Sunday, April 30, 2006

The FBI Not @Your Library

On Friday, the FBI reported to Congress on its use of the Patriot Act during 2005. Among other things, the report revealed that the FBI, as of the end of 2005, has still not used the much-feared Section 215 in a library setting.

The report also revealed that National Security Letters were used to obtain information on 3,501 individuals suspected of possible links to terrorism. An NSL provided the only known instance in which provisions of the Patriot Act were used to gather library-related data. While some will undoubtedly react to this news by claiming that we are on the brink of a police state, I will simply point out two salient facts:

1. All NSLs were obtained in full accord with the law.
2. The total population of the United States, according to the Census Bureau, is over 298 million. 3,501 individuals comprise a fraction of 1 percent of that population.

With America at war against a barbarous enemy who staged the bloodiest ever attack on our homeland and has vowed to kill 4,000,000 of us, I would hope that the FBI is using every legal tool at its disposal to keep us safe.

9/11 and Critical Thinking (Or lack thereof)

One of the comparatively small sacrifices that I've had to make as part of my service is that I haven't been able to see a movie since I shipped in mid-January. One film I intend to see at the first opportunity is United 93. According to all accounts, the film plays it straight and is a powerful reminder of why we're at war and the nature of our enemy.

Alas, Friday's USA Today carried a story on another film about 9/11 that is making the rounds. This one I'll be shunning like the plague:

Gypsy Taub, a mother of three from Oakland, does not believe that 9/11 happened. At least not the way the government said it did.


Taub is promoting one of the latest presentations of revisionist theories on the 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists, a film that says, among other things, that the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile fired by the military as an excuse to go to war.

Called Loose Change, it is being downloaded from the Internet and shown in small screenings here and overseas. It is not alone in the genre, and it is not unusual in American history either to offer simplistic explanations or demonize opponents. Presidents from Andrew Jackson to Lyndon Johnson were accused by their contemporaries of massive government conspiracies.

The article notes that this piece of homemade agitprop is being shown on a growing number of college campuses. Incredibly, one community college instructor even "brought the filmmakers to the campus to stimulate critical thinking":

"Students love it," she said. "These guys have done a great job of marketing on the Web, and that was another reason I wanted to bring them in."

Perhaps this and other like-minded instructors can follow up on such efforts to foster critical thinking by bringing in Holocaust deniers or proponents of a flat earth to talk to their students. That is the intellectual level at which the 9/11 conspiracy theorists function. The infantile assumptions behind their theories have been debunked numerous times. See for example Popular Mechanics or

Sadly, there are all too many people who would rather believe that 9/11 was the result of some X-Files type conspiracy than accept the reality that we were attacked by a Salafist-Jihadist movement that seeks our destruction. This is not critical thinking, but a complete lack thereof.

ALA vs The Boy Scouts

Walter Skold brings word via WorldNetDaily that the hard left on ALA Council have set their sights on yet another target that has absolutely nothing to do with librarianship:

A renewed effort by several members of the American Library Association's governing council would sever all ties with the Boy Scouts of America until the youth organization stops "discriminating" against avowed atheists and homosexuals.

In 1998, the council of the ALA, the world's largest library organization, condemned the Boy Scouts over its policies, but a WorldNetDaily investigation reveals activists quietly are planning to take action at the association's annual convention in June.

The renewed effort is led by Mark Rosenzweig, formerly an official archivist with the U.S. Communist Party and a chief defender of Fidel Castro in the ALA controversy over the communist regime's repression of the independent library movement in Cuba, reported by WorldNetDaily.

As Greg McClay pointed out, the problem with these absurb resolutions is that all too often a majority on ALA Council winds up voting for them. As a result, the association looks ridiculous to outside observers, while those librarians from across the political spectrum who want ALA to focus on its true mission of promoting librarianship are further alienated from the organization.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I apologize for the relative lack of recent posts, it's been a busy last few days. Life at the US Army Intel School is a vast improvement over Basic Training, but as you would expect, it's not easy. Look for more posts this weekend.

