Saturday, December 11, 2004

Blunkett's Unintended Consequences

In today's online edition of The Telegraph [registration required], commentator Charlie Moore argues persuavively that legislation pending before Parliament which would outlaw any criticism of religious belief or practice will have profoundly negative consequences.
Why is it that so many people resent religion and turn against it? Surely it is because of its coercive force, its tendency to mistake the worldly power of its priests and mullahs for justified zeal for the truth. It is not God who turns people away, but what people do in the name of God. If a law against religious hatred is passed, even when blessed by St David Blunkett, the natural consequence will be a rise in the hatred of religion.
Particularly hatred of Islam. The BNP website describes Islam in the hands of some of its adherents as "less a religion and more a magnet for psychopaths and a machine for conquest". If a law says they can't say that, the BNP will, in the minds of many, be proved right. On Tuesday, Mr Blunkett said that it would be illegal to claim that "Muslims are a threat to Britain". People already censor themselves through fear of Muslim reaction to mockery - I don't suppose even brave, incontinent, foul-mouthed Paul Abbott would write a comedy for the start of Ramadan showing Mohammed downloading dubious images from the internet. If the law criminalises such activity, the scope for resentment is huge.

Indeed. Though Mr. Blunkett and the bill's supporters argue that the law would only prohibit derogatory attacks on religious belief, leaving legitimate, scholarly criticism unimpeded, it would only be a matter of time before the definition of derogatory was expanded to include even the most academic questioning of religious practice. Since opinions differ on what differentiates dispassionate criticism from slander, the temptation to expand the scope of the prohibitions would be almost irresistable for bureaucrats and elected officials, who very often bend in the face of the slightest pressure from activists. Moreover, every religion possesses a faction of believers who hold any critique to be intolerable heresy. One religion, however, currently finds its ranks occupied by a significant number of believers who not only see any criticism of their religion as an attack, but who hold violence to be a perfectly acceptable response. Hence the significant backing of Mr. Blunkett's bill by British Muslims who would like to see any negative reporting about Islam legally removed from the public discourse.

Where does all this come from? Not, I fear, from the right, if misapplied, desire for different faiths to live at peace. Incitement to violence, after all, is already an offence, and so it should be. No, the pressure is chiefly from Muslims.
Mr. Moore notes that Iqbal Sacranie, "of the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain, wants the new law because any 'defamation of the character of the prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him)' is a 'direct insult and abuse of the Muslim community.'" Again, what exactly constitutes defamation? If that determination is left to the activists and those who would applied the loudest pressure, one can be certain that the scope of Mr. Blunkett's law will grow larger every day. Since the angriest voice of any faith will tolerate no challenge to the "truth" of their doctrines, there can be no definition of derogatory that satisfies everyone. The end result will be a growing fear of prosecution by those who harbor negative views of religion (and of Islam in particular) which will lead inexorably to resentment and violent backlash.

Having identified the manifest dangers of the proposed law, and the real motives of its supporters, Mr. Moore then offers a useful comparison of the manner in which Muslims treat non-Muslims in Islamic countries:

According to Muslim law, believers who reject or insult Islam have no rights. Apostasy is punishable by death. In Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, death is the penalty for those who convert from Islam to Christianity. In Pakistan, the blasphemy law prescribes death for anyone who, even accidentally, defiles the name of Mohammed. In a religion which, unlike Christianity, has no idea of a God who himself suffers humiliation, all insult must be avenged if the honour of God is to be upheld.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews, born into their religion, have slightly more rights than apostates. They are dhimmis, second-class citizens who must pay the jiyza, a sort of poll tax, because of their beliefs. Their life is hard. In Saudi, they cannot worship in public at all, or be ministered to by clergy even in private. In Egypt, no Christian university is permitted. In Iran, Christians cannot say their liturgy in the national language. In almost all Muslim countries, they are there on sufferance and, increasingly, because of radical Islamism, not even on that.

The ancient plurality of the region is vanishing. Tens of thousands are fleeing the Muslim world, and in some countries - Sudan, Indonesia, Ivory Coast - large numbers die, on both sides. In Iraq, the intimidation of Christians is enormous. Five churches have suffered bomb attacks this year. Christians in Mosul have received letters saying that one member of each family will be killed to punish women who do not wear the headscarf. According to Dr Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund, a charity working for persecuted Christians, "Christians in Iraq are isolated and vulnerable this Christmas, and feel that they have been let down, even betrayed, by their fellow Christians in the West, especially the Church leadership".

