Saturday, March 31, 2007

Victim stakes

Mike Hume at Spiked Online.

Those campaigning for apologies and reparations for slavery are not motivated by history, but by the modern politics of multiculturalism and identity. The particular identity encouraged by multiculturalism is that of the victim. Each identity group competes for status by staking its claims to have suffered more than the next. Slavery has been revived as an issue to make the perfect historical platform for some black groups to stake their claim - not just for financial reparations, as cynics see it, but more importantly for recognition and authority.

No risk

Claus Christian Malzahn, Berlin bureau chief for Speigel Online.

Anti-Americanism is hypocrisy at its finest. You can spend your evening catching the latest episode of "24" and then complain about Guantanamo the next morning. You can claim that the Americans have themselves to blame for terrorism, while at the same time calling for tougher restrictions on Muslim immigration to Germany. You can call the American president a mass murderer and book a flight to New York the next day. You can lament the average American's supposed lack of culture and savvy and meanwhile send off for the documents for the Green Card lottery.
Not a day passes in Germany when someone isn't making the wildest claims, hurling the vilest insults or spreading the most outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States. But there's no risk involved and it all serves mainly to boost the German feeling of self-righteousness.



Wish I knew

Thursday, March 29, 2007

UN etiquette

Hillel Neuer, the president of Geneva-based NGO United Nations Watch, spoke the other day before the United Nations Human Rights Council. After the speech, the Council President Luis Alfonso De Alba not only refused to thank him, but said he would not tolerate such language again and would have Mr Neuer's words struck from the record.

Joe's Dartblog provides a transcript of part of the offending speech.

One might say, in Harry Truman’s words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.

But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.

It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements—and there will be three more this session—Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world—millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries—continue to go ignored.
Here is the complete speech.

In an essay on the UN Watch site from 2005, Neuer details how the 'moral authority' of the UN strikes, most unlike lightening, always in the same place.
[The UN] each year passes some nineteen resolutions against Israel and none against most other member states, including the world's most repressive regimes. The World Health Organization, meeting at its annual assembly in Geneva in 2005, passed but one resolution against a specific country: Israel was charged with violating Palestinian rights to health. Similarly, the International Labour Organization, at its annual 2005 conference in Geneva, carried only one major country-specific report on its annual agenda -- a lengthy document charging Israel with violating the rights of Palestinian workers.
The ironically named UN Human Rights Council inherited its mantle from the UN Commission on Human Rights, recently disbanded and reformed on account of its habitual violation of of anything approaching common sense, integrity or justice. To shore up this reform, the UN placed on the new Council exemplars of civil society such as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Azerbaijan.

It looks like it is carrying on the sterling work of its predecessor. Neuer detailed some of this invaluable work in 2005.
The Commission's agenda devotes a special item to censuring Israel.
The Commission's resolutions against Israel equal the combined total of country-specific resolutions adopted against all other countries in the world.
The Commission bars Israel from participation in the regional group system, and thereby from membership in the Commission itself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This is the first paragraph of Bill Roggio's Daily Report from Baghdad on the 27th.

Iraqi and Coalition forces have been pressing hard to dismantle al Qaeda's suicide and car bomb infrastructure in and around Baghdad. Over the past week, some success has been made in attacking the leadership of these networks. Three senior commanders of al Qaeda bomb-making cells have been captured. Since Saturday, there have been no major bombings inside Baghdad.
Further down he reports on the capture of 57 insurgents/al-Queda operatives and major arms caches, on the Anbar Salvation Council and the possible cease-fire being arranged with several factions in West Baghdad.

He doesn't ignore the terrorist attacks and today has an article on the Tal Afar revenge killings, reportedly carried out by members of the police force. He concludes
Obviously, if the allegations as initially reported are true, al Qaeda was very successful in causing the security forces backlash and the resultant negative effects. If the report is inaccurate – if this was a small element of the police, or perhaps from police assigned from outside Tal Afar, or the actions of a local militia - al Qaeda still received an incredible propaganda victory.
I've listened to 2 or 3 hours of BBC Radio 4 today and have heard only one of these stories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The long view

I do like an occasional injection of Big Picture. It sort of anchors you.

Worldwide, life expectancy has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 67 years today. India’s and China’s infant mortalities exceeded 190 per 1,000 births in the early 1950s; today they are 62 and 26, respectively. In the developing world, the proportion of the population suffering from chronic hunger declined from 37 percent to 17 percent between 1970 and 2001 despite a 83 percent increase in population. Globally average annual incomes in real dollars have tripled since 1950. Consequently, the proportion of the planet's developing-world population living in absolute poverty has halved since 1981, from 40 percent to 20 percent. Child labor in low income countries declined from 30 percent to 18 percent between 1960 and 2003.

Equally important, the world is more literate and better educated than ever. People are freer politically, economically, and socially to pursue their well-being as they see fit. More people choose their own rulers, and have freedom of expression. They are more likely to live under rule of law, and less likely to be arbitrarily deprived of life, limb, and property.