In the meantime, this article (link courtesy of Watch) discusses how various Islamic states are seeking to exploit the Danish cartoon controversy to impose international standards of censorship under the guise of protecting religious diversity:

Islamic groups and governments are pressing ahead with a campaign to have international organizations take steps, including legal ones, to provide protection for their religion in the wake of the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

In a drive pursued largely away from the headlines, the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC) is promoting the issue at the United Nations and European Union, and having some success.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Web Censorship Watch

Last Friday, Tunisian human rights activist Neila Charchour Hachicha published a piece for National Review Online decrying her country's inglorious record of censorship. As Michael Rubin noted for NRO's blog, The Corner, the Tunisian regime reacted swiftly to Ms. Charchour Hachicha's outrageous attempt to express her own opinions:

After Neila Charchour Hachicha published her article in NRO yesterday, the Tunisian government cut-off access to her website from within Tunisia; it can still be accessed from outside Tunisia. The Tunisian government can do this, she says, because of technical assistance provided by Cisco Systems and Nice Systems.

Once again, the same companies that justly tout the Internet as a tool of information empowerment show that they have no problem with helping dictatorial regimes censor it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Free Speech (or lack thereof) on Campus

Tuesday's USA Today has a terrific piece by Nat Hentoff on the disturbing trend towards suppression of politically incorrect views in academia. He notes just one example of the Orwellian way in which the ideal of "diversity" has been used to make colleges and universities less diverse intellectually:

Karen Murdock is an adjunct professor of geography and earth science at Century College, a two-year community college in White Bear Lake, Minn.

She often posts news articles and blank comment sheets on a faculty bulletin board that she says she hopes students read and argue about — and thereby think beyond White Bear Lake into the world.

In February, she posted an array of the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that offended not only Muslim students but also college administrators. Murdock's exercise of free speech was eventually silenced, yet her cause echoes well beyond White Bear Lake.

Please read the rest:

'Free speech' cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cuban Libraries Update

For recent developments on the Cuban libraries situation, including the aftermath of Andrei Codrescu's telling remarks at ALA Midwinter, please visit Walter Skold's blog Freadom, and Robert Kent's highly informative Friends of Cuban Libraries site.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

History Under Threat in Egypt

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a fatwa issued by one of Egypt's leading clerics could ultimately result in that country's rich legacy of ancient sculpture going the way of the Bamiyan Buddhas:

More than 1,300 years after the Muslim conquest swept through Egypt, one of the country's highest religious authorities has declared that its ancient sculptures are forbidden by Islam.

In his fatwa - or religious ruling - issued earlier this month, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa quoted a saying of the prophet Muhammad that sculptors will be among those receiving the harshest punishment on Judgment Day.

Artists and intellectuals here say the edict, whose ban on producing and displaying sculptures overturns a century-old fatwa, runs counter to Islam. They also worry that extremists may use the ruling as a pretense for destroying Egypt's ancient relics, which form a pillar of the country's multibillion-dollar tourist industry.

Whether or not this fatwa is ever acted upon, it provides yet another example of the essentially totalitarian nature of Islamism.

(Link courtesy of Watch)

Common Sense Prevails

Eugene Volokh brings word that Ohio State University-Mansfield has dropped harassment charges against Scott Savage, the conservative librarian who recommended several right-wing books for inclusion on a freshman reading list. Thankfully, this latest example of politically correct orthodoxy run amok is now over.

(Thanks to Maggie45 and Jack Stephens for the link.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Why the Danish Cartoon Affair Matters

Writing for National Review Online, Paul Marshall explains the full importance of the Danish cartoon controversy, and why the recent capitulations by Borders and Comedy Central are more harmful than many realize:

Recent attention to Islamist apostasy and blasphemy rules focused on cartoons of Mohammed published by the Danish newspaper Jyllends-Posten and on Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. These cases were troubling to all those who value freedom of speech and religion, but they provide only a small hint of the full, terrifying implications of such charges.