The push for a religious hatred law here is an attempt to advance the legal privilege that Muslims claim for Islam. True, Muslim leaders are happy that the same protection should be extended to other religions in this country. But to a modern liberal society which claims the freedom to attack all beliefs, this should be no comfort. It says a good deal about the quality of churchmen and politicians in Britain that the most prominent opponent of the Bill is Mr Bean. The Archbishop of Canterbury is more or less invisible. The Government is on the side of repression.

The point here is hard to miss. In Muslim lands, non-Muslims have few if any rights, whereas in Western countries, Muslims enjoy the same rights as the believers of any other faith. Unfortunately, a significant number of Muslims reject the cultures into which they have immigated, and now seek to undermine the traditions of tolerance and open dissent that are the among the greatest acheivements of Western Civilization. Mr. Blunkett's ill-advised, philosophically poisonous law would eviscerate the one of the core principles of Enlightenment thought that has guided the West for centuries. By stifling the right of dissent against religious belief and practice, it would take a serious step toward making England resemble, in effect, Islamic theocracies in which dissent is punished by prison and death. That such a bill could be credibly proposed and stand even the slightest chance of being enacted indicates just how erroded the confidence of Europeans in their own culture - and their willingness to defend it - has become.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Sign of the Times in Holland

With ethnic tensions between native Dutch and recent immigrants boiling over in the Netherlands, it seems that not a few inhabitants of that bastion of liberal tolerance have decided to flee, looking for greener pastures. The Telegraph (U.K.) reports:
The new wave of "middle-class flight" has quickened this year following rising ethnic violence and crime committed by and against immigrants, and in response to fears that social order is breaking down. In the first six months there was a net outflow of 13,313 people.
According to the article, those seeking to emigrate from the Netherlands are the native born, heavily educated Dutch. The Telegraph notes - with what sounds suspiciously like a note of incredulity - that this exodus has been gaining stream "even though unemployment remains low at 4.7 percent and per capita income is higher than any major country in Europe." So why are the Dutch beginning to long for foreign shores?

They are disengaging from a multicultural experiment once hailed as the model for the world but now stretched to breaking point. They are also escaping traffic jams and chronic over-crowding.

Requests for visa information have exploded since the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker and acerbic critic of Muslim views on women.

An all-party report by the Dutch parliament this year concluded that the country's immigration policy had been a failure, leading to sink [sic] schools and ethnic ghettoes. [emphasis mine]

The Netherlands has been transformed in barely 30 years from a tight-knit Christian society into a polyethnic state, with three million people of immigrant background.

A failed multicultural experiment? Why surely that's impossible! After all, endless liberal talking heads, policy wonks and virtually the entire American academic establishment have been telling us for the last quarter century that the multicultural society is the best possible society, in fact, the only moral society. Evidence for these statements is never provided - in fact, history suggests the opposite conclusion - but questioning multiculturalist doctrine provokes instant accusations of racism, imperialism, etc.

And where are the new Dutch emigrees heading?

Lawyers, accountants, computer specialist, nurses, and businessmen are lining up for visas to the English-speaking world, looking to Australia, New Zealand and Canada as orderly societies where people have the space to breathe.

One wonders how disappointed these newly wandering Dutch will be when they arrive in the soon-to-be-formerly English-speaking realms only to discover the same disastrous social experiment slowly ruining the very countries to which they have fled.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Congress Sells Out U.S. Security

After days of heated argument and political arm twisting by the White House, the Senate tonight voted 89-2 to pass a new bill reforming the structure of the U.S. intelligence complex. The House voted 336-75 to approve the bill yesterday, which will shortly be signed into law by the president. Unfortunately, under pressure from the White House, key provisions of the original version of this bill were jettisoned, according to the Washington Post [registration required].

Although much of the recent debate focused on protecting Pentagon turf, several House Republicans said the fiercest resistance centered on immigration questions. The original House version -- drafted with no Democratic input -- included numerous provisions to keep undocumented foreigners from entering the country and to make it easier to deport visitors who overstay their visas or break laws.

