Tuesday, August 24, 2004

We are our brothers keepers

"Why hast thou abandoned me?'

Hunted by death squads, a people without hope

"I knew from the other villages that it had happened like that. They told me: 'When you hear the helicopters and the planes, the Janjaweed are coming'"As he speaks, sitting on a straw mat flanked by a group of male refugees, the low growling of an Antonov plane's engines becomes audible. The men fall silent; the Russian-built planes are the favoured bombers of the Sudanese government."

We are our brothers keepers, and we will be held accountable. Speak up, do something.

The Darfurians aren't the only ones running out of time.

So are we.

Mars? Venus? Nope, Sweden

Stay off work, get paid

Agence France Presse


"Stay home from work, laze about or travel, while collecting 70 per cent of your salary — an illusion? Not in Sweden, where the government will pay workers to take a guilt-free year off and replace them with long-term unemployed, who will get their foot in the door of the job market. Following the success of regional test programmes in place since 2002, Sweden plans to launch the initiative nationwide next year. Run in concert with the National Labour Market Administration (AMS), the programme is aimed primarily at people at the lower end of the wage scale. "AMS plans to prioritise three particular social groups: the long-term unemployed, the handicapped and immigrants," labour ministry spokeswoman Aasa Gunnarsson said, calling feedback from the test programmes "positive". In practice, workers who volunteer to take 12 months off work receive 85 per cent of what they would normally get in unemployment insurance. With the pre-tax monthly salary ceiling set at $3,356, the most a worker can
receive while on sabbatical is $1,282 a month after tax. Employment offices in small towns have been very favourable towards the project during the test period, though it is unlikely to have the same effect in big cities, where the salary ceiling will make it difficult for many families to make ends meet.The profile of the typical volunteer for the programme is a 47-year-old woman who works in the public sector. Birgitta Wiklund, 45, is one such person. She jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself, and in November 2002 she packed her bags and flew off to sunny Thailand with her 10-year-old daughter for three months. "When I got back I was very rested, but starting work again was difficult. Without the government's help I would never have been able to treat myself to this holiday," Wiklund, who works at a local employment office, said. Volunteers are free to travel, study, take care of their kids, build a new home or even startup a company during their year off — anything they want as long as they are not gainfully employed. Paer-Olov Karemar, a 58-year-old accountant, took advantage of the programme to launch a second career: he started a company in the United States and has three patents pending for internet accounting.
"I've always been a bit of an innovator, but not a businessman. My six months of freedom allowed me to find a structure, a network, and ways to develop my ideas. And in addition to making my dream come true, I was also able to find myself," he said. On average, 52 per cent of unemployed people who fill in for someone on sabbatical are offered a full-time job in the company, according to the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation. That is however just a drop in the bucket, what with more than 250,000 Swedes currently out of work in a country of nine million. In July, unemployment hit 5.6 per cent of the workforce, a figure that would be enviable in most other European countries but which is a nightmare for the Swedish state: the country's generous cradle-to-grave welfare benefits are funded by high income taxes, and fewer workers means less revenues."


Unbelievable. And we think we know what political pork is in this country.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Abu Ghraib neighborhood, chemical attack trial begins and for linguistic reasons, the slaughter in Sudan isn't genocide.

Is it just me or do you ever get the feeling we're living in Salvador Dali painting?

The janitor, Harry Truman and John Kerry

I don't usually spend a lot of time writing about John Kerry. There are bloggers out there far more devoted and far better informed than I on the subject.

After reading a few blogs yesterday and today-- and not necessarily on the travails of John Kerry, I have come to a realization of why it would be foolhardy to support Kerry.

When I was a younger, I remember my father always saying how important it was to do a job well, regardless of the job. That regularly scheduled (and hated) lecture came after I didn't quite do all that was asked of me or didn't quite finish the job 'neatly' or put away the tools as I should have.

I've learned a lot since those lectures.

I have memories of the school custodian, pushing his bucket around with the mop inside. He wasn't a very bright guy and he certainly wasn't the most genial of fellows. I can recall times when we purposefully made a mess because we didn't care and we got a kick out of making him work for us and laughing about it.

Of course, now I am very ashamed for having done that.

He was a nameless, almost faceless man. He came to work everyday and did his job.

He never got any respect. No doubt he carried with him the same hopes and dreams we all do, but let's be honest. He was at the bottom of the barrel and he and everyone else knew it.

Still, that custodian, took his job, such as it was, seriously.

George W. Bush, to be charitable, is not the most riveting of individuals. His speeches tend to be at best, adequate, with few exceptions, most notably immediately after 9/11. In any case, he does remain ever the plodder, getting things done.

As Governor of Texas, he ran one of the fastest growing states in the union. He achieved outstanding results in improving the level of education in that State, despite bitter opposition from the educational establishment. His efforts were rewarded with unprecedented support from minority communities. He took on a job and what he felt was a responsibility, rolled up his shirtsleeves and despite opposition from many quarters-- including much of the Texas media-- got the job done.

Rather than bemoan 'two America's' and sing inspirational songs, George W. Bush actually did something. He spoke with great conviction of the 'velvet glove discrimination of lowered expectations,' a candid observation of what we all know to be true. He brought together normally political adversaries and took on an entrenched bureaucracy and made changes to what is usually only talked about and never acted upon. He got the job done.

Much has been made of the President's military record in the National Guard. I don't know if he joined the guard to get out of serving in Vietnam. He may have. The war was wildly unpopular and many distinguished individuals did the exact same thing.

President Clinton got educational deferments and Vice President Gore served as typewriter jockey, using his father to make sure he was out of harms way. I suppose

George Bush could have done the same, taking advantage of connections to secure himself a safe place in Vietnam and claim himself a veteran.

Instead, he learned to fly jets, no small feat. Inasmuch as there are few jobs that require military jet fighter training in the civilian world, one can assume he took his training seriously. His Air Guard unit pilots were indeed on a Vietnam rotation. That being said, George Bush did not train for himself for a 'cushy' job in the military. Can you imagine the uproar if his father would have used his influence to keep him out of harms way, if he had indeed been on a Vietnam rotation?

John Kerry spent four months of combat duty in Vietnam. He has taken those four months and turned himself into the most important veteran of that conflict.

That is John Kerry. Four months, no matter how well served, is not a military career. Four months, used to qualify a man as a military leader, is an insult to military veterans and current members of our Armed Forces. Careers are defined by years of service and years of experience, no matter the military venue.

John Kerry has had less than a distinguished career in the Senate. His record speaks of missed votes and legislation that has gone nowhere. He has stood for nothing, a chameleon, looking to take advantage of a cause, any cause that he would benefit from. No record of taking a stand, no record of going against the tide if it wasn't self serving. John Kerry has worked at been popular with Massachusetts voters and no more than that. John Kerry has been good at keeping himself at the center of attention and featured attraction at cocktail parties from Boston to Washington.

Harry Truman was a failed haberdasher. Despite years of trying and failing at that and other ventures, he gave it his best shot-- he worked hard and never looked for glory.

Mr. Kerry could learn a lot from my school custodian and Harry Truman, two men who got the job done.

One was a business failure and one was a janitor. One became President of the United States and one did not.

It was not a coincidence that Harry Truman always felt close to and was beloved, by the 'little guy.' Harry Truman understood what it was to do the job well, regardless of the job.

Harry Truman left office and went to the train station, alone, him and his his beloved Bess. They went back to Missouri and despite a few attempts, Harry Truman failed at a few other business ventures.

