutely prone to panic attacks. But for modern medicine, my condition would have long ago relegated me to hiding in my home, too terrified to deal with any of the uncertainties of real life. Would have kept me out of The Examiner as well, which would have pleased some percentage of readers!
After being diagnosed in my early twenties, I first did what many of us who suffer from mental disorder did: I hid in the shadows. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know. Over time, I came to understand that was stupidity to the nth degree. Either this problem was or was not of my making. If it was a weakness, then equally weak individuals should know that medicine could offer strength. If it was not a weakness, then equally afflicted individuals should know that medicine could offer a cure. Didn’t matter either way. The net result was the same.
Accordingly, I became an unapologetic champion of mental health. As part of my everyday dealings with my fellow humans – whenever it comes up – I never, ever hide the details of my particular mental health story. Not because I think my story makes me a hero, which it doesn’t, but because I am sure that the world will be a better place the more we accept the simple fact that mental illness is just another form of illness.
Tragedies like Newtown and Germanwings are the direct result of society tippy-toeing around mental health issues. As a civilized society, we tend to protect the individual’s right of privacy with regard to mental health problems. That’s noble – and understandable – but the fact is that mentally-unstable people in positions to endanger lives, whether they be fellow students or airline pilots, should be subject to mental health evaluations before they are put in positions where they can endanger other lives. Let’s stop worrying about the stupid stigma issues and start focusing on the mental health of those people who are in a position to cause hurt.
Bet on Bibi
By Rich Trzupek
To the consternation of the left, including the President of the United States, Benjamin Netanyahu not only won virtual re-election as Israel’s Prime Minister, he absolutely trounced the competition. What are we to make of this?
The first thing that comes immediately to mind is that polling today is beset by corruption or incompetence or both. Pre-election polling in Israel almost universally predicted that Netanyahu’s Likud Party was going to lose a disturbing number of seats in the Knesset, making it difficult – if not impossible – for Likud to put together a coalition that would allow Bibi to retain office as Prime Minister.
That is of course not what happened. Likud came of the election stronger than before, having captured 30 seats in the Knesset, more than any other party, putting it in a commanding position as negotiations to form the next government begins.
How did professional pollsters miss this result? I’m no polling expert, but I suspect that polling in Israel suffers from the same sort of problems that beset polling in America. These days it seems that polls are often used as a political tool, reflecting the pollster’s desires rather than reality. Does that happen consciously or unconsciously? Your guess is as good as mine.
The other, and much more consequential, result of this result involves President Obama’s reaction to it. I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories that frame Obama as a closet Muslim and/or anti-Semite who wouldn’t be at all disturbed if Israel were wiped off the map. I think he wants Israel to survive and believes it has a right to do so.
But, I do believe that the President is naïve in his approach to foreign affairs. He appears to sincerely believe in the fiction that, but for Bibi, a “two-state” solution could finally bring a lasting peace to the Middle East.
That’s utter nonsense. The two-state solution requires reaching an agreement with Hamas and any deal involving Hamas won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. Don’t take my word for it, take Hamas’. The following comes directly from their charter:
“Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it.” Hamas pledges to wage “jihad in the face of the oppressors, in order to deliver the land and the believers from their filth, impurity, and evil” in order “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”
Given the opportunity, Hamas will happily agree to a two-state solution and then they’ll do exactly what they have always done: everything possible to destroy Israel. The state that used millions of dollars’ worth of construction supplies sent to it to build housing to instead construct dozens of terrorist tunnels cannot be trusted any farther than I can throw a Buick.
Bibi knows that. The majority of Israelis know that. Moderate Arab states like Jordan and Egypt know that. They also all know that Iran cannot be trusted to follow through on any nuclear deal to which it purports to agree.
Our current President is a petulant fellow. When he doesn’t get his way, he has marked a tendency to strike out – defying Congress, the Constitution, public opinion or whatever. Now that it appears certain that Bibi will stay in power, there is noise that the administration will do what had previously been unthinkable: abandon Israel at the UN.
Heretofore, the United States has exercised our veto power in the UN Security Council to defeat any attempts to impose a Middle East “solution” upon Israel. There is talk – and one hopes to God these rumors are unfounded – that the President will reverse that policy in the near future.
