Day By Day

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Max Boot reports more good news

Max Boot notes survey data that haven't gotten wide publicity in the MSM. He writes:
We interrupt the latest reports about terrorist atrocities with a news bulletin: Support for suicide bombings and Islamic extremism, along with hatred of the Great Satan, is actually waning in the Muslim world.

If that comes as a surprise, it's because of the old adage that good news is no news. While the increase of anti-Americanism around the world and especially in Muslim countries has been exhaustively covered since 2001, not enough attention has been paid to an important survey released in the last month that found global opinion shifting in a more positive direction.
The percentage of people holding a favorable impression of the United States increased in Indonesia (+23 points), Lebanon (+15), Pakistan (+2) and Jordan (+16). It also went up in such non-Muslim nations as France, Germany, Russia and India.

What accounts for this shift? The answer varies by country, but analysts point to waning public anger over the invasion of Iraq, gratitude for the massive U.S. tsunami relief effort and growing conviction that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy.

There is also increasing aversion to America's enemies, even in the Islamic world. The Pew poll found that "nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries."

Support for suicide bombing has declined dramatically in all the Muslim countries surveyed except Jordan, with its large anti-Israeli Palestinian population....

This has been accompanied by a cratering of support for Osama bin Laden everywhere except (unfortunately) Pakistan and Jordan....

What accounts for this decline? Primarily the actions of the terrorists themselves. Since 9/11, most of the atrocities carried out by Islamist groups have occurred in Muslim nations — the latest examples are the bombings in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, and bombings too numerous to mention in Iraq — and most of the victims have been Muslims. Not surprisingly, this hasn't endeared the jihadists to a lot of their coreligionists.

Yet even attacks on the West no longer win knee-jerk approval in the Muslim world....
And then there's this.
Muslim opinion also challenges jihadist orthodoxy that proclaims that giving power to the people, rather than to mullahs, is "un-Islamic." The latest Pew poll found "large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) — as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) — [that] say democracy can work well and is not just for the West."

That's exactly what President Bush has been saying. Though his actions and rhetoric have been denounced as "unrealistic" and "extremist" by his American and European critics, it turns out that Muslims welcome it. "Roughly half of respondents in Jordan and nearly two-thirds of Indonesians think the U.S. favors democracy in their countries," the new Pew study said. "About half of the public in Lebanon also takes that view." Imagine that: Bush's actions might actually be making Middle Easterners more pro-American!
Read it here.

Zimbabwe Update -- Currency Collapse

ZWNews reports:
The largest crash of the Zimbabwean dollar took place in the last six days as desperate motorists went looking for foreign currency to fund fuel imports. A week ago the Zimbabwe dollar was trading at about Z$25 000 to US$1 on the parallel market where many manufacturers source foreign currency to fund imports. On Thursday it had touched Z$45 000 to US$1. The rand was selling at Z$6 000 but buyers were paying Z$7 000. The unofficial exchange rates are available at any street corner from vendors trading opposite hotels frequented by foreign visitors. The official exchange rate was set last week at Z$17 000 to US$1, a 40% devaluation. Simultaneously the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced that anyone with access to foreign currency would be allowed to use it to import fuel, on a no-questions-asked basis. Fuel importers say there has been a scramble for forex since then, sending the parallel market on a downward spiral which shows little sign of slowing down. Economist John Robertson said an inflation rate of 1 000% was possible by year end.
The spiral into the abyss continues and there is little, it seems, that anyone is willing to check Mad Bobby Mugaby in his reckless, racist, socialist careen. Such is the legacy of anti-colonialism. Reason is suspended, hatred flourishes, and rational discourse is paralyzed.

Read about it here.

Positive signals from Iraq

Fareed Zakaria says that his contacts tell him that Baathist insurgents are desperately trying to cut a deal with US forces to end the "nationalist" aspect of the insurgency. The reasons:

1) they fear that the movement is being taken over by Islamist radicals.

2) they fear that Iran will gain from the continued turmoil in Iraq.

The Baathists have moved from outright opposition, to trying to deal directly with the US authority, to finally agreeing to negotiate with the Iraqi interim government. They have also articulated a set of demands to serve as a basis for negotiations. These are all positive developments and point toward a possible negotiated settlement.

Read the piece here.

Jack Kelly cites Debkafile [admittedly not the most reliable source] to the effect that Al Qaeda is planning to shift its efforts away from Iraq and toward Europe. If true, this is a tacit admission that the insurgency in Iraq is dying down [Kelly calls it a "quagmire" for the radicals, drawing their attention and resources away from their larger goals.]

Kelly also points to other encouraging trends in Iraq. He writes:

except in news reports, the war in Iraq has been going poorly for al-Qaida. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, said in a speech July 25 that so far this year, U.S. and Iraqi security forces have killed or captured more than 50,000 insurgents, including a significant portion of the leadership. While the majority of these have to be people who were interviewed and released, that's still an impressive total.

Car bombings, al-Qaida's specialty, have fallen from (a record high of) 170 in April to 151 in May to 133 in June, with less than 100 so far in July. (Journalists describe this as a "worsening" trend.) Al-Qaida could be storing up for an offensive when the new Iraqi constitution is unveiled next month. We'll know soon enough.

The targets have shifted in emphasis from American forces to Iraqi forces to Shiite civilians to, most recently, Sunni Arabs who are cooperating with the government. This does not suggest growing capability or rising support. Nor do the increasing number of gun battles between al-Qaida and its ex-Baathist allies in the insurgency suggest harmony in the resistance.

Suicide attacks have been successful in gaining headlines, but have not slowed enlistment in the Iraqi armed forces, or prevented prominent Sunnis from taking part in the writing of the constitution.

American commanders are now talking openly about a major withdrawal of troops after the Iraqi elections scheduled for December. While this may reflect concerns about the strains the massive deployment in Iraq is placing on the Army and Marine Corps as much as an improving situation, it is doubtful these statements would be made publicly if the situation weren't in fact improving.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-D.C. -based think tank, has been pessimistic about Iraq. He returned from a recent visit singing a different tune:

"If current plans are successfully implemented, the total number of Iraqi military and police units that can honestly be described as trained and equipped should rise from 96,000 in September 2004, and 172,000 today to 230,000 by the end of December and 270,000 by mid-2006," he said.

Strategic Forecasting, a private American intelligence service, thinks al-Qaida is engaged in the terrorist equivalent of the Tet Offensive: "launching a series of attacks -- some significant, others mere psyops -- in an effort to turn the tide in a war it has been losing."

Kelly notes, quite cannily, that as al Qaeda begins to abandon Iraq, critics of the war will begin [actually already have begun] to characterize the insurgency there as a "training ground" or "incubator" for global terrorism. But he responds to the critics with a pertinent question:

what, pray tell, do the promoters of this theory imagine Zarqawi and his minions would have been doing these past two years if there had been no war in Iraq? Origami?
All in all, an interesting perspective and a useful corrective to the doom and gloom broadcast daily in the MSM.

Read it here.

