What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

Agree? Disagree? Tell me

My Other Blog

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Once again we have the spectacle of a Ku Klux Klan rally about to take place in a culturally and racially mixed neighborhood in the United States, with guaranteed protection of their "right" to express their hateful views by the presence of hundreds of police.

This will all happen in the name of free speech and in accordance with and under the protection of the constitution and the bill of rights and whatever other protections these sub humanoids like to spout in support of their vitriolic outpourings.

And once again, I have to ask why we allow this and other abominations like it to take place.

Outside of the constitutional rationale, one of the major arguments FOR allowing this kind of "free speech" has always been that we should expose ALL ideas to the scrutiny of the public market place, so that the bad ones and those who espouse them, will be revealed for what they are and eventually wither and die. Criminalizing hate speech, the argument continues, only drives the haters underground and makes them more dangerous.

Another is the question of how you decide which kind of speech is sufficiently dangerous to be outlawed and that if we weren’t careful, any public criticism of people’s life style or ethnicity or religion or religious practices, uttered without any malicious intent, could result in decent, upstanding citizens facing criminal charges.

I would agree that free speech is one of the blessings of our constitution and our way of life and should always be vigorously protected against those who would chip away at it.

But there comes a time when we need to recognize that protecting certain vile and potentially dangerous speech, does little more than allow it to flourish and become even more dangerous.

It’s been 55 years since the Nazis were defeated in world war two, but there are still Nazis among us, spewing their anti-Semitic and other hate messages. Ironically, what American Nazis practice is against the law in Germany and Germans who want to defy their laws and distribute Nazi literature, have to come to the United States to buy it. If that isn’t irony, I don’t know what it is.

One Hundred and Thirty Eight years after the end of the Civil War and 48 years after Rosa Parks refused to be moved from her bus seat, the Ku Klux Klan is still with us and holding their hate filled rallies, and now, along with other hate groups, spreading their garbage on the Internet.

Would we really do harm to our general principles of free speech if we removed the blanket protections these evils enjoy and enact laws that would provide ways to punish the lame brains who spout racial and religious hatred and espouse violent acts against those they hate?

Freedom hasn’t disappeared and shows no signs of disappearing in countries that have enacted such laws. Canada has had a broad based anti-hate speech law since 1971 and I haven’t heard any stories about Canadian jails overflowing with people convicted of calling other people dirty names.

We don’t necessarily have to follow the Canadian or German example, and enact broad based laws that might be difficult to interpret or to apply, but what would be wrong with Congress looking at individual organizations to determine if the totality of their activities constitute a danger to the desired domestic tranquillity of a more perfect union?

Our constitution and it’s amendments embody wonderful principles devised and written by wise and honorable men. But to follow it blindly in all circumstances does a disservice to its authors .It was never meant to be a suicide pact.



Tuesday, May 27, 2003
"I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials--many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom."
Newton Minnow, Chairman FCC, 1961

Fear Factor, Survivor, Dog Eat Dog, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Elimidate, Blind Date., Extreme Dating, Extreme Makeover, Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones.
A Selection of Television Programs, 2003

Could the theory of evolution be wrong and the creationists right???

Friday, May 23, 2003

During the Clinton administration, rabid conservatives were forever accusing the President of government by poll. Whenever there was an issue to decide, figurative fingers were held up to the wind, and whatever public sentiment was determined to be, that was the direction the administration would follow. Or so said the conservative nut cases.

Those are the same conservative nut cases who now are trumpeting the poll figures that show the high popularity ratings of President Bush the younger. Of course, when Clinton had high ratings, it was because he was FOLLOWING public sentiment. With Bush, it’s because public sentiment approves of what he’s doing.

They may be right (no pun intended), but it makes for an interesting contrast between that sentiment and two op-ed pieces this week from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both Molly Ivins and Georgie Anne Geyer make it clear that where an apparent majority of American voters are persuaded to believe that their hero is clad in thousand dollar Armani suits, they have a clear view of his naked torso and it looks pretty much the same through Democratic and Republican viewfinders..