As a practical matter, no UN resolution cannot compel a sovereign state to agree to anything, so abandoning Israel in the UN won’t make any immediate difference in Mideast affairs. But, such a slight will have long-term consequences, every bit as disastrous as Obama’s decision – made against the advice of just about every military and policy leader – to entirely evacuate US troops from Iraq rather than negotiate a new status of forces agreement.
Once the nut-jobs perceive that America is no longer dedicated to preserving Israel’s sovereignty, they will grow ever more emboldened and aggressive. Fortunately for the Israeli people, they have a leader who is up to that challenge, even if we do not.
By Rich Trzupek
Last week, liberal Senators Markey, Boxer and Whitehouse sent out an intimidating letter to the Heartland Institute, an organization I proudly support, and ninety nine other businesses and institutions that dare to question global warming alarmism. Being a bit disgusted by their strong-arm tactics, I decided a reply was in order. Here’s what I wrote:
Senators Markey, Boxer and Whitehouse,
As a scientist who has volunteered my time and talent to help the Heartland Institute defend the tradition of open scientific discourse, I was saddened by the intimidating tone of the letters that you sent to Heartland and 99 other businesses and institutions that have dared to question “global warming” heterodoxy. As an American, I was appalled.
How dare you. How dare anyone who has been elected to represent the best interests of the populace – not just that portion of the populace that can be counted on to preserve their exalted position in government – engage in this sort of bullying. I know, as you know – but as I am certain you will never have the courage or integrity to admit – that these letters did not result from desperate personal intellectual wrestling with the nuances and details of climate policy. The average American is not yet so dim nor so cowed as to believe that you have any personal grasp of these issues.
I believe, and I am sure the majority of Americans believe – including your supporters – that these letters were generated at the behest of and largely authored by environmental advocacy groups that have a vested interest in promoting “global warming” hysteria, with suitable editing by your PR staffers. I very much believe that about the only thing that can be attributed to you personally regarding these letters is your signatures. If you would wish to dispute that, I invite you to discuss the “settled science” of “climate change” with me, with Joe Bast of Heartland, with Dr. Roy Spencer, with Dr. Richard Lindzen or with any of the cadre of public-policy experts and climatologists who dare to disagree with “climate change” heterodoxy in any public forum.
You won’t do that of course. For that would force you to confront the greatest irony of climate change heterodoxy. You insist that climate change is the supremely important issue of our age, but you abrogate any personal responsibility to understand the science behind the claim – except for the most rudimentary (and therefore most meaningless) aspects of the issue.
I do not understand how or why your personal refusal to personally learn the detailed scientific nuances of an issue that you say is so tremendously important to the future of civilization can be justified. If I thought planet Earth were in danger of extinction from pixie dust, I sure as hell would personally do everything I could to become an expert on the sources and effects of pixie dust. Most everyone on your side of the global-warming issue defaults to “the science is settled” BS, which is simply a way of making sure that you don’t have to personally understand the science while you create politically-profitable alarm.
And when we talk about the science being settled or not, let’s be clear on what that means.
1) That increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will increase the amount of energy (heat) retained in the atmosphere,
2) That the increased use of fossil fuels to generate energy has, and will continue to, increase the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Bill Nye, the Science Lie, and Al Gore, the Warming Bore, have spent an enormous amount of time and money attempting to convince whom they seem to assume to be a moronic public of these two well-established facts. Everybody understands that everybody understands those two points, except global warming disaster fanatics and their pliable pawns in the mainstream media and left-wing politicos who try to convince the populace that “deniers” reject these facts.
Not so. The salient questions are: 1) how significant is the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and 2) what can we do about those increasing concentrations. There is compelling case to be made that the answer to question one is “not much” and the failure of alarmist models to predict the global temperature stability we have experienced over the last eighteen years strongly supports that case.
The answer to question two, as far as America is concerned, is almost certainly: “nothing”. For more than a decade, the U.S. has made tortuous efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through a jumbled, ill-conceived, combination of federal, regional and state initiatives. Those efforts have clearly been successful. USEPA data clearly shows that domestic greenhouse gas emissions have continually declined since 2008, and anyone familiar with this ill-conceived jumble of federal, regional and state initiatives in place knows that trend will continue well past 2020.