Social and professional mobility have also never been greater. It’s easier than ever for people across the world to transcend the bonds of caste, place, gender, and other accidents of birth. People today work fewer hours and have more money and better health to enjoy their leisure time than their ancestors.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eyam Edge

On Eyam Edge
I took this today in the woods on Eyam Edge.

Eyam is the village struck by the bubonic plague in 1665-66 which quarantined itself to stop the spread of the desease. It seems that about 3/4 of the inhabitants died. Whole families were wiped out and there's one tiny graveyard in the middle of a field in which lie farmer Hancock and six of his children. The mother buried them all in the space of a week and survived to flee to her one remaining child in Sheffield.

So why choose the image of a tree in such a place? Dunno. But I like the twisted, contorted branch that was plummeting earthwards, arthritically turned and shot skywards again.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I want to go home

Reuters photo - Blair celebrating wildly at the EU's 50th If I have to sit here another minute, I'm going to turn myself into a waxwork.

No religion. No babies. No past. No future.

Benedict's speech to the European bishops gathered in Rome has got a lot of coverage. It's curious which aspects of the speech have been highlighted. In most of the English-language media, the big story was his fear of European demographic decline, and the articles then go on to give the figures for the various European states.

There is another side to Benedict's lament for the continent. It is Europe's refusal to acknowledge his Christian heritage as the second pillar of its culture. This was the main story in Corriere della Sera this morning, and Aljazeera didn't miss it either.

If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify.

It is no surprise that today's Europe, while it purports to be a community of values, seems to increasingly contest the existence of absolute and universal values.

Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it [Europe] to doubt its very identity?
[Obviously trying hard to compensate for the religious ignorance of its English-speaking audience, Aljazeera helpfully adds, "Apostasy is a total desertion of or departure from one's religion."]

Angela Merkel evidently wants references to Christianity in the boomerang EU constitution (coming back to hit you soon). Even the 2005 one was supposed to have a few words, but they were rejected by Jacques Chirac (who would have thought?).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Embrace media realities

Michael Yon wonders why the American military can't understand what the terrorists understood years ago.

I’m finally starting to understand what so many Vietnam veterans have told me. One overarching message from the front is that our combat forces are overwhelmingly good to the Iraqis and extremely accommodating to media, but there is a deeper substrate. We simply cannot beat the terrorists if we do not learn how to embrace media realities. With all the focus on training Iraqi Security Forces, it might be worth considering training our own team, too.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reporter back from Iraq

Not posting much. Life ganging up on me. But this is wonderful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Shorpy Higginbotham and friends
Next time you're feeling sorry for yourself, pay a visit to Shorpy ("The hundred-year-old photo blog"). The above is a photo of Shorpy Higginbotham and his co-workers at Bessie Mine near Dora in Jefferson County, Alabama. It was taken in 1910. Look at those faces. I wonder if Shorpy fulfilled himself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Downtown Erbil

Michael Totten visits Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and sees a huge transformation. It's not only physical, new buildings (in Dream City), shops, offices, roads, roadsigns (but not sewers), it's also civil. There seems to be a working democracy in place where only a few years ago there was desolation. And in its success, there may an omen for the future.

Iraqi Kurdistan is de-facto independent already. The three northernmost provinces exist as a liberal-democratic state-within-a-state with their own parliament, their own laws, their own immigration policies, and their own military, border guards, and police. That much was already known. The region now, though, is even closer to formal sovereignty and actual independence than it recently was.
Read it all.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Is this IT?

There are moments of the obligatory and not entirley unreasonable cynicism that comes naturally to the British media, but this does look like the real thing in Anbar.

On the front line :)

MEMRI has translated an advice column for online mujahideen. It explains the to-dos and not-to-dos in the battle to demoralise the "weak-minded" subjects of the Great Satan.

"There is no doubt, my brothers, that raiding American forums is among the most important means of obtaining victory in the fierce media war... and of influencing the views of the weak-minded American who pays his taxes so they will go to the infidel American army. This American is an idiot and does not [even] know where Iraq is... [It is therefore] mandatory for every electronic mujahid [to engage in this raiding]."

"It is better that you raid non-political forums such as music forums and trivia forums... which American people... favor... Define your target[ed forum]... and get to know it well... Post your contribution and do not get into... futile arguments..."

"Obviously, you should post your contribution... as an American... You should correspond with visitors to this forum, [bringing to their attention] the frustrating situation of their troops in Iraq... You should invent stories about American soldiers you have [allegedly] personally known (as classmates... or members in a club who played baseball and tennis with you) who were drafted to Iraq and then committed suicide while in service by hanging or shooting themselves..."

"Also, write using a sad tone, and tell them that you feel sorry for your [female] neighbor or co-worker who became addicted to alcohol or drugs... because her poor fiancé, a former soldier in Iraq, was paralyzed or [because] his legs were amputated... [Use any story] which will break their spirits, oh brave fighter for the sake of God..."
Incapable of actually making anything these people, but you can't can't doubt their attention to detail and their identification of their enemy's weaknesses. It's more or less 'Make use of their decency to demoralise and defeat them and you'll get your virgins'.