Harry Truman was not a failure.

My old school janitor retired and lived off a small pension in the same obscurity he did when he worked at our school. He probably never realized all his hopes and dreams, either. What he did secure was dignity, whether he knew it or not.

He was not a failure.

John Kerry never got any job done, not in Vietnam or the Senate. John Kerry has always been more concerned about himself than the job at hand.

It isn't hard to understand why, like Harry Truman, my old school janitor had more dignity than John Kerry has now. It isn't hard to understand that the janitor had more in common with harry Truman and the rest of us than John Kerry ever will.

Like I said, John Kerry could learn a lot from that school janitor. And so could the Democrat Party.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Funny pants and sharpshooters

I've come to a sad realization.

Bunker Mulligan must be one lousy golfer. If he could read fairways and greens as well as he reads and deciphers the nuances of our political landscapes, he'd be on TV every Sunday wearing funny pants and playing for the big bucks.

In an excellent piece entitled "Can you Smell the Fear?," Bunker navigates the ethereal obstacles placed before us by an increasingly desperate media. He challenges the hazy logic media uses in the attempt to seperate us, as Americans, from religion, debate and most importantly, the brazen attempt to deny us a voice-- our voice-- at the table of free exchange and ideas. The media are afraid, as Bunker says, because they are losing control of the debate. They are less and less deciding what we read and how we should think. Bunker ends by saying,

"And those who have always been in control of information see that control slipping from their fingers."

He's right. If you read Bunker regularly, you know he takes on the political system itself and the media on a regular basis. BunkerMulligan, much of the blogsphere and Americans everywhere are 'voting with their feet and saying 'Enough!'

Americans, it seems, are a pretty smart people. We have put the media and politicians on notice-- we will not take being force fed from a menu of their choosing.

Much is said about the deline of American influence and the end of the American Empire. Personally, I see just the opposite. While the American Revolution may have been the 'Shot heard 'round the world,' it was only the first. There is a second, more powerful revolution coming, the voice of the people.

Unfiltered,sometimes unrefined, but always free from the influence of politicians and the media, those voices are being heard and considered. People, it would seem, are not as stupid as the media would have you believe. The coming revolution will show the world that once again, the people have a voice.

BunkerMulligan and others are next in the great line of American sharpshooters.

Quick! Call Amnesty!

"The Amazing List of Arab Terrorists´ Demands

The Arab terrorist prisoners' hunger strike entered its second week today, and they have not yet reduced their astonishing list of demands. Public Security Minister Tzachi HaNegbi, who said at the beginning of the strike that as far as he's concerned, "they can starve until they die," said that he had not changed his stance. The Israel Prison Service and police sources explained that the imprisoned terrorists have arranged many terror attacks in the past, thus necessitating the many restrictions on the prisoners and their visitors.The terrorists, most of whom are imprisoned in Israel for murder and other terror crimes, disseminated their list of demands on the ADDAMEER Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association website. The list includes no fewer than 144 demands, divided into 15 sections. Excerpts:

* To remove the glass/plastic barrier between prisoners and visitors

* To allow all family members and relatives to visit

* To bring in families to visit as soon as they arrive to the prison. No delays either at the prison or at checkpoints.

* To allow prisoners to be in plain clothes during the visit and not restricted to uniforms of certain colors or design

* To install pay phones or allow mobile phones in every cell or for every prisoner

* To end all practices and policies accompanying counting the prisoners

* To allow all those prisoners in isolation back to regular sections

* To end all collective punishments

* To allow prisoners to study at Palestinian, Arab, and International Universities

* To allow all cells to have access to a computer and not only students

* To restore recreation time to four hours a day

* To allow university students to choose recreation time suitable for them

* To allow having events, debates, celebrations in the recreation areas and yards as in the past

* To install air conditioning in the cells and section

* To provide an electric toaster, refrigerator and fruit knife for each cell

* A small photocopier and cameras for group photos in each section

* To end the practice of body search by hand and to restrict it to electronic scanning

* To stop searching children 14 years old and under during visits

* Not to handcuff prisoners during the search

* To limit the overall general search to once every 6 months

* To raise payment for workers

* To allow prisoners in the upper beds not to step down at the morning count and to limit to them just raising themselves up in their beds

* To change seats in the buses to more comfortable ones

* To allow prisoners representatives to meet newly transferred prisoners at the bus as they arrive* To remove the darkened windows of the buses

* To increase the number of allowed TV channels

* To remove one bed in each cell

* To end the use of the special classification of certain prisoners "prisoners sentenced for serious offences" and end all unjustified punishments against them and to allow them to be able to work at various facilities in the prisons."

Article is here. WHERE THE HELL IS AMNESTY?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

From those who know them best

Not even the Egyptians will deal with Arafat.

No, ifs, ands or buts about it.

"Egypt has taken this decision after intensive talks with influential
Palestinian parties, including the Fatah officials from which it sensed that
Arafat is the one holding the clues of solution to the internal Palestinian
conflict, but yet he is not ready for taking such decisions.."

"..Egypt has told Arafat it was necessary to handle the internal
Palestinian conflict through taking decisive decisions to end the state of
insecurity in the Palestinian territories, iron out corruption, close the
Palestinian ranks and abandon his security responsibilities."


Obviously, another Israeli inspired consipracy, hatched by a secret cabal of "Jews."

Right.

Article can be found here.

Terror Tax

It's hard to miss the Olympics, now playing on a TV near you.

There is the requisite drama of the comeback and the amazement of the seemingly impossible feats of stregnth, speed and height. There are champions and underdogs, predictable outcomes and out of the blue heroics. The Olympics, are, afterall, the Olympics.

Well, maybe not.

Watching TV, it's hard to miss the empty seats in so many of the venues. People aren't coming out. The people as they say, have voted with their feet-- and their feet are remaining at home.

The question is, why?

The threat of terror, that's why. Despite a security expediture of a billion and half dollars, NATO involvment and unprecedented security, people are staying home. Hotels and restaurants in Athens are empty and shopkeepers and vendors of all kinds are crying the blues. It is rumored that the Greek Olympic Committee is giving away tickets for free, just to fill the stands.

People don't want to spend hours in line and then be subject to endless searches, risking being pulled aside and subject to closer inspection. They don't want to be told that even water bottles can't be brought into the sporting facilities. They may not say it, but they don't want to be potential terror statistics. In short, the spectator stands are empty because it's easier to stay home and watch the games on TV (and left unsaid, thay may feel a whole lot safer). They refuse to pay the Terror Tax.

It's not as if Greece is a geographically remote location. All of Europe is no more than a few hours away by air and no more than a few days away by car. On the face of it, Greece offers a terrific bargain for tourists and with the addition of the Olympic games, Greece should be an irresistable destination. Well, as it turns out, Greece is very resistable at the moment, though in truth, Greece isn't the problem.

It's the Terror Tax. That's not to say the Terror Tax is limited to Greece. We all pay.
Need to catch a flight? Better get to the airport early. Check your ticket-- you're paying a few extra bucks for security. Here in North Carolina, before you can walk away from the car dealsership with that shiny new toy, you're name will be checked against a terror watchlist.
Called down to the IRS for an audit? Be prepared, the checking starts at the metal detector at the front door. The list goes on and on. Now we are told the terrorists want to disrupt our elections. Will those too, go the way of the Athens games, with even fewer voters participating?