But, to what end? If you insist that greenhouse gases are pollutants, then you must admit that they are global pollutants and the data shows that the massive reductions the United States has made, and will continue to make, have no discernable effect on global concentrations of greenhouse gases. The bottom line is that if your concern about the supposedly catastrophic effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were sincere, you would spend your time and energy to find ways to reduce emissions in China and India, rather than bullying independent organizations like Heartland and courageous scientists like Dr. Soon who dare to expose the appalling incompetence of alarmist climate scientists and the hypocrisy of those who support them.
As a final note, I wish to make you aware that this letter will appear in Examiner Publications, a suburban chain of newspapers published in the Chicago suburbs. If you should wish to offer a reply, we will be happy to do publish it.
By Rich Trzupek
Tinsel Town is full of insufferable people, but few are quite as unendurable as Sean Penn. The uber-lib Penn raised a few – mostly conservative – eyebrows when he said “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” before announcing that Birdman, directed by Mexican-born Alejandro Inarritu, won the Academy Award for best picture.
Having mostly created the modern-day atmosphere in which no one can say anything remotely negative about anyone else on planet earth, even in jest, without an eruption of righteous outrage, liberals should not have been surprised that conservatives went down that familiar path.
“Wasn’t that a racist remark?” “Would a conservative get away with saying something like that?” Etc.
The answers to the above two questions are both “no”, but who cares? Penn was attempting to be ironic, a defining behavior of the especially smug pseudo-intellectual. Rather than reacting with manufactured shock – which Penn certainly feeds off of – conservatives should have answered with a yawn. Nothing bugs a prima donna more than being ignored.
Penn responded to the criticism in his typical annoying style. According to an AP story, he had no regrets:
"I'm always surprised by flagrant stupidity. I keep having more hope," said Penn of the widespread outrage that followed the moment.
"The fact is that I understand it. I see it all the time. When somebody sees the opportunity to frame something in the comfort that it will be common that they can do that and they can get a group to look at them and that they will take on those positions and never really think about what it was," he added.
"I have absolutely no apologies," Penn said with calm resolve.
I hope the AP reporter’s recorder was having a bad day and Penn didn’t actually say all that. The first two sentences flatly contradict each other and the next three are gobbelty-gook that suggests he’s having flashbacks to his “Fast Times” days. Only the last sentence is evidence of functional grey-matter.
Having warmed up, Penn then went for the throat.
"In fact, I have a big (expletive) you for every ... anybody who is so stupid not to have gotten the irony when you've got a country that is so xenophobic," he said. "If they had their way, you wouldn't have great filmmakers like Alejandro working in this country. Thank God we do."
One presumes that Penn’s vitriol is directed at those of us who believe that America’s immigration system is badly broken, especially with respect to our southern border.
The real irony is that Penn doesn’t understand that his remark is actually supports us horrible right-wingers on the immigration issue. If Inarritu has a green card, then we know that he went through the legal immigration process, which all those of us opposed to porous borders want.
But, in the lib world of identity politics, you are defined by your “group”, not yourself, thus opposition has to be racially-based. We’re xenophobes. Right.
We are, in fact, the most welcoming nation on earth, a role that we have filled for the better part of two centuries. The melting pot that is America exists precisely because, as a matter of public policy, we make America open to everyone.
Unfortunately, while the process of integration into the American fabric used to be orderly and controlled, in modern times it’s turned into chaos. That may be OK to an airhead like Penn who has no idea how lucky he is to live in our “xenophobic” prison camp of a country, but a lot of the rest of us are getting tired of anarchy.
By Rich Trzupek
For many of us, it’s a matter of faith or upbringing or both, the idea is the same: if you have the ability and opportunity to help someone in need, it is your duty to do so. It’s a guiding principle in the way many people live their lives.
So, for example, if I’m driving home and I see someone struggling to get their car out of a snowbank, and there is no more pressing demand on my time, I believe it is my obligation to pull over and lend hand as long as I am physically capable to doing so.
This simple principle is at the core of what has made the United States a special nation, for we have acted time and again to fulfill our obligation to help people in trouble.
If an earthquake devastates some portion of the world, American aid – both public and private – pours into the region. We have saved millions of lives in Africa combating AIDS in that beleaguered continent. The list goes on and on.
Yet, there is a group of people in dire trouble that we could help, but whom our government has chosen not to help in any meaningful way. And yet, thanks to a very special group of selfless heroes, there is hope.