(via LGF)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pre-emptive Censorship update

I have been remiss in posting items to the Pre-emptive Censorship file. Here are three more from a cursory search.

Amsterdam (February, 2007) - "There is already a lot of self-censorship among the comedians, and theatres are cancelling bookings, Teeuwen says."

University of Cambridge (11 March, 2007) - "A Cambridge University student is at the centre of a race-hate probe after printing anti-Islamic material in a magazine. The 19-year-old, second-year student at Clare College was in hiding today after printing the 'racist' cartoon and other vile material. The article is said to be so inflammatory the undergraduate has been taken to a secret location for his own safety." [He had reprinted one of the Danish cartoons.]

Leeds University (16 March, 2007) - A lecture by Dr Matthias Kuntzel on 'Islamic anti-semitism' is cancelled after 'alleged protest emails' from Muslims .

Effortless superiority

Gerald Baker in The Times speaking of the BBC.

This is the mindset that sees the effortless superiority, at every turn, of benign collectivism over selfish individualism, exploited worker over unscrupulous capitalist, enlightened European over brutish American, thoughtful atheist over dumb believer, persecuted Arab over callous Israeli; and that believes the West is the perpetrator of just about every ill that has ever befallen the world — from colonialism to global warming.
Sounds familiar.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Garton Ash and Hirsi Ali

Timothy Garton Ash tries to clear the air with regard to his attitude towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He's been criticised at signandsight, in this month's Prospect and at Slate by Christopher Hitchens for his lack of support for her and for calling her an "enlightenment fundamentalist". He claims that he does support her and, in fact, agrees with her on many things, but not on Islam. There, he prefers those who, from within, have a more liberal and enlightened view of their faith.

In part, his view is mere pragmatism and to be respected as such. After all, it is not as if a billion plus people are going to take Hirsi Ali's path. The hoped-for reform has to occur from within and be led by figures who are respected by their audience. That is essential, but it is not sufficient.

There is also the part that the West must play. Ash has attracted a lot of criticism because he sounds suspiciously like so many Western fellow-travellers of the Cold War. It wasn't the understanding, compromising both-sides-have-a-point doves who brought that conflict to a close; it was the Hawks. Islam is not the Soviet Union, but the fear is that, if we are to sit back and wait for Muslims to make Islam fit for the modern world, we'll end up with a world just fit for Islam.

One of Ash's commenters, aside from accusing him of a monolithic view of Ali, makes her point about the role of the West.

While I haven't read her book, I attended one of her lectures, and she explicitly rejected the caricature of her views as presented here. She was pretty clear in her argument, which is basically that there are parts of Islam that are compatible with Western values, and there are parts of Islam that are not. And what the West needs to do is draw a clear line as to which aspects of Islam are acceptable in free societies, and which are not; and to make this clear, first and foremost, to Muslims that choose to live in the West. The hope being that if the West can stand firm on its basic values, a new type of Islam ('enlightened' or 'reformed' or whatever you choose to call it) would have a chance of succeeding, starting with Muslims in the West and then spreading to Muslim countries.
A good test of Ash's modernising Muslims will be their reaction to the St Petersburg Declaration.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Leaning slightly towards optimism but afraid of falling over

Robert Kagan says it's getting better and the figures bear him out. It's a good start, but I still say it's way too early, and Bill Roggio is cautious:

One item to note: the four year anniversary of the U.S. invasion is coming up next week, and it may be possible al Qaeda in Iraq is conserving its forces for a show of force and the resulting media attention.
I like the last phrase. That's what it's about. Get your narrative on the 6 o'clock news.

UN on Mugrabi Gate dig

From Haaretz.

Israel's excavation work at the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem is being carried out in accordance with international standards, according to the report drafted by a team of UNESCO experts who came to Jerusalem to expect the controversial dig.

Sources in the UN said the report, which will be published on Wednesday, accepts Israel's claims that the excavations do not harm the Temple Mount compound, and support the legality of the work.

However, the report criticizes Israel's choice to carry out the excavation independently, without including international bodies in the plans, and calls on Israel to temporarily halt the excavation immediately to allow continued international supervision.
I'll be interested to hear why Israel should include international bodies - as a diplomatic fig-leaf? Do they think that in this way they will placate such people as Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, who has been calling up an "intifada" (another one) over the footbridge?

Fearful Asymmetry

This article by Anshel Pfeffer is based on a report from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The point of it is that, however inferior in arms the Jihadists, Hezbollah, etc may be, in the information war, not only do they have considerable advantages, but they are using what they have very well indeed.

Pfeffer describes how open the IDF was to scrutiny even to the Arab TV networks. Just north, however, the situation was very different.