The preamble to all this started at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Palestinian terrorists took it upon themselves to desecrate the games by murdering a few Israeli athletes. Oh well, we said, a sign of the times. Then of course, came more airliner hijackings and then the Achille Lauro, where a wheelchair bound American was thrown overboard. Needless to say, that Palestinian 'mastermind' is still revered as a celebrated hero in the land Arafatistan and beyond. The 9/11 terrorists are regarded as heroes in many Muslim countries. Is the connection that obscured?

We now find ourselves paying the Terror Tax in no small measure because of how we reacted-- or didn't react-- to terror in the past. We allowed the Olympics to be fertile ground for 'political' arm of terror because we didn't react to terror in the past. We allowed the 'political' arm of terror to justify the terror. We didn't say 'No' to terror and 'No' to the apologists for terror. We accepted them as equals at the table, and with true Euro/American sensibilities, we tried to 'talk' it through. With a less than full effort on the War on Terror, we're making headway, slowly. While our military is restrained from doing what needs to be done, many in our government are still trying to talk it through-- with the same players we've been talking to for years and with the same results.

Flash forward a few years. Osama gets the message and we're all paying for it, literally and figuratively. We're stuck with the consequences of our inactions. The Terror Tax is here to stay.

Societies, cultures and religions are all measured by what they contribute. No society is recognized for what it destroys. It is with that in mind, we need to deal with and answer our adversaries and their apologists.

If we don't deal with that reality, the Terror Tax will only grow.

Of boycotts and sport

The Friday edition of the Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece by Franklin Foer.

In conjunction with a recently released translation of a Saudi military journal by MEMRI, we can plainly see th doublespeak engaged in by the Saudis and for that matter, much of the Arab world.

Foer plainly states that,

"Rather than compete against an Israeli, Arash Miresmaeili quit the Olympics entirely. As the jukoda told the Iranian government's official news service: "I refuse to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine, and I do not feel upset at all." His one-man boycott earned him encomiums from President Mohammad Khatami. According to reports, the Iranians planned on rewarding Mr. Miresmaeili with $115,000, the purse handed out to gold medalists."

Foer goes on to say that

"Ever since Israel's founding, some Muslim nations have refused to compete against the Jewish state...... Even the mentally impaired have suffered this exclusion. At last year's Special Olympics in Ireland, both Saudi Arabia and Algeria refused to play Israel in soccer and table tennis."

"Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia has been one of the leading proponents of the boycott. In 2002, Prince Sultan signed a letter endorsing an Arab Football Federation proposal to ban Israeli competition in all international soccer matches."


There it it. It's a matter of politics, right? It's a matter of principle and solidarity with the Palestinians, no more than that.

Well, not so fast. The just released MEMRI translation of "A journal titled "Al-Jundi Al-Muslim" (The Muslim Soldier), which is published by the Religious Affairs Department of the Saudi armed forces, published an antisemitic article in its "Know Your Enemy" section. The article was written by Ma'ashu Muhammad and was titled "The Jews in the Modern Era."

The title of the article, "The Jews in the Modern Era." is very telling in that the article was published in the section, "Know Your Enemy,". I'm only repeating that for emphasis. Mea Culpa.

In addition to the standard anti semitic diatribe (that the Saudis will insist is 'misunderstood' as Wahabbi Islam is really the 'Religion of Peace and Tolerance'), the journal article also makes the following observation:

"The Masonic, Crusader, nationalist propaganda produced in the Jewish factories of intrigue succeeded..."

In other words, it's not just the Jews that are enemies of islam. It is now the Christians- Europeans, Americans, etc., that are now equally culpable in defaming Islam and as such, are as equal an enemy as the Jews.

Which is it, then? Is the Saudi led Arab boycott of Israel a political or religious matter? If it is a political matter only, then why the religious diatribe against "The people of the Book"-- Jews and Christians? (This isn't the first diatribe against Christians and Jews emanating from Saudi sources, only the most recent in a long list.)

If the Saudi led boycott of Israel is purely anti Semitic (and anti Christian) in nature, as the MEMRI's translation would indicate, how sincere are efforts to produce a Middle East peace? Was the 'Saudi Proposal,' released in Beirut a few years ago, no more than a PR gambit to make the Saudis look good in Washington and elsewhere? Why are we, and for that matter, the Israelis, wasting time dealing with agents of hatred who will never give up a religiously mandated hatred?

They can't have it both ways and we can't ignore what it is they're saying. If, in their own words, they say they hate us, well, let's just take them at their word.

Why shouldn't we?

Foer writes in his WSJ editorial that as,

"the event's organizers constantly remind the world, they are a festival of
humanity, a great coming together, the one moment when the planet gathers in a friendly spirit of healthy competition...there is ample talk of the "Olympic movement," a phrase intended to highlight these aspirations."

Apparently that just isn't true. The Arab/Islamic world isn't coming together at the Olympics and that has nothing to do with politics. Israel is just the vehicle du jour that justifies reprehensible Arab behavior.

The Saudi's themselves are advising their own, "know your enemy"- and we are included among their stated enemies. That the Saudi's and the Arab world are using the Olympics as a venue to 'participate' and 'come together' is no more than an exercise in deceit. They deceive their own populations by showing how much of what they believe and say, are indeed part of the mainstream. We are willing dupes by allowing them such outrageous latitudes- and we are deceiving ourselves by excusing such behavior.

As for Yasser Arafat, leader of the cause celebre that supposedly justifies the boycott of Israel, well, his reaction to a Saudi who boycotted Israel, says it best.

As written by Mr. Foer in the WSJ:

"In addition to the great support I received from (Saudi) government
officials, residents and expatriates, I have received a special certificate from the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that I'm very proud of," Mr. Al Magahwi told a news conference."

"Nabeel Al-Magahwi refused to play an Israeli at the 2003 world
table-tennis championship in Paris"

Friday, August 20, 2004

A Comment on book banning

A visitor made this comment, on my post re book bannings, just below this one. Here it is:

"Grrr...

You're banging the drum of "book banning," but you're missing the point. Book banning is bad when it's done by the GOVERNMENT in violation of the Constitution, and the mores of free speech that exist in this country.

A choice not to publish -- or a suggestion that a PRIVATE entity choose not to publish -- something is *not* book-banning.

Essentially you're saying, "Ooh, look, Mr. fancy-schmancy liberal democrat Kerry is suddenly in favor of CENSORSHIP!" But the quote's not about censorship. The government can't force FOX to air F9/11, they can't make ClearChannel air Howard Stern, and that's just fine. The quote from Considerettes is just a suggestion that the publisher shouldn't publish that book. No government coercion, just, "hey, it's full of crap, it doesn't seem wise to want to be affiliated with a book that's full of crap."

I've visited a few times, and you seem pretty clever. Your readers aren't dolts. By pulling this rhetorical sleight-of-hand, you're insulting them and
yourself.

Anon!

comment added :: 20th August 2004, 18:06 GMT-05"


I responded with this comment (and pride in that he noticed my readers weren't dolts):

"Your points are thoughtful and well taken. I also appreciate your
comments, though I disagree with some of the things you say. Book bannings are indeed, bad. So is the call for book bannings. Lest you forget, book bannings and the call for book bannings were hallmarks of fascist societies.

That Canada, a once great moral voice in world politics, has descended into a society and government that not only tolerates but initiates censorship, is a sad commentary.

You are right to say that no one can force anyone to censor anything-- as it should be. However, for the Kerry people to even call for a book ban is disengenous-- I'd be more impressed if they had spent decades calling for the banning of Mein Kampf and the like. "


My thoughtful poster is right. I will concede that.