The op-ed pieces were about Iraq and both make the same points. We , and the rest of the world, were bamboozled by Bush and co. There were/are no weapons of mass destruction. There was/is no Al Qaeda connection. Ousting Saddam Hussein was one good outcome, if we can ever make sense of the chaos that now reigns in the wake of his demise. Mr. Bush’s repeated assertions that all we wanted was to free the Iraqi people and let them decide their own destiny, doesn’t look like it’s being fulfilled in any great hurry. And there is absolutely no way that our invasion and current military occupation is helping to move neighboring countries in the direction of democratic rule, or pave the way to an Israeli/Palestinian settlement. (Of course in her piece, Georgie Anne couldn’t resist mentioning the influence of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, often referred to as "neo-conservatives" by the likes of Pat Buchannan and other anti-Israel pundits. It’s a code word for "Jews who have huge influence in the Bush administration but who put Israel’s interests ahead of those of the U.S." Georgie Anne is not exactly an Israeli cheer leader).

But the main point of these meanderings is to wonder why, when these two astute observers from differing political perspectives can see through the hype that has built a cocoon of wisdom, thoughtfulness and bravery around Mr. Bush, a majority of us can’t??

The aforementioned conservative nuts were fond of crowing about the lack of a rational foreign policy during the Clinton years. As far as I can tell, the foreign policy of the Bush administration has been to opt out of international agreements and to concoct imminent dangers out of whole cloth as a reason to Invade Iraq.

And, as far as I can tell, the major thrust of the Bush administration domestic policy has been to suggest over and over that cutting taxes is the magical elixir that cures all ills. He’s been saying it since he was elected - oops - installed as president, and so far - after two such reductions - all that’s happened to the economy is that it’s gone backwards - and the slide began before 9/11/01.

Geogie Anne and Molly are both bright ladies and good writers. Maybe they’ll come back with a couple of follow up op-eds and explain why the hell Mr. Bush has these high popularity numbers. For the life of me, I can’t see why.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
I don’t want to make the search engines mad at me, so I have to be careful how I phrase these comments.

This is a blog of opinion and commentary, and as one of my meta tags says, "questioning everything."

Kind of egotistic I guess, but that’s what the Internet and Blogging in particular allows us common folk to do. Fan our egos. Question everything. Express our opinion on anything and everything, whether we have knowledge of the subject matter or not.

Must be thousands of us out there. Not just bloggers, but folks with other kinds of web sites, personal and business. Not to mention news organizations… newspapers, individual columnists, radio, television, magazines. Must be HUNDREDS of thousands.

So just out of curiosity, I visited my old friend Google (my home page) and typed in "opinion." Up pops the number 24,900,000. And that many web pages were discovered and uncovered in .23 seconds!!! So you can see I was way off in my estimates. We Internet users are obviously a highly opinionated lot.. Of course I understand that not each of those nearly twenty five million hits represents an individual site, just a page that qualifies as having something to do with opinion. Still, it’s a hefty number.

Still curious after this result, I typed in "commentary." Well sir. Faster than you can say David Brinkley in HTML shorthand, up pops the number 6,500,000. And the speed? .49 seconds!! Seems like we have a lot more opinions that we’re willing to comment about. But wait a minute. Six and a half million is a another hefty number, but it’s only a little more than a quarter of 24.9 million. So why did the larger number only take .23 seconds to uncover, while the smaller number took all of .49 second - more than DOUBLE!!

Now I’m really curious. Have I uncovered some dark secret of the Internet? Is Google trying to play mind games with anyone using its search engine. Is there some sinister plan afoot to take over the world and enslave us all???

I decided to test these budding theories. I typed in the words of my meta tag "questioning everything." I think I knew in advance what was about to happen, but I just had to know. 544,000 hits in .56, that’s point five six seconds!!!!

Decreasing numbers. Longer time periods. It must mean something, but what?

By the way, has anyone ever attempted to scroll through all of those thousands and millions of hits that the search engines tell us they’ve found to see if they’re telling the truth???

Just curious.

And I've just got to add this. I went back to Google a few hours later and again typed in "opinion." This time, it showed 22,200,000 hits in .19 seconds. We lost two million seven hundred thousand pages in less than half a day but gained .04 seconds!! Now you tell me I haven't uncovered a vast and deep Internet conspiracy. Huh!! And double huh!!!!

Monday, May 19, 2003
I said I was going to comment on religion from time to time, so here we go again.