The Dechristianization of Britain

Niall Ferguson, who used to be a serious scholar, worries about the dechristianization of European culture and its implications for the future. He writes:
There was a time when Europe would justly refer to itself as "Christendom". Europeans built the continent's loveliest edifices to accommodate their acts of worship. They quarrelled bitterly over the distinction between transubstantiation and consubstantiation. As pilgrims, missionaries and conquistadors, they sailed to the four corners of the earth, intent on converting the heathen to the true faith. Now it is we who are the heathens.
He notes that dechristianization is a recent phenomenon, dating it to the 1960's, and then raises an intriguing question.
Why have the British lost their historic faith? Like so many difficult questions, this seems at first sight to have an easy answer. But before you blame it on "The Sixties" - the Beatles, the Pill and the mini-skirt - remember that the United States had all these earthly delights too, without ceasing to be a Christian country. To be frank, I have no idea what the answer is. But I do know that it matters.
Why does it matter?
[I]t is not the spread of... mumbo-jumbo that concerns me half so much as the moral vacuum our dechristianisation has created. I do not deny that sermons are sometimes dull and that British congregations often sing out of tune. But, if nothing else, a weekly dose of Christian doctrine will help to provide an ethical framework for your life. And I certainly do not know where else you are going to get one.
This absence of a common ethical framework, overwhelmingly recognized as valid by members of the culture, has, he argues, rendered Britain (and by extension the rest of Europe) a "soft target" not only for bizarre superstition, but also for foreign fanaticism.

I'm glad to see that a sophisticated secularist like Ferguson is finally beginning to worry about such things. I have no better answers than does he, but at least the search has begun.

The Velvet Hammer

The WaPo has a nice overview of Condi's tenure as Secretary of State. Under her, American policy has achieved a coherence that was lacking in Bush's first term.

Rice has worked to redefine administration strategy on several fronts and, in the process, has ended much of the internal squabbling, insiders say. During Bush's first term, foreign policy had two competing themes, framed by "realists" under Powell at State who sought pragmatic accommodation with the world on common goals, and "neo-conservatives" at the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney's office who had grand visions of remaking the world, even if it meant defying allies.

For the second term, Rice has charted a strategy spanning both -- her "practical idealism."

"Somebody said that, you know, the art of diplomacy is getting everybody to the place that your policies are their policies," Rice said. "Well, some of diplomacy is finding a place where your policies and their policies come together. And I think that's what we've been spending a lot of time on."

How has she achieved this unity? Simple -- she has the trust of the President.

Rice's control over policy has been enhanced because she has a close relationship with the president, and is the first secretary of state since Henry A. Kissinger to serve first as national security adviser. Stephen J. Hadley, the former deputy who inherited her old job, "has taken kind of the backseat role," said a Middle East envoy, echoing several other diplomats as well as U.S. officials. "Everything is run and coordinated from State." Bush, said one outside adviser, "trusts her absolutely, as a counselor, as a friend, as a member of the family."
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Naked Truth at the Leopold Museum

OK, you knew I couldn't pass this one up. Not strictly nude protest, unless you take seriously the Euroelite argument that the West, especially the US, is too uptight about sex.

AP/WaPo reports:

VIENNA, Austria -- Vienna's prestigious Leopold Museum is usually a pretty buttoned-down place, but on Friday, some of the nudes in its marble galleries were for real.

Scores of naked or scantily clad people wandered the museum, lured by an offer of free entry to "The Naked Truth," a new exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, if they showed up wearing just a swimsuit _ or nothing at all.

With a midsummer heat wave sweeping much of Europe, pushing temperatures into the mid-90s Fahrenheit in Vienna, the normally staid museum decided that making the most of its cool, climate-controlled space would be just the ticket to spur interest in the show.

"We find a naked body every bit as beautiful as a clothed one," said Elisabeth Leopold, who founded the museum with her husband, Rudolf. "If they came only out of lust, we have to accept that. We stand for the truth."

Peter Weinhaeupl, the Leopold's commercial director, said the goal was twofold _ help people beat the heat while creating a mini-scandal reminiscent of the way the artworks by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and others shocked the public when they first were unveiled a century ago.

"We wanted to give people a chance to cool off, and bring nakedness into the open," he said. "It's a bit of an experiment. Egon Schiele was a young and wild person in his day. He'd want to be here."

Most of those who showed up in little or no attire Friday opted for swimsuits, but a few hardy souls dared to bare more....

Read it here.

US Expelled from Uzbekistan

Russia and China in recent months have been cooperating in a drive to expel US military forces from Central Asia and have been pressuring regional governments to withdraw their consent to having US forces operating out of their territories. To counter this pressure Secretary Rumsfeld recently visited the area, met with local leaders, and secured from Kazakhistan and Tajikastan agreement that US forces will remain there at least until the security situation in Afghanistan stabilizes.

Uzbekistan is another matter. There the local dictator, Islam Karimov, has been roundly criticized by US officials for his harsh response to democratic protestors earlier this year. Russia, in particular, has pressed the opportunity this incident provided to drive a widening wedge between Uzbek and American authorities. This effort just paid off as Uzbekistan yesterday ordered the US to remove its military facilities within 180 days.

This is a great diplomatic triumph for Putin who has been strongly criticized for allowing the US to "encircle" Russia with military bases, and a problem for the US. Our military capbility in Central Asia is somewhat degraded, but not fatally, and it provides the US with an opportunity to clearly define our goals in the region. According to early reports, that is the tack we are taking with this.

WaPo reports:

The eviction notice came four days before a senior State Department official was to arrive in Tashkent for talks with the government of President Islam Karimov. The relationship has been increasingly tense since bloody protests in the province of Andijan in May, the worst unrest since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests, which human rights groups and three U.S. senators who met with eyewitnesses said killed about 500 people. Burns was also going to warn the government, one of the most authoritarian in the Islamic world, to open up politically -- or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said.

Karimov has balked at an international probe. As U.S. pressure mounted, he cut off U.S. night flights and some cargo flights, forcing Washington to move search-and-rescue operations and some cargo flights to Bagram air base in Afghanistan and Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. As relations soured, the Bush administration was preparing for a further cutoff, U.S. officials said.

The United States was given the notice just hours after 439 Uzbek political refugees were flown out of neighboring Kyrgyzstan -- over Uzbek objections -- by the United Nations. The refugees fled after the May unrest, which Uzbek officials charged was the work of terrorists. The Bush administration had been pressuring Kyrgyzstan not to force the refugees to return to Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has been widely viewed as an important test for the Bush administration -- and whether the anti-terrorism efforts or promotion of democracy takes priority. "We all knew basically that if we really wanted to keep access to the base, the way to do it was to shut up about democracy and turn a blind eye to the refugees," said the senior official, on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy. "We could have saved the base if we had wanted."

It looks as though we passed the first test of our intentions, sacrificing a military advantage for democratic principles. Another will soon be coming.

The next test will be whether to withhold as much as $22 million in aid to Uzbekistan if it does not comply with provisions on political and economic reforms it committed to undertake in a 2002 strategic partnership agreement with Washington. Last year, the administration withheld almost $11 million. U.S. officials expect the Uzbek government will again be ineligible for funds.
Read the whole thing here.

Mbeki's Bind

Western observers, including many bloggers, have long been frustrated by South African President, Thabo Mbeki's, refusal to apply pressure to Mad Bobby Mugabe to halt his disastrous economic and population policies. I have argued here that the reason for Mbeki's refusal to criticize his neighbor is that Mugabe's policies -- as repulsive as they are to Western observers -- are actually quite popular in South Africa and elsewhere throughout the region.

What set Zimbabwe on the road to disaster was Mugabe's decision about six years ago to forcibly expropriate the land of white farmers and to turn them over to his cronies in ZANU-PF. The program was carried out brutally and roused widespread protest. The result of the "land reform" was a collapse in agricultural production and widespread rural unemployment that stimulated a widespread migration of these destitute former farm workers into urban areas where they swelled the ranks of the urban poor. Socialist economic policies simply accelerated the collapse as Mugabe used his control of economic resources, particularly food, to benefit members of his own political faction at the expense of the general public. Zimbabwe, which once had been the breadbasket of the region was now dependent on foreign aid for its survival.