He is right in the specifics, but not in the 'spirit' of what Kerry supporters are asking. Kerry supporters are not asking that the book be banned. They just want the publisher to back down. If we were in a court of law, he'd win hands down.

Nevertheless, my thoughful-- and technically correct-- poster, highlights a point I made in my response.

The notion that some freedoms can be selectively applied, as a result of moral conviction, no doubt sincerely believed, is philosophically fraudulent. As much as liberals don't like many ways Conservative ideas and beliefs, the obverse is also true. Conservatives can get just as bent out of shape as liberals-- and also rely on morality as the defining argument.

Therein lies the 'spirit' of the law and the genius of our nation's 'Great Experiment.' In a sense, it a reflection of a religious theme.

We all want what we want. We all share the same simple human hubris- 'we' are right, 'we' are important, 'we' know better'.

What 'we' are really saying is, take the choice-- and the vote-- away because 'we' know better.

Well folks, we don't know better. That's the whole point. We exist as a community, for better or worse, but out of necessity. There are those of us who have ulterior agendas and there are those of us that don't.

The Founders' promised us 'Life, Liberty and the 'Pursuit of Happiness.' We were not promised unending and unequivical bliss. We are promised that we each, can equally, pursue that what is most elusive-- happiness. That is also a not so tacit recognition that 'we,' of our chosen associations, are not always going to be happy, because the other 'we' made themselves and their beliefs more palatable and more attractive to more people than than 'we' did.

So what? We may not always be happy, but we will live in a civil society, together. By definition, that means compromise. We must learn that we are in this together, for better or worse. The freedoms that exist for one, exist for all. That is the spirit of the law. That is what John Kerry's supporters have forgotten. They don't get to say 'we' are right, and therefore you and your voice don't count.

I am not excoriating John Kerry. He is the choice of the other 'we' and I have to and will respect that. I do not however, have to remain silent when that other 'we' says we must do so, out of a moral conviction-- no matter how sincerely believed-- that excludes my own beliefs and rights and the beliefs and rights of the 'we' I belong to.

How can this be interpreted as a religious theme, as well? Because, we are, 'Our Brothers Keepers'. We're obligated to make sure we don't deny others that to which they are entitled. We're not obligated to more than that-- but the obligation to their own pursuit of happiness is as important as our own.

When I was in Poland a few years ago, I was told that under Communism, there were special hospitals for the Party elite and the State Police. They got the best of everything-- medicines, treatment, etc. That 'we' was the superior 'we', by virtue of the fact they made themselves that way.

Well, John Kerry supporters, that just won't fly here. Or, if you like, that dog just won't hunt.

And now, books are under attack

UPDATE: More by Considerettes on the Kerry ban the book campaign. Mr. Payton et al, have a very lucid post on the flagrant double standards involved.

"The left is coming unhinged, and the press is doing their utmost to bury, spin and/or ignore the bad news unlike they ever have before. Well, let me qualify that. They might have done it this blatantly before, but they didn't have the blogosphere to contend with in the past as the do in this election cycle. "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one", goes the old saying. But now, for a pittance, anyone can own a digital press."

Considerettes on the Kerry camp wanting to ban books. Imagine-- it's now an acceptable idea to consider banning books that some people don't like. Am I missing something, or isn't that a fascist ideal? Scroll down a bit and read his post.

You know, that just goes right along with what my post on the what's being taught in our classrooms. Disgusting!

Friday's are nice.

I just got back from a working lunch (Chinese buffet and yes, I ate too much, and yes, my fortune cookie said I was brilliant, kind, loving and will soon fall into a great fortune) and low and behold, BunkerMulligan, in a piece called "World War IV' and Redhunter, in a piece called "Anti Americanism in Europe", kindly referenced my posts on Anti Americanism.

While I'm grateful to be acknowledged, the real message is in their takes on where we are. Their well written blogs are testaments to a coalescence of thought felt by many Americans.

The fact of the matter is, that all well reasoned belief is a result of an ongoing evoluton. By it's very nature, evolution is adaptation to an understanding of current realities. Those that can adapt will survive and thrive. Those that cannot may survive, but most assuredly, will not thrive.

Another reality of evolution is that is does not take place in a vacuum. We need each other's thoughts, experiences and sense of community. We learn from each other, learn from our collective mistakes as well as individual ones and we even learn from our adversaries, when warranted.

The bottom line is, we evolve into ourselves, in the framework of the community I talked about earlier. I really don't believe that in the end, a true blogger cares about the 'numbers' as much as he cares about being listened to, understood and appreciated. having said that, BunkerMulligan, RedHunter and everybody else on Homespun has really contributed to my ongoing evolution and I suspect, the collective evolution as well.

So my fellow bloggers, take the time to peruse your fellow, no doubt all but myself, 120wpm typing fool bloggers. Agree or disagree, you'll be better for it. As BunkerMulligan says, 'fodder for the brain.'

Lastly, let me remind you that my fortune cookie message was a good one. If you want to share in my upcoming good future, stop by every now and then.

From Sp!kedOnline:

"While diversity policies are supposedly introduced in the name of protecting ordinary people they inevitably result in policing and managing them, making race relations worse. Left to their own devices, individuals today are more tolerant and willing to engage with each other than in the past. But as government and policy-makers implement diversity policies in institutions and communities, they risk storing up distrust and anxiety for the future."

Mon dieux-- Formidable!

Interesting read from the 'other side'

BunkerMulligan and the DiscerningTexan both have really good takes on 'what's in the news'.

Bunker says it short and sweet, right on point, in a piece he's called 'Al Sadr'. It's so short, I won't quote it here. Stroll down the fairway for yourself.
See his post here. By extension, Bunker is asking us how we're going to define ourselves by how we deal with the issues we are facing.

The Discerning Texan has an excellent post on the direction we're taking-- and maybe instead, where we should be going. It's thoughtful reading and in a way, a not so subtle push to look in the mirror and commit in a more than cliched way.

"...Worse, we have a lot of other citizens who are either pretending unconsciously that either 9/11 didn't really happen, or fooling themselves that the Islamists would never really kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of us. All we have to do is to love them and give them foreign aid, and pretend that the UN really means something. We have a public that is blissfully unaware that we can easily lose everything in one solar-like flash: if a major city goes up, the collapse of the world economy will send millions into poverty. You think job losses were bad after two skyscrapers come down? Try watching the worldwide depression that occurs if the world's most powerful economy goes up in one horrible mushroom cloud."

"But many do not see things in these terms. They are lost in some childhood fantasy that their every need will be taken care of by Government, they are too busy worrying about Martha Stewart's cell and J-Lo's latest to worry about a little thing like our survival. Our media, leftist politicians, and celebrity culture still have many of our fellow citizens in collective denial about the danger we are really in."


Read the post here.

Our friends, the Saudis

Check out this beauty from MEMRI. It originates from our 'friends,' the Saudis. The very same Saudis that are now on a PR offensive, telling us how 'alike' we are and how we share the same values.

I do trust my fellow bloggers and readers will need no further explanatory comments.

I do feel bad for the Saudis when the oil runs out or we develop an alternate source of energy. It's kind of like having to be nice to the smartass washer repair guy when he schedules an appointment. You know, how grateful we have to make him feel and how important he really is....until we get a new one.

Read it here.

Sorry state of affairs in the classroom

Homepun's own Speaking My Mind has an excellent take on the state of Australian education, In a piece entitled "What young people are being taught", Reckers gives us an inside look at how kids see themselves-- and by extension, others.