ON THE other side, Hizbullah controlled the journalists covering the situation in Lebanon with an iron fist. Media tours of Hizbullah-controlled areas, where the IDF's bombing was mainly concentrated, were tightly managed, with foreign reporters being sternly warned against wandering off and talking to local residents unsupervised. Infringement of these rules would be punished by the confiscation of cameras and disbarment from any further visits or access to Hizbullah members. According to Kalb, only CNN's Anderson Cooper openly admitted to having operated under these rules.
This is not control for its own sake. They were building a storyline.
Hizbullah also forbade any photographs of its fighters. Cameramen were warned never to show men with guns or ammunition. The only armed personnel seen during this war were IDF soldiers; Hizbullah remained throughout a phantom army.

Another scene almost never shown was the hundreds of Hizbullah firing positions and missile launch sites within residential areas and private homes, the cause of many civilian deaths and a violation of international law.
The images told the story: this war was unarmed civilians against heavily armed (Israeli) soldiers. Civilians = Victims. Soldiers = Oppressors. Simple. Clear. Wrong.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What is freedom for?

The best thing I've read about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or rather about what she's saying (this distinction is often missed). It's by someone called Rod Dreher and comes to you courtesy of, which I assume would be somewhere west of here. As he points out, the real weakness in her thought is not what she says about Islam, it's what she says about the West.

Hirsi Ali's final tragedy is that what she preaches is leading to the triumph of what she most fears. Having escaped a cruel culture dominated by religion, she understandably despises faith. But religion per se was not what oppressed Hirsi Ali; it was a particular religion, Islam. The militant secularism Hirsi Ali advocates has already created a spiritual vacuum in Europe that Islam is filling...

There is something deeply admirable about this passionate African woman's stirring defense of Western liberties. But the question remains: What is freedom for? It cannot be an end in itself. There must be purpose beyond self-gratification. Europe is proving that materialism - the philosophical basis for the secularism and libertinism that is modern Europe's creed - is not sufficient to sustain civilization.

I and Pangur Ban my cat

I've just been reading, and enjoying greatly, Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilisation. In the chapter about the scribes and their manuscripts, he quotes this little ninth-century poem slipped in among Greek paradigms and a Latin commentary on Virgil.

I and Pangur Ban my cat, '
Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye,
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Another scribe, having just read the death of Hector in The Iliad, scribbled underneath,
I am greatly grieved at the above-mentioned death.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jean-Francois and his master, Jacques

Jean-Francois Probst, ex-advisor to Jacques Chirac.

My friend Chirac is a merciless, smiling assassin, who loves killing his enemies like the Borgias did, without the victim knowing where the killer blow has come from...

When he smiles at you, makes promises to you, then expect the killer blow. Now I think he busy getting rid of Villepin and Sarkozy in one go. It's like something that used to happen among the Medici; he's of that family...

In the Sicilian sense of the word, the real 'clan' is made up of only three people, the 'Ceausescus', that is, Jacques, Bernadette, his wife and Claude, his daughter. They get together in the morning and decide: right, this afternoon I'll go for Sarkozy; you be nice to him and you play it half-half.
Final word?
He's a fighter, a winner; he never throws in the towel. And his daughter's like a manager shouting at the boxer in the ring, "Hit him! Hit him!"
From an article in La Stampa (in Italian)

Twinkle in his eye

Allah is an environmentalist.

A MUSLIM cleric has blamed the drought, climate change and pollution on the lack of faith Australians have in Allah.

Sheik Mohammed Omran told followers at his Melbourne mosque that out-of-control secular scientific values had caused environmental disaster.

“The fear of Allah is not there,” he said at a recent meeting. "So we now have a polluted earth, a polluted water, a wasteland."
However, another of his representatives is calling for more CO2-emitting babies. But since it's in the good cause of Islamising Australia, that's all right. London-based neo-colonialist, sheik Abdul Raheem Green:
"The birth rate in the Western countries is going down. People are more interested in their careers . . . they don't want to have babies,” Sheik Green says in the DVD [sent to Australian mosques].

"So don't you think, Muslim brothers and sisters, we've got a bit of an opportunity here? They're not having babies any more. So what if, instead, we have the babies?"
How do you read that "brothers and sisters" bit?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Shun them

A quote from Milan Kundera's The Curtain. (There's a review here.)

There are people whose intelligence I admire, whose decency I respect, but with whom I feel ill at ease: I censor my remarks to avoid being misunderstood, to avoid seeming cynical, to avoid wounding them by some frivolous word. They do not live at peace with the comical... I give them a wide berth.

The Center for Islamic Pluralism

An article by Stephen Schwartz, co-founder of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, on its 2nd anniversary. He describes the difficulties they face in resisting the spread and influence of Wahhabism. He briefly alludes to a home-grown obstacle:

the vulnerability of mainstream media and even Western governments to the claims of Islamic radicals to stand as the sole representatives of the faith, and the corruption of academics that legitimize this charade.

Wall falls. Gas rises.