In recent months Mugabe has turned his power against the urban poor, initiating a policy of "drive out trash" reminiscent of the horrors of Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia. Hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless and driven into the countryside where they are utterly dependent on the government for their subsistence. As Western protests against this brutal policy rose Mugabe turned eastward toward China which has protected and subsidized him in exchange for lucrative access to Zimbabwe's natural resources. He has mortgaged his nation's future in order to carry out his demented policies, entering into what analysts see as an essentially colonial relationship with China. [here]

Since western protests were unavailing and the UN, as usual, was hapless, there was some hope that Mugabe might be influenced by other African states. But the African Union, many of whose members had initiated similar policies in their own lands, demurred, and most disappointingly, South Africa seemed to support Mugabe.

At the time I pointed out that SA President Mbeki was trying to placate radical elements in his own nation who admired Mugabe's racist and socialist "land reform" policies and were pushing for similar measures in SA. Mbeki had been carrying out the transfer of land from white farmers to black under a voluntary "willing buyer, willing seller" policy. Complaints, however, were mounting that the transfer was going too slowly and that Mbeki should do as Mugabe had done and simply throw the whites off the land.

Now those criticisms have reached a fever pitch and have resulted in a "Land Summit" currently being held in Johannesburg. Things are not going well.

News 24 reports:
The five-day summit, which ends on Sunday, has heard many people asking that the current willing-buyer, willing-seller principle be scrapped as it was slowing land reform.

Others have complained about the current market system, saying it favours farmers.

The first day of the meeting was dominated by the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle with deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka saying it was slowing down land reform.

She told delegates the principle would have to be revisited as the state was the only buyer, and farmers often asked exorbitant prices for their land.

Land affairs minister Thoko Didiza also raised concerns about the concept, saying the state should be allowed to influence how the markets work.

The government wants all land restitution claims settled within the next three years, and 30 percent of agricultural land to be delivered to blacks by 2014. By December 2004, only three percent of commercial farm land had been redistributed.

Read it here.

The slow pace of voluntary land reform, combined with lingering anti-colonial and racial resentments is a volatile mix. Mbeki is in a real bind. He obviously doesn't want to go down the road to ruin Mugabe has trod, but cannot forever resist the pressures for radical racial land reform in South Africa. This simmering situation explains why Mbeki has been unwilling to criticize or pressure Mugabe. Western moralists -- especially those who inhabit the blogosphere -- should try to understand the realities of the political situation in Southern Africa before they launch into denunciations of those who are trying to forge a reasonable consensus policy there.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Youssef M. Ibrahim Worries About What the Jihadis have Wrought

Yussef Ibrahim, writing in the Middle East Times, fears that the Jihadis have wakened a sleeping giant and that Islam as a whole shall suffer for it.

He writes:
The latest reliable report confirms that on average 33 Iraqis die every day, executed by Iraqis and foreign jihadis and suicide bombers, not by US or British soldiers...., we now watch on television hundreds of innocent Iraqis lying without limbs, bleeding in the streets dead or wounded for life. If this is jihad someone got his religious education completely upside down.

[We see] Palestinian armed groups fighting one another - Hamas against Fatah and all against the Palestinian Authority. All have rendered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas impotent and have diminished the world's respect and sympathy for Palestinian sufferings....

Pakistani and other Muslims with British citizenship blew up tube stations in the name of Islam;[and in Madrid] Muslim jihadis blew up train stations killing 160 people and wounding a few thousands.

The excuse in all the above cases was the war in Iraq, but let us not forget that in September 2001, long before Iraq, Osama Bin Laden proudly announced that he ordered the killing of some 3,000 in the United States, in the name of avenging Islam. Let us not forget that the killing began a long time before the invasion of Iraq.

Indeed, jihadis have been killing for a decade in the name of Islam. They killed innocent tourists and natives in Morocco and Egypt, in Africa, in Indonesia and in Yemen, all done in the name of Islam by Muslims who say that they are better than all other Muslims. They killed in India, in Thailand and are now talking of killing in Germany and Denmark and so on. There were attacks with bombs that killed scores inside Shia and Sunni mosques, inside churches and inside synagogues in Turkey and Tunisia, with Muslim preachers saying that it is okay to kill Jews and Christians - the so called infidels.

The Muslim fundamentalist who attacked the Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, stabbed him more than 23 times then cut his throat. He recently proudly proclaimed at his trial: "I did it because my religion - Islam - dictated it and I would do it again if were free." Which preacher told this guy this is Islam? That preacher should be in jail with him.

Do the cowardly jihadis who recruit suicide bombers really think that they will force the US Army and British troops out of Iraq by killing hundreds of innocent Iraqis? US troops now have bases and operate in Iraq but also from Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

The only accomplishment of jihadis is that now they have aroused the great "Western Tiger".
Read the whole thing here.

Ibrahim is right in that the West is now united as never before against the Muslim radicals. At first western powers ignored Islamic radicalism and after 9/11 they blamed Bush and the US, but attacks in Spain and especially Britain have wakened them to the real nature of the threat they face. I think he's wrong, though, to fear that all Muslims will face the wrath of the West.
I fear those naïve Muslims who think that they are beating the West have now achieved their worst crime of all. The West is now going to war against not only Muslims, but also, sadly, Islam as a religion.
He reminds me here of a Columbia scholar with whom I talked about a month after 9/11 who was outraged that there had been more than 300 instances reported in which Muslims in America had experienced fear or discomfort interacting with Americans. I noted at the time that in a population of 300 million people that was literally a one in a million occurance and that to date nobody had been killed. In fact, Americans since 9/11 have displayed almost superhuman restraint -- far more than Europeans. Americans at least [excepting some talk show morons] seem to have little trouble distinguishing between the Jihadi death cult and Muslims in general.

Whether or not their anxiety is real or just a rhetorical conceit, Muslims living in the West are at far less peril than those living in the Middle East or Asia.

On this, though, I agree with Ibrahim. When the West finally gets its act together, it will be unbeatable.
car bombs and suicide bombers here and there will be no match for the arsenal that those Westerners are putting together - an arsenal of laws, intelligence pooling, surveillance by satellites, armies of special forces and indeed, allies inside the Arab world who are tired of having their lives disrupted by demented so-called jihadis or those bearded preachers who, under the guise of preaching, do little to teach and much to ignite the fire, those who know little about Islam and nothing about humanity.
As I have often said, this is not a clash of civilizations -- it is a war on civilization. Slowly but surely the civilized world (Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, and secularist) is coming together to crush this virulent infestation that seeks to undo a millenium of human progress.

Harold Ford's Troubles

One of the most impressive figures in the Democrat firmament has been Harold Ford, Jr. I have often wondered, occasionally here, why he has not risen much farther and faster. This year he finally made his move and has decided to campaign for Bill Frist's Senate seat and in the process seems to have answered my questions. He seems to be unusually inattentive to the demands of his base constituents.

"Half-Bakered" notes that many Tennesse Democrats have been angered by Ford's snubs and that his candidacy may be in trouble as a result.

Read about it here. [Hat Tip, Instapundit]

Sad, Ford has been an impressive moderate voice from the Democrat side. I had high hopes for him.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bush Strikes a Deal on Climate Change

Well, he's done it again. President Bush is redefining the terms of debate on climate change. Yesterday he announced an agreement with five Asian and Pacific nations to deploy cleaner energy technologies.

The Guardian reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's answer to global warming is technology. In a move to counter the Kyoto Protocol that requires mandatory cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions, he is making the technology pitch as part of a partnership with five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India. The idea is to get them to commit to cleaner energy production as a way to curtail air pollution that most scientists believe is causing the Earth to warm up.