It is estimated that there were once as many of 1.5 million Assyrian Christians living in Iraq. Today, thanks to systematic persecution by the thugs that call themselves ISIS, that population has dwindled to less than 400,000 according to best estimates.
The President’s solution of playing whack-a-mole with airstrikes is clearly having very little effect and the rest of the international community is happy to ignore the situation. The thugs are winning and their ranks are growing and one of the world’s most ancient Christian sects is being systematically destroyed as a result.
In steps Matthew VanDyke.
VanDyke, a filmmaker, is the founder and CEO of Sons Of Liberty International (SOLI), an organization dedicated to helping oppressed populations defend themselves from murderous zealots.
“The international system has failed [Christian] communities around the world in recent years," VanDyke said in an interview published by Fox News. "Christianity is about to be wiped out in Iraq.”
“They are down to less than 400,000. Many of those who have left will never return. They need to demonstrate that they can maintain and be responsible for their own security to encourage their people to stay – or else, within a couple of generations, there won’t be any Christians left in Iraq. This is their last chance.”
SOLI volunteers, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been training Iraqi Christians to defend themselves – free of charge. The first battalion of what is being called the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit (NPU) was recently formed and more are on the way.
That’s bad news for the fanatics, but a glimpse of hope to a long-suffering populace. Nobody should be persecuted for practicing their faith in this day and age, nor should anyone be driven from their home of lose their life because of it.
It is said that God helps those who help themselves. Thanks to VanDyke and his fellow heroes at SOLI, Assyrian Christians will have the opportunity to do just that. If you make one donation this year, I hope you will join me by going to sonsoflibertyinternational.com and making a contribution in the defense of freedom and tolerance.
By Rich Trzupek
Environmentalists have a big problem: the planet isn’t heating up the way they said it would. As we discussed previously, the alarmist crowd has a variety of ways to try and explain away “the pause”.
One is to say that the lack of any statistically significant warming over the past eighteen years doesn’t mean anything in the long term – warming will return, just you wait and see!
Another is to say that all kinds of energy is being stored in the oceans and when the Pacific releases it during the next El Nino there will be hell to pay.
There are other explanations and excuses, but they’re all diversions designed to stop up from focusing on a simple truth: the climate models alarmists have relied upon have not gotten it right for the better part of two decades.
That’s embarrassing and the alarmists’ stubborn instance that their models are accurate in the face of increasing evidence to the contrary erodes their credibility every year, just as their continued push to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in America, when even the most ardent alarmist is forced to acknowledge that those reductions would have no practical effect.
I imagine the enviro-left is feeling more and more backed into a corner and, feeling threatened, they have lashed out, targeting a decent, honest man for a vile smear campaign.
I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Willie Soon and to hear him speak. He is a personable, modest scientist of unquestionable personal integrity. To see him slandered by a couple of jerks working for the New York Times, acting as tools for massive, and massively well-funded, Big Green industry is loathsome. “Despicable” doesn’t began to cover it.
The essence of the Times’ story is that Soon’s work – some of which disputes Big Green “climate change” orthodoxy – cannot be trusted because Soon is in the pocket of big energy companies.
The Times figured this out because Greenpeace submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that showed that Soon has been awarded over $1.2 million in grant money from energy companies over the past decade.
That was something of a waste of effort, since – to my knowledge – Soon has never denied that his research benefited from those grants. The flip side of that is that Willie’s bank accounts didn’t swell to the tune of $1.2 million over the course of a decade because of these grants. Only a portion – less than half – of the grant money awarded went to pay Dr. Soon.
Further, if we were able to line up all of the grants awarded to “climate change” researchers by government, left-wing donors and left-wing foundations against those grants awarded to brave contrarians like Soon, I am confident the numbers wouldn’t be anywhere near close. The vast majority of cash that goes into “climate change” research goes to and comes from organizations who have a vital, vested interest in pushing global warming hysteria. But, of course, the Times doesn’t have a problem with that.
But the most important part of this non-story is that it’s ultimately pointless. Casting aspersions at how a scientific study is funded has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of said study. The Times, in classic alarmist-apologist fashion, doesn’t even bother to deal with the science, except to trot out global-warming head cheerleader Gavin Schmidt of the notorious alarmist website Real Climate (an association the Times doesn’t disclose, of course) to crap on Willie’s work.