Richard North at PJM thinks that the Channel 4 attack on the theory of human-caused global warming was a "pivotal moment in a major political debate". Robert McKie in The Observer, on the other hand, says that there are "many reasons to deride it", not the least of which is that its "contents are largely untrue".

I don't know either way. However, I did like the fifth of the excerpts available on the PJM page in which several people link the heat of passion in the global warming cause to very earthbound events. Principally, the political and economic disarray of the Left after 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. Revolutionaries needed a new cause with the following prerequisites: it must be anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist and, above all, anti-American. They found one. (Well, the more desperate found two, actually. The second involves the sudden release of CO2 in unannounced explosions, which has the additional benefit of reducing the number of CO2 producing people.)

The Independent will soon be calling for new Sumptuary Laws.

Depends on the flag

It's OK to be against terrorism; just don't offend the terrorists.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 9, 2007—Showing brazen disregard for its students’ clearly established constitutional rights, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is putting the College Republicans on trial today for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. University officials have alleged that the students desecrated the name of Allah, which is written on both flags in Arabic script. The student group’s leadership contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help when they first learned of the school’s investigation.
(via Instapundit)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Christopher Robin's a girl

James Lileks on what kids like and don't like.

This year the new Pooh series will introduce a six-year old girl in Christopher’s stead. I’m sure she’s spunky and adventurous and kind and empowered, and I’m just as sure my daughter will find her boring, because kids can smell pedantic condescending twaddle nine mile off.
Winnie The Pooh in the hands of Disney is degraded. I have never bought or shown to the kids anything they've done with it. And now this! I'm offended. Can't someone be beheaded?

(via Instapundit)

Can We Trust the BBC?

Robin Aitkin, for 25 years a journalist at the BBC, has written a book called Can We Trust the BBC?. He is not concerned with any Tory/Labour bias, but with deeper prejudices that, though more difficult to highlight are endemic and almost universal. Needless to say, they can be identified with the assumptions of the Liberal Left.

There's an hour-long interview at 18 Doughty Street from which the 2-minute excerpt below comes from.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If we could just sit down and have a good old natter

Richard Landes demolishes a global poll by BBC World Service on attitudes to culture, religion and conflict. Read his post for the detail. Just one quote. (GlobeScan is the company that conducted the poll.)

Doug Miller, president of GlobeScan, added: “Perhaps the strongest finding is that so many people across the world blame intolerant minorities on both sides for the tensions between Islam and the West.”
Remind you of something? Probably too many things. The old moral equivalence technique. George Bush is just as bad as Osama bin Laden. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is as much a fundamentalist as Mohammed Bouyeri.

The mistake of believing in you

In an article for the May, 1999 issue of Commentary, Gabriel Schoenfeld reappraised Kissinger through a consideration of his memoirs The White House Years and Years of Upheaval. He follows Kissinger's account of the fall of Phnom Penh, which includes a letter that should be read and re-read.

As the Khmer Rouge closed in on the capital city of Phnom Penh in early April 1975, the United States offered a number of Cambodian officials a chance to escape.

The reply addressed to the U.S. ambassador by Sirik Matak, a former Cambodian prime minister, and reprinted by Kissinger in full, is one of the more important documents of the entire Vietnam-war era.

Dear Excellency and Friend:
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.
Immediately after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, writes Kissinger, Sirik Matak was shot in the stomach and left to die over the course of three days from his untreated wounds.
Following this passage, Schoenfeld rekindles Kissinger's bitterness against the media, in particular, The New York Times, whose correspondent, Sydney Schanberg painted a rosy picture of the Khmer Rouge, dismissed the prospect of further violence and whose headline at the fall of Phnom Penh went:
Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life.
He later won a Pulitzer Prize.

(via Ninme)

The revolutionary's Christmas tree

Robin McKie in The Observer on the social costs of climate change.

After decades of waiting, the green movement has found the cause of its dreams: a crisis that gives them carte blanche, they believe, to rule our lives. Hairshirts are being knitted and the self-righteous are gathering...

Climate change is a bigger, more pernicious problem [than ozone depletion] and will require broader, more intense efforts to cut back on carbon emissions, which, in turn, offers more opportunities for campaigners and politicians to hijack a sound cause to gain control of people's lives. 'That is the striking thing about global warming,' says Myles Allen, of Oxford's climate dynamics group. 'It is a Christmas tree on which each of us can hang virtually everything we want.'

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Indigenous culture

Why that noted extremist Ayaan Hirsi Ali says what she does in the way that she does.

Read Phyllis Chesler's story.

Ties that bind

Stephen Bainbridge on the thesis of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by Andrew Roberts

Roberts' focus is the core Anglosphere; i.e., the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Roberts' History is no mere narrative of recent events. Instead, it is an apologia for the proposition that the English-speaking peoples are the last best hope of mankind.
I have bought this book, but have not yet read it. I confess a certain discomfort with that bald statement of its main theme: "the English-speaking peoples are the last best hope of mankind". Would any British newspaper have put it like that?