Accusations of apostasy and blasphemy are also a means to silence Muslim reformers wherever in the world they may reside. Their power as an instrument of totalitarian repression may soon make itself apparent. On Wednesday, an organization, probably based in Egypt, calling itself "Supporters of God's Messenger" ("Al-Munasirun li Rasul al Allah") announced it would kill "atheists," "polytheists" and their supporters unless they repented, and it listed its targets, and many of their family members, by name. The communiqué, signed by one Abu Dhar al Maqdishi, identified as the group's media spokesperson, was e-mailed to over 30 prominent political and religious reformers, including many in the West.


Jihadists have taken heart from the many confused and appeasing government responses to the violence over the Danish cartoons and are escalating their offensive. Groups such as "Supporters of God's Messenger" now aim to silence any prominent Muslim who dares to criticize their actions and beliefs and suggest a modern interpretation of Islam.

Appeasement of such groups will not work. If cartoonists rein in their satire, if pundits and politicians carefully guard their language, violent Islamists will accept their victory and move on to demand the next part of their agenda — the silencing or death of those who reject or criticize their program, including, especially, Muslims.

The efforts of radical Islamists to silence expression that offends them are merely part and parcel of their campaign to destroy all such freedoms in the Muslim world. If we allow them to succeed, they will only intensify their assault on free expression in Europe and the US.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Censorship at Ohio State

Maggie45 in comments, and at least one emailer, brought my attention to this appalling story:

Officials at the Ohio State University are investigating an OSU Mansfield librarian for “sexual harassment” after he recommended four conservative books for a freshman reading program. ADF has demanded that OSU cease its frivolous investigation, yet the university is pressing forward, claiming that it takes the charges “seriously.”

“Universities are one of the most hostile places for Christians and conservatives in America,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David French, who heads ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom. “It is shameful that OSU would investigate a Christian librarian for simply recommending books that are at odds with the prevailing politics of the university.”

Scott Savage, who serves as a reference librarian for the university, suggested four best-selling conservative books for freshman reading in his role as a member of OSU Mansfield’s First Year Reading Experience Committee. The four books he suggested were The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, The Professors by David Horowitz, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis by Bat Ye’or, and It Takes a Family by Senator Rick Santorum. Savage made the recommendations after other committee members had suggested a series of books with a left-wing perspective, by authors such as Jimmy Carter and Maria Shriver.

(Link courtesy of Ace of Spades)

Eugene Volokh has some thoughts worth reading as well (link via Instapundit). As he points out, ADF, the source of the above letter, is a conservative Christian advocacy organization, and thus not unbiased.

Still, if the story as described by ADF is accurate, the situation amounts to an outrageous assault on intellectual freedom. If so, it is yet another example of how the left's politicization of academia has made a mockery of free inquiry. I won't hold my breath waiting for ALA to take a stand in defense of Mr. Savage.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why I'm in Uniform

In case anyone is still wondering why I'm in the middle of the Arizona desert training to join the National Guard, here are two links that explain things far more eloquently than I can:

-Flight 93 Transcript

-Zacarias Moussaoui gloats over the 9/11 atrocities in court.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Another Heretic Speaks

Courtesy of Shush, here's an interesting article from another conservative librarian. In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that he does cite my Chronicle piece and links to this site. Anyway, please go ahead and read it for yourself:

Confessions of a fundamentalist librarian: Negotiating heresies

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Historical Roots of Jihadism

Today's recommended reading is a thought-provoking article by Dr. Efraim Karsh from the April 2006 issue of Commentary. In his terrific, well written essay, Dr. Karsh explores the historical roots of jihadism:

Among Islamic radicals, such gloating about the prowess and imminent triumph of their "nation" is as commonplace as recitals of the long and bitter catalog of grievances related to the loss of historical Muslim dominion. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly alluded to the collapse of Ottoman power at the end of World War I and, with it, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate. "What America is tasting now," he declared in the immediate wake of 9/11, "is only a copy of what we have tasted. Our Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more than 80 years, of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated." Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's top deputy, has pointed still farther into the past, lamenting "the tragedy of al-Andalus"--that is, the end of Islamic rule in Spain in 1492.