Soon’s biggest sin, it would appear, is to co-author a study entitled “Why Models Run Hot: Results from and Irreducibly Simple Climate Model” along with Lord Christopher Monckton, Dr. David Legates and “Statistician to the Stars” William Briggs. That study, which has received a lot of attention, has been able to predict actual climatic changes far better than any of the alarmist models and – horror of horrors – predicts far less warming in the future, to the extent that it would be almost impossible for a reasonable person to worry about greenhouse gas emissions moving forward.
Can’t have that, not with billions of “climate change” research dollars at stake. So, the Chicken-Little crowd, unable to combat the message, resorts to the tried and true strategy of attacking the messenger instead.
The more things change…
By Rich Trzupek
President Obama never ceases to amaze. Every time you think he can’t say something more condescendingly offensive, he manages to raise (or lower) the bar yet again.
A couple of weeks ago, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Prez grudgingly admitted that there may be a certain group of fanatic, murderous, ideologues whom he seems unable to name, but whom we here in the Cheap Seats refer to as the Lollipop Guild, who represent a certain threat to peace, civilization and the concept of individual freedom. Maybe.
However, that very painful admission (sort of) was immediately followed by the professorial finger-wagging that this President so adores. He admonished us not to “get on our high horse”, since Christians were guilty of atrocities during the Crusades and the Inquisition.
There are a couple of rather obvious problems here that one would hope a Harvard-educated intellectual would be capable of coming to grips with. The first, and most obvious, is the fallacy of finding the lowest-common denominator to justify abhorrent behavior.
Hitler is a particularly useful example of this phenomenon. Find some world-leader behaving badly and, inevitably, some idiot who wants to justify the tyrant’s actions will do so by saying that said tyrant isn’t as bad as Hitler. Well, hot dog!
In Obama’s case it gets even more ridiculous, since he had to time-travel several hundred years in his rather pathetic attempt to make a moral-equivalency argument.
Let’s start with the Crusades. We haven’t had a Crusade for many a century, which seems kind of relevant when western culture is living in the present and a significant portion of the Lollipop Guild is living in medieval times.
It’s also important to note that the Crusades were a reaction to Islamic imperialism. In the latter half of his rule, the prophet Muhammad adopted an expansionist, aggressively militaristic policy toward his Jewish and Christian neighbors. Having failed to cajole them into conversion to Islam, the prophet decided that the sword was the answer and his successors kept up with that program.
The Christian response to Muslim expansionism was the same as virtually every other expansionist push in history: Christians pushed back. While doing so, Christians undoubtedly committed atrocities, as did Muslims. It was the Middle Ages and war and atrocities went hand in hand on all sides.
And the Inquisition? That was a part of a complex period of reform within Christianity. It wasn’t a part of which we Christians are particularly proud – looking back – but it’s ridiculous to consider the Inquisition in isolation, for it was a part of a larger movement in which the theocratic aspects of Christianity were thrown aside and the division between secular authority and religion began to form.
Islam has yet to experience a Reformation analogous to that which changed the relationship between Christians and secular authority forever. Instead, the Muslim version of the Inquisition dominates a wide swath of the Muslim world, centuries after that particular form of persecution disappeared from Western culture.
For the President of the United States to suggest that it is appropriate to compare Christian and Jewish sins hundreds of years old, committed in a time when such sins were commonplace, to the abominable behavior of modern-day thugs thumbing their noses at modern notions of freedom, liberty and self-determination is stupidity beyond belief.
The President’s dopey remarks do nothing to help the many moderate Muslims in the world to defeat the fanatics and establish a healthy division between church and state. Instead, Obama’s idiotic comparisons merely embolden the enemy to more acts of terror, suggesting that if we don’t exactly approve of acts of barbarism committed in the name of God, we at least understand them.
Asserting that kind of moral equivalency in the thirteenth century might have been justifiable. Doing so in the twenty first century is moronic beyond belief.
By Rich Trzupek
Veteran readers of the Cheap Seats know that though I pretend to be an expert in many, many areas, I’m really only an expert in one: air quality issues. Accordingly, when the news came out that the state of New York has decided to ban hydro-fracturing (aka: “fracking”) because of air quality concerns, I was naturally curious about the details.