The administration announced late Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the five countries to create a new partnership to deploy cleaner technologies whenever possible to produce energy.

The agreement does not bind any of the countries to specific emission reductions, adhering to the Bush doctrine that dealing with climate change should be voluntary and not imposed by mandatory reduction targets and timetables.

The new pact... was viewed by senior White House officials as a significant step toward establishing a framework in which rapidly emerging industrial countries will be encouraged and helped to produce cleaner energy as a way to keep climate-changing chemicals out of the atmosphere, especially carbon from fossil fuels.

Bush called it a ``new results-oriented partnership'' that he said ``will allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies to meet national pollution reduction, energy security and climate change concerns in ways that reduce poverty and promote economic development.''

Read it here.

Of course environmental activists immediately branded the agreement unworkable and demanded a return to Kyoto.

The Standard [Hong Kong] reports:

The United States, China and four Asia-Pacific nations have announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but environmental groups dismissed the plan as unworkable....

Greenpeace spokeswoman Catherine Fitzpatrick said: ``The suggested scheme is, unlike Kyoto, a voluntary scheme, and all evidence shows that voluntary schemes do not work.

``Skulking around making secretive, selective deals will not accomplish'' a reduction in emissions.

Friends of the Earth Australia said the proposed alliance ``does not address the immediate need to cut greenhouse pollution by at least 60 percent by 2050.

``By staying out of the main game - the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases - the US and Australia continue to be open to criticism that they are only looking after their narrowly defined interests at the expense of the rest of the world,'' said FOE spokesman Cam Walker.

The leader of the opposition Australian Greens party, Bob Brown, dismissed the new agreement as ``a coal pact'' involving four of the world's biggest coal producers - China, the US, India and Australia. It is designed to ``defend the coal industry in an age where it's the biggest industry contributing deliberately to the global warming threat to Australia and the planet,'' he said.

Calling it a ``Machiavellian pact,'' Clive Hamilton, the executive director of the Australia Institute, an environmental think-tank, said the main beneficiaries of the initiative ``will be Australian coal companies, some of the world's biggest greenhouse polluters. Study after study has shown that voluntary agreements such as those foreshadowed in this treaty do not work.''

In Geneva, the head of the WWF's climate change program, Jennifer Morgan, said: ``A deal on climate change that doesn't limit pollution is the same as a peace plan that allows guns to be fired.''

An entirely predictable response. Read it here.

According to the Times the UK was out of the loop on this one.

The British Government appears to have been caught unawares by the announcement of a six-country pact spearheaded by the United States and Australia to promote cleaner energy technologies across the Asia-Pacific.

The agreement, which also brings in India, China, Japan and South Korea, was negotiated in secret over the past year and unveiled today on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific security forum in Laos.

Read it here.

That's right, we're supposed to believe that a major pact involving the US, India and Australia was negotiated and the British government had not an inkling. Right! Sure! Tony just wants to keep his distance on this one.

The EU is also upset and claims that no voluntary agreement can ever work.

BBC reports:

The European Union says it will push for legally binding global restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

A spokeswoman's comments came after the announcement of a voluntary pact, based on new technology, between the US and five Asia-Pacific states.

She also told BBC News that the new pact was unlikely to bring a significant reduction in emissions.

The EU's intention to pursue further legally binding reductions could lead to political disputes later this year.

Read it here.

The differences in approach could not be greater. Europe and the left just cannot get beyond rigid, command driven, regulatory approaches to problems while Bush promotes flexible, voluntary, incentivised arrangements. I would note that nearly all the signatories to this pact are clearly outperforming their critics in the economic sphere. I wonder why?


Richard Black at the BBC sorts through the critiques of Bush's initiative as well as its claims. Not surprisingly, he boils it down to a choice between European and American leadership on environmental matters and worries that Europe is too divided to effectively challenge Bush.

Read him here.

Apparently the EU sees it that way too. A few hours ago they announced that they would be offering a "legally binding" pact on climate control as an alternative to Bush's plan.

Read it here.

Stonehenge update -- The Amesbury Archer

Smithsonian has a nice article on the Amesbury Archer. Check it out here.

The Lighter Side of Lebanon

Assassinations, economic warfare, political infighting, religious radical manifestos, border conflicts with Israel. The news out of Lebanon might lead you to believe that it is a place of unrelenting gloom and fear. But the Lebanese are party people and life goes on. Check out these pictures, published in YaLibnan, of last month's independence party in Byblos. Not a Burkha in sight.

Reminder to all -- the Middle East is a very, very complex place.

Lebanon Update -- Now it's economic warfare

Check out this traffic jam -- all in a day's work on the Lebanon-Syrian border.

Having failed to maintain direct political and military control of Lebanon, Syria is now resorting to economic warfare. Syria controls one of two land exits from Lebanon [the other leads to Israel and is closed] and has imposed security checks that effectively shut off most inland traffic, seriously damaging Lebanon's commerce. YaLibnan reports:

Beirut, Lebanon - The Lebanese-Syrian border problem continues. Thousands of truckers have been facing tremendous delays and abuses on the borders.

These delays have resulted in huge losses for the Lebanese farmers, traders and the transportation industry.

Syrian Transport Minister Makram Obeid said that security concerns were behind the crisis on the Lebanese-Syrian borders.

The US has been pressuring Syria to control its borders [meaning the border with Iraq]. This is how they respond.

Read it here.

The Long Arm of British Law

Just a reminder that the Brits have been doing this globalization stuff for centuries now. Sky News is reporting that one of the London bombing suspects was just apprehended..., in Zambia. That's right, Zambia! We in America are accustomed to think that once you are across the border you're gone. Not the Brits, though. They will follow you anywhere.


One of Danny Pearl's killers was arrested in Pakistan. We may be new to the game, but it seems we're catching on. Patience and persistence..., that's what it takes.

At last! A fatwa we can support.

One of the marvels of our day is how opinion on the Europhile left has been transformed by the British bombings. After years of denouncing Bush and saying that it was all our fault, lefties here and across the pond have been having second thoughts about terrorism and its relationship to Islam. And, as liberal support for Islamic radicalism has waned Islamic leaders in the US and Britain have begun to change their tunes.

NYT reports:

Muslim scholars in the United States and Canada plan to release a fatwa, or judicial ruling, in Washington today saying that Islam condemns terrorism, religious extremism and any violence against civilians, including suicide bombings.

They said the fatwa is a response to the bombings this month in London and Egypt, and that they wanted the message to reach both non-Muslims who believe that Islam supports terrorism, as well as Muslims in North America and elsewhere, especially youths who could be susceptible to Islamic extremism.

Read it here.

And read the Chicago Tribune account here.
The times, they are a'changing.

Sign of the Times -- Wake Up With the Contras

While we're on the subject of Central American trade, check this out. That's right -- "Contra Cafe," gourmet coffee grown by former Contras -- armed militants who were funded by the American government to fight the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

Visit their site here. Read their biographies [fascinating]. Buy their product [or else?].

What a long, strange journey it has been since the eighties.

Lomborg-Pope Cage Match

Carl Pope takes on Bjorn Lomborg on the subject of environmental reform in the latest issue of Foreign Policy. The result is an interesting dialogue that lays out the two major thematic approaches to environmental problems. Pope's approach is essentially moralistic and involves massive transfers of wealth from the developed to the developing world, punitive actions taken against polluters, and global regulation of economic activities. Lomborg's approach is pragmatic, based on establishing priorities that will identify the most promising paths for action, promoting general development of human as opposed to natural resources, and voluntary action on the part of individuals and governments. Both cite studies to support their positions and argue over their interpretation reminding us once again just how malleable "science" can be when it is enlisted in the service of political or moral agendas.