[House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI)] repeatedly noted that the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11 had obtained multiple driver's licenses, which he said helped them open bank accounts and board planes. He urged the House to retain language that would require states to verify the legal status of non-citizens applying for driver's licenses.

After the horrific events of September 11th, and the discovery of literally dozens of valid drivers licenses held under a variety of different names by the Islamic terrorists who inflicted so much death and destruction to New York and Washington, one would have thought that securing identification documents - and keeping them from the hands of illegal aliens - would have the U.S. government's top priority. Drivers' licenses are the primary photo-identification cards used in the U.S.; permitting illegal aliens to gain valid drivers' licenses based on non-existent or dubious background information is a recipe for catastrophe - a recipe that has already resulted in nearly 3,000 American deaths. Nevertheless, there are far more important concerns than the mere lives and safety of American citizens.

Opponents, including businesses that rely on low-wage undocumented workers, state governments and civil liberties groups, said Sensenbrenner's proposal would require extensive scrutiny and national debate. In weeks of House-Senate negotiations over the intelligence legislation, the driver's license provision and others were dropped.

Yes, flooding the country with unskilled workers willing to work for pennies a day has done marvels for the living standards of lower class Americans. But by driving down wages, it has increased profits for the corporate magnates who have purchased the ear of the president. The so-called "civil liberties groups" have a vastly different agenda, which disregards U.S. security in favor dilluting the U.S. population with massive numbers of immigrants drawn from vastly different foreign cultures in the hope of dilluting and destroying the American culture they so virulently despise. The various state governments have become dominated by bureaucrats imbued in the same mindset.

In yesterday's closed GOP meeting, several participants said, Hastert promised to include immigration provisions in a package of "must pass" legislation early next year.

Some members, however, said the promise might prove empty. The White House and Senate, they note, are much less receptive to sharp crackdowns on illegal immigration than are many House members. "There's a real lack of confidence that we'll get a bill to secure our borders," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.).
If the GOP had any intention of moving to curtail illegal immigration, it would surely have done it by now. If the GOP really intended to bar illegal aliens from obtaining licenses, they would have enacted legislation after September 11, 2001. To pass up this latest chance, offering only half-hearted assurances that they'll do it in the next session seems tantamount to admitting that they won't even try. If ensuring U.S. security were a priority for the Congress, the Bush administration or the Republican Party, they'd have passed this bill with the provisions prohibiting drivers' licenses for illegal aliens. That they didn't ... tells us where that their real priorities lie elsewhere, regardless of their rhetoric.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ABC News Spins for the Islamists

An article posted on ABC News' Web site, inadvertantly provides a window onto the thinking of the U.S. media elite and its multiculturalist worldview. The article, "Is Islam Endangering 'Europeanness?'", written by Leela Jacinto, makes little effort to disguise its prejudices. The title itself subtley mocks the very notion that there might exist a distinct European cultural identity - which the article soon makes clear is merely code for white racism.

Ms. Jacinto opens her little morality tale with the story of Salma Yaqoob, a British Muslim activist who was jeered at an anti-war conference in Paris last year because she was wearing a hajib, a veil worn by many traditional Muslim women to cover their hair. "I was genuinely shocked how people reacted just because I happened to be wearing a hijab," Ms. Yaqoob complained to Ms. Jacinto. "It was actually a very upsetting experience. It was shocking to see people so passionate and, in my view, so ignorant of basic things, basic things like etiquette." Of course, this incident is presented with no background information that would inform the reader about the cultural tensions in France at the time which led to the French government banning the wearing such such hajibs in French schools (see here and here).

Ms. Yaqoob's unfortunate Parisian experience serves as an example of "Islamophobia," never actually defined in the article, but equated by inference with hatred, and granted with the same negative moral status as racism by Ms. Jacinto .

Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines phobia as "a persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it." In this case, irrational would mean without reasonable basis. But given the events of the last several years, can European concerns over the large number of Muslims who have recently immigrated to their nations really be considered irrational? Much of the September 11th plot which killed 3,000 Americans, was conceived and planned in Hamburg by Muslim immigrants to Germany. The March 11th Madrid train bombings were committed by Muslims who had immigrated to Spain. Police in Germany, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have uncovered Islamic terrorist networks within their own borders. Radical imans make London, Paris and Rome their homes, preaching jihad against the West. In France, Muslim immigrants live together in tight communities where gangs of radicalized young Muslim men enforce a harsh version of Islamic law and the police are afraid to intervene. In the Netherlands, attacks on native Dutch by radical Muslims who disapprove of the country's liberal, tolerant society, have been increasing for years. Many Europeans were stunned to emerge from their homes on September 11th, their minds reeling from the bloody horror broadcast on TV to see Muslim immigrants dancing for joy in the streets of their cities (see also here). Ms. Jacinto mentions none of this, of course.
"There is definitely a rise in Islamophobia across Europe," said Liz Fekete, deputy director of the London-based Institute of Race Relations. "Muslims collectively are being blamed for the attacks on the World Trade Center, and there is a general punitive climate toward Muslims. This has manifested itself in a variety of ways. On the ground, there has been a rise in racial violence on Muslim targets across Europe. And the biggest problem is that the scale of the problem has not been acknowledged," Fekete said.
Of course, Ms. Fekete deliberately fails to mention the hundreds of other incidents of Islamic terrorism within and outside of Europe that have occurred before and after the September 11th atrocity. Nor does she mention the various Muslims clerics who have publiclly praised the 9/11 hijackers and called for a jihad in Europe. Or the persistent discoveries of violent Islamist propaganda among young Muslims. Of course, if she did acknowledge the growing menace of Islamic violence worldwide, her claims of Islamophobia would sound rather empty. Ms. Jacinto, incidently, does not appear to have challenged Ms. Fekete's pronouncement. She simply accepted it as more evidence of the Islamophobia (read: European racism). This shouldn't surprise, however. The point of the article is to condemn Europeans. Actual journalism would have interfered.

Since the end of World War II, Western Europe has been widely viewed as a bastion of internationalism, moderation and social progressiveness -- a haven of affluent, eco-conscious citizens in stark contrast to the perceived unilateralism and parochialism of the United States. [emphasis mine]

But across Western Europe, immigrant and civil rights experts say a xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim wave appears to be gripping a region once famed for its tolerance.

Notice how Ms. Jacinto managed to incorporate a slap at current U.S. foreign policy into an article that ostensibly doesn't deal with the U.S. Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, whom Ms. Jacinto doubtless spent interminable hours reading in college, would be very pleased to see their toxic ideas regurgitated by an avid student.

Ms. Jacinto tries to paint a picture of rising racial attacks against Muslim immigrants, but is forced to concede that definitive statistics on such violence are lacking.

Nevertheless, Europewide opinion polls show an alarmingly high level of intolerance toward Muslims within the European Union. One recent poll found 14 percent of EU citizens admitted to being "intolerant" of minorities, while another 25 percent said they were "ambivalent" toward them.

Since when does 14 percent demonstrate "an alarmingly high level of intolerance?" Even if we add the 25 percent who described themselves as "ambivalent" - which is far from intolerant - to that 14 percent, we are stil left with a majority of 61 percent who did not express intolerant feelings. So 14 percent is high compared to what? What percentage described themselves as intolerant five years ago? Ten? Ms. Jacinto fails to provide any yardstick by which to judge such numbers.

Allegations of discrimination against Muslims are not exclusive to Europe. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States has come under heavy criticism for alleged civil rights infringements under the controversial Patriot Act. Rights groups have also recorded a dramatic increase in profiling complaints and backlash attacks against American Muslims. [emphasis mine]

And like Europe, immigration is at the front line of the anti-Muslim assault in the United States, where thousands of illegal immigrants have been indefinitely detained without criminal charges and summarily deported without access to lawyers.

Again, Ms. Jacinto delivers a gratuitous swipe against the U.S., while omitting mention of the extraordinary lenghts to which the U.S. government, from the president on down, went in the wake of September 11th to prevent violent retaliatory attacks on Muslims. Moreover, despite his assertion that a dramatic increase in anti-Muslim attacks followed September 11th, she cites no specific statistics, but only unnamed "rights groups." The reason for this evasion is that there were remarkably few violent attacks on Muslims. Despite the horrible deaths of 3,000 of their countrymen, the American people did not, except in rare instances vent their rage against American Muslims. This stands in stark contrast to the lnyching of many German immigrants during World War I. One suspects that the unspecified "rights groups" to which Ms. Jacinto obliquely refers most likely are Muslim advocacy organizations - many of whom have been exposed as front groups for terrorist organizations and whose ideological objectives must be questioned. As for the profiling charge, that can only be ascribed to the politically correct blindness from which Ms. Jacinto obviously suffers. The U.S. was attacked by a group of persons who derive from a specific racial and ethnic group who entered the U.S. from a specific part of the world. Given that this group has publiclly announced its intention to reproduce similar scale or worse attacks in the U.S., profiling based on this religous/ethnic/geographical profile would be entirely reasonable in order to prevent another attack. Unfortunately, again, the reality is that the U.S. have gone out of its way to avoid singling out the most likely suspect group - to the extent of strip-searching septagenarian, white U.S. Congressmen from Michigan at airports. But these facts do not fit into Ms. Jacinto's jermiad about Muslim persecution, so they are ignored.