These historical claims are in turn frequently dismissed by Westerners as delusional, a species of mere self-aggrandizement or propaganda. But the Islamists are perfectly serious, and know what they are doing. Their rhetoric has a millennial warrant, both in doctrine and in fact, and taps into a deep undercurrent that has characterized the political culture of Islam from the beginning. Though tempered and qualified in different places and at different times, the Islamic longing for unfettered suzerainty has never disappeared, and has resurfaced in our own day with a vengeance. It goes by the name of empire.

"I was ordered to fight all men until they say, 'There is no god but Allah.' " With these farewell words, the prophet Muhammad summed up the international vision of the faith he brought to the world. As a universal religion, Islam envisages a global political order in which all humankind will live under Muslim rule as either believers or subject communities. In order to achieve this goal, it is incumbent on all free, male, adult Muslims to carry out an uncompromising "struggle in the path of Allah," or jihad. As the 14th-century historian and philosopher Abdel Rahman ibn Khaldun wrote, "In the Muslim community, the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force."

Islam's Imperial Dreams

Cowardice at Borders

One of my favorite blogging topics before shipping out was the Danish cartoon affair. Unfortunately, while I was toiling away in Basic Training, the situation sadly but predictably exploded into violence. Olivier Guitta wrote an excellent article in the February 20th Weekly Standard discussing the controversy and how radical Islamists successfully exploited it in furtherance of their campaign to destroy free expression.

The Islamist campaign of intimidation has now paid dividends even here in the US. Borders Bookstores has disgracefully announced that they will not carry the April-May issue of Free Inquiry, which contains four of the cartoons that were the focus of the controversy (link via Instapundit).

Borders cited fear of violence as the reason for their decision. This is not unfounded, as two California bookstores were firebombed during the Satanic Verses controversy. Still, giving in to such threats only rewards the Islamists for their anti-intellectual barbarism. Such capitulation ensures that Salafists will continue to threaten violence whenever anything that offends their totalitarian vision of Islam is published, even here in the West.

Unfortunately, the cartoons are not available on the Free Inquiry web site. However, the site does include a powerful piece by R. Joseph Hoffmann that is well worth reading. While I believe that Hoffmann is too ready to lump all religious beliefs into the same basket of intolerance, the following passage is dead on:

Forget clichés about the "Culture Wars," "intolerance," "the other," "Crusader logic," and "Postcolonial Fatigue Syndrome." Social critic Ibn Warraq is correct in his recent commentary on the "Cartoon Crisis" that the modern West is the Mother of Reason and that no one in Denmark or France needs to be lectured on the value of tolerance. But he’s wrong to think that Muslims care a fig about Reason that leaves Paradise behind. They’re not reading Hume: they’re reading the Muslim philosopher-theologian Al-Ghazali (1058–1111 c.e.), who decreed that it is a sacred duty to "suppress the enemies of religion through the jihad in His cause, and to gain their wealth, women, and lands until they surrender to Islam." (Indeed, one of the most amusing of the cartoons shows a worried, diminutive Prophet welcoming smoking suicide bombers with the caption, "Stop, stop—we ran out of virgins.") The tricky part of tolerance is that those who invoke it as victims hate it in principle.

The West may have an imperfect understanding of Islam; it does not have a completely false understanding of Islam. And the Great Lie that Western governments, especially the perennially incompetent Washington, urge along as it slouches toward Mecca to be born is that "understanding" and freedom of expression—even if it involves torching embassies and killing priests—is the solution to the history of the very incompetence that has led to the crisis.