It's well worth a read. [here]

CAFTA passes the House

This is good news. CAFTA, which will expand the hemispheric free trade zone to include six more Latin American nations, was narrowly approved by the House of Representatives last night. The Senate had already passed the bill. Now it goes to the White House for the President's signature.

Another small step for free trade. Yay!

AP notes the progress made during this administration:

The accord eventually eliminates tariffs and other trade barriers between the United States and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republican. The countries signed the trade deal a year ago.

Those nations join Australia, Chile, Singapore, Jordan and Morocco in seeing free trade agreements approved during Bush's time in office.

And the hoped for benefits of this legislation:
"Certainly CAFTA doesn't fix all the problems facing Central America," said Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. "But increased integration can only add jobs and help alleviate poverty, reduce the flow of migration northward and make the region more competitive in world markets."
And, we might add, promote political stability in our international backyard.

Good job guys.

Read the AP report here.

IRA Update -- Breakthrough?

Sky News reports:

The IRA will today release a key statement on its future which will "challenge" all sides, the Sinn Fein leader has said.

Gerry Adams urged all parties to read the words carefully and "remain united".

The British and Irish governments are hoping the long-awaited statement will show what steps the IRA has taken to following through on pledges for a total disarmament.

Now this is hopeful. It is probably too much to hope for full disarmament, but clearly something important is in the air. Rocked by the McCartney scandal which deprived the organization of its American support, and increasingly implicated in common criminal activities, the IRA is badly in need of complete reform. What direction that reform takes will become apparent with this forthcoming announcement.

Poor guys. It's not easy being a terrorist during a "war on terror." People just don't respect you any more.

Read it here.


Sky News reports:

The IRA paramilitary movement will put down its arms from 4pm today.

A statement from the republicans said it would halt armed struggles and work towards peaceful solutions.

The long-awaited pledge instructed all IRA members to "assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means".

The British Prime Minister hailed the announcement as "a step of unparalleled magnitude in the history of Northern Ireland".

Tony's right. This is huge. More than I had thought possible. Disarmament, a repudiation of violence, and an agreement not to engage in political activity.

Critics observe, though, that the IRA will maintain its organizational structure.

Read it here.

Rob McCartney's family is, however, not satisfied with the IRA announcement.

Reuters reports:

Catherine McCartney, whose brother was murdered by IRA members outside a Belfast pub, said the guerrilla group must stamp out criminality as well as formally ending its 30-year armed campaign against Britain.

McCartney, whose family has waged an international campaign to bring his killers to court, said the Irish Republican Army did not go far enough with Thursday's announcement that it would cease all armed activities and pursue its aims through politics.

"I thought there would be more clarity about those involved in criminal activity. The IRA should have made it more clear that they would have no protection," she told Reuters from Belfast.

Read it here.


CNN has a day-after followup that notes widespread skepticism regarding the sincerity of the IRA pronouncement.

The IRA's renunciation of political violence and promise to disarm Thursday won easy praise from world leaders -- but a much tougher critique from Belfast's streetwise Catholics and Protestants, who offered views as divided as the city's high-walled neighborhoods.
Read it here.

Zimbabwe Update -- China Protects Mugabe

It took a special effort on the part of the UK to get the UN Security Council to even listen to a report on the continuing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. It finally did so over protests by China and Russia and African states.

BBC reports:
The UN Security Council has discussed a report on Zimbabwe's controversial slum demolition campaign, despite opposition from a number of member countries.

The report, prepared by UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, said the drive had left hundreds of thousands homeless and caused untold human misery.

The UK and US led calls for it to be discussed, but countries including China and Russia were opposed.

They said it would amount to meddling in Zimbabwe's internal affairs.

They also pointed out that Zimbabwe was not on the Security Council agenda.

Read it here.

AP notes that the Chinese UN ambassador walked out of the meeting rather than hear the report detailing Mugabe's human rights abuses. The article also reports that Zimbabwean officials are confident that the UN will take no action to condemn them because China will "protect" them from any such action.

Meanwhile, the demolitions continue and Zimbabwe's poor suffer.

Read the AP report here.

Once more we are treated to the spectacle of the international community, as manifested in the UN and other NGO's, totally incompetent to address massive atrocities. It's a story that's been told over and over and over again. It has become clear that in today's world if the US doesn't do it, very little positive gets done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Irshad Manji calls for a dialogue within Islam

As I noted last week, the bombings in London seem to have focused the minds of American liberals in a way that 9/11 never did. Killing working-class Brits seems to have resonated far more than killing American soldiers or capitalists. The bombings seem to have had a similar effect on moderate Muslims. A general sense is emerging that the radical Islamists have at last gone too far.

Irshad Manji writes:
I believe thursday's bombings in London, combined with the first wave of explosions two weeks ago, are changing something for the better. Never before have I heard Muslims so sincerely denounce terrorism committed in our name as I did on my visit to Britain a few days ago. We're finally waking up.
She argues that it is time for religious leaders to speak up and for average Muslims to accept that their faith has something to do with motivating these killers. She calls for a general dialogue within the Muslim community regarding the dictates of their religion. Now this is the kind of dialogue that might yield positive results.

Read it here.

Coming to Terms with Moynihan -- Kay Hymowitz on the Black Family

Kay Hymowitz has a superb article on the Black family in the latest City Journal. She writes:

Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.

By now, these facts shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto “baby mamas.” Not so; it is a largely low-income—and disproportionately black—phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal—one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.

She goes on to discuss the multitude of ways America's opinion makers, in government, in academia, in the press, and most especially activists, have systematically evaded confronting the implications of the Moynihan Report of forty years ago.

Liberal advocates had two main ways of dodging the subject of family collapse while still addressing its increasingly alarming fallout. The first, largely the creation of Marian Wright Edelman, who in 1973 founded the Children’s Defense Fund, was to talk about children not as the offspring of individual mothers and fathers responsible for rearing them, but as an oppressed class living in generic, nebulous, and never-to-be-analyzed “families.” Framing the problem of ghetto children in this way, CDF was able to mount a powerful case for a host of services, from prenatal care to day care to housing subsidies, in the name of children’s developmental needs, which did not seem to include either a stable domestic life or, for that matter, fathers. Advocates like Edelman might not have viewed the collapsing ghetto family as a welcome occurrence, but they treated it as a kind of natural event, like drought, beyond human control and judgment. As recently as a year ago, marking the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, CDF announced on its website: “In 2004 it is morally and economically indefensible that a black preschool child is three Times as likely to depend solely on a mother’s earnings.” This may strike many as a pretty good argument for addressing the prevalence of black single-mother families, but in CDF-speak it is a case for federal natural-disaster relief.


Whe second way not to talk about what was happening to the ghetto family was to talk instead about teen pregnancy. In 1976 the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, published “Eleven Million Teenagers: What Can Be Done About the Epidemic of Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States?” It was a report that launched a thousand programs. In response to its alarms, HEW chief Joseph Califano helped push through the 1978 Adolescent Health Services and Pregnancy Prevention and Care Act, which funded groups providing services to pregnant adolescents and teen moms. Nonprofits, including the Center for Population Options (now called Advocates for Youth), climbed on the bandwagon. The Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations showered dollars on organizations that ran school-based health clinics, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation set up the Too Early Childbearing Network, the Annie E. Casey Foundation sponsored “A Community Strategy for Reaching Sexually Active Adolescents,” and the Carnegie, Ford, and William T. Grant Foundations all started demonstration programs.

There was just one small problem: there was no epidemic of teen pregnancy. There was an out-of-wedlock teen-pregnancy epidemic....