Right-wing European politicians such as Peter Skaarup, deputy chairman of the Danish People's Party, say it's unfair to compare U.S. and European cultural track records.

"It's very difficult to compare the United States with Denmark, because the United States is a country built on immigration, on being a multi-ethnic society," said Skaarup, whose party recently ran a campaign warning Danes their country was turning into a "Muslim-majority nation."

"Denmark," Skaarup said, "does not have a record of immigration. We've been quite a homogeneous society for many years, and for many of us therefore it comes as a very big challenge when suddenly there is a very large immigration."

Mr. Skaarup strikes the proverbial nail on the head. European countries are not like the U.S., which has always comprised a multi-racial society and diverse, immigrant-driven culture. Europeans represent distinct ethnic groups living in their traditional homelands. And like ethnic groups everywhere else in the world, they do not respond well to challenges by invading outsiders. Regardless of one's opinion of this human proclivity, it remains a fact. Social programs - like permitting massive immigration of other racial or ethnic groups into geographies dominated by other ethnic groups inevitably results in violent confrontation. Nevertheless, Europeans scarred by the horror of Nazism, have for decades so immersed themselves in denial regarding the reality of ethnic and cultural differences, that it was not until radical Muslims violently rejected European culture that the European masses recognized the threat and responded.

At the heart of Europe's rising Islamophobia is the debate between integration and multiculturalism.

While countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have rejected the social "melting pot" model for a "salad bowl" or "mosaic" metaphor, Fekete says the notion of multiculturalism in Western Europe is in jeopardy.

"Political parties have been introducing new 'integration measures,' and these enter into the highly public discourse about the limits of cultural diversity and a European fixation with social homogeneity that eschews pluralism," she said. "And the underlying theme is this is based on the Muslim community."

Noting that integration "is a two-way street," Fekete warns that by denying Muslim immigrants citizenship rights, European governments risk further alienating the community.

The "limits of cultural diversity" Ms. Jacinto refers to is the desire of Europeans to maintain the cultures they spent centuries building. One doubts Ms. Jacinto would find that desire objectionable if expressed by any other ethnic group. If Europeans were immigrating in large measure into a non-European nation, one suspects that Ms. Jacinto's sympathies would be with the indigineous population and not with the European colonists. Moreover, Ms. Jacinto fails to make any mention of the extent to which many Muslim immigrants have resisted integrating into the European cultures to which they chose to migrate, preferring to establish their own communities and enforce their own cultural norms - occasionally including such ethically advanced notions as wife beating and honor killings.

Interestingly, one fails to recall any referendum in which the people of the U.S. voted againt the concept of the "melting pot" and in favor of the wonderfully named "salad bowl" model. In fact, most U.S. politicians still pay homage to the - apparently rejected - "melting pot" model. But Ms. Jacinto has most probably spent more time reading the analysis of academically cloistered social scientists than she has talking to average Americans.

Ms. Jacinto finallyn gets around to mentioning some examples of Muslim violence - described as briefly as possible - including the spectacularly violent murder of Theo van Gogh, but she quickly quotes a Muslim expert who places the blame for such violence squarely on the victim:

While he condemns van Gogh's killing, Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, notes that the subject of his film, violence against women, is not exclusive to the Muslim community.

Pointing to the fact that some widely condemned customs, such as forced marriages and dowry deaths are as prevalent among Hindu immigrants from the Indian subcontinent as Muslims, Sharjareh claims that while effective legislation is necessary, it's also important not to stereotype communities.