Syndicated columnist Jim Hoagland wrote an interesting piece last week about the terrorist threat facing the United Sates, indeed facing any country involved in what Hoagland terms "the forces of globalization." I guess you could interpret that as meaning the west. As crazy as it is, the terrorist’s intention, says Hoagland, is to turn the Arab states into a single fanatical theocracy that will eventually extend its control over other civilizations.

The thought sort of ties in with the question I posed on May 4, 2003. Should the western world be at war with Islam? Hoagland and others have been skirting around this issue, speaking of the enemies of western civilization as "religious fanatics" or "holy warriors." No one wants to condemn an entire religion.. Yet it’s difficult to ignore the fact that among the world’s many religions, only Islam has produced "holy warriors" willing to blow themselves to bits as long as they can take some "non believers" with them.

Other religions have produced fanatics in ancient and in modern times, including some who have committed suicide for their beliefs, but not for the purpose of destroying others. Those acts have been the exclusive property of Islamic fanatics.

What is it that compels members of this religion to use violent self destruction as a means of fighting what they perceive to be their enemy? I think the answer is that they have been brainwashed by their religious leaders into believing the most outrageous fantasy imaginable.

Like followers of some other religions, they are taught to believe in the fantasy of life after death. But not just continued existence. Not just continued consciousness. They are taught that in their after life form, whatever that may be, they will be living in luxury in a place called paradise and that their every need and desire will be furnished and fulfilled - even desires they may not have. But then again, maybe all after life Muslims are heterosexual, so the 70 virgin reward fits all. I’m not sure what is promised to female Islamic suicide bombers. Maybe the word "virgin" applies to both sexes.

The question that I would like to pose here - and that I haven’t seen asked anywhere else - is would the same thing be going on if the nut cases didn’t believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, that murdering infidels through suicide was a first class ticket to paradise? What if they didn’t believe in an after life at all? What if they were atheists? Would their cause, whatever it was, be sufficient reason to sacrifice their lives? Wouldn’t they be more inclined to use more conventional means to strike at their imagined enemies? I don’t think one needs to do a lot of philosophical pondering to answer no and yes. Not going to paradise? No virgins waiting? Suicide? No thank you Imam. I’ll take a pass. Hide behind a rock and shoot the infidels with a machine gun and stay alive yourself? Yeah. Maybe I could try that.

So we’re left with the truer believers committing these suicidal acts of terror. But because the nuts are believers, does this mean that the religion itself is at fault, that Islam is at war with the west and that the west should be at war with Islam? Isn’t the problem that terrorists have hijacked the religion and distorted it out of all proportion to justify their acts? Well, maybe so. But the religion and it’s teachings are not blameless.

Teach young, immature minds that there is a paradise, that the only way to get there is through death and that those who don’t believe as you do are infidels. (And that may be the stuff preached by the GOOD Imams and Ayatollahs). Now add to that the economic conditions under which many of these people live, the distorted view of the western world that they get from their newspapers, radio and television, more often than not state run, throw in what they are taught in their schools, and you have a formula for hatred and for radicalization.

But without that religious component of Islam that promises a life in paradise beginning the moment you blow up some infidels and yourself in the process, how much beyond throwing stones and burning foreign flags would these radicals be willing to go? Not far I would think.

So maybe our ultimate battle will not be with these murderers themselves but with how they become so convinced of their suicidal beliefs.

Thursday, May 15, 2003
I can’t resist this. I just heard a business report on the radio. Tiffany stock and profits are up. They’re up because of an increase in the number of big ticket sales. I’m not making it up. That’s what the radio report said, and you know the radio voice never lies.. And what is a big ticket sale? Well, the radio report did cite a figure, but to me, it would be something like the price of a new car. Maybe a really fancy new car. With multiple bells and whistles. That would be a big buck item. But not to Tiffany. Their version of a big ticket sale is anything in excess of $500,000!! That’s a HALF A MILLION dollars!!! I didn’t hear anything about any increases in any other kind of sales - just the half a million kind.