What jumps off the pages of her account is the simple inability, indeed refusal, of middle-class reformers to consider the reality of the situation developing in poor black communities.

In the middle-class mind, however, no sane girl would want to have a baby at 15—not that experts mouthing rhetoric about the oppressive patriarchal family would admit that there was anything wrong with that. That middle-class outlook, combined with post-Moynihan mendacity about the growing disconnect between ghetto childbearing and marriage, led the policy elites to frame what was really the broad cultural problem of separate and unequal families as a simple lack-of-reproductive-services problem. Ergo, girls “at risk” must need sex education and contraceptive services.

But the truth was that underclass girls often wanted to have babies; they didn’t see it as a problem that they were young and unmarried. They did not follow the middle-class life script that read: protracted adolescence, college, first job, marriage—and only then children. They did not share the belief that children needed mature, educated mothers who would make their youngsters’ development the center of their lives. Access to birth control couldn’t change any of that.

There is nothing new in this. I remember a conversation I had with sociologist Frank Furstenberg many years ago in which he made precisely this point. But reformers who were driving the liberal agenda since the 1960's didn't want to hear it. They closed their eyes, their ears, and their minds to the reality of life in Black communities.

And here is the most important point of the article.

The only good news was that the bad news was so unrelentingly bad that the usual bromides and evasions could no longer hold. Something had to shake up what amounted to an ideological paralysis, and that something came from conservatives. Three thinkers in particular—Charles Murray, Lawrence Mead, and Thomas Sowell—though they did not always write directly about the black family, effectively changed the conversation about it. First, they did not flinch from blunt language in describing the wreckage of the inner city, unafraid of the accusations of racism and victim blaming that came their way. Second, they pointed at the welfare policies of the 1960s, not racism or a lack of jobs or the legacy of slavery, as the cause of inner-city dysfunction, and in so doing they made the welfare mother the public symbol of the ghetto’s ills. (Murray in particular argued that welfare money provided a disincentive for marriage, and, while his theory may have overstated the role of economics, it’s worth noting that he was probably the first to grasp that the country was turning into a nation of separate and unequal families.) And third, they believed that the poor would have to change their behavior instead of waiting for Washington to end poverty, as liberals seemed to be saying.
You couldn't ask for a better example of why conservatives have displaced liberals at the forefront of political and intellectual discourse. Conservative ascendency has been built on the ruins of liberal projects that have failed time and again, and the ideological stasis that has kept liberals from responding creatively to the increasing discrepency between their nostrums and the world in which we all live.

The only major Democrat figure to recognize the damage liberals were doing to themselves was..., ta da, Bill Clinton.

In fact, by the early 1990s, when the ghetto was at its nadir, public opinion had clearly turned. No one was more attuned to this shift than triangulator Bill Clinton, who made the family a centerpiece of his domestic policy.
The importance of Clinton is not that he implemented significant programs or policies, but that his rejection of the past generation's liberal pieties made it possible for liberal Democrats to question those constraints on free discussion. What had been unthinkable has now become accepted wisdom.

Though they always caution that “marriage is not a panacea,” social scientists almost uniformly accept the research that confirms the benefits for children growing up with their own married parents. Welfare reform and tougher child-support regulations have reinforced the message of personal responsibility for one’s children.
She concludes, rightly I think, that liberal dogmatism set back meaningful reform in America's cities for a generation and more.

If change really is in the air, it’s taken 40 years to get here—40 years of inner-city misery for the country to reach a point at which it fully signed on to the lesson of Moynihan’s report. Yes, better late than never; but you could forgive lost generations of ghetto men, women, and children if they found it cold comfort.
Liberals may be slow to catch on to the realities of life. They prefer Satan's urging to "see things as they never were," but they're not uniformly stupid, and over time they can make accommodation to the reality based world. Unfortunately while they were locked into their ideological certainties, people were suffering and dying.

Read the whole thing here.


Responding to one of my correspondents: Yes, in many ways Pat Moynihan was a liberal, but he fell far outside the fold. He worked closely with Republicans from the sixties on and was quite willing to follow where his considerable intellect took him rather than hewing to the party line or to rigid ideological principles. How many program liberals, for instance, would be willing to sign onto the ideas expressed in his "Defining Deviance Down," article?

More Academic Imbecility -- "Dialogue" with the terrorists

Jonathan Glover, who teaches "Human Values and Contemporary Global Ethics" [I'm not kidding] at King's College, writing in the Guardian, urges "dialogue" as the solution to the confrontation with Islamist radicals.
Dialogue is the only way to end this cycle of violence
The west and Islam must acknowledge the truths in both their stories
Political violence is often a resentful backlash to a group's sense of being insulted or humiliated. The rhetoric of 1990s nationalism in the former Yugoslavia was filled with remembered defeats and humiliations by rival groups. The anger that blazes through Mein Kampf was a backlash against the humiliations of the 1918 defeat and subsequent peace. Al-Qaida rhetoric before 9/11 has the same tone: "The people of Islam have suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustices ... Muslims' blood has become the cheapest in the eyes of the world." 9/11 was fuelled by this resentment, as the horrifying pictures of cheering Palestinians showed.

As the assassination at Sarajevo and the response to it triggered the 20th-century world wars, so 9/11 and the response to it could ruin our century. So much depends on whether we can break out of the cycle of violence. This requires a serious dialogue between the overlapping worlds of the west and Islam before irreversible mutual hatred sets in. We need such dialogue internationally, between western and Islamic leaders. We also need it in this country, between those who are not Islamic and those who are.

"Dialogue" may sound vacuous, but that is misleading. In our own country we need not just any old talk, but some quite deep and sustained discussion of particular issues. It could be one of the great projects of mutual education of our time. Two topics would be central. One would be the different systems of belief on each side. The other would be our different narratives of recent history.

What would dialogue about beliefs be like? It would be a very un-technical form of philosophy. Different systems of belief, especially over religion, are often thought impossible to discuss. But the history of philosophy has been a sustained investigation into the difference between good and bad reasons for holding beliefs.
The other topic of the dialogue should be narratives of recent history. [here he is referring to the Israel/Palestine conflict].

Tackling the deep psychology of conflict involves persuading groups to listen to each other's stories and to look for the possibility of a narrative that does justice to the truths in both. Sometimes this happens after conflicts, with truth and reconciliation commissions. The urgent need is for it to happen before further conflict between the Islamic and "western" views in Britain.

What is needed is not a one-sided dialogue in which "we" undermine "their" fanaticism. There are indeed questions to ask about settling political issues by murder or about settling moral issues by appeals to the supposed authority of texts claimed to be the word of God.

But there are also questions about "our" morality. We allowed Falluja to be destroyed like Guernica. And there are questions about the supposed moral difference between bombs in the underground and cluster-bombing civilians in an illegal war. In genuine dialogue both sides have positions at risk. Paradoxically, this can start a virtuous circle. One side admitting intellectual vulnerability may make the other side less defensive too.

Read the whole thing here.

Oh my, oh my! Where to begin?

1) OK..., first, this is not a war between "The West" and Islam. The enemies are not Muslims or Islam, but a particularly vicious death cult of Islamist radicals with a specific political and cultural program -- to topple existing regimes throughout the Islamic world [composed of other Muslims] and to impose on other Muslims an extreme form of religious law. To do so they have first to eliminate Western political and cultural influence throughout the Islamic world. Once established, the restored caliphate, they expect, will be the base from which they can launch the Islamicization of the world -- but that is a long-term goal; the immediate one is the conquest of the Islamic world.

So the current conflict is not primarily between the West and Islam -- it is first and foremost within Islam.