"We do need infrastructure to limit extremism," said Shadjareh, "and this has to come from all sides. If the Dutch government had prosecuted van Gogh for his racism, he may have been alive. I'm not saying that anything, absolutely anything legitimizes a killing, but we also need to limit hate speech -- on all sides." [emphasis mine]

Parse that last sentence again and then ask yourself exactly what Mr. Shadjareh is saying. Mr. van Gogh criticized Islam harshly and was murdered, but the real fault lies with the Dutch government for failing to prosecute Mr. van Gogh for "racism" - now apparently defined as criticizing non-Europeans. So much for the idea of freedom of speech. I suppose it would also be racist to point out that freedom of speech is a notion founded in European Enlightenment thought and has no existence anywhere in the Muslim world. Mr. Shadjareh allegedly condemns Mr. van Gogh's murder but then shifts the blame to Dutch society in general under the all-purpose, politically-correct umbrella of "racism." This reveals the real motive behind the current push for anti-hate speech legislation in Europe: to crush dissent from the majority populations regarding the influx of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants. It is interesting to note the curious alliance of leftists and Islamists backing such laws - and unlikely pairing born of a mutual hatred of Western Civilzation and values.

Ms. Jacinto closes her anti-European, anti-American rant by returning to the tragic story of Ms. Yaqoob:

A year after she was booed at the European Social Forum, Yaqoob was back at the conference. But this time, things had changed. For one, it was held in London this year. For another, the conference took place months after France instituted its hijab ban, and most of the non-French delegates opposed the ban.

"I asked them [the French delegation], have you talked to them [French Muslim women]? And they said, no, we don't need to," she says. "I told them I personally chose to wear the hijab. And they told me, 'You're oppressed, you just don't know it.'"

An articulate activist, professional psychotherapist and mother of three sons, Yaqoob sometimes does believe she's oppressed. But not by Islam.

Indeed, Ms. Yaqoob lives in the United Kingdom, in a culture that celebrates the equality of women, the right of individuals to live as they choose, and the right of citizens to hold whatever religious beliefs they wish. Curiously, none of this exists in the Muslim world, and none of it will exist in Europe if Muslim immigrants get their wish. Ms. Yaqoob isn't oppressed by Islam only because she doesn't live in an Islamic country - but she's working hard to change that. With Ms. Jacinto's approval.

Monday, December 06, 2004

It Would Be Funny - Except It's True

British comedian Rowan Atkinson (of Blackadder and Mr. Bean fame) has joined with other British comedians and entertainers to fight proposed legislation designed to "outlaw inciting religious hatred." And what exactly would the "Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill," currently before parliament, do? Proposed by David Blunkett (currently facing a serious scandal that threatens to force his resignation) the bill, which reorganizes various U.K. security and police agencies, giving them new powers to combat organized crime, contains a provision that would prohibit criticism of any religion's beliefs or practices if that criticism might "incite hate" against that religion. While such a law might sound well-intentioned, it is useful to remember that people disagree on what exactly differentiates a hateful attack from proper criticism. Islamists, for example, might consider a documentary examining the plight of Muslim women as an incitement to hatred - as they did with Theo van Gogh's film Submission. Of course, they didn't wait for the Dutch parliament to pass laws to silence van Gogh - they slit his throat on an Amsterdam street. Similar Islamists considered Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses so wicked in its criticism of Islam that he had to live in hiding for years whilst Imams churned out fatwas demanding his death. This is the Muslim idea of tolerance: criticize us and we kill you.

The Telegraph notes that the current bill is a rehash of a previously failed effort.
This is David Blunkett's second attempt to prohibit religious hatred. He included it in the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2001, but it encountered strong resistance in the Lords and was dropped. The arguments adduced against it then still stand; indeed, they are overwhelming. To bring the criminal law into this field would force courts to make subjective judgments. Experience suggests, alas, that judges often prefer to restrict free speech rather than let the public make up its own mind.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, and a tidal wave of Islamist violence across Europe, many Britons (and other Europeans) are paying much closer attention to the large Muslim communities that they have permitted to be established in their countries - and they don't like what they see. European muslims have reacted by calling any criticism of their behavior "Islamophobia." It seems that the same muslims who don't want to integrate themselves into liberal European societies have at least learned enough about their adopted countries to use political correctness against those societies.