What makes this wonderful piece of financial news interesting, is that it comes at a time when another financial news item is all over the airways and in our newspapers and news magazines and has been for weeks. That would be the answer to all of our economic woes, the George W. Bush magical tax cut. That’s the cut that he says is guaranteed to create a million jobs. Maybe more. My eyes blur and my mind turns to mush when 7 digit numbers get tossed around. Specially when it’s George Dubya doing the tossing. Anyway, it’s going to create all these jobs by putting a lot more money into the hands of the people who have most of it to begin with. I guess the theory is that they’ll spend it or invest it in some way that will put huge numbers of our unemployed back to work. Lickety split. Of course we had that magical 10 year grand plan tax cut that was supposed to have same effect, signed into law in 2001 and the economy has been headed south ever since.

What is so delicious when you juxtapose the two stories, is the obvious conclusion that it suggests and that seems to escape the brilliant minds that have cooked up the Bush "cut taxes to cut unemployment" plan.

It’s pretty clear that most of the benefits will be going to the wealthiest among us. But the proponents of the tax plan say it’s supposed to stimulate the economy and increase business investment and thus "create jobs." Maybe it can help over a period of years. Some economists think it can, but few think it can do anything to help the problem of the growing unemployment numbers in the near term, and I have to agree with them and disagree with Mr. Bush.

I can’t see airline companies "increasing investment" when fewer and fewer people are flying. I can’t see retail chains "increasing investment" when stores are closing everywhere and chains are going into bankrupt. I’m no economic guru. I don’t understand the language the economists speak. Just hearing one of them talk about "debt as a percentage of gross national product" makes my eyes glaze over. But to my simple mind, the economy grows and jobs are created, when there is an increased demand for goods and services. An increase in demand for goods and services will occur when there is more money in the hands of people who aren’t spending enough at the moment. That doesn’t include the rich. The ones that can afford to spend a half a million bucks at Tiffany’s. They don’t NEED a tax cut Cutting their taxes will put more money in their pockets, but it isn’t going to change their spending habits. They’re not waiting for a tax break to buy a new car or a new bauble at Tiffany’s.

So I would think it would make more sense to forget about the rich and devise a tax cut that puts money in the hands of people who spend just about ALL of their available income on goods and services because they have to. It takes all of their income to get by. These are the people who aren’t going to spend more until they GET more, because, unlike the rich, they don’t have it to spend. Leave the upper tax brackets alone. Start with reducing taxes on people at the bottom of the wage scale. Start with something practical, like removing social security from any form of taxation. That alone will pump millions of dollars into the economy, because MOST people collecting social security aren’t among those half million buck buyers at Tiffany’s.

It just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me to give business tax breaks hoping that it will persuade businesses to invest more and create jobs or re-hire the millions they’ve laid off. If people don’t have the money to pay for more of the goods and services that these less taxed companies provide, what makes the great minds of government think that giving them tax breaks will turn them into employment Santa Clauses???

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
A member of my minuscule blog reading audience complained to me the other day about the absence of current blog commentaries. Seems it’s been all of six days since I had something to say. Actually, I have a lot to say, every day. It’s just that I don’t always say it as a blog. What the hell. No one’s paying me to do this and I have no deadline to meet. Nonetheless, I do want to please my audience. Who knows? One day it may get to double figures. So, a thought or two today.

I’ve been doing some random checking of blogs to see how this interesting service is being used. It’s a little early to draw conclusions, but here are some early impressions. There are a lot of kids spouting a lot of utter nonsense out there. I guess they’re using blogging as some kind of personal/public diary, presumably to be read by their peers and not their instructors/teachers/ professors or parents. When we look at these juvenile blogs, one has to hope that we’re not seeing a true reflection of the workings of today’s young minds. If we are, we’re in for an uncertain future.

Some blogs that appear to be written by adults fall into this same category and that is not too surprising when you look at election result patterns across the country.

Some, probably many, are single issue blogs and, depending on their source, can be interesting and instructive. I have looked in occasionally on a blogger in Israel and like many others, I have kept an eye on the observations of a blogger who asserts that he is an Iraqi living in Baghdad . There is of course no way to authenticate the bona fides of the authors or the contents of these blogs.

But what I have found truly interesting is the number of blogs that are extremely well written observations - I guess you might call them editorials - on a variety of topics, mostly contemporary and a few not so contemporary.