2) Second, the conflation of a multitude of conflicts, from WWI, through Hitler, to today and explaining them as responses to feelings of inadequacy, is an absurd and gross simplification of history, unworthy of further comment.People on the Left constantly complain about "essentialism." This is a particularly egregious example of such.

3) Third, "philosophical discussions" might be appropriate to a sheltered academic forum, but they have absolutely NO beneficial relevance to events in the real world. From Plato in Syracuse to the present history is replete with examples of the failure of philosophical principles to survive confrontation with reality. And the Twentieth Century poses plenty of examples of the horror that can result when persons wielding power place it in the service of philosophical ideals.

4) Fourth, structured dialogue as in a therapy session which aims at constructing a "narrative" that all sides can accept might be an amusing exercise in cloud cuculand, but in the real world where people have to live and die it is ridiculous. Narratives don't drive history -- they are constructed and deployed in the service of interests. They gain or lose plausibility depending on the success or failure of contestants to serve those interests. In this sense the dialogue the professor suggests is already is taking place. When Bin Laden struck at New York his narrative gained saliency through the Muslim world at the expense of other narratives espoused by other Muslims and when the US took down the Taliban or cleaned out Fallujah or Iraqis held free elections, or the people of Lebanon stood up to Syria, his narrative was diminished and others moved to the fore. When Al Qaeda began indisctiminate bombing of Muslims it's narrative was further diminshed. Besides, a review of his utterances reveals that Bin Laden's narrative keeps changing as circumstances dictate.

5) The professor assumes that if we would only admit our failings and recognize the strengths of our opponents' moral positions, then the terrorists would feel less threatened and would be willing to negotiate an end to the struggle. This is absurd. Whatever moral failings, real or imagined, we in the West may have are constantly on discussion in forums throughout the world. Nobody is trying to stifle Professor Glover's critique, absurd as it might be, while in the Madrassas of the Muslim world, dialogue such as the Professor suggests is systematically suppressed.

6) Finally, underlying the whole article is an assumption of moral equivalency on the part of all actors. This is absurd. Radical Islamists in recent years have purposefully attacked and systematically killed Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and lots of other Muslims. They have systematically oppressed women. They operate an international drug trade. They participate in an extensive slave trade. Al Qaeda openly admits that "we love death!". They are a death cult that repudiates everything that we hold dear and good in this world. They are engaged, not in a conflict of civilizations as the Professor assumes. This is an all-out war on civilization. With such as these dialogue is impossible.

Academics...., faugh!


Zafer Senocak, writing in Die Welt, recalls his personal struggle as a teenager to reconcile Islamic and Western values. He emphasizes the unreality of calls for "dialogue" and the perils of diversity thought.

Orient and Occident, Islam and Christianity, tradition and modernity meet at best in museums or anachronistic events. What shapes people today, what makes them behave as they do, how they behave is a mish-mash, an amalgamation of the huge collection of exploded fragments of cultural entities which are not clearly geographically locatable. The Taliban are not only situated in the mountains of Afghanistan, but also in the minds of people living in London, New York and the rest.

People today are suffering from a state of exhaustion provoked by diversity. This makes the call to unity dangerously attractive and a rigid modernity which demands differentiation and individualisation, ineffective. Half-heartedly formulated cosmopolitan ideals are no more likely to tackle the male rituals of religious fanatics than the newly strengthened nationalist voices.
Read the whole thing here.

Zimbabwe Update -- Mugabe goes back to his roots

Mad Bobby Mugabe, aged and seeking a lasting legacy, has returned completely to his Maoist roots. In Zimbabwe he has undertaken policies, clearly rooted in racist, anti-Colonialist, Marxist principles that have destroyed his nation's economy and inflicted enormous suffering on its people, culminating in a population policy that strongly resembles those undertaken earlier by Mao in China and Pol Pot in Cambodia.

These policies have resulted in widespread condemnation throughout the west, but Mugabe has found support guess where? That's right! China.

BBC reports:
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has signed a deal with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing.

The details have not been made public but China was expected to seek mineral and other trade concessions in exchange for economic help.

Mr Mugabe has adopted a "Look East" policy, after being ostracised in the West over alleged human rights abuses.

China has promised to help Zimbabwe and to not interfere in "internal affairs".

China "trusts Zimbabwe's government and people have the ability to deal properly with their own matters", a foreign ministry statement said.
China, one of the world's fastest growing economies, is already ranked as one of Zimbabwe's largest trading partners and has supplied buses, civilian and military aircraft to Mr Mugabe's government.
The ties between China and Mr Mugabe date back to the 1970s war of independence, when fighters from his Zanu party were armed by the Chinese.

That about says it all, doesn't it?

The article also notes that South African President, Thabo Mbeki, has agreed to assume part of Zimbabwe's debt to the IMF. This by no means indicates that Mbeki supports Mugabe's policies -- indeed he doesn't -- but Mugabe is popular among SA's poor who want to see similar racialist policies instituted there, and the total collapse of Zimbabwe's economy would produce hordes of refugees along with political unrest throughout the region. Mbeki therefore playst to domestic pressure and does what he can to avoid total collapse in Mugabe's hellhole.

Read the report here.

Rummy gets a reprieve in Uzbekistan

After 9/11 and during the Afghan invasion the US rapidly expanded its influence and military presence in Central Asia, a fact that was viewed with suspicion by Russia and China, both of which have designs on controlling the region. Then, as democratic revolutionary movements swept through several former Soviet republics suspicions and outright accusations emerged that the US was fomenting liberation movements in order to further imperial designs in the region. These accusations reached a peak this spring when US authorities condemned Uzbek President Islam Karimov for his brutal suppression of democratic protesters.

Now a backlash has set in. China and Russia have put aside their considerable differences to issue a common demand that the US pull out of Central Asia. They have pressured national regimes in the region to make similar demands. Among those demands was that the US abandon the military base it had established in Uzbekistan in 2001.

Under its new interim President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan is trying desperately to maintain some independence of action and to establish a democratic state. Bakiyev has declared his fealty to Russia, but is also dealing with the US, which through its military presence pumps tens of millions of dollars into the nation's economy. It's a classic case of a poor, weak country playing off great powers one against another.

This week Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld personally traveled to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to resolve the matter of American military presence there. Not surprisingly the result was ambiguous enough to at least partially satisfy all the contending interests. Rumsfeld achieved an understanding that the US will continue to operate a base [and continue to pay landing fees] for an indefinite period of time, until the political and military situation in Afghanistan stabilizes. This is understood in the US to represent a long-term presence. Meanwhile, for the Russian audience, Kyrgyz authorities have stressed that the arrangement will last only so long as there is turmoil in Afghanistan, which the Russians interpret as a short-term commitments. So a crisis has been forestalled, American planes will continue to fly, Russian and Chinese fears have been to some extent placated, and money will continue to flow into Kyrgyzstan's treasury.

Not bad, but there is no long-term settlement; just a reprieve.

Get used to this sort of thing.

Bases like the one established in Kyrgyzstan ["lilypads" in Pentagon parlance] are central to America's new military doctrine which emphasizes rapid deployment of specialized forces on a global scale. As the lilypads proliferate, so too will the irritants to regional powers and opportunities for local regimes to milk the confrontations for political and economic benefits.

Read about it here. has a useful overview on the situation here. It notes that complaints against US "imperialism" and "colonialism" have become common in the press of both nations.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hawk Mountain

One of my correspondents asked for more "nature shots." Another asked about Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Here's a picture I recently took of Hawk Mountain on one of my morning rambles. The hill in the foreground makes it look a lot smaller than it really is, but I like the way the lines converge.