Mr. Atkinson, quoted by BBC, acknowledges the law's true motives even as he attacked the legislation:
He said he had sympathy with the law's backers, particular British Muslims, but added: "I appreciate this measure is an attempt to provide comfort and protection to them. But unfortunately it is wholly inappropriate response far more likely to promote tension between the communities than tolerance."
Showing far more intellectual ability than those who drafted this particular bit of legislation, Mr. Atkinson properly observes:
"To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas - even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. A law which attempts to say you can criticise and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very particular kind of law indeed."
The Telegraph notes that Mr. Atkinson has the broad support of many diverse elements among Britons.
Mr Atkinson certainly has curious bedfellows: not only the militant atheists of the National Secular Society, but also the Barnabas Fund, which campaigns for persecuted Christians. The Government has no doubt calculated that it will win votes at the next election even if it loses this part of the Bill. In the Commons, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats may be tempted to acquiesce to an unworkable law for the sake of popularity. But peers in effect have a veto, because the Parliament Act does not apply. On this issue, the unelected House may well show more wisdom than the elected one. For once, Rowan Atkinson is not joking: this really is a bad Bill.

It is a bad bill - but it is the thinking behind the bill that truly frightens. Europe faces a serious threat from aliens from within its borders and how does it react? By trying to placate the alien culture growing within its borders. One would think that Europeans would understand the perils of appeasement. But apparently not.
But British Muslims aren't the only ones taking aim at anyone who criticizes them. In Denmark, Muslims have complained to the police about media coverage of Theo van Gogh's murder:
In an open letter to police, [Laue] Traberg Smidt [a lawyer retained by a group of 20 Muslims] said the channels' "massive coverage of the case and its repeated use" of exerpts [from van Gogh's film Submission] "seems rather an attempt to contribute to a confrontation and whip up a sentiment against Danes of Muslim faith."

The lawyer said he represented a group of Danish Muslims, who wanted to remain anonymous "because they are afraid of unpleasant (reaction) in the current atmosphere."
Well, of course. It such a shame that the media bothers to report the brutal murder of a man who criticized Islam. So much better for Islamists if the media wouldn't let the non-Muslims know the truth about those who have invaded their countries.

The Rising East

While the U.S. remains bogged down in Iraq and waging war with Islamist fanatics, China continues to consolidate its economic might. A Chinese computer company is now in negotiations to purchase IBM's personal computer business. If that acquisition is finalized and approved by the U.S. government, it will represent one of the most stunning technology transfers in recent memory.

And it is emblematic of the ambitions of emergent Chinese industrial giants to create global brand names and capture market share beyond their own borders. Formerly relegated to a low profile as the cheap assemblers for the rest of the industrialized world, Chinese companies now have their sights set on becoming global powers in their own right.

The Lenovo Group, partly owned by the Chinese government, had sales of over $3 billion last year and is currently ranked eighth globally among PC makers. It is the overall leader in Asia outside Japan, where NEC and other Japanese companies dominate. (IBM's Japan unit is in the top five there, though, adding to IBM's allure for Lenovo.)

Note that Lenovo, like many Chinese companies, is actually part owned by the Chinese government. That means that technology developed or acquired by Lenovo will be directly conveyed to the Chinese military. This represents a cause for concern. With the U.S. trade deficit with China growing ever larger, and the Chinese military growing ever stronger, now is the time to ask whether selling a Chinese "company" such important high technology is a wise idea. It can be argued that IBM's consumer PC division is hardly cutting edge. But there can be little question that the Chinese will adapt the technology they acquire to advance their entrance into the PC industry. Given how China has quickly come to dominate every other industry it has entered, should the U.S, permit this technology transfer?

Founded in 1984 by a group of Chinese scientists with government financing, [Lenovo] then known as Legend started out as a distributor of computers and printers, selling IBM, AST and HP models in China.

In the late 1980s, however, as an exemplar of a trend that would play out in many Chinese industries, the company moved higher up the food chain by beginning to design its own personal computers. By 1997, it had passed IBM to become the largest seller of personal computers in China.

Purchasing IBM's PC line does not guarantee success for Lenovo or the Chinese PC industry, but it would be an impressive step. The Chinese would learn a lot from IBM's operations, and from IBM's proprietary technology. Free traders will argue that such trans-Pacific deals are good for China and American, and better still for consumers everywhere. However, a glance at the U.S.-China trade deficit - $150 billion for 2004 - shows that American workers aren't enjoying much benefit from this one-sided trade relationship.