"Fewer than 55 per cent of young people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that "Australia is a democratic country".

And only 52 per cent said they had been taught about citizenship at school."


He ought to know the outrage isn't Australia's alone. The same sorry state of affairs is found here and in Canada-- where a recent survey found 40% of Canadian teenagers believe that the US is 'evil'. Why is this important? Because it's no longer enough to simply disagree with policy. Apparently, when rational discussion based on the merits of an argument won't work, the demonization of no only that policy but it those who concur with it becomes an absolute necessity. Policy has to be evil so as to justify one's own views and the imposition of those views on others.
In tis country, The NEA is so concerned about instilling 'value systems' into their student's minds, that they view competency exams for teachers a threat. I mean, is more imortant-- making sure kids come out of school lefties or making sure they can read and write?

Read the whole post here.

I think I'm going to write more on the subject. Thanks Reckers, for getting me thinking.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Loved To Death: Will Canada's "Universal" Health Care System Come to America?

Ok, I'm on a roll. Here's more on the Canadian Healthcare debacle. Need to lose a little sleep?
Read this article. The piece deals with real issues- and doesn't whitewsh our own system, either.

"The Canadian health care system of single-payer, socialized insurance is in trouble. Now, thanks to the ignorance and cowardice of our politicians, the American system is moving in the same direction."

"Responses to a Canadian survey on their health care crisis provides a significant clue. In this national survey, the majority of Canadians expressed the view that their socialized system, for all its problems, reflects their collective "generosity and compassion," and that the existence of such a system gives them at least one clear claim to being "morally
superior" to the United States.(3)

Imagine! A system which provides -- indeed, even mandates -- pain, suffering, inefficiency and stagnation can somehow be morally superior to a capitalistic system which (when allowed to function without interference) promotes competition, technological superiority, affordability, and respect for the dignity of the human individual.

In other words, it is supposedly better for everyone to have mediocre (or worse) medical care, as is the case in Canada, than it would be for some to have excellent care, some to have very good care, and everyone to have at least adequate care (through voluntary charity, if necessary), as would be the case under a system of laissez-faire (pure) capitalism."


The whole article can be found here.

Interesting article by Ilana Mercer on the state of the Canadian Health Care system. Inasmuch as we are now dealing with the issues of cross border pharmaceutical sales, I suppose more attention will be paid to the Canadian Health Care system. Here's a take on good intentions gone bad.

As health care becomes more of a priority here-- demographics will ensure that-- her view of what went wrong is interesting.

"Medicare is in fact a pit of perverse incentives. It's hard to get kinkier than to make failure tantamount to success. If a hospital consistently underperforms the administration has cause to celebrate. Why? Because it is rewarded with more funds to ostensibly "fix the problem". To underperform is to have your budget increased. With no out-of-pocket payment for the odd slip of the scalpel, the underperformers shoulder little responsibility. The eternally patient or comatose Canadian taxpayer is the one who must pony up for such pooling of risks or insurance. Absent competition, Canadians are trapped in the dilapidated corridors of this national symbol."


The article is a fascinating insight to a system that has progressed to inertia.
Whatever happens, I hope we do better, here.

Read the article here. It's a must read.

FYI

"Its' my divorce and I'll party if I want to.."

Why not to argue politics with your wife

Equal standing for women?

I'm bored--can you tell?

The Discerning Texan, has posted an interesting link to a piece by Lt.Col. Ralph Peters on the 'sticky situation' as he puts it, in Najaf.


"Lt. Col. Ralph Peters writes a column in the New York Post which suggests that it is our own moral cowardice which have allowed radical Islamists to use mosques as cover for their terrorist activity (you will recall also that Islamists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem recently, and caused significant damage to the site...). While it is no question that Najaf is a sticky situation, and fighting appears to have started there again today, not one soldier should die because we are afraid of doing what we have to do to end this situation. Sure, there might be an outcry if the mosque is damaged significantly; but it would be foolish for the Iraqi authority to allow al Sadr to stay there, armed and killing American soldiers, and in general sabotaging the Iraqi government's authority. And taking care of this now will send a message to other Islamist cowards who hide behind their holy sites"

See The Discerning Texan's post here

Inasmuch as current Islamic attitudes to non Islamic holy sites are a mirror of historical Islam's insesitivities to holy sites-- recall the pillage of Southern Europe's churches and their conversion into mosques (after the theft of holy items of value and the intentional desecration of the shrines themselves), we need to understand that we can play by their rules, if that will get the job done. At the same time, we may get the message across that civilized behavior is applicable to all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Maybe I got right

ANALYSIS: WHY IS THE EU COURTING SYRIA?

Maybe I did get it right in my piece,
Anti Americanism, Part Three.

Notwithstanding Syria's terror and WMD arsenal, many in the EU are willing to bring Syria into the fold, irrespective of American and what are democratic interests.
According to the
Media Line,

"Several European Union (EU) officials have expressed renewed hope that a multifaceted agreement with Syria would come to fruition despite insistence by certain countries that it relinquish its weapons of mass
destruction."

"..The union has stated that U.S. pressure would not affect
its commitment to Syria and the Euromed.""..However, the United Kingdom, Holland, and Germany stalled the process in May, arguing that Syria, believed to possess the Middle East’s largest collection of weapons of mass destruction, must abide by their disarmament demands." "However, nothing has changed on the Syrian side; it is the EU that appears to have softened its stance.

"Apparently, sponsoring terror and being the occupying and heavy handed force in Lebanon can be overlooked-- After all, taking the position that Syria must clean up it's own act is part of the American agenda and as such, is justification enough for the EU to to take a contrary position."Europe and Syria signed what is known as the association agreement in December, which deals with trade, social development, politics, and culture, shortly after the U.S. Senate passed the Syria Accountability Act. The latter is a set of economic sanctions imposed on Syria by the U.S. for support of terrorists and its military presence in neighboring Lebanon."Europe has been pursuing economic ties with Syria to eventually integrate the state into the Euromed (Euro-Mediterranean) trade zone. Thus, the expressions of consent seem to be coming from the wrong corner. After all, Syria
needs friends, not Europe – or so it seems."With U.S. sanctions in force, Iraq crumbling beside it, and intermittent condemnations for human rights, freedom of expression and religion abuses by human-rights groups, Syria is not the West’s most prized ally.""As a result, the EU is looking forother spheres of influence."

"With Syria as its ally, the EU is looking to finalize its economic authority in the region."

Just how important is Syria to the EU economic authority? Well, the rate of GDP growth in Syria is less than that of those other economic powerhouses, Senegal, Peru, Samoa. Sierra Leonne has a rate of growth almost 6 times greater. The good news is that the GDP rate of growth is greater than that of North Korea-- barely.In other words, screw the Americans. The EU will look for influence anywhere it can find it.

Read the whole article here.

Anti Americanism, Part Three

Anti Americanism as a Moral Imperative

Like my first piece, this one is observational in nature. It reflects my personal experiences in Europe, a place not unfamilar to me. Nothing I've written to date can be referred to as 'serious' writing. My views are observational in nature and they do not reflect views as shaded through a particular political standpoint-- though I readily admit I base those views on long held moral convictions. The conclusions are my own and I believe they are a fair representation of what I see and hear in my travels 'over there'.