For information on the Sanctuary, one of my favorite places, check out their website here. If you can, try to visit it sometime in late September or October and if you are lucky you might hit it on one of their "thousand bird days." The sanctuary sits right smack dab in the middle of the migration route of the eastern raptors and the viewing from the North Lookout can be spectacular. Take a pair of binoculars and a pad to sit on [rocks get hard after a while], dress appropriately for the weather, climb to the lookout, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy as hawks, falcons, eagles, and whatnot stream by. Don't worry if you aren't a birder. There are experts on hand to identify the species and to point them out as they appear.

There's a bit of luck involved. Sometimes you might sit for hours and only see a couple of turkey vultures. Other times you might have dozens of spectacular sightings. My favorite moment was once last February when, after two hours on the lookout without seeing anything, I was getting ready to leave. Suddenly a merlin appeared [they are really fast], circled the lookout three times eying me up, and then attacked a stuffed owl the sanctuary had placed nearby. Another time I saw three bald eagles stacked up over Hunters Field [cool]. Another time two black vultures decided to perch right on the lookout and were completely unfazed as people crept within ten feet of them to take pictures [way cool].

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Bounty at the Harbor

HMS Bounty was at the Harbor this weekend. I wandered around and took some pictures. What always surprises me is how very small these old ships are. Imagine being shut up for months or years on something this size with more than a hundred other men.

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Eco-Porn -- the Latest Frontier in Nude Protest

My correspondent on nudiana [is there such a word?] writes to inform me that Norwegian eco-activists are now using porn to raise money for their cause.

This actually is getting beyond the normal bounds of nude protest, but what the hell!

Der Spiegel reports:
A young Norwegian couple think they have found the way to save the world's rainforests. What better way to raise money to help the environment, than by starting a pornography Web site? With $120,000 banked in just seven months, eco-porn may be about to change the world.
They recently ran into trouble with the law as they sought to expand their activities beyond the internet.
[T]hey had sex on stage -- to the hard rock riffs of rock band The Cumshots -- in front of 50,000 titillated fans during the Quart music festival. A big no-no in Norway. The couple were duly fined $1,400 each but not before Tommy Hol Ellingsen, the male half of the duo, dropped his pants in the courtroom to show the judge exactly which bit of his anatomy had gotten him into the fix in the first place. Unmoved, the two refused to pay the fine -- and promptly left the country and headed to Germany.

Yet what at first sounds like a back-page tabloid story is actually a tale of youthful idealism. The two -- Leona Johansson is Ellingsen's better half -- see themselves as environmental activists and their public fornication foible was simply the medium through which they hoped to raise the profile of a cause very close to their hearts: saving the world's rain forests. F*** for Forest (FFF) is the eyebrow-raising fruit of their philosophy, a pornography Web site where online subscribers can access films and pictures of the couple and their friends getting up to all kinds of tantric, tree-hugging mischief. And far from being scared away by the Norwegian court, the couple has now set up shop in what they hope will be a slightly more liberal environment: Berlin.
Things seem to be going well for them in their new home.
[T]he biggest problem the couple faces is that there are just not enough hours in the day. When they are not having sex in front of the camera, they have to respond to hundreds of e-mails (many from supporters offering their acting services), as well as updating their Web site and contacting environmental organizations. Plus, the pair is also negotiating with a US documentary maker about producing a film depicting the FFF actors visiting a South American tribe, whose way of life is threatened by deforestation. And just for good measure, they also tour festivals and outdoor events all over Europe, on the look out for voluteers and to spread the FFF philosophy.

"Sometimes it can be really too much," Johansson laments,
I would agree.

As simply taking off your clothes in public loses its shock value, protesters are being driven to ever more extreme actions to gain attention for their pet projects. I wonder, though, if in this case we are seeing porn in support of activism, or activism as a cover for money-making porn. The couple claims that most of the organizations they support refuse to take money from them -- so they are apparently keeping most of the funds they raise.

Read the whole thing here. Pictures [one of them not work safe] included.

Is Chelsea for Sale?

SkyNews reports:

Former US president Bill Clinton has been offered 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter by a love-struck African government official.

Mr Clinton was offered the deal on a recent trip to Kenya.

He was offered the animals as a traditional African way of getting a father to give away his daughter's hand in marriage.

The dowry is a very generous one by the country's own standards.

Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor wrote to Mr Clinton through Kenya's Foreign Minister.

He said: "Had I succeeded in wooing Chelsea, I would have had a grand wedding.

"I would have invited South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to preside at the ceremony."

The councillor gave the names of the former Kenyan president Daniel Arap-Moi and two of his college mates as character references.

Mr Chepkurgor also said he was also impressed by Mr Clinton's wife, Hillary, for standing by Mr Clinton during the Monica Lewinksy scandal.

He said Mrs Clinton acted like a "like an African woman".

Read it here.

Well, Hillary does have some fondness for African proverbs.

Come to think of it, Chelsea hasn't been in the news much lately -- wonder what she's up to.

"Chelsea Chepkurgor," hmmm..., it's alliterative..., has a ring to it.

Who knows..., it could work.

I wonder how much we could get for the Bush twins.

Should we Tolerate Intolerance?

Julie Burchill writing in the Times makes an important point about diversity.

What we have learnt recently is that diversity is not just to be celebrated mindlessly, but also navigated and negotiated. We, the host community, have accepted multiculturalism; the issue now is whether hardline — and I stress hardline — Muslims can do the same.

To my eyes at least, “live and let live” seems to be a concept they have a problem with; until they can grasp it, as the Sikhs and Hindus have (who have at least as strong and rich a culture, but feel no need to burn books, form parliaments, set up separatist schools and kill their fellow Britons to demonstrate this), the jury is still out on whether hardline Muslims can truly live happily in non-Muslim countries. And, after all, they have 56 — count ’em! — of their own to go to if they don’t like it. They are spoilt for choice.

Read it here.

Burchill's article is titled: "Why should we tolerate these Islamofascists who hate us all?"

Good question!

Here's why.

Tolerance for others is the essential ingredient that makes diversity work; a simple point really, but one that many people both left and right have trouble accepting. Britain is suddenly wakening to that fact.

Certainly violent Islamist radicalism, and all other doctrines that pose a clear threat to the nation must be vigorously suppressed and expelled, but we must also take care that in the process we do not slip over into general intolerance ourselves. That's not easy.

This does not mean that we simply say "live and let live," although that is about as close to a general principle as we are likely to come -- Christians may wish to substitute the "golden rule". Tolerance must never be confused with acceptance. Noxious ideas and practices must be challenged and confronted, but that dialogue must take place in an open, non-violent, public forum -- wherein the existence of radical others is tolerated.

And the whole process is complicated by the fact that genuine tolerance cannot be mandated, nor can it find perfect expression this side of Heaven. It can only emerge partially through a full, rich and extensive national dialogue, the result of which will seldom be entirely coherent or satisfying. The best we can hope for is a tolerable arrangement within which people of diverse faiths and beliefs can live and productively interact without resorting to violence. We're not talking about perfect brotherhood here -- just simple comity. It's not very satisfying, but it has the simple and considerable virtue of being achievable.

Burchell's piece is an essential part of an extremely important dialogue that is emerging in Britain, Holland and elsewhere throughout Europe. I will be following it with great interest.

We in the US have gone through this before -- about a century ago. That time diversity failed to take root and we fell back on "Americanization," immigration restriction, the "Red Scare", etc. Creating a truly diverse and pluralistic society is not easy -- it takes a lot of hard work. Will we in America achieve it this time? So far, so good, but things are still in doubt....

Stay tuned.