The Internet and blogging in particular, demonstrates something that I’ve always believed and that is this. For every successful and well known individual in any field of endeavor, there are countless others who possess equal if not greater abilities, but who will never be known or successful,. That’s obvious in such things as U.S. presidential elections. No person of intelligence believes that we elect the most qualified person for the job. The most qualified person - whoever he or she is - isn’t running. It’s less obvious in the arts or in the entertainment field. There, the most qualified may be running as hard as they can, but the absence of good luck can keep them laboring in frustrating obscurity.

At the very least, blogging offers those who have literary and analytical skills, an opportunity to demonstrate their talents, if not for profit, then for personal satisfaction.

Which brings me to a comment about my own blog. If it has any theme at all, apart from eclectic comments on whatever comes to mind on any given day, it is reaction to things I read in my daily newspaper, and to a lesser extent, to things I see and hear on television and radio. To this I think I’m going to add reaction to/criticism of, other blogs that I discover through serendipity and that pique my interest.

So watch out bloggers. The damocletian sword of whatsallthisthen criticism may soon be descending upon your literary throne.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

To most people, I suppose the letters to the editor section of any metropolitan newspaper could be looked at as an affirmation of our free and open society. Anybody can say anything they want to on any subject and, if the editors are impressed with a letter, it gets published for all to read.

But if you read those letters every day, as I do in my favorite paper, some other, less noble impressions begin to form. I’m not sure if it’s done deliberately by whoever decides what to publish, but sheer and utter nonsense is often a recurrent theme in the letters section.

For example, not that long ago, there appeared in the letters section, a so called parable that purported to tell us that without rich people, there would be no one to pay taxes. I can just imagine the writer of this letter swelling with pride as he crafted this ingenious fairy tale to explain to all of us fuzzy headed middle and lower income liberals why the Bush tax reduction plan is a good one and why it’s entirely fair for people making millions to get the huge dollar tax breaks while the rest of us get amounts that are barely noticeable. Yes the rich pay more taxes than those of us who aren’t rich. As the teenagers are wont to say…. dah!! But no, there wouldn’t be no tax money to collect if there were no rich people to pay taxes. It would just be collected from the rest of us - at a higher rate. So the alleged parable wasn’t a parable at all and made no sense. So why did the editors decide to publish it? Maybe they don’t read letters for sense - just for what they perceive as style. But maybe there are other reasons.

I remember that shortly after Bill Clinton left office, a letter writer - someone who may well be registered to vote, suggested that we (the people - the congress??) could PUNISH the former president for his alleged wrong doings by taking away his pension!! The writer didn’t favor us with a citation from the constitution that would permit such a punishment, or quote the law (federal, state, municipal??) that would allow such an act. But the paper published the letter. Maybe they thought it was cute. Maybe entertaining, not unlike the horoscopes of the comic strips? Maybe.

Or just maybe there’s a conspiracy afoot here. A newspaper can be taken to task in many ways for publishing obviously false and/or defamatory information that it presents as truth. Even though it’s difficult to win a law suit against a newspaper for printing such information, there can be economic consequences. Advertisers who strongly disagree with a story can register their displeasure by pulling back on their expenditures. Even angry readers switching to rival publications can have some economic impact. But most importantly, there can be heavy damage to that which any good newspaper values above all else - its reputation for truth and accuracy. No newspaper owner or editor wants to be the subject of ridicule from members of their own profession.

But there is a way to publish this kind of material and never lose a moment’s sleep over the possibility of negative reaction.

If you’re running a newspaper, or maybe just responsible for the op-ed pages, and you believe, for example, that Neil Armstrong and his colleagues never got to the moon. That the whole trip was faked by NASA and filmed in some remote and highly protected, militarily secret desert area. You can’t say that publicly yourself. You’d be considered some kind of nut and rightly so. But you know there are people who read your newspaper who DO believe that the whole trip was a Hollywood production and the alleged first words spoken on the moon by Armstrong was the work of a Hollywood screen writer. And one day, a letter comes over the transom alleging just that. And maybe offering some sort of convoluted explanation of how it MUST have been a fake.