The study that supposedly exposed the air quality issues associated with fracking was published at a website called Environmental Health and is publicly available. Here’s the url if you care to take a gander yourself: http://www.ehjournal.net/content/13/1/82
After reading the study I was amazed to find that it doesn’t have anything to do with fracking. Seriously. Nor do the authors claim that their study has anything to do with fracking.
Allow me to explain.
Fracking is a one-time event that occurs during well completion and typically lasts two to three days. Once fracking is finished, the well enters a production phase that can last for years. (In certain instances a well may be re-fracked after years of production if the operator determines that further stimulation of the formation will improve production).
Once a well goes into production there is nothing to distinguish a well that was hydro-fractured during completion from one that was not. The infrastructure, equipment, means of processing and other details of moving produced natural gas and petroleum products to market are exactly the same once a given well enters production.
The distinction is important because the study does not examine the impact of fracking operations on air quality. It examines the impact of activities and equipment associated with producing wells on air quality. While the authors of the study make rather tortuous attempts to link air quality impacts (such as they are) to fracking, none of the data collected can be linked to a hydro-fracturing event. The indictment here – and it is, in my opinion, a very weak indictment – is aimed at oil and natural gas production and transportation operations as a whole, not against fracking.
The authors claim to have found alarming concentrations of certain air pollutants that originate from equipment used to produce and transport natural gas. Some of these wells may have been fracked before they went into production, which – in the authors’ minds – creates a connection between fracking and these “dangerous” levels of air pollutants.
There are a couple of very basic errors here. First, none of the equipment that produced the pollutants found had anything to do with fracking. For example, many of the “hits” involved internal combustion engines that run compressors needed to move natural gas through a pipeline. Those compressors would exist whether or not wells upstream owe their birth to fracking or to conventional drilling.
Secondly, many of the “hits” resulted from sampling incredibly close to the exhaust of the (non-fracking related) equipment tied to the problematic pollutants. In the worst cases, samples were taken five meters from the exhaust of engines used to drive compressors.
As an air quality professional, I can guarantee you that if you grab an air sample five meters downwind of any source of combustion, you are going to find alarming concentrations of some nasty compounds. This is true whether the source is an industrial engine or a backyard barbecue or the chimney of a fireplace.
Those alarming concentrations would be an issue only if we spent our lifetime – or a significant portion thereof – five meters from the exhaust of an industrial engine or a backyard barbecue or the chimney of a fireplace. Most of us don’t do that, so this kind of chemo-paranoia is simply ridiculous.
I have written up a detailed critique of this anti-fracking study and my friends at the Heartland Institute are going to distribute it soon. If you have the time, check it out and you’ll start to understand the difference between real science and politically motivated junk science.
Free Speech? Pas en France
By Rich Trzupek
Yeah it was embarrassing. The supposed leader of the free world was conspicuously absent as the leaders of forty other nations marched arm in arm through Paris. Even liberals – with the exception of the biggest die-hards – expressed their chagrin over Obama’s no-show.
Let’s put that to the side for the moment. It was not the first time the Prez has embarrassed himself and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
The more interesting issue involves a basic question: why were all those people marching? That answer is not as simple as you think.
At one level, the Paris march was a gesture of defiance aimed at the Lollipop Guild. Some leaders even dared to associate the Guild with a deviant branch of a particular religion, something our dear leader would never do of course. But more of us are beginning to see a certain value in calling a spade a spade, not only in the west, but within the Guild’s sane and peaceful co-religionists, whatever religion that is.
I’m OK with that motivation and, to some extent, agree that it existed. It certainly motivated leaders like Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and the UK’s David Cameron. I doubt that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as leader of the terrorist group Hamas, shared their feelings.
It’s kind of puzzling isn’t it? Why would a thug like Abbas attend an event that demonized the actions of “freedom fighters” of the sort that Hamas has recruited, trained and supported on a routine basis?
If we dig down into the second, or perhaps third, layers of the story, Abbas’ attendance starts to make sense. Hamas exists because rich SOBs living in Muslim-led nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan funnel cash to them. Rich SOBS in Muslim-led nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan funnel cash to them because the west, especially (but not exclusively) European nations are unwilling to hold the de facto financers of terrorism accountable.