My discomfort derives from my education and my experience that the virtues are, if not evenly spread, then certainly widely dispersed. There's also good manners; put like that it sounds like the 'I'm better than you' of the school playground.

But perhaps it should not be read as a descriptive statement, but as an exhortation. History as source of strength rather than simple account of events. When a group feels threatened, it invigorates itself by remembering; it goes back to where it came from; it draws together like with like.

One of the greatest weaknesses of the European Union is that it was constructed as a bulwark against huge political failure. The UK will always be an outsider to this club because it did not share this failure. On the contrary, it is one of great political successes of history - just as its imperial children are. And the ties that bind best are those that have never really been broken, even if they have been severely strained.
Indeed, just as Churchill's History was intended to rally the Anglosphere in the early days of the struggle against Communism, Roberts' intent self-evidently is to rally the Anglosphere against Islamofascism.

Towards that end, Roberts emphasizes that the Anglosphere succeeds when it stands as one. In the two World Wars and the Cold War, the UK and USA fought side-by-side, with not inconsiderable help from the other Anglosphere nations. In contrast, on those occasions when the Anglosphere was divided against itself - such as Suez and Vietnam - defeat followed.

Arming Saddam

Prospect quoting Nick Cohen

57 per cent of arms deliveries to Iraq between 1973 and 2002 came from the Soviet Union, 13 per cent from France, 12 per cent from China, 0.5 per cent from the US and 0.2 per cent from Britain. [What's Left? by Nick Cohen]

News from Iraq

Have a look at this 'dispatch' by Michael Yon, not because there are any revelations but because it gives a taste of living inside a dirty war.

Omar Fadhil (from Iraq the Model) describes the relative 'peace' of Baghdad, where the Mehdi Army is not shooting back but using another tactic: rumour.

The latest of these rumors was a ridiculous one I heard yesterday from a taxi driver from Sadr city. His story, quite similar to one told by a Sadr city council member, is that US soldiers are raiding Shia homes, arresting innocent civilians, and then dumping them at night near strongholds of Sunni insurgents, blindfolded and handcuffed so that the insurgents would find them defenseless and slaughter them!
Bill Roggio's daily report is here. He highlights some quality control issues for the insurgents.
Four terrorists were killed in Sadr al-Yusufiyah while planting an IED. Two more insurgents were killed in Mosul and their bomb factory destroyed. One insurgent was killed and two wounded while they attempted to access their weapons cache in Tikrit.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The sun's to blame. Regulate it.

Last month I linked to an article in Corriere della Sera according to which all the planets in the solar system are globally warming due to the sun, which evidently is hotter now than it has been for 1,000 years.

Well, someone is saying it in English too. Well, Russian actually. In what the National Geographic called a "controversial" theory (as opposed to an hysterical one), a Russian scientist has found rising temperatures on Mars, too.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun...

"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.
By studying fluctuations in the warmth of the sun, Abdussamatov believes he can see a pattern that fits with the ups and downs in climate we see on Earth and Mars.

Abdussamatov's work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.
Now, I wonder why not.

(via Dinocrat)

Cold War rhetoric

Christopher Hitchens defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the snipers. He, like Ulrike Ackermann, sees in the rhetoric of her denigrators (as opposed to critics, who discuss arguments) a return to the old apologias of communism and the treatment of its critics.

He is especially hard on the Newsweek review of Infidel and its accompanying Q&A on her current life in the US; it is entitled "A Bombthrower's Life".

The subject of this absurd headline is a woman who has been threatened with horrific violence, by Muslims varying from moderate to extreme, ever since she was a little girl. She has more recently had to see a Dutch friend butchered in the street, been told that she is next, and now has to live with bodyguards in Washington, D.C. She has never used or advocated violence. Yet to whom does Newsweek refer as the "Bombthrower"? It's always the same with these bogus equivalences: They start by pretending loftily to find no difference between aggressor and victim, and they end up by saying that it's the victim of violence who is "really" inciting it.
He rounds on Garton Ash and Buruma, two people he remembers from a different life.
Garton Ash and Buruma would once have made short work of any apologist who accused the critics of the U.S.S.R. or the People's Republic of China of "heating up the Cold War" if they made any points about human rights. Why, then, do they grant an exception to Islam, which is simultaneously the ideology of insurgent violence and of certain inflexible dictatorships? Is it because Islam is a "faith"? Or is it because it is the faith—in Europe at least—of some ethnic minorities?
The Newsweek headline conflates beautifully with Baruma's view that Hirsi Ali is an "Enlightenment fundamentalist" and all resemble in this smear by moral equivalence the Leftists of the Cold War who would label as "consumer terrorism" the market economies of the west and call freedom slavery and its defenders fascists.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Burka blues

This is wonderful. Wait for the song, which is in English.

(via Samizdata)

Inequality and the Common Sense gap

As I have already said in realtion to this topic, we live in an age when 'prejudices' will return in force backed up by statistics.

From the Washington Post

Punctuating a fundamental change in American family life, married couples with children now occupy fewer than one in every four households -- a share that has been slashed in half since 1960 and is the lowest ever recorded by the census.