Europe has changed, in my lifetime. I remember travelling, starting in the mid '80's and being engulfed in a culture foreign to my own-- and being enthralled.
There was a bond, if you will. Communism, was more than the ethereal academic study it was in the US-- it was real. Europeans took freedom a lot more seriously. West German papers were filled with stories of people who attempted to escape from the East and were caught, and families that were seperated for decades. French papers religiously reported on Soviet spy scandals and KGB spying prowess, all the while reminding their countrymen of the heroic Degaulle who, with the Americans, liberated Europe.

It was no matter that it was only mythology-- the French were free and stood shoulder to shoulder with America. Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite was the moral mantra of the French, notwithstanding the shame of the collaberationist Vichy regime, Algeria and the ruins French colonialism had left behind. We were all brothers in arms in the cause of freedom. Sure, there were disputes, but in reality they were no more than 'regional' in nature-- 'Hambugers? That's not cuisine!' or 'No, you can't really understand, there is no word in English that can translate 'amour'. Italians were overjoyed that dubbed 'spaghetti westerns' were seen and treated as a real 'understanding' of American culture. London barkeeps all replied to my request with, 'Ice? who needs ice?' All the while Europeans happily consumed KFC, burgers and flocked to see Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone and insisted on wearing Levi's.

Now, America has become the villain. What changed? Everything and nothing.
Why are we so surprised? It's not as if Europeans have a history of tranquil relations with each other. Why on earth should we think we'd be treated any differently? Wars, ethnic divisions, plots, conspiracies, fueding royal houses and competition to exploit those nations and resouces weaker than they are. Not that we really needed to actually understand European history- after all, how could we-- all we had to do was remember the dates, names of battles and listen to recent history majors tell us how wrong one side of the other was. We knew it all. We were sure that the Boston Tea Party, the Civil War and our own experiences qualified us to understand Europe better than the Europeans themselves. Why this is important will be addressed later.

It was no different in Europe. The French were imperious frogs, the English were stupide as a result of living on an Island-- too much inbreeding for too long, the Italians were, well, Italian-- too concerned with food and incapable of building a product that actually worked. The Germans were obsessed with marching in lockstep and were certain that art could be defined in technical and mathematical ways-- no need to address the emotional. That emotionality was reserved for self flagellation regarding the Holocaust-- as long as that self flagellation was dispensed in measured amounts on a regular basis, discussed in a way that was clinical and not emotional. The Dutch built inefficient factories to mass produce wooden clogs for tourists and the factories themselves became tourist attractions. The Americans? All business, no time for life, no understanding of culture. And so it went.

Like a dysfunctional family, Europe has finally found a way to exist without having to deal with it's own real problems. Anti Americanism provides that vehicle. Europeans need anti Americanism, to justify their own existance. Without anti Americanism, Europe would sooner, rather than later, slide back into her own pathologies. Witness the small flare when Jacques Chirac of France scolded Poland for her support of the US with regard to Iraq. Chirac told the Poles, to, "Stay quiet and mind your place at the European table".

The last 200 years have been the tape measure. America is stronger, faster, better. There is no getting around it. Not just in an economic sense, but in the artistic, educational, political and moral senses.

Our best days, as we say, are ahead of us. They always have been and always will be- it is how we are constructed. We always wonder what is over the horizon and strive to get there. We are not satisfied with what we know-- it is what we don't yet know that has been our obsession. We see the possibilities, the next great thing if only...
Europe's glories, many well deserved, are in the past. No matter the discipline, America is at the forefront. If it weren't so there wouldn't be the brain drain into America. It's not just the taxes, as is often opined-- it is the fact that the innovation, ideas and excitement are here. No matter how I often I visit, Europeans always asks, 'What's new in America? What wonders are we in store for, from you crazy Americans?'

Europeans could not and cannot deal with the realities of our times. Like the fading beauty, she resorted to more makeup, a new, more provocative wardrobe and the desperate, outrageous flirtations designed to attract attention. Europe is putting herself through an 'extreme makeover', in attempt to delay the inevitable reality that America is the future, the Belle of the Ball.

The US now dominates the world of trade. While most people see that in stricly economic terms, it is much more. In reality, free trade is the truest expression of peace. Countries and region at peace can manage to somehow put aside their differences, in order to trade. Wars are not good for free trade. Notwithstanding the military industrial complex, free trade of goods and services provide far more money and benefits to the economy and standard of living to any country. Trade is good for everybody.

The EU has more to do with 'commonality of interests' than it has to do with trade. In order to stay competitive with the US, Europe coalesced into a 'Union'-- a Union meant to be the equivalent of the US economic powerhouse, or so they said.

Of course, that's the illusion. The free flow of goods via trade isn't rocket science, so the years of EU wrangling was about more than trade. In fact, it was the opposite. It was about forming a common voice, a 'gang' that would take on American dominance. They were sure to succeed, they thought, because Americans are stupid. Americans don't like being perceived as a bully, they'd back down and back away.

They are weak. Temporarily (and often against the wishes of their citizens), European leaders put aside their economic, cultural and moral differences to form this 'gang' that would bully the US and thus delay the inevitable. They have artificially cobbled together a constitution that pleases no one and attempts to impose values and cultural distinctions that in many cases, are directly opposed to the cultural distinctiveness of the countries they purportedly bind.

Taking their lessons from the Arab world and improving upon them, European leaders are waving their own, now common flag, attempting to focus the attention of their citizens outward. It has become an 'les Europeannes vs les Americaines' affair. Never mind that European democracies are overrun with lunatic fringe parties that threaten to immobilize effective government. No matter that illegal immigration has been tolerated-- and now Europe is paying the price, with a frightened citizenry. No matter that Europe has effectively abandoned a stable relationship with the US in pursuit of interests that offer no more that short term respites. Now, Europe believes that by becoming a union, the real problems that are not being dealt with at home might go away, if only people can be convinced that being European is more important than doing the very difficult 'right thing'--especially if that 'right thing' is sharing an American interest.

Each European country knows very well that being anti American is against it's own interests. Each country understands that anti Americanism can only serve to distance that country from a reliable and loyal ally.

Therefore, as in the Middle East, a collective of voices becomes one, purporting to speak with the interests of everyone at heart. The Arab League, redux. A concerted voice with a concerted, distinctive anti American message. As in the Middle East, we seem to have only a few, if any, enemies. Saudi Arabia is our 'friend'. Egypt is our 'friend'. Jordan is our 'friend'. Syria hasn't quite been our 'friend', so we slap them with a few ineffectual sanctions in the hope that they too, will be our 'friends'. Each Gulf State is our 'friend'. The State Department tells us we have many 'friends'. We help our 'friends with unending foreign aid and stay mute when time after time, they violate the most basic priciples of human dignity and don't take our side in any matter.

Then comes the The Arab League, claiming to speak with the voice of Arab unity, then does everything in it's power to diminish those 'friendships' by placing obstacles and blocking any attempts at progress that are in the regions best interests. All in the name of unity and the best interests of Arabs overall. The Arab League exists only to preserve the regimes and the status quo in the Middle East. This is the model the EU has chosen for itself. Not to preserve regimes-- but as an attempt to preserve waning European influence, through the vehicle of anti Americanism

It has now become a moral imperative in Europe to be anti American. America threatens European identity, we are told. America is usurping the sphere of European influence, it said. America is dominating the world without taking into account European interests and European needs. Europeans demand to be heard and not feel insulted. Sound familiar?