Abbas is no fool. He knows that Hamas can endure American opposition, however tepid under this particular administration. But, Hamas can’t survive if Europe started taking the Lollipop Guild seriously, for such a decision would lead to holding those who fund the Guild accountable and that would well and truly mean serious trouble for Hamas. So Abbas marched in “solidarity” with western values, though he could not care less about those values and would certainly not extend the freedoms he supposedly marched in favor of to the citizens of his own nation.
Abbas also understands, I think, that the publicly accepted motivation for the march was so much horse-puckey. In much of the media – mainstream, liberal and conservative – the Paris march was described as a demonstration in defense of free speech. Unfortunately, that was not true.
Free speech, as we in America understand it, does not exist in France. As Americans, we believe – and our Constitutions ordains – that free speech is an inherent right granted to us by God, a right that government may only restrict for the most compelling of reasons.
In France, free speech is a privilege, something the government “owns” and which it dispenses to the masses as it sees fit.
If you went to the Paris march, you were “free” to wear an “I am Charlie” T-shirt. However, if you chose to wear an “I am not Charlie” T-shirt, you were escorted away. If you chose to wear a T-shirt that the authorities deemed to be in support of the Lollipop Guild, you were likely arrested.
Today, French authorities are aggressively enforcing the nation’s laws against “hate speech” by arresting and prosecuting people who say or post words those authorities find offensive. I have little doubt that I would find those opinions equally offensive, but that’s hardly the point. Government should not be allowed to define “hate” any more than I should.
Last week I wrote that free speech cannot exist in the absence of satire. It’s equally true that free speech cannot exist unless we – every one of us – allows people to say things that certain individuals find objectionable. That’s the issue at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and it’s the principle that nations like France would do well to remember.
By Rich Trzupek
Last week’s horrific, disturbing events in Paris have given rise to a great deal of discussion around the world. Some heartfelt. Some thoughtful. Some utterly ridiculous. Let’s take a gander at four quotes I found especially note-worthy.
This, from journalist Claire Berlinski who was nearly caught in the crossfire herself and who witnessed the carnage after the murderers had finished their work. In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter she wrote this:
“The assailants are as yet at liberty. I hope they’ll be dead by the time you read this. But if not:. You want me too? Come get me. Because nothing short of killing me — and many more of my kind — will ever shut us up.”
“I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that,” Jon Stewart said, adding that “…those guys at Hedbo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons.”
Can’t add much to that either.
On the other hand, there were no shortage of fools and cowards tripping over themselves to blame the victim. As a Catholic, I was particularly disgusted by a cowering idiot by the name of Bill Donahue who is president of something called the “Catholic League” (which has no official affiliation with the church, I should add).
"Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures," Donahue wrote in a post. "What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them."
What unites the civilized world, Billy-boy, is revulsion over murdering a fellow human being over satire. Without satire, aimed at anyone or everyone, free speech cannot exist. Without free speech, freedom cannot exist. We Catholics have been the objects of countless satirical treatments in the entertainment world. Last time I checked, we don’t murder anybody over it. Be as offended as you like Billy-boy, but when murder is the response, the murder’s righteous indignation of perceived vulgarity, insults and blasphemy have no place in the discussion. Period.
Finally, we have ex-Vermont governor and liberal icon Howard Dean. Speaking on MSNBC, Dean had this to say about the perpetrators of the Paris massacre:
“You know, this is a chronic problem. I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else's life, that's not what the Koran says. Europe has an enormous radical problem. I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it's a cult.”
Dean took a lot of heat from my fellow libertarians and conservatives for those remarks. It may surprise you to learn that I am not among those critics. I’m no fan of Dean, who is about as loopy left on most issues as you one can get, but in this case I think he – like fellow lefties Jon Stewart and Bill Maher – are tortuously approaching the root of the problem: the existence of an organized gang of thugs who are a threat to western civilization and the very idea of liberty.
I don’t care what we call these thugs and, in my not-so-humble opinion, our endless, boring, pointless attempts to parse the crazies from the larger group of sane folks serves no purpose. Every time you say “Muslim extremists” or “Islamic terrorists” or the like, you have to spend the next five minutes carefully explaining that you understand that the Jihadists do not represent the average, mainstream Muslim who accepts the division between church and state and who isn’t trying to convert the world by force, etc.