As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.

Married couples living with their own children younger than 18 are also helping to drive a well-documented increase in income inequality. Compared with all households, they are twice as likely to be in the top 20 percent of income. Their income has increased 59 percent in the past three decades, compared with 44 percent for all households, according to the census.

Among its many benefits, marriage raises the earnings of men and motivates them to work more hours. It also reduces by two-thirds the likelihood that a family will live in poverty, researchers have learned.
(via Instapundit)

In the other hand

From Bill Roggio's Daily Report.

We present in our [sic] hand a green olive branch, and in the other hand we present the law.
Nouri al-Maliki
There's a cabinet reshuffle coming within 2 weeks, a lot of examples of tribes turning against the insurgents and/or al-Queda and major operations in Sadr City going on.

The Daily Reports are collected here.

Let's be good. Let's be irrelevant

The Church of England has given further evidence of intellectual decrepitude.

I don't believe that there is a case for the moral acceptability of nuclear weapons that I could with integrity accept.
Rowan Williams
However, if they can somehow rope into their ranks a few more people like Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (Bishop of Rochester), a 'refugee' from Pakistan, there is hope that the colonies will re-invigorate the mother country.
Nuclear weapons are here and they are not about to be disinvented. As they have done in the past, the Churches have a duty to set out the moral criteria for having, developing or replacing a nuclear capability. It is not their task to tell government what to do or to make policy on its behalf. They need to acknowledge that the government has the responsibility of protecting its citizens, strong and weak alike. They need to ask whether the international situation is such that a nuclear deterrent is needed. In the context of the Cold War, the General Synod agreed that it was. Is the situation any less dangerous today? I don't think so.
Of course, the CofE is not alone. The Scots and the Labour Left offer them solidarity.
"It would be the ultimate in hypocrisy if the UK were to be arguing, for example, that Iran should not be developing a nuclear weapons capability, while at the same time we were extending in scope and in time our own," a Scottish church report said in May.

Former environment secretary Michael Meacher, who is seeking to replace Blair when he steps down from office later this year, has the intervention by the bishops.

"On non-proliferation grounds - it is impossible to say to countries like Iran you should not have nuclear weapons but we must have ours," Meacher said in House of Commons motion, signed by 122 MPs last year.
That might be the case if all countries were equal in responsibilities, achievement and contribution. They are not.

(Second article via Ninme)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hindsight is foresight

William Shawcross

But horror had engulfed all of Indo-China as a result of the US defeat in 1975. In Vietnam and Laos there was no vast mass murder but the communists created cruel gulags and, from Vietnam in particular, millions of people fled, mostly by boat and mostly to the US. Given the catastrophe of the communist victories, I have always thought that those like myself who were opposed to the American efforts in Indochina should be very humble. I also think it wrong to dismiss the US efforts there as sheer disaster. Lee Kuan Yew, the former longtime Prime Minister of Singapore, has a subtler view. He argues that, although America lost in IndoChina in 1975, the fact that it was there so long meant that other SouthEast Asian countries had time to build up their economies to relieve the poverty of their peasants and thus resist communist encroachment — which they probably could not have done had IndoChina gone communist in the 1960s.

Another narrative

Amnon Rubinstein

A well-known professor said not long ago that we have to adopt the values of the Middle East in which we live. I would like to ask him which values he is talking about. About the humiliation of women? About corporal punishment? About the hanging of a homosexual a month ago in a city square in Iran? About the flogging to death of a young homosexual in Saudi Arabia? About the Nazi propaganda in Egypt? I really want to know. What values are we talking about? After all, there is not one Arab state that upholds the values of freedom of expression, human rights and minority rights. And across the Middle East the Arab Christian minorities are disappearing at an appalling rate. I am not talking about Jews or about Copts or Baha'is. I am talking about Arab Christians. No one talks about that. There is a conspiracy of silence on that subject. Neither the European left nor the Israel left is addressing these phenomena...

I am not willing to accept a multicultural approach that says that their culture is like my culture. I do not understand how one can talk about cultural relativism in a generation that saw Nazism and Stalinism. I find it perverse that Jews should advocate such relativism. Is it really possible to say that all the narratives are equal? That the Nazi narrative is equal to the Anglo-Saxon narrative? That the Stalinist narrative is equal to the narrative of the French Revolution?

Eurovision fatality

The Israeli song for the Eurovision Song Contest ain't about adolescent love. It pushes different buttons.

But it may not get to Helsinki. There is talk of banning it on the Euro-principle that what is not harmless is positively dangerous.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Whose side?

David Kilcullen takes The Guardian to task for its assessment of the mood in Baghdad. He provides several corrections and fills in the details, but at one point he asks the most naive of questions.

And yes, there is a risk that home-front political will might collapse just as we are getting things right on the ground. Given some commentators’ overall negativity, one suspects that their efforts may be directed to precisely that end. You may not like the President, you may be unhappy about the war. But whose side are you on?
Well, maybe not so naive.