As I mentioned earlier, our mistakes that have helped Europe become what it is. The Boston Tea Party was not the French Revolution. The Civil War was not WWI. It is hubris on our part to think that we know and understand European history better than the Europeans know it themselves. Europeans do not understand our history. It is hubris to think that just because we are a nation of immigrants, the countries from which those immigrants came from, actually hold a special place in their hearts for us.

The EU, that new common voice, has changed the compact we have with Europe. It cannot be described simply as a counterpart to the economic might of the US. Counterparts are equals-- the EU has written laws that defend certain trade subsidies and abolish others, for example-- effectively enshrining protectionism for itself while decrying it for everyone else. What the EU really has done is become a voice that legitimizes anti Americanism, without, 'naming names', all in the interest of self service at the expense of the US. To think otherwise is naive.

It is not about disagreements or honest differences of opinions, no question. Disagreements can be beneficial and healthy. It is about a fundamental change in European attitudes towards America, ochestrated for no other reason than to deflect attention away from a continent that has become morally bankrupt and an economic stepchild to the US. It is an attempt, as was said earlier, to maintain influence, at our expense.

It is not all of Europe. Eastern Europe still has memories of the regimes that oppressed her and demonized America. That New Europe knows better than all of us, the dangers of that slippery slope. Once embarked upon, anti Americanism needs a constant diet of new demons and outrages to feed itself.

America needs to be the same America it's always been. We share our values with those who have the same values. If those basic values change, our relationships need to change. Not neccesarily in a dramatic fashion, but they do need to change. Our interests come first.

As Communism, the artchitect of global anti democracy movements failed, so too will the anti Americanism of Europe fail. It is inevitable. Political movements, that by design, are not in the best interest of the citizenry, will fail.

Anti Americanism as a newly minted European moral imperative, is one such movement.

Almost there

I have received a few emails asking me when Part Three of my observations on anti Americanism will make it's appearance. That will happen later today. I wanted to post yesterday, but I just couldn't focus enough to write

Being new to the blogsphere (this is the first time I've actually used that term), I'm amazed that some of my fellow bloggers actually read what I write! I guess the newness of it all hasn't worn off yet.

I would be less than honest if I didn't credit many of you on the Homespun roster. I read blogs differently now-- your blog posts are no longer something I'm detached from. I can honestly say I'm just a little bit more involved and better informed. Reading my associates semi pro blogs on a regular basis seems to polish my views and helps sharpen my acuity and awareness of the things that matter to me-- and that has helped me write. Most of you are far better writers than I am. Thanks to all of you for helping me raise my own bar.

Happy Birthday, MrMinority. Many, many more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Podhoritz in Commentary

World War IV: How it Started, What it Means and Why We Have to Win , by Norman Podhoritz, writing in Commentary

"For today, no less than in those titanic conflicts, we are up against a truly malignant force in radical Islamism and in the states breeding, sheltering, or financing its terrorist armory. This new enemy has already attacked us on our own soil—a feat neither Nazi Germany nor Soviet Russia ever managed to pull off—and openly announces his intention to hit us again, only this time with weapons of infinitely greater and deadlier power than those used on 9/11. His objective is not merely to murder as many of us as possible and to conquer our land. Like the Nazis and Communists before him, he is dedicated to the destruction of everything good for which America stands. It is this, then, that (to paraphrase George W. Bush and a long string of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic alike) we in our turn, no less than the "greatest generation" of the 1940’s and its spiritual progeny of the 1950’s and after, have a responsibility to uphold and are privileged to defend."

Yes, it's a long read, but it's superb. It covers 9/11, Afganistan, Iraq and terror in out times and on our shores. It is simply the best look back at 9/11, Iraq, terror and George Bush's response.

Read it, please.

Civilte Francaise

From Airwise...

"Limbless Woman Sues Air France Over "Torso" Snub

A wheelchair-bound woman with no limbs has sued Air France for
discrimination, alleging she was kept off a flight by a gate agent who told her a "torso cannot possibly fly on its own. "Can you imagine referring to a handicapped person as a 'torso'??


Ah, the French. How civilized. Read the whole article here

Al Qaeda, Canada. elections

An article today in Canada's excellent National Post ought to give us plenty to worry about.

"A lot" of Canadians trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and some still live freely in Canada, Abdurahman Khadr testified at a court hearing at which he revealed chilling new details about Canadian terror suspects and his father's ties to Osama bin Laden's training camps.......graduates of the Afghan camps are living normal lives in Canada comes as U.S. officials are concerned that al-Qaeda might try to use Canada as a staging ground for a terrorist strike some time before November's presidential election."

Disturbing- VERY disturbing. Read the whole article here.

Short, sweet and to the point

No one can ever say Mr Minority isn't clear: In a post lambasting the EU for building it's own security fence after criticizing Israel for doing the same, Mr. Minority puts it very succintly:

"I think that the EU's problem is that they have their heads sooooooooo
faaaaaaaar up their asses that they can't see reality anymore, and logic just
confuses them. I pray that the good countries that belong to the EU, see this crap and want to change it, before the EU becomes a Political Yoke to them in which they can never cast off."
Engineers and straight lines.

Doing it yourself

In a piece he calls 'Tradition', BunkerMulligan scores a double eagle.

"There is a very revealing scene in Lawrence of Arabia. The Arab
forces, under Lawrence's leadership, have taken Damascas ahead of the British. They own the city, but they now own all the responsibilities of making it work. And they can't. And they won't. Every problem is met with accusations of how some other tribe is responsible for making something operate properly, something required to make something else function. And there is some manual labor involved in many of these functions. Certain tribes are too good to engage in manual labor."

He goes on to make the observation,

"It is a culture built on familial and tribal ties, where negotiation is the order of the day. It seems to be the major sport of the Arab world. The best
negotiator wins."

Read the rest of his post here

Burritos or fallafal?

From today's London Telegraph

"Over the past month, border agents from Arizona and Texas have anonymously reported recent encounters with dozens of Arab men, who have made their way across the 2,000-mile Mexican border.

Patrol agents told one Arizona newspaper that 77 males "of Middle Eastern descent" were apprehended in June in two separate incidents. All were trekking through the Chiricahua mountains and are believed to have been part of a larger group of illegal immigrants. Many were released pending immigration hearings. According to Solomon Ortiz, the Congressman for Corpus Christi in Texas, similar incidents are "happening all over the place. It's very, very scary..."



Read the whole story here.

Anti Americanism, Part Two of Three

Anti Americanism, Part Two of Three

Religious Dogma and anti Americanism

We are told on a daily basis, that Anti Americanism in the Arab world is at an all time high. News media pundits, in serious pontificating posture, tell us how it is we who are to blame. It is our foreign policy, it is our negative view of Islam andour decrepit culture that has inflammed the fabled 'Arab street'.

Demonstrations in Arab capitals, replete with the requisite American and Israeli flag burnings and the obligatory burning of western leaders in effigy, serve to reinforce the idea that somehow we are at a breaking point-- that we are closer than ever to a political Armageddon with the Arab world. Arab leaders reinforce that view with serious, measured pronouncements directed at the American electorate advising us that the foreign policy follies of the the US administration are to blame for the breakdown of the kind, gentle Arab population's view of America and Americans. There is a thinly veiled warning that in order to keep things from boiling over, we need to elect the 'right' administration- that is, an administration that sees things their way.

