Thursday, September 18, 2008


Adam Gadahn may be dead. That was the gist of a September 12, North County Times article about the al-Qaida propagandist who was raised in remote Winchester, California, and possibly met his end in Pakistan’s distant Waziristan region. The absence of an annual September 11 video message from Gadahn was taken as another clue that he might have been killed in a January airstrike.

So how did a lad who grew up in Riverside County come to join an Islamic terrorist group and find himself, in 2006, charged with treason by his native country? Or, as the aforementioned article put it, how did “a shy and intelligent boy who played Little League baseball and attended area Christian home schooling support groups” become “Azzam the American”?

The answer to that mystery isn’t as farfetched as the misleading references to Little League and Christian home schooling suggest. In point of fact, the apple didn’t fall that far from the parental tree—as an extensive January, 2007, New Yorker magazine piece demonstrates.

If Adam Gadahn changed his name and rejected his roots, he was only following in the footsteps of his father (the son of a prosperous Santa Ana physician) who dropped the name Pearlman for Gadahn and took very seriously the utopian rhetoric of the 60s counterculture.

If Adam immersed himself in “death metal” music—a subculture in love with its own offensiveness—he was largely reprising his father’s passionate attachment to psychedelic rock during his long-haired days at U.C. Irvine.

If Adam adopted a radical stance toward American society, he was affirming in a different way his father’s decision to reject professionalism and to choose for his family a near subsistence life on a goat farm by the San Jacinto mountains.

If Adam converted to Islam in 1997, the elder Gadahn experienced his own awakening to eco-spirituality in 1975—a self-fashioned religion that the “happenings” musician described in an album called “Relatively Clean Rivers.”

Finally, if Adam’s spiritual journey led him to embrace an uncompromising ideology that saw unbelievers as benighted evildoers, he was only exhibiting a virulent version of his father’s outlook. According to acquaintances, the elder Gadahn, though gentle, was an inflexible perfectionist attracted to people who were “exactly the same (as) he was.”

Adam’s pre-conversion views, summarized by a friend, reflect a similar mind-set: “Most of the people around me are brain-dead, nobody cares about anything that’s going on, we’re wrecking everything that’s good, all the trees are disappearing, everything is being turned into suburbs. I feel like I’m the only one who notices this.”

Only thematic key-shifts are required to change the tune from 60s counterculture to eco-fanaticism, from psychedelic rock to death-metal, from self-serving contempt for those who disagree to ideological solidarity with terrorists.

By contrast, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence urges a “decent respect (for) the opinions of mankind.” Such humility is absent among ideologues of every stripe—whose opponents are invariably portrayed as liars and fools.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


On July 23rd the North County Times published an editorial written by a Fallbrook High School student that last spring was pulled from the school newspaper by the school principal. The article was a grammatically well-written piece about sex education.

Specifically, the piece decried “abstinence only” programs that are “ideologically, rather than empirically, driven” and faulted the Bush Administration for “forcing” such programs on state and local governments.

The editorial also cited a 2007 study by Mathematica Policy Research to show that abstinence-only programs are ineffective and that “comprehensive” sex-ed programs effectively reduce behaviors that put teenagers at risk of STDs and unintended pregnancy.

While the editorial probably wasn’t pulled from the school newspaper for this reason, most "real-world" editors require documentation (whether included in the piece or not) that vouches for the accuracy of a column’s factual assertions. On those grounds a conscientious editor would have had good reason for deep-sixing the aforementioned article.

One major inaccuracy was the assertion that abstinence-based sex education is a policy being “forced” on schools throughout the country by the Bush Administration. In point of fact this Title V Program began in 1996 (under President Clinton) and isn’t “forced” on anyone.

Rather, it’s a relatively small program that has annually devoted 50 to 150 million dollars to this grant-based project. Ironically, these grants have been rejected by the state of California, and various data suggest that most schools employ more “comprehensive” sex-ed formats—some of the “abstinence-plus” variety.

The article also fails to disclose that its Mathematica study only analyzed four outdated abstinence programs where instruction ended in middle school. Nor does the piece mention that the study showed (not surprisingly under the circumstances) no significant difference between the abstinence cohort and the “comprehensive” sex-ed group.

At worst, this dubious finding suggests that short-lived abstinence-based programs are no less effective than the morality-free sex-ed programs designed by groups like SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States), an institution closely associated with the ideologically-driven and fraudulent scientist, Alfred Kinsey. (I direct readers to Dr. Judith Reisman’s exhaustive work on Kinsey.)

To give folks a sense of SIECUS’s ideological baggage, the organization’s first President, Planned Parenthood’s Mary Calderone, once diminished the moral significance of pedophilia by declining to call it “bad” or “wicked.” Later, in 1980, SIECUS published a report entitled “Attacking the Last Taboo.” That article stated that “we are roughly in the same position today regarding incest as we were a hundred years ago with respect to our fears of masturbation.” In short, SIECUS is insanely amoral.

Given that the Federal Forum on Child and Family Statistics last year reported a significant decline in sexual activity among high school students since 1991 (54 to 46%) and given that condom use simultaneously increased among sexually active teens (46 to 63%), I’d be inclined to reinforce both these trends with abstinence-plus programs rather than impose on students morally vacuous curricula designed by the likes of SIECUS.