Love and hate

With the publication of her autobiography, Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has confirmed what many of her critics claim: that she is divisive. This is the essence of Timothy Garton Ash's reservations about her; she doesn't encourage dialogue between the 'civilisations' - she divides them very clearly one from the other and is immoderate in her language to boot. Ash believes that there is a Third Way to be discovered that is neither Islamist nor "Enlightenment fundamentalist" and identifies it with such figures as Tariq Ramadan, who will "obey the laws, but only insofar as they don't force me to do anything against my religion." Ali doesn't make any concessions in this direction.

The big question is whether there can be a Third Way. If you believe there can be, then she is a most inconvenient figure. If you don't believe that Islam can contentedly exist as a minority culture within a dominant secular one, then she is a voice in the wilderness. Well, a wilderness that is getting very crowded. Personally, I tend towards the second position. It may be that my experience is very limited, but I am waiting to see devout Muslims (as opposed to people who are as Muslim as I am Catholic) enter enthusiastically into the body politic and contribute something that is not either a whinge or outrageous demands. I am, however, willing to be convinced otherwise.

Hirsi Ali is, if nothing else, a lightening rod, and by their lights shall they be known. There's been a fascinating discussion of Ali herself, but also of the issues she raises about multiculturalism at signandsight. This by Ulrike Ackermann is the latest contribution. She sees Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash through the prism of the Cold War when so many intellectuals would criticise Stalin but not Communism and

had reservations about eastern European dissidents because they were only fighting for the so-called "bourgeois liberties." Many dreamed at the time of a "third way" between capitalism and communism.
She goes on
For Hirsi Ali, the legacy of the Enlightenment - the separation of religion and state, political and individual rights, self-determination of the individual, reason and the equality of the sexes - are of fundamental importance, and so they should be. To have to defend these against an accusation of fundamentalism is, given the situation in which we find ourselves, pretty ludicrous.
On the other hand, there is this review of Hirsi Ali's autobiography by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
How does one comment objectively on anything Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes, says or does? The rebel against Islam has to be held aloft, coddled and paraded in defiance of her obscurantist foes who want to cut her into pieces.
What does this opening foreshadow? Discomfort, I would say. An awkwardness about someone who has risked her life to defend the rights of women but is saying a lot of uncomfortable things about the multicultural dream that Alibhai-Brown preaches. How does one excape such a dilemma? Snide insinuation.
With Ali we also have to allow for falsehood and duplicity. Her fabrications to get political asylum in the Netherlands were recently exposed. Yet she had spent years condemning "foreign" asylum seekers who do the same. No matter. She has got into political high places, moved from the left to the right, and is a mascot of liberal fundamentalists. The seraph is much adored.
"Falsehood and duplicity". Alibhai-Brown wants you to read Ali's book with those words in mind. The good journalist neglects to explain that Ali herself confessed to her "fabrications" long before they were "exposed". And that is it. She lied to escape an arranged marriage and so cannot be trusted on anything else, according to this view. (And the only word I can find for her last sentence is bitchy.)

Jay Nordlinger asks why Ali is hated so, why "they [don't] come out and attack her frontally — they just snipe at her, sniff at her."
I actually think that Hirsi Ali makes them ashamed — makes her critics ashamed. They know that she is courageous, that she has put her life on the line, that she sees into the heart of the major problem of our time. They hate her the way people hate anyone who delivers a message they can’t stand to hear.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bill Roggio daily from Baghdad

Bill Roggio is writing a daily report from Baghdad for the Weekly Standard. There's always a link to it from his home page. Things in the battered city are quiet at the moment, but he's not silly enough to start talking about success.

Evidently, there's good reason to think that things are going to hot up soon anyway.

U.S. and Iraqi forces will enter Sadr City in the next few days, establish at least one Joint Security Station, and begin clearing the neighborhoods.

Hedonists root for Satan

Like meets like in Sudan. Ahmadinejad with more statesman-like rhetoric.

The Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan.
Moreover, he's nailed down the motivation of the West in supporting Israel. Imperialism? Capitalist greed for oil? The domination of innocent Arabs? Nope.
Many Western governments that claim to be pioneers of democracy and standard bearers of human rights close their eyes over crimes committed by the Zionists and by remaining silent support the Zionists due to their hedonist and materialist tendencies.

Choudhury back in it

Last January the 22nd when Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury's trial for sedition was postponed because no government witnesses turned up, things were starting to look better for him. In addition, under American pressure, the Bangladeshi Government had stated that two more scheduled appearances would go the same way and end the persecution of the journalist. The second was yesterday; it didn't go like that.

Instead, two government witnesses did show and the radical-affiliated judge signed an order forcing the trial to continue and accusing Choudhury of being a “threat to the security of Bangladesh.”
The international pressure continues.
Recently, resolutions condemning Choudhury’s persecution have been passed in the European and Australian Parliaments. A similar resolution in the US Congress recently passed the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs without opposition and with open support by the US State Department.