Wal-Mart alone imports $18 billion worth of Chinese-made goods for its stores. When China and India can compete across the entire spectrum of high-tech networking jobs, globalization begins to lose its allure. China's sidewalk moneychangers are betting the renminbi is now a stronger currency than the dollar. Chinese companies are luring Chinese-American executive talent from U.S. multinational corporations with higher compensation packages.

Seemingly unconcerned, the administration says the external deficit has little to do with conspicuous consumption and much to do with the sluggish economies in Europe and Japan. Fast-buck economists -- or reckless high rollers -- argue the disappearing dollar could be the answer to all of the administration's problems, as it will automatically shrink the U.S. deficit. And the more the dollar falls, they explain, the more expensive European and Japanese goods become, choking off their exports to the United States -- and boosting now much cheaper U.S. exports.

But such a laissez-faire policy -- besides poisoning anew trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific relations -- will only encourage the dollar stakeholders all over the world to unload ever faster. The dollar is expected to shrink another 30 percent during the Bush 43B mandate. This could then be the biggest default in history, wiping out anyone holding dollar assets, and burying the dollar as a global reserve currency.
The consequence?
A run on the dollar would knock the props from under the United States' global alliances and further erode what little support the United States has left for defeating the insurgents in Iraq and midwife-ing a democratically elected government. The only victor in such a tragic denouement would be Osama bin Laden and his global network of extremist troublemakers and terrorist destroyers.
Actually, the other victor would be China, whose international prestige would be greatly boosted by a U.S. decline. Since U.S. military might and global dominance are based on economic supremacy, anything that erodes the U.S. economy ultimately undercuts American military power.

In deciding whether a potential enemy is truly a menace, one needs only to ask: What do they make? The Nazis and the Soviet Union were powerful enemies because they manufactured everything from washing machines to war planes (and in the case of the USSR, ICBMs). We defeated the Nazis by bombing every German manufacturing center out of existence (while our manufacturing centers remained safely beyond their reach). The USSR, in the end, couldn't make washing machines that worked very well, or nearly enough of them, which ultimately doomed their military might. The Soviet Empire crumbled from within. The Islamists make nothing. There is no manufacturing anywhere in the Middle East. If the Islamists were to win control of every Islamic country, that wouldn't change. The Chinese, on the other hand, make everything from decent washing machines to nuclear bombs - and they are learning how to make ICBMs that can reach the U.S. Moreover, they keep improving their washing machines (and ICBMs). Which, then, represents the real long term threat to the U.S.? Fanatics who can be simply kept out of the U.S. (if we were willing to keep them out) or a nation of almost a billion and a half people with growing manufacturing might?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Thompson Resigns with Warning

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson resigned on Friday, but not without issuing an ominous warning:
"For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," he said.
Actually, one wonders why he felt compelled to point this vulnerability out. As a general rule, it's a bad idea to give the enemy ideas, even ideas the enemy has almost certainly considered. On the other hand, perhaps Secretary Thompson has attempted to increase security around the food supply only to find his efforts frustrated by a lack of action from the administration, or - worse - a lack of attention to his warnings inside the White House. In that case, a public admonition would be well warranted.

In any event, it would seem that the probability of such an attack against the U.S. food supply might be greatly mitigated by controlling U.S. borders and preventing potential terrorists from gaining access to the country in the first place. Millions of migrant workers pour across the U.S. Mexico border hoping to find work on U.S. farms and ranches. Aside from depressing the wages of American farm workers, this human tidal wave could very well conceal any number of Islamist terrorists plannning to contaminate the food supply. There can be no domestic security until the border is secured. Unfortunately the Bush administration hasn't even the slightest inclination to try:
"We're a large country, with all kinds of avenues where somebody could inflict harm," said [President] Bush, asked about the issue after an Oval Office meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "We've made a lot of progress protecting our country, and there's more work to be done, and this administration is committed to doing it."

In remarks announcing his resignation, Secretary Thompson noted that "only a very minute amount" of food products entering the U.S. from abroad is currently tested for toxins. "We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with," Thompson said.
Asked to respond to Thompson's comments, Bush neither criticized them nor implied that the food supply is safer than Thompson asserted.
Well, that's certainly reassuring. Isn't it?