The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Everything in these Arab totalitarian regimes is orchestrated. Massive rallies take place with the blessings and encouragement of the government. Political 'bureaus', are employed to direct the propoganda and action. As in the heyday of Soviet Communism, 'spontaneous' demonstrations are populated with government workers bused in and school children by the thousands mysteriously given the day off and paraded in front of the media. Cameras, both local and western, are placed at strategic points so as to provide the most dramatic graphic images of the rage and hysteria. Selected 'man on the street' interviews are aired that only reinforce the images we are shown. Arab print media, virtually all government controlled, back up the images with virulently anti American rhetoric.
Without government support and encouragement, these protests would never be allowed to take place. Anti America hysteria and demonstrations, have been curtailed, as if by magic, in Saudi Arabia. Those kind of things no longer serve Saudi purposes, now that they are facing Islamic terror in the face, themselves. A miracle, indeed.

This anti Americanism is staged to serve a purpose. That purpose is to influence Americans and westerners as to the supposed error of their ways. In other words, these regimes want to create a sense of symapthy for the people they are subjugating and to somehow. place the blame for their suffering on the west.

Still, one cannot help but see the rage. Unlike Soviet era demonstrations where protestors were seen as lamely parroting the party line, shuffling along, these protestors are indeed inflammed. The question is why.

Arab leaders are no fools. They understand that the cause of Arab nationalism is longer a viable way to galvanize the masses. Arab leaders are divided themselves and have no use for one another. They are interested only in themselves, and enriching and preserving their family dynasties.

Arabs feel humiliated, we are told. Citizens of these Arab regimes know, that after decades of going nowhere, they are falling behind. In reality they realize who is to blame. They will not gather to support leaders who have done nothing for them. They will however, gather for their faith, Islam. Their faith in God is untouched by despots. They see their faith in Islam as their only hope and their deliverance. God will save them, if only they are deserving.

Arab leaders understand this. It is yet another calculated way to deflect attention outward, away from themselves and their ineptitude and corruption. So, (what they thought was) the use religion as a method of whipping up dissent was a double blessing. Arabs find hope and salvation and governments get to direct attention away from themselves. Best of all, there are enemies, real ones they say, portrayed as evil and as hating Mulsims. The US and Israel fit the bill perfectly. They are the manifestations of Satan, with political and religious differences from their own, mercilessly attacking the poor and defenseless Muslims. A Hollywood script if there ever was one.

How then, can one Abrahamic faith be so different in values than the other two, that allows itself to be a vehicle for such hatred and virulance? What is it about Arab Islam (there is an important distinction between Arab Islam and that Islam of other regions. The Islam of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore is nowhere near as virulent and anti American as the Arab version. In fact, outside the Arab world and Pakistan, cooperation and integration with the west is regarded as key to progress.They are far more secure in their Islam than the Arab world) that sets it apart from Judaism and Christianity?

(The following contains some selections and extractions from a letter I wrote a Muslim friend. That letter prompted me to write this piece.)

It isn't just the Quran. Violence is part of both the Old and New Testaments as well. So is the authoritarian God, omnipotent and ever judging. However, we in the west choose not to define our beliefs in those terms. We see God very differently from Muslims. We read the bible very differently than Muslims. It wasn't always so, but it is now.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the significant and important concept of Imitatio dei, the deliberate choices we make in imitating God. We are after all, 'Created in His image' and charged with living our lives in a Godly way. To those who accept faith, this is a basic tenet.

It is here that differences between the faiths occur (Again, i'm referring to the Abrahamic faiths as we know them today.)

God as accepted by Jews and Christians is limited in his interaction with us, in that laws of nature, once established, are part of His Dominion. He has symapathy for man and suffers when we do. (For example, when a infant drowns in a swimming pool, God cries with us. In the laws of nature, infants cannot swim. Islam sees the death differently. The child's death is a punishment) He takes pity on the disenfranchised and the persecuted. The Christian God came to earth and foretold of his own crucifixtion and even welcomed it. The poor and the weak elicit God's love most deservedly and most clearly. Jewish and Christian theologians speak of "divine humility".

These notions are completely foreign to Muslims today and have been for a while. That Allah is, beneficent and the merciful, is a given. However, Franz Rozenzweig, philosopher and theologian, made the following astute observation. "For Islam, the notion that man's failings more powerfully awake God's love than man's merits is an absurd, indeed an impossible thought. Allah has pity upon human weaknesses, but the idea that he loves weakness more than strength is a form of divine humility that is foreign to the God of Mohammed". His remark is profoundly insighful in these tiimes.

Thus, it is only through stregnth and forcefulness that a Muslim can truly be a Believer. He must force himself and his beliefs upon others with no quarter for mercy or compromise, if he is to fulfill his destiny as God's agent on earth.

This will prove to be a continuing great obstacle to the credibility of Muslims. The focus of Islam-- religious and political-- has always been taking the offense, and in lieu of a real issue, creating a position that requires an offensive posture (thus never ending jihad), and less on what Jews and Christians call 'good works'.

While Christians and Jews build hospitals, for example, to serve their own and communal needs, no such model exists in the Muslim community. In the post Protestant western philosophy to which Jews and Christians ascribe, there is an inherent need for less subjective nuance and an emphasis in more of the tangeble reality in everything we do. While we in the west focuses on 'statistics',-- the tangeble record of achievement to measure where we have been and where we need to go, the Muslim political/religious/educational institutions focus on nuance only-- ever clarifying meaning and intent, but never accomplishment. Thus, the disdain and derision for statistics and measurements that can't compare.

It is within this version of Islam that Arab Muslims have chosen to vent their political rage. They cannot measure up in any meaningful way, to their enemies, the US and Israel. Therefore, unbridled hatred of those who are measurably more accomplished than they has become the mother's milk of their faith.

Complicit with these Arab regimes are the official Arab Islamic clergy (all government approved and controlled), who too, had to find a way to keep their flock in line. With Islam less and less a vehicle for advancement and integration into the modern world, what better way to fire up the multitudes than the road to salvation and demonization of the very progress their so societies so desperately need.

Neither the Arab political or Islamic religious communities see the need for integrating reality into their societies. Indeed, it can only work against them, upsetting the status quo. If speaking out against the atrocities in Darfur, for example, might challenge the current Arab and Islamic value systems, then silence becomes the 'Islamic' thing to do.

We in the west do not even speak the same language. Until there is a confluence of ideals, the status quo will remain dominant in all our exchanges. Islam must take the initiative here, to seek the high road.

It is not unknown to Islam. The Golden Age of Islam had lasting impact and foundation building as one of it's hallmarks-- the nuances of philosophy and religion and the strict adherence to the scientific method. That the Arab world today keeps reminding us (in reality, themselves) of the once great sphere of Arab influence, is truth, no more than a pitiful mirror in which the Arab world is viewed today.

The emphasis on warrior aspects of Islam life have supplanted many historical realities of Islamic community builders, religious teacher/philosophers, artists and scientists. Contrast this with our own view of the biblical David, a prolific warrior in God's name-- yet he is recognized and revered as the gentle author of the Psalms, a far more benign image.

The extrication of this one sided Islam can only be accomplished with the separation of the religious aspects of Islam from the narrow political agendas that fuel the deliberate and orchestrated anti Americanism and desired misunderstandings between Islam and the West (so that they are perpetually 'victims').

If that doesn't happen soon, the genie Arab governments, in concert with what their Islamic clerics have unleashed, will come back to haunt these regimes. Just ask the Saudis.

America, and for that matter, the west, will defend themselves more forcefully from religiously inspired/politically orchestrated hatreds, acted upon. Of that, you can be sure.

Wandering Mind

may not be suitable for political vegans