For you and your beliefs, it’s manna from heaven. You can now reveal this truth to the whole world without subjecting yourself to the ridicule that you know would be heaped upon you if you expressed such an idea in a column under your name. You just publish it in the letters section Sure you might get letters in reaction telling you that this guy’s a nut. You might even get a letter from NASA, refuting the letter writer’s "explanation." But no one will criticize YOU . It’s not YOUR idea or belief. It’s just a letter that someone wrote to the paper that you thought was interesting.

But I think maybe there’s another and more sinister reason for why major metropolitan newspapers allow the most outrageous claims and ideas, and the most patently and provably untrue allegations to be published in their letters to the editor sections. It’s to give balance to their own iniquities of the same nature.

When a truly bad idea or an alleged "fact" that is highly disputable appears in an editorial or an op-ed piece or in the body of a news story, and someone writes a critical letter pointing this out, it may get published in the Letters section but the paper never comments on the matter beyond that. There is no re-thinking the idea. No corrective follow up. No counter argument offered to the letter writer. And never an admission that perhaps the author of the offending piece was wrong. It seems that the paper’s idea of balance - even when they must know they’re in the wrong, is simply to publish a critical letter. And from what I can see, they get away with it.

So the next time you read the letters to the editor column in your favorite newspaper, take a look between the lines. You may discover that ancient truths may not necessarily be true in all cases. If you’re a newspaper, there are ways to have your cake and still enjoy it with your afternoon tea.

Sunday, May 04, 2003
I’m going to be commenting on religion from time to time. On theism. On atheism. On how it affects human behavior. I can’t imagine being a sentient being and not thinking about the concept of belief in a supreme being.. Thinking about it analytically that is. But it’s been my experience that most believers don’t think. about their belief. They just have faith. They don’t want to deal with logical arguments for or against the concept of a deity who created the world and determines the fate of every human being that lives and dies in it.

The earth is maybe four and a half billion years old. Depending on how you want to classify the human race, we’ve been around anywhere from one or two million years ago to 30,000 years ago (homo sapiens).. In terms of comparative time, the major religions that earthlings practice today, came into being a few seconds ago. Unless of course, you don’t believe in the big bang theory , or something like it, or evolution, in which case we all began just a few thousand years ago and before that, there was nothing - just God, sitting by himself on his heavenly throne.

I’ve thought about it a lot and can’t come up with a better explanation for religious belief than our knowledge of our mortality and thus our fear of death. Let’s face it. It’s hard, almost impossible to visualize oblivion. The end of all thought. So most of us believe it isn’t so. I wish I could join the believers. It would make the passage through life a lot easier. But I can’t. To me, it’s more logical to believe that man created God than the other way round. On the other hand, I’ve always been ready to accept the concept of Gods. Plural. Entities that have advanced to a "Godlike" state. Perhaps like the crew members of the "wheel" observed by biblical character Ezekial .

It is MY belief that religious belief may have been the cause of more misery than anything else in the history of the world. The persecution of Christians. The crusades. Anti Semitism. The holocaust. The Irish "troubles." The religious aspect of the Israeli/Arab conflict.

Which brings me to the question that’s been tossed around in recent months. Is the western world "at war" with Islam? Does the western world need to be at war with Islam?

In a sense, I think the answer to these questions has to be yes and yes. We can protest all we like that we have nothing against Islam, and that we respect Islam and that our quarrel is not with Islam but with the terrorists who have "hijacked" the religion. Don’t you just love that phrase?. How the hell does a religion get "hijacked.???" I think trying to separate the religion from the problem in this way is an exercise in denial. When you have millions of people around the world whose core religious beliefs are rooted in the seventh century, can it be surprising that the western world can be seen as devils and infidels and enemies of their faith?

There are problems with other major religions of the world of course. The clash between the Catholic and Protestant population of Ireland is a prime example. But nothing in modern times compares to the irrational violence preached and practiced by Muslim extremists around the world. How can you not be "at war" - at least philosophically, with a religion that convinces its young people that death is merely a doorway to paradise and that death occurring in the act of killing non believers (westerners) will be rewarded with the loving attention of 70 virgins. At what point do we conclude that if this sort of irrational nonsense is preached in enough mosques and by enough imams and ayatollahs, we are not just threatened by extremists who have "hijacked" the religion, but by the practices and beliefs of the religion itself?