The offensive part of those terms, for those who – like Dean – are offended by those terms and other like them are the “Muslim” and “Islam” parts. So let’s take such terms off the table. Let’s call this particular group of thugs something new. Let’s do as Dean suggests and call them a cult.
I’ll humbly suggest that we start calling them “The Lollipop Guild”. Nobody is using the title as far I know, and those little bastards in the Wizard of Oz acted like they couldn’t wait to take over the Emerald City if the Wiz turned his back on them.
So, how do we identify members of the new Lollipop Guild? For one, they like to kill people. They like that a lot. They also enslave people and they like to treat women like crap. They believe that their Guild Charter should take the place of every other form of government on earth. They will not be reasoned with and will not tolerate disagreement from anyone, of any creed, be that person Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or whatever. You either submit to Guild Law, or you lose your head.
I think we can all agree that the Lollipop Guild is a fargin evil organization and we should use every legal, civilized resource we can to render harmless Guild members and to isolate those nations that support the Guild. If we can be united to that purpose, the Guild’s days are numbered.
On Our Watch
By Rich Trzupek
On the day after Christmas, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters published a brilliant, compelling, heart-wrenching column about what’s going on in the Middle East. Peters, who was an army intelligence officer, is one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on radical Islam and he pulled no punches in a piece entitled “The Feast of Stephen: Middle East’s Persecuted Christians Need Our Help”.
He uses St. Stephen, whose feast day is celebrated on December 26, as the poignant centerpiece of his column. According to Christian doctrine, Stephen was the first martyr, choosing to be stoned to death rather than renouncing his belief in the Risen Christ. Unfortunately, Peters notes, that particularly viscous form of execution can no longer be relegated to ancient times:
“Now stoning’s back, along with martyrdom, but we look away. We refuse to see martyrs among the Middle East’s Christians. Politically correct toward Islam, while scoffing at Christianity and Judaism, we’ve abandoned the concept of martyrdom to our enemies, to devils in human form who, far from being martyrs, are murderers drenched in the blood of countless innocents. Infernal organizations, such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others, don’t produce “martyrs.” They create them.
Herod was mild in comparison.
We have watched in near-silence as Christians and other minorities have been evicted from ancient homes and exterminated in a Biblical landscape. As churches shot flames heavenward, we explained away our enemies’ fanaticism and even blamed ourselves for his atrocities. As two millennia of Christian culture in the Middle East suffered the greatest catastrophe in the faith’s entire history, we invented legal rights for blood-soaked barbarians.”
With the native Christian populace gone and the west having washed our collective hands of the region, there are only two forces remaining in the Middle East that have the ability to take on the barbarians: Israel and moderate Muslims.
Israel’s role can only be defensive, so there is no chance that it can do much to reverse the march toward Sharia Law and a new caliphate in that part of the world. So really, really, the only people who can stop the madness are Muslims themselves.
Will they? Some have pointed to the way that Pakistan quickly brought Taliban killers to justice after the monsters killed 145 people, including 132 children, in a school. I would say rather that this was the exception that proves the rule. The nation that turned its back for years when bin Laden was living there is hardly likely to become a champion of liberty.
There’s Jordan and Egypt I suppose, but one is too small and the other too poor and indifferent to make much of a difference regionally. Turkey used to be the one place in that part of the world where there was a clear delineation between the secular and the theological, but that line is blurring more every year.
So, sad as it is to say, voices of moderation in that part of the world will inevitably fade away, because many of those voices will stay in hiding, while those who dare to speak out will find themselves silenced in the most brutal ways available. It’s ironic that the part of world that gave birth to civilization should now be the place to willingly abandon it. But, I will let Colonel Peters have the last word:
“If recent reports from Iraq prove true—that four Christian boys were beheaded for refusing to convert—we are again in an age of martyred saints. When “the Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full,” Christian Churches, east and west, would have sought the canonization of such believers. But today displays of Christian devotion are mocked as blithely as Christ with his crown of thorns.
Our entertainers laud their own “courage” for mocking Christians and Jews, but dare not make one joke about Islam. Our leaders care not a jot for the fate of the Christian civilization of the east—which dominated the faith’s first thousand years. We refuse even to name the enemy honestly.
The term “Holocaust” has been abused by those slovenly in language and in spirit, but we are, indeed, witnessing a Christian Holocaust. And it is nearing completion.
“Never again” is humanity’s emptiest promise.”